Santa Ana Has a Desire Named Streetcar

An interstate high-speed train that would stop in Anaheim and another linking the town that Walt Disney built with the town the mob built (Las Vegas) get all the media attention, but a California Planning N Development Report article claims slow poky streetcars will be online up and down the Golden State much sooner.

Among those jumping aboard “the streetcar bandwagon” are Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Long Beach.

So argues “California Cities Desire Streetcars.”

If a new generation of transportation advocates and federal officials has their way, California will soon have miles of brand-new rail lines, strategically sited to enliven cities, increase real estate values, and whisk passengers several whole blocks at speeds of… nearly 20 miles per hour.

High-speed rail, it's not. But $40 billion, it's not either.

Serious consideration of trolleys and streetcars is not born out of nostalgia but need: transportation planners, especially in urban areas, are looking for modes that connect places in close proximity to one another.

Santa Ana would have streetcars shuttle riders between its downtown and Garden Grove's regional transit hub, and the beauty is they can be introduced sooner rather than later because, unlike fixed rail cars, trolleys and streetcars can traverse the same streets as cars, trucks and buses. They would need fixed lanes, but there would be no right-of-way issues to work out.

That, of course, has been the time-sucker when it comes to fixed rail. But some also see streetcars as “place holders” for future, faster-moving trains. Long Beach City Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal is quoted in the piece saying streetcars can build enthusiasm for future trains, since they often appeal to rail riders.

There are critics to streetcars who see them as an expensive fad. They note trolleys do little to help the climate or solve regional transportation problems because they move so slowly. But others argue streetcars demonstrate to the public that investment in city cores and local, sustainable traffic solutions are being promoted.  

Other cities planning streetcars are Los Angeles, Oakland and Sacramento, prompting the California Planning N Development Report item to conclude: 

No matter what, it's likely that new trolleys will be clanging modestly
down California streets long before they get out-raced by bullet trains.

Transportation planners looking for inspiration need look no farther than San Francisco–or the supermarket aisle where Rice-A-Roni boxes are stacked.

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