Claremont Insider: Transportation Friday

Friday, October 31, 2008

Transportation Friday

We've got more transportation news today, beginning with the Claremont Trolley, which began service yesterday. The free, trackless trolley will run three days per week, Thursdays through Saturdays, from 11am to 11pm and will now cost an estimated $1,290,596 for the three-year trial, up from the original estimate of $887,000. The city is estimating the trolley will average 15 riders per hour.

The trolley is being paid for with money Claremont receives from state transportation bond money, even though it has been described by city officials as an economic development project rather than as a transportation project (it supposedly encourages shoppers in different areas of the Claremont Village and Village Expansion).

The Daily Bulletin's Wes Woods II covered the trolley unveiling:

CLAREMONT - City officials and residents on Thursday celebrated the Claremont Village Trolley with a barbershop quartet, christening and free cake and punch.

"I think having a trolley will make the downtown attractive" to those who live outside Claremont, said resident Ping Chang, 42, who rode the trolley for the first time with her 4-year-old daughter, Tiffany.

For Community Services Director Scott Carrol, this is exactly what he believes will happen, as the trolley "promotes economic development in the Village," he said.

To welcome the start of the free trolley service on Thursday morning, Mayor Ellen Taylor spoke to city officials and residents at the Claremont Depot on First Street.

The event was the culmination of events that started with the City Council's approval in January of using transportation money to fund the new service for three years.

The Bulletin's David Allen also had a column on the trolley. Allen seemed skeptical of the project's success, and the column's headline is "Not All Aboard 'Trolley.'" Allen also managed to fit quotes from a current and a former Claremont mayor into the piece:

....Mayor Taylor is already a fan.

"It's very cute," Taylor said. "Very Claremont."

And also very Victoria Gardens, I told her.[SNOB ALERT - CI ed.]

"Do they have one?" Taylor asked. "I never go there."

The "trolley" was about to depart for its third trip. I climbed aboard. It has arched windows, wooden slat seats and straps for anyone who stands. But it also has tires and a bus driver.

A few passersby gave us curious looks. At Bonita and Yale, two women jumped up and down and took photos. Outside the Back Abbey pub on Oberlin, an employee watched quizzically before giving us a wave.

I rarely walk along First, so it was educational to learn the Peyton Grey clothing store is gone. With Chloe & Hunter, that's two recent closures in the Village Square. Oh, if only they could have hung on until the "trolley" started!

Moments later the vehicle was back at the depot, disgorging a columnist. I say, disgorging a columnist.

Former mayor Karen Rosenthal, who rode the faux trolley earlier, was lingering.

"I don't know who's going to ride it," Rosenthal admitted. "Maybe if you park in the Metrolink lot. But if you park in the Village, you could walk three blocks to the trolley, or you could walk three blocks to where you want to be.

"The ones who'll ride it," she added conspiratorially, "are the people who really need to be walking."

Queen Ellen (left) also received a mention in LA Times writer Steve Hymon's Bottleneck Blog. Hymon caught Taylor's opinion piece against LA County's Measure R, the proposed half-cent sales tax increase that would fund transportation projects. Hymon spoke with Her Highness:
I also spoke to Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor earlier today. She recently wrote a scathing opinion piece against Measure R that ran in the papers in the San Gabriel Valley. She doesn't believe the Gold Line Foothill Extension receives enough funds in the spending plan to get it to Claremont and Montclair -- the plan guarantees it $735 million -- and, equally important, she doesn't believe the money that the Gold Line is promised would arrive in any kind of timely fashion.

I posed this traffic question to her: What's it like in the Valley these days? Her answer:
It's miserable. I’ve lived in Claremont for 30 years and traffic has gotten much worse -- to the point that we don’t go into L.A. anymore. That’s not good for me. I like a full life where you experience stuff. We’ll go to a concert on Sunday afternoon [in Los Angeles] rather than Saturday night because it’s easier to get in and out...

We’re like the bologna in the bread here. And they keep building. You take the 210 east and all you see is roofs and they’re building them without building the infrastructure.
That's a fascinating quote. Why? In early 2007, Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote a piece about how bad Westside traffic is, with quotes from one resident saying they too no longer tried to attend cultural events in downtown L.A. (The Lopez column led to the creation of the Bottleneck Blog). Taylor is essentially saying the same thing, but from the other side of Los Angeles County.