Anaheim Needs a Monorail

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Have you ever inched you way past Disneyland during rush hour? Or the Big A after an Angel game? Or the freeways at most any time? It gives “slow” a bad name.

There’s been talk of adding trollies and bullet trains and bicycle lanes to ease traffic congestion within the city of Anaheim, but what we really need is a monorail.

A monorail makes sense for several reasons.

First, it’s only one rail (hence its name), which means it would only cost half as much as a train or trolley requiring two rails (or a Lionel train that requires three).

Second, it’s built in the air so there wouldn’t be any land use problems or public domain issues or zoning disputes because the monorail would literally be above it all.

Third, experts who know how to build and maintain a monorail already exist within the city. It would truly be a Mickey Mouse operation.

Fourth, it would allow families who have boxes of “E” tickets they’ve been hoarding for decades a chance to finally redeem them.

Fifth, they’re quiet and don’t require honking loud horns at intersections to warn pedestrians and automobile drivers because, well, there wouldn’t be any intersections.

Sixth, engineers could build slides for exiting passengers. Not only would this be fun, it would save the costs of having to build down staircases and down elevators.

Seven, the monorail itself could be twisted into a loop-de-loop inside ARTIC to make it an exciting rollercoaster-like ride, which would encourage young people to use it.

Finally, the monorail itself would engender an entire cottage industry of add-ons such as dioramas of the Jurassic Age or how bills become laws. Brass rings could dangle from posts, reminding riders of a simpler age and allowing them to win a free ride. It would be fun for the whole family.

Just sayin’.

12 comments

  1. This was a heavily studied option in Anaheim but it’s actually double the cost to build because of the elevated structure and its a relatively untested transit mode so it doesn’t compte well for federal funding and Calofornia already struggles to compete with the northeast for transit funding. Given we need half the cost to come from federal grant funding the alternative the city is moving forward with now is best possible option. The light rail alternative the council approved works very well nationally and around the world including in some of the oldest and most historic cities in Europe.

  2. It’s too bad. A monorail would be an elegant solution. It would also be an attraction in itself and, I’d wager, would encourage more commuters to use public transportation. Well, back to reality.

  3. I’d love to see a monorail!

  4. If I remember correctly, the cost estimate for the elevated rail option was in the ballpark of 7 or 800 million.

  5. The Anaheim staff member has not done a very good job of researching. Anaheim staff did a very intensive research a number of years ago that was presented to OCTA when Centerline was being proposed. It is not an untested transit mode around the world. An at grade trolley takes up lanes of current traffic or involves expensive land acquisitions to widen the road. It puts wires in the air when Anaheim is spending millions of dollars a mile to underground utilities. If it doesn’t put wires in the air the technology may well be the untested mode the staff member refers to. Anaheim is not an old world city and doesn’t need an old world technology. This is the third time, not including Centerline, that an extraordinary amount of money has been spent on studies.

    • A streetcar system does not require dedicated lanes and corresponding land acquisition. They can share lanes with existing traffic and that is what is currently proposed in Anaheim. The impact to traffic is minimal when you’re talking about a vehicle that moves with the flow of traffic on a street that carries tens of thousands of vehicles per day.

      WIRES:

      The wires would be nice to hide and the latest presentation on the anaheimfixedguideway.com says they’re looking at systems that minimize or eliminate overhead wires, but I have no idea what the cost/benefit looks like for going with one system over another. I’ve ridden on several systems that appear to be electric and don’t have overhead wires. I imagine that if they can go overhead, they can also go underground.

      STUDIES:

      I haven’t followed this issue much, so I don’t know what previous studies you’re referring to, but studying the issue until stakeholders are in agreement seems like a good approach. Whatever they’ve spent on studies, it’s a tiny fraction of what construction will cost.

      As the Anaheim City Employee mentioned, it is wise to keep in mind the requirements and scoring methods of potential funding sources.

