Next Stop: Immobility

An A to Z Guide to Surviving the Death/Pause/Sunshine of the CenterLine

NisforNewHomesThe Orange County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 8 approved the Rancho Mission Viejo project, paving the way for at least 14,000 new homes and hundreds of acres of commercial development in South County between Mission Viejo, Camp Pendleton and the Cleveland National Forest. Supervisor Tom Wilson, a major proponent of the plan, says that Rancho Mission Viejo won't bring new traffic to Orange County because the developer will provide $144 million in traffic-mitigation funds. But all those new lanes will only make it easier for thousands of extra cars to hit the road in South County. As the Foothill Transportation Corridor and the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor—two taxpayer-funded toll roads meant to serve brand-new gated communities—have already demonstrated, more roads just mean more homes, and more homes means more traffic. If you live in South County and like the slow pace of life there, get ready for things to get even slower. (NS)

OisforOCTAAcronym for Orange County Transportation Authority, the multibillion-dollar agency that is supposed to mitigate traffic and other transportation problems for county residents but instead usually exacerbates them. (GA)

PisforPotholelandiaDerisive nickname for Santa Ana, whose mayor, Miguel Pulido, is one of the most influential members of the OCTA board of trustees. To wit: last year, he lobbied the Orange County League of Cities for another six-year board term despite bylaws calling for his removal and also urged then-state Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) to sponsor legislation that expanded the OCTA board of trustees from 11 members to 17, a move the League of Cities called "controversial." He remains the last man to burn the CenterLine candle: he told The Orange County Register that CenterLine's defeat is actually "a transition. . . . [Transportation officials could] keep our options open and convert it (to light rail) later"—primarily because 80 percent of its proposed path would pass through Santa Ana. Meanwhile, Santa Ana streets slowly return to the dirt that birthed them. (GA)

QisforQuintessentialCarGuySince he designs smart stuff all day in Mercedes-Benz's top-secret batcave in Irvine, you'd think Nick Garfias would be on the waiting list for a DaimlerChrysler Smart car, or else drive a Prius or bicycle. But Garfias drives to exceed—not just to strike down with great vengeance and furious anger Hondas on the 405, but to demonstrate the invincibility of quintessential Detroit muscle: the Dodge Hemi V8. Dodge and Garfias both resurrected the Hemi V8 at around the same time several years ago: the car company testing the waters by reintroducing its most famous, most powerful engine ever (now available virtually across the Dodge line); Garfias by acquiring a 1950s-era edition of the Hemi to put in the period-correct hot-rod roadster he's building. A '29 A on a Deuce frame (in authentic gearhead talk), it sits next to a chopped 1930 Ford Model A coupe (with a 1956 Chevy V8) in his Long Beach garage with a huge "MOPAR performance" banner on the inside of the swinging door, right in front of a 1927 Ford Model T roadster body that belongs to a friend. (MOPAR stands for Dodge Motor Parts.) Garfias is nothing if not committed to his cause: the transport of himself and others from one place to another quickly by V8, preferably ancient, preferably Dodge. Outside his garage—because he's out of room—sits his former daily driver: a Day-Glo orange 1969 Roadrunner with a bad transmission. Before that, he drove a red 1964 Dodge Polara with a reproduction 1964 Pomona Winternationals window sticker, and before that, a 1967 Plymouth Satellite painted Richard Petty-blue primer and lowered over blacked-out NASCAR-style steel wheels that he tracked down and bought back to put on the Roadrunner. So WMDs were in Long Beach the whole time—but why? "Because, yeah, well, where do I start? The same reason I'm at this job is the same reason you're asking this question," he says. Translation: in California, you are what you drive—and some of you go to the Winternationals every year and try to get down by the starting line where you go deaf in the sound and the smell of nitromethane in the morning. (Theo Douglas)

RisforRedCarLinesThe prenatal death of the CenterLine project makes it hard to imagine a future in which Orange County will ever be linked by a light-rail system to the rest of Southern California. What makes this particularly pathetic is that half a century ago, we already were. The signature red cars of the Pacific Electric Railway once ran to stations in Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Seal Beach, Huntington Beach and even down the Balboa Peninsula to the Pavilion. There were 20 roundtrips a day between Santa Ana and LA. The ride from downtown H.B. to downtown LA took 62 minutes, and you could continue on—pleasantly reading, playing checkers or making whoopee—all the way to Santa Monica, Ventura or Redlands. According to historian Spencer Crump, the commuter link the Pacific Electric created was crucial to OC's development. In a 1992 interview, Crump said that early in the 20th Century, "there was really no work in Orange County except in the orange groves or in retail stores. The work was in LA. The main reason some of these cities—Cypress, Garden Grove and Santa Ana—grew was because they were on the Red Car line." The Pacific Electric's 900 cars and 1,150 miles of track weren't the result of altruism or civic action; they happened because, for a time, greed coincided with the public interest. The rail line was never particularly profitable for owner Henry Huntington, at least not directly. He also owned the electric companies that powered them and the cities he created by buying and developing large tracts of land on the cheap so he could run rail lines there. He wasn't shy about this, which is why towns wound up with names like Huntington Beach. As automobiles became more popular, the Red Car lines lost riders and lost even more when the trains were slowed by traffic right-of-ways. Eventually, the Pacific Electric was sold to a consortium that included General Motors and Firestone Tires, whose interest lay in doing away with the trains, which they did with a biblical finality, tearing up the rails and dumping the train cars in the ocean or shipping them to South America. By 1961, the Pacific Electric was no more. "We've created a sort of hell here, I think, compared to 35 years ago," Crump mused in 1992. "I liked it when we could see the mountains. It's been a nice deal for the oil companies, but for individual people, we are only faced with a tremendous and complete traffic jam that doesn't give us anything." (Jim Washburn)

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