As many of you know, after OCTA and busses across the nation have had busses fail left and right due to increasing transportation options like Uber and Lyft (and even free services like the Downtowner!). These services remove the necessity for public transportation for many people, and allow them to ride freely or cheaply to their same destinations.
As a response to this, the OCTA (which runs the busses in Orange County) has offered up grant money in case cities want to give busses a shot themselves. On the very surface, this is a dumb idea. First, if people wouldn’t ride busses from all over OC to Newport Beach, why would they ride from Newport Beach to Newport Beach? Second, at the estimated cost to taxpayers of $22 per trip (that’s $44 per round-trip, and likely $88 per day per passenger due to two round trips being likely), this comes in at an insanely-high-priced option considering that there are already free solutions in place which cost both taxpayers and riders $0 per trip.
I was going to go into a long tangent about this, but Newporter Ashley Jacobs has already written at least one of our councilmembers with a synopsis that perfectly sums it up, so I’ll let her take it away from here!
[…] Both Dixon and Kiff will tell you this “trolley” will reduce traffic, improve parking, is no cost to taxpayers, and residents want it. None of this is true.
Here are the facts on the Balboa Trolley and why it should be opposed:
1. There is a cost to taxpayers. At Dixon’s town hall, it was revealed that 88% of the funds for this trolley are coming from a grant. The other 12% of funding ($130k) is coming from the BVMA parking meters. The grant is funded by taxpayer dollars, so this is a cost to taxpayers (not to mention it was taxpayer dollars that purchased part of the land that the BVMA parking meters sit on).
2. The bus will increase traffic. The proposed stops for the bus are along Balboa Blvd. There is no space for a bus to pull over at many proposed stops because of parked cars, so this bus will block 1 of the 2 lanes of traffic in either direction while at each stop.
3. An increase in traffic will hurt local businesses. Anything that makes it more difficult to get to the Balboa Village businesses can only hurt them, not help them.
4. OCTA reduced their bus routes to the peninsula due to low ridership. If a government organization with more resources to market their services is reducing their routes due to low ridership (and giving money to have other government organizations to let them deal with transportation issues), there is no reason to think this bus will have any success. Even Laguna’s trolley service is declining in ridership due to Uber (see article here). This type of transportation is dying out.
5. Residents don’t want this bus. In a survey put out by Dixon last month to determine the look of the bus, 38.1% of residents wrote “No Bus” in the other option section. While this would indicate the majority of residents want a bus, Dixon didn’t publicly promote the survey via social media until 2 days before it ended, sharing it only with her email list of known supporters 11 days before the survey was closed AND only the people who knew this bus could still be stopped knew they could write in “No Bus.” Had the general public had the full 11 days to become properly educated, given an average of 100 votes per day of “No Bus” over the two day period, the votes for “No Bus” would have exceeded the combined votes for all other options by almost 750 votes.
6. We already have a free ride service. We don’t need to duplicate the eco-friendly, free service the DownTowner is already providing. Not to mention the DownTowner can easily pull onto a side street to unload and load passengers, not creating the traffic nightmare mentioned in point 2.
7. There are only 40-50 spots allocated at Hoag Hospital for trolley users. If people realize this trolley exists and use those spots, 40-50 spots isn’t going to make a dent in reducing the parking and traffic nightmare from the thousands of cars that come during the summer weekends.
8. The option to obtain more parking spots at Hoag creates more problems. If trolley users take more spots from patients and visitors to Hoag, what are the people who actually need to park at the hospital supposed to do? And why wouldn’t visitors to the hospital use the free lot instead of Hoag’s paid visitor lots, clogging up those spots for the trolley users since parking for trolley is free?
9. This bus increases the amount of trips people take on and off the peninsula by 2-4 trips. Most visitors will not want to park their car, unload all their stuff, load it onto a bus, then unload it at the beach only to reload it onto the bus, unload it from the bus, and load it back into their car. The more likely scenario is that visitors will drive to where they want to spend the day, see they can’t find parking, unload their passengers and supplies, drive back to Hoag to park (if there’s any parking there), and ride the trolley back to their family. Then they may load their stuff onto the trolley to ride back to their car OR send one family member to pick up the car, drive down to retrieve everyone and everything, and leave.
10. Even Dave Kiff isn’t sure this will work. In the Newport Beach Insider’s Guide email Kiff sent on April 7th, his exact words about the trolley were (and I quote): “Do we think it will work? We don’t know.” Implementing something that even the city manager isn’t entirely confident about doesn’t seem like a great idea when it directly impacts thousands of residents as well as many local businesses.
Logically this bus makes no sense. Please vote no and stop the bus before it makes living on the peninsula during the summer even more difficult for residents.
If you think this is a bad idea, please email our city council at firstname.lastname@example.org AND PLEASE, if you can, please attend tomorrow night’s council meeting on the subject at 7pm at the Newport Beach City Council Chambers off of Civic Center Drive.