      COSTS:

      If anyone wants to look at costs of the systems that were considered, you can take a look at page 14 of the “ARC Community Meeting (Alternatives Analysis Update) – September 12, 2012” pdf: http://anaheimfixedguideway.com/assets/docs/library/ARC_Community_Meeting.pdf

      Here’s the numbers from that 2012 presentation:

      Enhanced Bus – $50 million construction, $2.6 million/yr operation
      Streetcar – $350 million construction, $5 million/yr operation
      Elevated Fixed-Guideway – $700 million construction, $10 million/yr operation

      I only skimmed the oldest presentation from the “ARC documents and links” page of http://anaheimfixedguideway.com/ so there is probably newer info available.

    • When the city employee mentioned systems operating in old cities in Europe, that does not mean they are using old technology. The point being made is that new systems were successfully integrated/retrofitted to an existing city where existing structures/property create a challenge, just like the situation that Anaheim faces.

  6. Sky Buckets. I would be the first to write a check toward the campaign to get the bond measure approved to build Sky Buckets. Sadly we will spend millions to “study” the streetcar option, despite streetcars having been discarded already by the current study in progress. WHY? Nobody will answer that! By end of 2009 the streetcar option had been dropped from the list of options due to its failure to meet Anaheim’s needs in mixed traffic. That is reflected in the documents on the ARC website, check the early Scoping Meetings. But when the monorail became too expensive (regulations dictated expensive walkways for emergency exits) and only the dedicated bus lines appeared to remain as a viable option, suddenly streetcars became the “Aha!” moment for Anaheim. It seems we are less motivated to find a solution to moving people effectively, and more focused on finding some public works project the Feds will pay for-ANY public works project we can make the Feds pay for! That seems a silly way to spend hundreds of millions of dollars. Unless of course it is all about getting the public to cover the cost of infrastructure leading up to the public works project…then it makes all the sense in the world. Lastly, why are we studying the route from ARTIC to the existing two Disney gates? Even Kris Murray told OCTA this is all about enabling construction of the THIRD GATE. So why are we not running the system to the THIRD GATE? Gene Autry way is a far shorter distance from ARTIC, up and over the 5 freeway, into the 3rd gate, and across to the Convention Center and back. Because Gene Autry and Convention Way were both carved from the old Pacifico Street, they align perfectly, making a straight shot, which is the least expensive (and physically fastest route for running fixed rail) and yet that was tossed as well, and substituted for the route that takes the private property of one small business to move Disney’s transportation plaza off their high value real estate and drop it onto the land of the Scalzo family. This is not cool, and taking land by eminent domain is not who Anaheim said we wanted to be. It also does nothing for the 3rd gate, so why design it this way? I support efforts to enable the 3rd gate, I get it, Disney is busting at the seams, and taxpayers could greatly benefit from expansion (if we cut a better deal than the wholesale gift of public funds handed to Le Mouse in the 1997 bond deals) but the streetcar option on the table right now is shown by the City’s own records to make traffic worse, fails to transport the guest load required for peak service, and is ridiculously expensive while appearing to be funded entirely from the wallets of the taxpayers. Let’s try again please, and next time let the Imagineers design something truly spectacular we can celebrate as an attraction in its own right instead of recycling Portland’s microwaved leftovers.

    • It seems irresponsible to Anaheim taxpayers to ignore funding options. Just as a hypothetical, lets say an elevated solution requires 100% local funding and a streetcar requires 50% local funding and the balance comes from the feds.

      Here are some ridership estimates:

      Enhanced Bus – 6,300 daily boardings
      Streetcar – 7,700 daily boardings
      Elevated Fixed-Guideway – 10,700 daily boardings

      and cost estimates:

      Enhanced Bus – $50 million construction
      Streetcar – $350 million construction
      Elevated Fixed-Guideway – $700 million construction

      Using my example percentages, that would put the streetcar at a cost of $175M to Anaheim vs $700M for the elevated solution. However superior it may be, is it worth an extra $525M (300%) to Anaheim even though ridership is only 40% higher?

