Disney Streetcar throws Taxpayers under the bus!


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Streetcars by Disneyland? What could be wrong with that?

Last year, an Anaheim City Council majority approved a $318 million publicly-funded streetcar running about 3 miles from the ARTIC transportation center (train station) north of the 57 freeway through the Platinum Triangle to the Resort, with funds from County Measure M2 gas taxesTID (tourism improvement district) taxes (2% of the 17% bed tax), and anticipated Federal taxes through the FTA (Federal Transit Authority) New Starts program. 

“Taxes” means you and I, the public, pay for it. 

The rejected alternative to this over-$100-million-per-mile boondoggle? A $53 million enhanced bus proposal.   That’s still expensive, but over $250 million less than what they voted for.

Who benefits from this project?

The Disneyland Resort, of course, along with hotels, and other resort businesses. That’s because they can use the train station’s remote parking and get extra business that might be coming from the train. It also means Disney can potentially get their parking lot off the old strawberry field they bought and use it as the 3rd park they have been planning for. 

And what are these businesses CONTRIBUTING to this project that benefits them so much?

Nothing.

Zero.

Zip.

No private funding has been offered.

Plus, beneficiary Disney will not even allow the project on their property, requiring us to build an expensive walkway over Harbor Blvd., complete with elevators for ADA access!  Their attitude?  Let the taxpayers like you and me pay for it! In fact, transportation/planning expert Randall O’Toole calls this “a giant taxpayer subsidy to Disney.”

Yet Anaheim councilmember Kris Murray strongly insists that tourists subsidize this project with their incoming tax dollars.  She has testified twice to the OCTA Board, the Board on where fellow councilmember Gail Eastman sits on the Transit Committee, both of them acolytes of Curt Pringle, who of course is the lobbyist for the clients benefiting from this project.

But don’t taxpayers ALSO benefit from this “pubic/private” partnership? Don’t we get all that money back?

No!  The city staff report for last month’s controversial and much-publicized $158 million subsidy to the GardenWalk Hotel debunks the oft-repeated claim that “5% of the city [The Resort] generates 50% of General Fund revenues in Anaheim.”  It turns out that expenses reduce the benefit to only 20%.

But if that’s true, is your neighborhood 20% better than surrounding cities?

Now that the hotel guests’ Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) is being diverted to private hoteliers and a future Convention Center expansion, where is Anaheim’s incentive to grow that fund? 

Well… but isn’t the streetcar a better deal than that one?

NO!  The bus option is not only over $250 million less, but buses also transport more passengers than streetcars, and offer flexibility to add vehicles during peak periods.  Buses are cheaper to purchase, operate, repair, and maintain, and do not require tracks and a special maintenance facility.  Buses are easily removed for repair and can be rerouted during emergencies.  On the other hand, a disabled streetcar leaves the tracks unusable.  They’ll all back up until it can be fixed.  Buses seem to work just fine.  In fact, that’s what Disney paid for themselves to move people around Walt Disney World in Florida.

(Streetcars backed up on stopped track, following a malfunction with the lead car.)

 Streetcars entail risks, too!

Alarmingly, the “trendy” new streetcars in Portland, Tucson, Seattle and Little Rock have created a cottage industry: attorneys suing on behalf of the pedestrians, bicyclists, and passenger vehicles colliding with streetcars in mixed traffic (the reason the old streetcars were abandoned in favor of buses 50+ years ago!)  There have been 100+ deaths involved with the LA Metro Blue Line… SO FAR.

The City of Anaheim’s General Fund would be targeted for those lawsuits and liability, negating the misinformed City Council majority’s assurance that there would be “no risk” to the City in operating this system!

Don’t we taxpayers get a say in how our dollars are spent?

Anaheim and OCTA (Orange County Transportation Authority) staffers claim that the public was already involved in selecting the streetcar.  However, early promises of Public Meetings, a proper Public Comment period to review documents prior to a final decision, and a Public Hearing when City Council made that final selection were dropped!  The Alternatives Analysis was quietly posted to the Internet, without Public Notice of any kind (a December 2012 Public Records Request from activist/blogger Cynthia Ward confirmed this oversight!). 20 days later, City Council selected the streetcar on the Consent Calendar of the October 23, 2012, meeting – without any public hearing comments!

What’s worse, Mayor Tom Tait’s motion to continue, to delay the vote for more study, was voted down 3-2, with Councilmember Murray and Public Works Director Natalie Meeks chastising the Mayor, insisting there had been plenty of public input, implying he’d just “failed to keep up,” despite their failure to properly disclose information!

But, yes, you still have a chance to have a say!

On June 24, 2013, OCTA  delayed their final vote another two weeks.  That means the July 8th meeting will be the last opportunity for residents to ask for an enhanced bus option, or even to drop this massive taxpayer subsidy of Resort businesses and demand they mitigate the traffic impacts of their own highly profitable customers.  To date, the private businesses benefitting from the project do not offer incentives for their guests to carpool or take the train – why should they if they can get taxpayers to fund their streetcars and the parking garage at ARTIC that’s sure to act as Disney’s remote parking option in the future.

Here’s what to do:

  • Contact the OCTA Board of Directors at: Clerk of the Board (714) 560-5676
  • email the OCTA Executive DJohnson@octa.net
  • Attend the meeting at the OCTA Headquarters, July 8th at 9 a.m. (get info at octa.net)
  • Contact the Anaheim City Council by email at SRay@anaheim.net or anaheim.net
  • Write letters to the editor of our local newspapers:

OC Register – letters@ocregister.com

LA Times – letters@latimes.com

Want more information?

  • Anaheim resident and Blogger Cynthia Ward has spent 6 months digging through this project and is happy to share technical details.  Cynthia@Ward-Associates.net
  • Get informative reviews of streetcars in general, and Anaheim’s specifically, by transportation expert Randall O’Toole at the Cato Institute and the Antiplanner websites shown here:

http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/great-streetcar-conspiracy

http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa727_web.pdf

http://ti.org/antiplanner/?p=7522

 


About Cynthia Ward

I am a truth-teller. It gets me in trouble. But if you ask me if a dress makes you look fat, I will tell you so, and help select another, before you go on television and realize it for yourself. My real friends are expected to be truthful with me as well. A secret shared will be taken to my grave, but lie to me, and it will end up here…on these pages… especially if you are tasked with the stewardship of public resources. I am a registered Republican who disdains the local GOP power structure, a born-again Christian who supports everyone’s right to spend their lives with the partner of their choosing. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister. I am a loyal friend to those who merit that friendship and when crossed I am a bitch with a capital C. I do not fit into a box, nor do I see others through the stereotypes that politics and public affairs so often tries to shoehorn us into. I think for myself, and so do you. Welcome to our shared space in this world.