Last month, the Voice of OC ran an article on the Anaheim Rapid Connection project that basically made the argument that the whole reason for building ARC is to help Disney but Disney isn’t being asked to pay for it. I thought it was a silly argument, which strikes me as akin to condemning economic activity and the automobile companies for necessitating freeways.

A reader sent me an e-mail that made excellent points that regarding the VOC article, and I’d like to share it to further inform the discussion:

Adam’s argument makes no sense at all. The reasons he gives for the higher cost per mile of Anaheim’s proposed system over other recently proposed systems in other cities are:

1) Higher labor costs in California generally and Orange County specifically, which isn’t Disney’s fault.

2) Higher costs related to environmental regulations, which aren’t Disney’s fault.

3) More vehicles per mile, due to greater demand, which arguably is Disney’s fault but only because they’re a successful business and tourist attraction, which in turn serves the public interest by bringing people here to stay in our hotels and buy goods in our stores and restaurants.

4) Undergrounding of power to the streetcars, which again is arguably Disney’s fault, but it also serves the public interest in keeping the Resort Area one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

5) Purchase of right-of-way within the Resort Area to build it, which isn’t Disney’s fault.

Of the five reasons Adam gives for the higher cost of Anaheim’s proposed system, only two of them can be attributed in any way back to Disney. The two that can be attributed to Disney really boil down to the fact that Disney drives a lot of traffic to the area, and therefore there is a substantial need for more transit capacity.

I truly don’t understand this attack on the streetcars from the Left. It is the Left that should be championing more mass transit throughout Anaheim and the county as a whole. The options in the Resort aren’t really to build the streetcar system or nothing, it’s to build the streetcar system or to build more roads. We’d be better off giving people more choices on how to get around Anaheim, whether that be in cars, on mass transit, by bike or by foot.

Finally, it is fair for Disney to say that they won’t build a third gate unless the traffic in the Resort Area is alleviated  Right now, if they added a third gate and increased the number of people coming into the Resort by a few tens of thousands a day, the roads would be at a standstill and people would have a very poor experience at Disneyland and in Anaheim more generally. Anaheim’s economy, just like Disneyland’s profits, is based on the quality of services we can provide to the tourists that visit Anaheim. At worst the city’s general fund breaks even, but more likely the Resort brings in more money than it takes to provide those quality services to the tourists, including transit services, and that extra money can go into our residential neighborhoods and communities.

What Adam and the like-minded are missing is that the better off the Resort does, the more resources there will be for the services they’re demanding. Everyone in the city, from east to west, is better off when Disney and the Resort prosper. Few in the city pay enough in taxes, either through property taxes or sales taxes, to cover the cost of services we receive. Our services are subsidized by the tourists, not the other way around.

I would add complementary point regarding undergrounding the wires: a great deal of money was spent beautifying the Resort District in the 1990s. It makes perfect sense to avoid undoing that work by undergrounding the wires powering the streetcars.