Claremont Insider: Transportation News

Friday, January 25, 2008

Transportation News

Lot's of train news in today's Daily Bulletin:


Leading things off, it looks like the Gold Line is on hold. According to a Bulletin article, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board left the Gold Line project off a list of critical projects.

The Gold Line did make a list of secondary projects, but without being on the A-list, the project cannot qualify for matching federal funds. So, the project is effectively on hold, the article said:

The 13-member Metropolitan Transportation Authority board effectively delayed construction of the $1.4 billion project until at least the end of 2009, subject to final approval of the regional funding list by mid-year.

Supporters of the extension had hoped to break ground before year's end, with initial service to Azusa and Glendora late in 2009, said authority CEO Habib Balian.

"But all this will add time to the project, causing a six-month to a year delay," said Balian. "We won't be able to get started when we wanted to."


The Bulletin also had a couple articles on the Claremont Off Track Trolley, for which the Claremont City Council Tuesday approved going forward with a bid process.

Will Bigham had a short article on the issue.

And David Allen had a column covering the council meeting Tuesday night. The most interesting bit from Allen's piece was the fact that he was able to attend two city council meetings that night, visiting Montclair as well as Claremont.

Allen wrote that the Montclair council meeting, which started at 7pm, lasted only 16 minutes, giving him plenty of time to make the trolley discussion in Claremont, an amazing stat given that for Claremont's council, Tuesday's ceremonial matters alone at the start of meeting must have taken over 16 minutes.

Besides mentioning the cost (originally pegged at $886,878 over three years, now up to $1,290,596), Allen brought up an objection we've heard from readers: Do we really need a trolley to cover a six-square block area?

Claremont Mayor Peter Yao and Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Taylor both talked about the replica trolley in Portland, OR, which they claimed was great and partly responsible for Portland's downtown renaissance. Of course, the comparison is a false one.

Claremont's trolley is really a small bus and will run 12.5 hours a day, three days a week on a 1.5 mile, 15-minute loop and carry a projected 15 passengers per hour. Portland's trolley runs on a light-rail line and is part of a large, urban transit system integrated with several light-rail lines and a bus system linking the downtown area to the airport and to suburbs, carrying thousands of people a day.

Allen seemed to find some of the same false notes in the comparison:
Mayor Peter Yao and Vice Mayor Ellen Taylor were the most enthusiastic. Yao touted Portland, Ore., with its popular trolley [pictured right] and rising property values along the line as a comparison.

That's a stretch, and I say that as someone tempted to pack up and move to Portland after a single visit. That is, if its famously overcast skies didn't promise 10 months a year of seasonal affective disorder.

Portland's a big city, and its trolley system is wide-ranging - 7.2 miles - and runs on real tracks.

One of our readers also wrote in with an opinion on the trolley business:

This sounds like another ill-fated idea like the roundabout. It is also indicative of the "there is nothing too good for Claremont, we're #5 and we deserve the best no matter what the cost" mentality that has re-surfaced in an even more virulent form with this council. It would be a riot to see a graphic that has a trolley, perhaps with some of the Claremont 400 sticking out of it, going around a roundabout. Rather like a dog chasing its tale to mix a metaphor. If this is such a great idea, why aren't some of the businesses ponying up some funds for it? Well, because they have suckered the city to do it for them and take all the risk.

In the meantime, we need a police station, infrastructure maintenance, and a host of other things that cities are obligated to provide for their citizens, not flights of fancy and questionable expenditures on the taxpayers dime. When this city should be tightening its belt it is indulging in the excessive spending that has led many a city into financial ruin.

I hope some people go to the budget hearings and express this view.

If Taylor and Yao (Tweedledee and Tweedledummer) are inured to the warnings perhaps Elderkin and Pedroza are still open to behaving like the proverbial ants instead of the grasshopper.

One last bit concerning the trolley. It occurred to us that the city may be on questionable grounds using state and county transit funds for the trolley project. The trolley, after all, isn't really a transit project. As presented by Claremont Community Services Director Scott Carroll and the Off Track Trolley Citizen's Committee (Claremonster Judy Wright) the trolley is supposed to benefit businesses, not drivers, commuters, bikers, or pedestrians.

By the city's own admission, the trolley is an economic development project, designed to encourage shopping in Claremont. The primary target of the trolley, according to the staff report, are people who would be likely to spend more in town. That's why the colleges are not included in the pilot project. Students don't spend as much money - Carroll said as much on the video from the Tuesday meeting.

In case we've forgotten, Claremont got into hot water with the U.S. Department of Transportation a couple years ago for using DOT grant money for the Village Expansion parking structure. Former City Manager Glenn Southard and his assistant Jim Lewis had falsely pitched the structure as transit center parking when in fact it was for Village Expansion shoppers.

Those who forget history, etc....