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Trolley service good, inaction bad

August 27, 2004

Carolyn Wood

Recently the following announcement appeared on the city's website,

under Ken Frank, city manager, Friday updates:

"Weekend Trolley Service: In accord with a grant which we received

two years ago from Orange County Transportation Authority, the city

will be initiating a 10-month pilot project for weekend parking at

the Act V lot with tram service to the Downtown. This project was

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approved some time ago and the funds are included in the current

year's budget. The program will start on Labor Day and run through

next June. All of the costs are paid by the OCTA pilot grant."

At first glance, I thought this was good news. The idea of a beach

shuttle came up more than four years ago as a way of freeing up

Downtown parking spaces from beach parking to increase availability

for residents, visitors and shoppers. This idea fell on deaf ears,

but gained support with the success of the free shuttle experiment

when shuttle ridership more than doubled over the previous year. In

accordance with this success, Councilwoman Toni Iseman again

presented the idea of the weekend/holiday beach shuttle to the

Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee. The committee voted to

recommend to the council that the city apply for a grant from OCTA.

This issue was on the council agenda for Dec. 17, 2002. Prior to

this meeting city staff had decided to add another project. Rather

than supporting the Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee's

recommendation, staff recommended purchasing a new trolley to expand

services farther south along the highway during the summer. Steve

May, director of Public Works/City Engineer, said that "staff did not

support the [Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee]

recommendation on the basis that it would not provide sufficient

service to induce visitors to use the service and that parking in the

Downtown is not a great problem in the nonsummer months."

Councilman Wayne Baglin noted one of the criteria for the grant

money was to reduce commuter trips and the Parking, Traffic and

Circulation Committee recommendation would encourage motorists to

stop at Act V rather than coming into Downtown. In response, Frank

commented, "that if the goal is to get more people out of their cars

and on the bus, there are thousands of parking spaces on the weekend

in Aliso Viejo and hundreds of surplus buses."

After much discussion of the pros and cons of each proposal,

Councilman Steve Dicterow moved, Baglin seconded, and with Iseman's

support, the council voted 3 to 2 "to direct staff to submit two

applications to the OCTA."

Now for the bad news. The grant for weekend shuttle service for

beach-goers was approved, but the city has no implementation plan;

the money is in, but to date, the council has not even discussed a

pilot project. Staff refers to the project as "tram service to the

Downtown" and anticipates having the tram travel only between the Act

V parking lot and the bus depot, which misses the original intent of

a weekend beach shuttle to serve beachgoers and remove beach parking

from Downtown streets.

Without any promotion and without taking passengers all the way to

Main Beach Park, the beach shuttle will be dead on arrival, another

piecemeal decision without any planning that will result in a doomed

project and a waste of taxpayers' money.

* CAROLYN WOOD is a Laguna Beach resident, a member of the

Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee and president of the

Laguna Canyon Conservancy.

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