  7. I appreciate former Councilmember McCrackens comments and her leadership when you were on the council. Over the past 10 years the city did study a monorail option and the cost was more than $600M to build. Twice the cost of the current at-grade alternative. Also, the FTA is not supportive of monorail technology and it woule not rank well in the very competitive New Starts grant program, which is where the city must compete for the federal funding. The current project as proposed have been implemented successfully in cities across the country and ridership is exceeding expectation – LA is now surpassing 100 million annual riders on their network. Light rail is working and the system the council propose would integrate with traffic and not be any more disruptive than the bus systems that use our lanes today. Fortunately, technology is advancing and the city is looking at electric street cars that would only use the overhead lines at origin and destination. This is a good option that is irking successfully nationally and internationally and it’s half the cost of an elevated monorail. The idea mentioned above by another commenter of sky buckets swinging families and luggage overhead around the city is ludicrous and why would anyone consider bond financing a system that Anaheim taxpayers would back when local and federal transportation funding can be used for the proposed system.

  8. There really is such a desperate need for a sarcasm font. I cannot tell if City Employee is joking or simply does not work in the Public Works department, fails to understand in any way the scope of the project, and is merely parroting back what they overheard while mopping out the men’s room.

    I will take the comments in sections, I guess, just in case this person is serious and not jerking my chain.

    City Employee: “I appreciate former Councilmember McCrackens comments and her leadership when you were on the council. Over the past 10 years the city did study a monorail option and the cost was more than $600M to build. Twice the cost of the current at-grade alternative. Also, the FTA is not supportive of monorail technology and it woule not rank well in the very competitive New Starts grant program, which is where the city must compete for the federal funding.”

    I join City Employee in applauding Council member McCracken’s leadership, she is greatly missed, and her common sense approach would be welcome at the dais today.

    However, I disagree with City Employee’s view that only streetcars can compete for Federal funding,

    May 2010 Peter Rogoff gave a speech in Boston that got him in hot water with his boss, Ray LaHood, but he spoke the truth when he said this;

    “Supporters of public transit must be willing to share some simple truths that folks don’t want to hear,” said Rogoff. “One is this — Paint is cheap, rails systems are extremely expensive. Yes, transit riders often want to go by rail. But it turns out you can entice even diehard rail riders onto a bus, if you call it a ’special’ bus and just paint it a different color than the rest of the fleet.”

    Rogoff pointed out that America’s transit systems have $78 billion of deferred maintenance, the vast majority of which is for rail lines even though the majority of transit trips are by buses. His point is not simply that we aren’t maintaining rail lines, but that such maintenance is extremely expensive and rail supporters often deceptively ignore such costs when trying to sell new rail lines to the public. “if you can’t afford to operate the system you have,” Rogoff warns urban leaders, “why does it make sense for us to partner in your expansion?”

    In contrast to rail, says Rogoff, “Bus Rapid Transit is a fine fit for a lot more communities than are seriously considering it.” While not suitable everywhere, there are many places that are considering light rail, commuter rail, and other rail lines that would do far better with BRT.
    “…at least 80 urban areas are seeking federal funds for rail transit, when the 30 or so urban areas that already have rail transit can’t afford to maintain…”

    Before we claim Disney’s visitors won’t get on a bus, and demand a Federally funded rail line, go park in the Toy Story lot and tell me how you get to the park from there. Visitors don’t care what mode of transport you offer them, rubber tire or fixed rail is immaterial, they just want to avoid sitting their 5 year old next to the homeless guy with his fly unzipped who is talking to himself, and thus they won’t get on a PUBLIC transportation system. Anything with a Disney wrap on it or the need for tickets to the park in order to ride is going to eliminate the ‘unwashed masses” issue tourism objects to, and anything that works effectively is going to be considered by FTA. We should not be pursuing a losing project just because Uncle Sam might foot the bill.

