Is the Santa Ana street car proposal about serving transportation needs, or about development?

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido proposed a few months ago building a street car system that would connect our train depot to downtown Garden Grove. Is this a worthwhile transportation project – will it improve the lives of the residents of our city?

Admittedly the idea of a street car system, albeit one that appears to go to nowhere, is charming. But will it really solve any of our transportation problems?

Have any empirical studies been conducted to find out:

  • Where do Santa Ana residents travel to on a daily basis?
  • How do they get there?
  • Are there any transportation routes that are being under-served?

Shouldn’t we be asking those questions before committing millions of Measure M dollars to this street car system?

At the end of the day what this really comes down to, in my estimate, is not transportation at all. This is all about development. Pulido and our City Manager, Dave Ream, believe that this proposed street car will lead to massive new development. In my opinion they could care less if it actually transports anyone.

Just look at Pulido’s alleged behavior during last year’s OCTA bus drivers’ strike. During that fiasco we found out that many Santa Ana residents were having to pay a lot of money, sometimes more than $25, to get to their jobs. And surprise – those jobs in many cases were not local. The workers were absolutely dependent on the bus system to get to and from work.

Pulido, as an OCTA board member, supposedly dug in his heels during negotiations with the bus driver’s union, while his people were suffering.

And I don’t recall that any of our City Council members did much to help resolve the strike. Ironically the politician they all love to hate, O.C. Supervisor Janet Nguyen, was instrumental in resolving the strike.

Santa Ana clearly has a large population that is dependent on public transportation. But will this street car do them any good?

If there IS a massive need to get highly paid county workers and lawyers from the train station to our downtown area, can’t they take the bus? Are they somehow too good for the bus?

If the bus is not an option, for whatever reason, why not invest in a bus trolley system like they have in Chicago? (See the picture above). Big red goofy bus trolleys are fun to ride, for some, and they bring a certain flavor to the city. Better yet they are not stuck to a certain route. They can be rerouted as needed.

And that for me is the other problem with the street car proposal. It is utterly inflexible. Once you build it you are stuck with it, as is. You can add to it but you cannot change the route – even if it turns out to be a poorly traversed route.

And time has proven that these kind or rail projects are dangerous when installed in busy streets like those in downtown Santa Ana.  We already have a massive problem with regard to uninsured drivers.  Can you imagine how many hit and run accidents this system will create?

Not to mention the recent explosion in crime in our city.  If folks get shot up on the street car, will anyone even want to ride it?  Will we spend millions for something folks will be afraid to ride?  Will we have to line the cars with Kevlar?

I am also bothered that the consultant Pulido has been using with regard to the street car project works for Cordoba, the company owned by George Pla, who helped to fund the Santa Ana Business Bank whose board of directors Councilman Carlos Bustamante sits on. Something stinks about Pla’s involvement in this venture!

So how do I feel about the street car proposal? I think it is brimming with conflicts of interest. I think it is about development and image not transportation. And I don’t trust our Mayor or City Council or our City Manager to do the right thing.

I do support studying the transportation needs of our community further and doing what we can to help those who are reliant on public transportation. If such studies prove that the proposed street car system is a good thing, and that we cannot accomplish the same thing for a lot less via a bus trolley system, then yes I would be happy to support it. I have a feeling such proof will not be forthcoming.

About Admin

"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.