Centerline a trolley to nowhere


Once again, the Costa Mesa City Council has given the Centerline

debacle its blessing.

At last week's City Council meeting, only two of the five council

members showed the good sense to refuse further involvement with

Centerline. Good for both of them. While their resistance did not

succeed in stopping the continued bad policy, they did manage to send

a strong message:

Centerline does not serve the residents of Costa Mesa, and they

should not be asked to pay for it.

It is interesting that given the magnitude of the Centerline

light-rail project, many Costa Mesa residents have little or no

awareness of the proposed project.

Fortunately, our congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, has the good sense

not to allocate half a billion federal tax dollars to this glorified

"trolley to nowhere."

Our tax dollars should be spent on projects that have a tangible

rather than negligible effect on our grinding traffic problems.

Tangible improvements? Hey! How about Downtown Costa Mesa, Newport

Boulevard. Having our Downtown function as a freeway off-ramp is a

ridiculous compromise that should never have been allowed. Adding

lanes, as currently proposed, will not change the nature of the

problem and will not affect any real long-term improvement.

What we need are real long-term solutions, which will require a

cooperative effort by local, county and state officials. But back to

the issue at hand -- Centerline.

Here are some facts that spell out the real issues revolving

around the Centerline project:

* The billion-dollar budget will inevitably become several

billion. As we all know too well, these huge municipal projects are

almost always way over budget.

* Another serious flaw is the fact that Centerline uses traffic

lanes on grade (on the street level), competes with cars and stops at

signals. This is stupid. An effective rail should follow a dedicated

right of way separate from vehicular traffic and pedestrians.

* Authoritative sources have estimated that Centerline will

require an annual subsidy of $6,000 per single rider ... at 20,000

projected riders, this is obviously a bad course to take -- $1.2

billion annual subsidy.

* Limited routing. For this kind of money, we could set up dozens

of new bus routes, including buying the latest low-emission buses,

setting up kiosks, installing bus turnouts, etc. These routes would

be flexible, adjustable and best of all would not require the huge

eminent domain exercise that Centerline will necessitate.

* Centerline would create significantly more pollution than buses

providing the same level of service over the same route.

* This project includes a requirement called "transit area

zoning," which mandates high-density zoning for areas within a

quarter-mile of any station. Our existing city zoning codes cannot

override this clause, even though the levels exceed our codes in

every conceivable way.

No matter how you slice it, this Centerline project is rotten to

the core, and the most disgusting aspect is the fact that few Costa

Mesa (or Orange County) residents will ever use the system. However,

we all will have to continually pony up taxes along with the other 3

million folks in Orange County, so that 0.666% of our county's

populace can ride a fancy trolley car to nowhere. Let's junk this

ridiculously obsolete project now, before the Orange County

Transportation Authority can spend another dime of our tax money.

Let's get to work solving some of our existing traffic nightmares,

before we go off to live in an expensive fantasy land.

* ERIC BEVER is a Costa Mesa planning commissioner running for the

City Council.

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