    City Employee: “The current project as proposed have been implemented successfully in cities across the country and ridership is exceeding expectation – LA is now surpassing 100 million annual riders on their network. Light rail is working and the system the council propose would integrate with traffic and not be any more disruptive than the bus systems that use our lanes today.”

    First of all the point is to make things better, so “no more disruptive” is merely maintaining he status quo, not what I am looking to divert Measure M dollars into. That claim is also contrary to what we find in the Alternatives Analysis, which shows traffic gets WORSE.

    “Another difficulty in service is that existing transit runs in mixed‐flow traffic with automobiles, which subjects it to peak‐period congestion and delay‐causing incidents.”

    Yet the streetcar runs in the SAME mixed flow traffic, which is why they tossed it early on, and nobody has ever explained how it got dusted off and put back in.

    • During the November 12, 2009 Scoping Meeting, attendees were told that the following modalities had been dismissed already, as not viable.
    http://www.anaheim.net/images/articles/4454/November12_Background_Boards.pdf
    TRADITIONAL BUS: Not suitable due to operation in mixed traffic
    STREETCAR: Not suitable due to operation in mixed traffic

    3.3.1.3 Streetcar Alternative

    The Streetcar Alternative is a street‐running rail system operating in a mixed‐flow
    configuration primarily in the existing street right‐of‐way. The benefits associated with this alternative, referenced from the Travel Demand
    Forecasting Results Report (Appendix C), include:

    · Ridership of approximately 7,717 passengers per day;

    · Reduction of approximately 732 daily automobile trips within the corridor and 496 trips regionally; and

    · Reduction in automobile vehicle miles traveled (VMT) of 1,528 miles within the
    corridor and 15,279 miles regionally.

    As discussed previously, although this alternative has the potential to reduce
    automobile trips by 732 daily trips, this would be a corridor total and no one
    intersection or roadway segment would be reduced by this amount. The reduction in trips would occur throughout the Study Area based on several origin/destination pairs. Therefore, the potential decrease in automobile trips due to the Streetcar
    Alternative would be minimal on an intersection by intersection or street by street basis, and the conservative assumption and no reductions in volumes at the analysis
    locations would be appropriate.

    With the Streetcar Alternative, the intersection of Sportstown/Katella Avenue is
    projected to degrade from acceptable LOS D to an unacceptable LOS F in the p.m.
    peak hour, as a result of the need to create a transit‐only phase to allow the
    streetcar to safely transverse through the intersection.

    Table 3.13 presents the 2035 Streetcar Alternative ADT roadway
    segment analysis
    for the 11 affected Study Area roadway segments. As shown in this
    table, 8 of the 11 Study Area roadway segments are forecast to
    continue to operate at an unacceptable LOS D or worse, no more
    than
    with the No Build Alternative.

    These conditions would somewhat worsen with the Enhanced Bus
    Alternative and Streetcar Alternative, as they would result in reductions in roadway capacity which
    would lead to increased V/C ratios. In addition, both the Enhanced Bus Alternative and Streetcar Alternative would also result in additional intersections worsening to unacceptable conditions (two locations and one location, respectively)
    .

    City Employee: “Fortunately, technology is advancing and the city is looking at electric street cars that would only use the overhead lines at origin and destination. This is a good option that is irking (sic) successfully nationally and internationally and it’s half the cost of an elevated monorail. The idea mentioned above by another commenter of sky buckets swinging families and luggage overhead around the city is ludicrous”

    Yep, ludicrous…which is why gondolas or aerial tramways are used all over the world to get visitors from point A to point B, reducing traffic congestion, with astonishingly few accidents. The Metrocable systems in Columbia are so well run they are an extension of the existing public transit lines. There are 3 in Medellin, carrying 30,000 people DAILY and 2 more in Manizales which carry 1,530 patrons per hour.

    https://www.metrodemedellin.gov.co/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=61&Itemid=165&lang=en

    Line K spans 2 kilometers (~1.2 miles) in the northeastern part of Medellín
    Line J spans 2.9 kilometers (~1.8 miles) in the western part of Medellín.
    Line L spans 4.6 kilometers (~2.9 miles) between the Santo Domingo transfer station and El Tambo district,

    A system in Ankara is 2 miles long, and connects 4 stations, one a Metro station.

