Westminster Ends Little Saigon Circulator Bus Because of Low Ridership

A free circulator bus in Little Saigon funded by the Orange County Transportation Authority and the city of Westminster is no more, after low ridership prompted the Westminster City Council to cut funding for the project last month.

The free bus, which operated seven days a week from 10 am to 6 pm, ended May 1 after a six month test run, because it garnered far fewer riders — less than two riders each hour — and cost far more than officials expected.

Officials pitched the idea of the free bus, which takes a circular route through Little Saigon in Garden Grove and Westminster, early last year as a way to manage traffic congestion and connect residential communities to popular commercial zones in Little Saigon.

The city was awarded a $3.7 million matching grant from the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), which Westminster would receive over seven years as long as it maintained a ridership of at least six riders per hour.

The grant would have paid for up to 90 percent of infrastructure, operation and maintenance costs, a maximum of $550,000 annually.

But because of low ridership, Westminster was required to pay a for a larger share of the project’s cost, which was “significantly higher than the anticipated 10 percent,” according to a staff report.

“For example, Westminster’s contribution for November 2016 is $21,797 (76% share of the project’s monthly cost), rather than the anticipated cost allocation of $2,867 (10% of the project’s monthly cost),” according to the staff report.

The city has spent roughly $148,000 in Air Quality Management funds in the first six months of the program.

“I’m very happy to see it stop,” Councilwoman Margie Rice said at an April 26 council meeting.  “In my opinion it was a political thing at the time. People didn’t want it. It was something to make the supervisor look good.”

All five county supervisors sit on the OCTA board. Rice didn’t specify which supervisor she meant. Westminster is represented by Supervisor Andrew Do.

The circulator bus began operating just before the November 2016 election, on October 31.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo. 

  • astar2b

    No ideas of a streetcar ? ? ?

  • jdinh

    Westminster applied for the OCTA grant in early 2016, with the support of Westminster Mayor Tri Ta and county Supervisor Andrew Do, who serves on the OCTA Board of Directors.

    Another proven, cost-effective, easily implementable way to easy traffic congestion would be to make the streets in Little Saigon more pedestrian friendly, especially the Bolsa corridor. It is only 1.5 miles from Magnolia to Brookhurst, and as such very walk-able. Elderly people can already be seen walking under the blazing sun without tree to offer shade, without a planted parkway to separate the sidewalk from the traffic, without benches on which they rest. Create a sidewalk environment that invites walking by planting shade-providing street and median trees, having planted parkways, creating sidewalk “bulb-outs” at intersections so as to reduce crosswalk distances, and putting down special paving at crosswalks that could have distinctive patterns. Install distinctive signage that marks the area as a “district”. Install unifying site furnishing such as benches, lighting fixtures, and bus shelters (please get rid of the current ones, which are a cultural pastiche). Implement a public art program that involves business owners, community groups, and other stakeholders to create an aesthetic and cultural identity for the district by using murals, sculptures, temporary installations, art festivals, etc, all of which gives a community an creative outlet to tell its stories.

    Politicians, if you really care about the community as you profess to do so, then please reach out to hear their needs, advice, and expertise. Utilize the talents of the young who’ve you worked so hard to put through prestigious universities. Maybe, just maybe, these people have some good ideas about how to make Little Saigon a more inclusive, culturally rich place that everyone would want to come to, and walk around. For once, please put your self-congratulatory ideas aside for the true good of the community.