Have you ever seen a bus carrying just a handful people during the middle of the day? Or maybe you’ve seen just the opposite: a 40-foot bus with standing room only during rush hour.
Here's our challenge: Is providing one type of service throughout the county efficient when each region is unique and we know there are high-density downtown areas and spread-out suburban areas?
We are in the process of determining the best way to provide long-term, sustainable and cost-effective transit service that will serve riders who depend upon us and complement the diverse makeup of our county.
As many of you know, the Orange County Transportation Authority was forced to cut about 20 percent of service from 2008 to 2010 because of a decline in state funding, sales tax drops and a decrease in ridership because of unemployment.
OCTA emerged from that and launched a Transit System Study to come up with ways to maximize the service we provide and stretch limited tax dollars.
Currently, fixed-route bus service is the primary transit service throughout the county. That means buses that have a set schedule along a specific route, serving the same destinations daily.
But the status quo isn’t working in some parts of the county. Many routes have low ridership and cost $10 to $15 per passenger to run. OCTA is exploring innovative options to serve more suburban areas in ways that make sense financially.
This does not mean just cutting routes. OCTA doesn't have plans to eliminate service unless there is another option to serve that area. Changes could include adding new services such as:
- Flex routes – similar to fixed-route service, but buses may deviate from the schedule on request to service certain locations
- Call-n-ride zones – serves passengers at prearranged times at specific locations within a certain area
- Circulators – vehicles serve a specific community and connect it with major hubs and transfer points
Any changes that take place will not happen overnight. This study looks out over 10 years. If changes are made, they would be phased in over multiple years, likely beginning with pilot projects to test the effectiveness of new services.
The OCTA board is expected to vote on a plan this fall and we are still encouraging people to provide feedback on the recommendations.
For information on the study or to comment online, please visit: www.octa.net/TSS.