By Noel T. Braymer
Since the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC) opened late last year, some local media in Orange County have been complaining about it not being an overnight success. To get some prospective we need to look at some of the problems the old Amtrak station had in Anaheim and what the future holds for ARTIC.
Amtrak opened its Anaheim Station in 1986. Ridership for that station was very weak when it first opened compared to other stations along the LOSSAN route. Ridership at Anaheim improved over the years. But several problems with the station held back ridership.The Amtrak station was in the parking lot of Angels Stadium, which cut it off from direct access to nearby Katella Blvd. To enter the station required entering the parking lot of the stadium.There was poor pedestrian access into or out of the station. There was no local transit bus service to the old station. Also there was little in the way of potential walk up traffic for the Anaheim Amtrak station. The area around the stadium has little housing and is largely retail, industrial and city services yards.
It didn’t help that the stations next to Anaheim; Fullerton and Santa Ana are both only about 5 miles apart from Anaheim in this heavily populated area of Orange County. For most people living in this area, these other stations were more convenient to use than Amtrak’s Anaheim Station.
The new ARTIC center is beginning to address these problems. Anaheim is a major travel destination. Fullerton and Santa Ana are better travel origins. The primary destination in the region is the area around the Disneyland Resort. This comprises of Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, Downtown Disney which is a shopping arcade open to the general public as well as 3 hotels in the resort. There are also many hotels surrounding the Disneyland Resort as well as the Anaheim Convention Center. Rail passenger service with connections between ARTIC and the Disneyland Resort during its peak business hours for now is limited.
The other major destination in Anaheim are Angels Stadium and the Honda Center, home of the Mighty Ducks hockey team. Honda Center is across the street at Katella Blvd. from Angels Stadium and ARTIC. With the opening of ARTIC comes direct access for passengers to Katella Blvd. Unlike the old Amtrak station, people can now see the new ARTIC center from the street. With ARTIC it is now possible for passengers both by bus and train to reach the Honda Center for events by just walking across the street. ARTIC unlike the old Amtrak station has several transit and intercity bus services with room for more.
Better rail service is needed to serve more of the market for events at Angels Stadium/Honda Center and for people going to the Disneyland Resort. As track improvements are finished on the LOSSAN Corridor it will be possible to run more trains at times to better serve events or travel to the Disneyland Resort.There is also need for more packaged deals that combine train tickets, hotels and attractions at the Disneyland Resort. There is private bus service (Anaheim Resort Transit) which serves the area around Disneyland and connects to ARTIC now. There are future plans to build a Streetcar to connect ARTIC with the Disneyland area. These efforts have the support of the Disney Corporation which seeks growth while dealing with the limits of parking and road capacity in the region. The same critics of ARTIC are also critics of the Anaheim Streetcar project. ARTIC ridership will grow as better connections and services to both Angels Stadium/Honda Center and Disneyland resorts become available. This won’t happen overnight.
Another factor that will take time is new development around ARTIC. Currently development around ARTIC and most of Southern California is auto centered. This is changing as property prices continue to increase and traffic becomes more congested. Both commercial development and new housing in and around ARTIC will increase ridership. Some of the land for the Angels Stadium parking lot could be used of future development. This would bring in more revenue than parking for stadium events. Disneyland used its original 1955 parking lot to build more hotels and California Adventure and replaced the parking lot with parking structures. A combination of parking structures and increased passenger use of ARTIC can be used to serve Angels Stadium/Honda Center. This new development would also generate more traffic for ARTIC.
In the next 14 years or so there are plans to extend High Speed Passenger Rail service to ARTIC. This will serve the Anaheim destinations of the Disneyland Resort and Angels Stadium/Honda Center. Anaheim will also become a origin for longer distance travel in California with High Speed Rail service. Much work and rail service improvements will be needed in the next 14 years for this to happen.
If we look back at most big projects, it takes time for economic growth to develop from improved transportation. This is true of BART in the Bay Areas and we are seeing a repeat of this with the Red Line in Los Angeles. Neither were overnight successes, BART has completely changed the skyline on Market Street in San Francisco compared it what it was before BART. After years with a slow start, new development took hold and now BART ridership is often at capacity and overcrowding is common. It would be impossible to think of the Bay Area functioning today without BART.
The Red Line subway in Los Angeles was very slow at first to attract major ridership. Cost overruns and problems with subway construction led Los Angeles County to outlaw future subway construction after the completion of the original Red Line. Today Los Angeles County is extending the now Purple Line west from Western and Wilshire to Westwood. Los Angeles County is now looking at converting its crowded Orange Line Busway which connects to the Red Line in North Hollywood into a light rail service.