The Orange County Transportation Authority will begin a test program this fall to see if bus riders will pay $3 a year for an up-to-date book of bus routes and schedules.

Bus books currently are free. But the agency, which updates the books when routes and schedules are changed, has been printing fewer and fewer of them as the economy has worsened. This goes along with the fact that the agency has severely cut the number of buses and routes they serve.

The pilot program, approved at the transit agency’s meeting this week, will begin in October and charge $1 a book. Books generally are updated three times a year when routes and schedules are changed, according to a staff report.

Four years ago, the agency was printing about 800,000 bus books a year. This year, it plans to print about 400,000. Results of the pilot program will be reported early next year.

Transit Advocates of Orange County, an organization of bus and other transit supporters, took no position on the $1 charge but said in a written statement to the transit agency that it needed to make sure enough books are available ahead of schedule changes.

“Since the unprecedented reductions in bus frequency, passengers are no longer able to simply assume that a connection will be possible or arrive at a stop randomly to wait for a bus,” said the statement.

It added, “The drastic cuts over the past two years have also caused many buses to operate significantly behind schedule, which requires passengers to re-plan their trip en-route. This typically requires a Bus Book which over the past two years have not been adequately available on buses — where passengers need them.”

— TRACY WOOD

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