By Cynthia Ward
The Anaheim Resort’s millions of guests drive our local economy, but those visitors also create significant traffic congestion. Over the objections of Mayor Tom Tait, the Anaheim City Council approved a $318,000,000.00 publicly-funded streetcar system to transport Resort visitors and employees. Although Disney uses buses almost exclusively at their Florida property, and the price tag of $53,000,000.00 made buses comparatively more affordable, enhanced bus service was astonishingly dismissed as undesirable-read “not sexy enough.”
A recent study by transportation expert Randall O’Toole, debunks the arguments used by City Council, and a staff promoting their own obvious agenda.
Streetcars are more expensive to purchase and operate than buses. Their fixed track and power systems are costly and disruptive to existing traffic, and especially problematic for pedestrians. Buses offer greater flexibility, enabling the addition of vehicles for peak hours-critical to address the unique traffic patterns of Anaheim, with crunch time not driven by conventional issues like rush hour so much as variable influences like closing time at Disneyland, last innings at the Stadium, or events at the Honda Center. Buses are easily removed or replaced for service, while a disabled streetcar renders the system unusable, and leaving traffic clogged around a stalled streetcar.
City Council claims economic development follows streetcar projects, but Council’s cited examples in other cities show heavily subsidized projects designed by central planners trying to socially engineer us out of our vehicles. Perhaps the next step from Council is a proposal for subsidized projects similar to Portland, after all the Platinum Triangle has been an abject failure so far. Even if we wanted to underwrite the development of that area, where are we to find the money? With Redevelopment dead, bed taxes are the only remaining funding source for development subsidies. The last time we tapped into TOT for private development incentives was at the Gardenwalk, with an agreement so controversial that nearly a year later Councilmember Murray is still buying ads and working a massive PR program using campaign money to justify her decision to voters.
Meanwhile, traffic impacts, and funding sources for operating and maintenance costs have still not been determined, despite the Mayor’s requests, and a $6,000,000.00 report that taxpayers covered! While the money we have already spent failed to address traffic impacts and other vital questions, we are expected to trust those numbers in moving forward. Now $9,000,000 for yet another study has been awarded to Hill International, the employer of candidate Steve Lodge, who stands to pull in 1% of that contract as a finder’s fee. This “objective” decision to award the project to Hill was made by Public Works Director Natalie Meeks, who is understood to have close personal friendships with Lodge and his wife, who also works as an Executive at Hill. Council member Murray is also a member of the “powerful woman in government funded projects” club with Meeks and the new Mrs. Lodge. But I am sure it is all above board.
Anaheim’s contentious Council majority would have us believe that in demanding answers Mayor Tait is obstructing progress. But the Mayor’s caution in spending our tax money is a refreshing contrast to the irresponsible and reckless speed with which our leaders and City staff have forced this issue. It seems they cannot spend that “free” tax money fast enough.