The Orange County Transportation Authority had some good news and bad news this week for bus riders.
First, the good news: Beginning Nov. 15 and lasting through New Year’s Eve, bus riders can buy a special $39.99 Jingle Pass that enables them to ride any of the county’s 600 buses that travel local routes. The passes, not good for express routes, are half the regular price.
Now, the bad news: OCTA is moving ahead with pilot programs intended over time to eliminate or reduce many bus routes throughout the county, including several connections to Los Angeles County.
The county has slashed bus service in previous years. Further reductions would be particularly hard on the poor, elderly, disabled and students, say opponents of the plan.
Board members and staff reports insist the changes are necessary because the state Legislature eliminated funding for bus service, leaving counties to carry the load. It previously cut bus routes, citing loss of transit revenue due to the poor economy.
OCTA will give details of initial pilot projects to the OCTA board in February. The board must approve the proposals before they can take effect.
A 10-year plan for bus lines is being developed by OCTA and its consultant, Transportation Management and Design Inc., which holds a $714,000 contract for its work.
A summary of what’s being considered was presented to the OCTA board Monday.
Members of the public told the board the proposed changes created longer walks in unsafe neighborhoods or cut out needed service altogether.
Reggie Mundekis, an experienced commuter who has relied on buses in the past, said she went to a briefing held by the contractor in Anaheim to explain proposed changes.
She said consultants at the meeting were unclear about which routes were being eliminated. She said Huntington Beach, Garden Grove and South County areas will lose a number of routes. In addition, she said, the plan cuts out small routes used to connect long routes, leaving riders no way to transfer between buses.
“They’re making pretty significant changes to services by cutting services,” she said. “They’re not being transparent with the public. I don’t think it’s fair to go into parts of towns and whack out service.”
She said that before services are eliminated, OCTA should go “face to face” with those who will be affected by the changes and learn what will happen to them as a result of the cuts.
By offering the Jingle Pass, OCTA is acknowledging the continuing effects of the recession.
“More than ever, many families in Orange County are facing tough times,” states an advertisement for Jingle Pass. “Even in OC, nearly one in four children may go hungry tonight.”
To help the poor, OCTA is partnering with the Second Harvest Food Bank on a countywide holiday food drive. Those who donate nonperishable food items are entered in a drawing for a free Jingle Pass.
— TRACY WOOD