Anaheim To Move Forward With Streetcar Connection to HSR Station
Walt Disney liked trains. A lot. Disneyland has trains all over the place, from streetcars to steam trains to monorails, not only because Walt was a foamer. Disney understood that trains are popular with the public, an exciting thing to ride, especially for kids. Growing up just a few miles away from Disneyland, my favorite part about visiting there was riding the monorail or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (by contrast, I always thought Autopia was boring). Outside Disneyland, however, the surrounding landscape is virtually car-only.
One of the bigger issues is that the one rail station Anaheim does have is located right by Angel Stadium and Honda Center – not exactly walking distance to Anaheim’s tourist resort or its convention center. With the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center under construction, which will someday will serve as a high speed rail stop, the issue of connecting Anaheim’s major destinations with mass transit is one that needs to be solved.
Which Anaheim is about to do. The City Council has voted to develop a streetcar line that would connect ARTIC to the Disney resort and the new convention center via Katella Avenue:
Orange County’s largest city is now moving ahead with plans for a 3.2-mile trolley car system that would connect the city’s resort district with its sports stadiums, convention center and regional transit center — an airy, arched structure made of steel — that is taking shape…
[City Planner Natalie] Meeks said officials were anticipating that half the money would come from federal grants, and another chunk — at least an additional 40% — would come from local tax measures supporting transportation…
Meeks said that initially the idea was for a monorail, but studies showed that it would be considerably more expensive. Buses would have been cheaper, she said, but projected ridership of the streetcars exceeded the buses by 20%.
Anaheim mayor Tom Tait expressed some concerns about the operating cost, but the benefits to the city will outweigh those costs – especially when gas prices rise. More visitors can come to the resorts by train, transferring to the modern, low-floor streetcar at ARTIC.
This project will help close one of the missing links in Orange County’s rail network, but many more remain. The biggest is from John Wayne Airport to Santa Ana and Anaheim. It’s soon going to be time for the Orange County Transportation Authority to revive something resembling its CenterLine light rail proposal, shelved in 2005 in the face of anti-rail activism. A route from the airport up to the Santa Ana station, or to ARTIC via Bristol or Harbor, would make sense.
Still, a streetcar from ARTIC to the resorts will help people from the rest of California get to Anaheim’s big destinations more easily. As passenger rail ridership continues to climb, as are gas prices, this streetcar will prove to be a sound investment in transportation infrastructure. Walt Disney would be proud.