    Singapore Cable Car built in 1974 was the first aerial tramway to span a harbor, it now carries 1,400 passengers per hour in either direction, and recently added glass-bottomed cabins at $30k each.

    London gondolas built for the 2012 Olympics are a shorter trip, at less than one mile up and over the Thames, but are privately funded.

    A good comparison to Anaheim’s needs might be Japan’s Awashima Kaijo Ropeway, a very short trip into a Marine Park, one needs a ticket to the amusement park to ride the gondola.

    And currently in planning stages, the Burnaby Mountain system will carry both tourists (and their luggage) and commuters as well as those headed for the University. It just cleared the Canadian version of Alternatives Analysis and is in line for funding as a project. Documents linked here show its feasibility, it actually looks like better justification than what was offered for the Anaheim streetcar.

    http://www.translink.ca/~/media/Documents/plans_and_projects/rapid_transit_projects/burnaby_mtn_gondola/Burnaby%20Mountain%20Gondola%20Alternatives%20Assessment.ashx

    You also need not limit the upright supports to towers, they can be built into structures, including the hotels that might be in the way of the project and could instead be incorporated into the project!

    Oh and Burnaby Mountain is slated to carry ridership at 2021 peak 2,900 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd) and 2041 peak 3,400 pphpd while the ARC will only carry 4,168 riders per DAY (pre-HSR) and the gondolas outrank the streetcars even in peak project cities that are used as optimum examples;

    – Portland: 2,800 projected daily riders/10,000 actual daily
    – Seattle: 1,000 projected weekday riders/3,000 actual

    http://www.anaheim.net/images/articles/4454/ARC.pdf

    City Employee: “ and why would anyone consider bond financing a system that Anaheim taxpayers would back when local and federal transportation funding can be used for the proposed system.”

    Uh…where does the “local funding” come from if not bonds?
    http://anaheimfixedguideway.com/assets/docs/library/140220%20ARC_Factsheet.pdf

    Potential capital funding sources:
    FTA New Starts (we know this only represents a percentage)
    STIP
    Cal Prop 1A
    Cal Prop 1B
    ATID
    Measure M local sales tax
    Local Funds
    Private Contributions

    That “local funding” is in addition to the usual sources cited for capital projects, leaving only one remaining source for “local funds.” Bonding through a JPA.

    On October 23, 2012 the City Council agreed they would not obligate the General Fund for the streetcar, but we now know the City Council is willing to put on the hat of a JPA, claim they are now obligating the General Fund for LEASE PAYMENTS, and therefore as the JPA they are exempt from pesky little requirements (like promises made in 2012 or adherence to the City Charter!) that must be followed by the City Council, and can do as they please, including floating bonds against the General Fund. Since this is the only remaining “local funding” left that is NOT already on the list, it is safe to assume that is what they will be doing to generate that capital improvement fund.

    And if my future is going to be mortgaged against my will I would prefer to copy the really cool thing Portland did that transportation geeks come see as a field trip in and of itself, instead of Portland’s sloppy seconds streetcars that make traffic worse. http://www.gobytram.com/tours/

    But hey, thanks for playing. You have a good evening.

  9. Is it reasonable to say that the streetcar solution would increase congestion? The ridership estimates from 2012 are as follows:

    Enhanced Bus – 6,300 daily boardings
    Streetcar – 7,700 daily boardings
    Elevated Fixed-Guideway – 10,700 daily boardings

    What would those riders do if none of these solutions exist? Would they stay home or would they drive themselves? Naturally, the elevated solution should not impact traffic, but to say that the streetcars will increase congestion seems to assume that the people riding the streetcar would not visit the area. In reality, some portion of people that use a car will choose to use one of these solutions if they were built.

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