Anaheim releases proposed map for streetcar that would link ARTIC to Disneyland

ANAHEIM – Katella Avenue, Disney Way and Harbor Boulevard are the roads city officials say a $298.7 million streetcar should travel to get people from the ARTIC transit hub to Disneyland and the Convention Center.

If approved, the 3.2-mile route would have eight stops, including a new transportation center built by Disneyland Resort where park visitors could hop off buses, taxis and the new streetcar. A revised map will be unveiled today, showing how the streetcar will run on tracks, sharing traffic lanes with vehicles traveling some of Anaheim‘s busiest roads.

“If a streetcar doesn’t make sense here, where else would it make sense?” City Engineer Rudy Emami said. “When you look at the growth in the area, and the number of hotels being built here, this is something that is needed.”

A trip on the Anaheim Rapid Connection would last 18 minutes end-to-end, picking up travelers and resort workers spilling out of trains and buses at ARTIC and whisking them to their final destination. A fleet of 10 cars is envisioned by the end of 2021, each carrying roughly 120 passengers.

Anaheim officials don’t have opening day ridership projections, but said the streetcar could see 1.25 million passengers annually by 2035.

Supporters say the proposed streetcar would efficiently transport 28,000 new residents expected to move into the Platinum Triangle near Angel Stadium over the next decade, along with shuttling more than 25 million annual visitors to the Disneyland Resort.

“We have a vital transit corridor, and the streetcar will help alleviate congestion on our roads in Anaheim,” Councilwoman Kris Murray said.

Opponents cite high costs and increased traffic as drivers idle behind streetcars making their stops.

“Even if money were no object, I still wouldn’t build it,” said Mayor Tom Tait, who also sits on the Orange County Transportation Authority board.

“Our transit money must relieve congestion and increase mobility, and this streetcar does neither,” Tait said. “In fact, it makes both worse.”

Anaheim officials are hoping the streetcar’s construction costs will be paid by the OCTA and a New Starts federal transit grant the city wants to apply for.

Operating the streetcar would cost about $4.3 million annually. It’s unclear how much would be covered by fares, along with yearly funding from the OCTA and the Anaheim Tourism Improvement District, which collects 2 percent on hotel rooms rates from the city’s resort area.

Lori Donchak, a San Clemente councilwoman and head of the OCTA’s board, said in making a decision she hopes the route has a strong focus on serving residents and local workers – not just tourists. The map is expected to be reviewed March 10 by the agency’s Transit Committee, followed by the full board on March 14.

The project is “a waste of taxpayer dollars that could be better spent in other ways to move people around the county,” said board member Jeff Lalloway, an Irvine councilman.

Supporters said Anaheim’s streetcar could someday link to the proposed $289 million OC Streetcar line running 4.15 miles through Santa Ana to Garden Grove. President Barack Obama included $125 million for the project in his next federal budget.

“Harbor Boulevard is very important, which is why we designed this first leg to conceivably go north to Anaheim,“ Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido said.

“We have buses, which are very good,” Pulido said. “But when you have a streetcar, you’re able to offer the general public more options that could result in economic development, more jobs and improved mobility.”

Disney officials have not taken a public position on Anaheim’s proposed streetcar, but have included its possibility in their future plans.

Disneyland Resort wants to start construction in 2017 on a transportation center just east of Harbor Boulevard. The drop off area for buses, taxis and shuttles would be moved from the plaza outside of Disneyland’s entrance to the new hub – which could also be a streetcar stop.

Nearby, Disney wants to build a parking structure with 6,800 spaces – roughly half the size of the Mickey and Friends structure, according to preliminary plans filed Feb. 22 with the city.

Disney proposes to demolish the Carousel Inn and Suites it purchased last year for $32 million. In its place, an elevated pedestrian bridge over Harbor is proposed to link the parking structure and transit center to the theme parks.

The projects are part of Disney’s agreement to make $1 billion in improvements – including the new 14-acre “Star Wars” land – in exchange for no ticket taxes at the theme parks for the next 30 to 45 years.

Anaheim has spent $9 million over the past decade figuring out how to transport people through the bustling resort area. Much of that money came from the OCTA. Ideas ranged from a bus line to an elevated track similar to Disneyland’s monorail. By 2012, the City Council settled on a streetcar.

An initial route demolishing the Park Vue Inn was dropped after hotel owner Paul Durand voiced strong opposition.

“A lot of comments have been made about this being about just the visitors, but it is so important to acknowledge that this will serve a lot of the employees in the area,” Emami, the city’s engineer, said. “It’s important to bring those people closer, give them better options and give them more quality time with their families.”

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