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OCTA Reorganizes Entire Bus Route Map; Johnson: 'Match the Needs in Front of Us'

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) recently introduced extensive service changes throughout its Southern California service area, including a reallocation of routes, the introduction of full mobile ticketing through the new OC Bus app and a six-month discount in the cost of a day pass from $5 to $4.

These changes are part of the agency’s OC Bus 360° program to increase ridership by 1.3 million boardings over the next three years through multiple initiatives.

“We’re a county of 3.2 million people and changing demographics: population, job patterns,” said OCTA Chief Executive Officer Darrell Johnson. “We set out to develop a transit system that would match the needs in front of us, not behind us, by matching the right kind of service with the right demand.”

The extensive October service changes are part of the 2016 Bus Service Plan adopted by the OCTA Board of Directors to add, increase, reduce and/or eliminate services to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of the overall bus system. A few initial changes were implemented in June.

OCTA instituted the OC Bus 360° program, in part to bolster ridership and strengthen sales tax revenue for bus operations funding, OCTA is reallocating resources from low-performing routes to areas where demand is higher, ­replacing lower-ridership routes with local circulators.

Johnson explained that the route evaluation process began about 18 months ago and took into account ridership, productivity and farebox recovery to determine the system’s highest- and lowest-performing routes. He described how OCTA reached out to ­various stakeholders in their communities during the planning process, noting that their recommendations led to changes in about 20 percent of the agency’s original plan.

In advance of the route reorganization, “all OCTA employees became transit ambassadors,” Johnson said. “We involved employees who don’t ­usually work with the public—for example, ­people who work in street and road planning and government relations staff—and trained them to engage with riders on board buses and at transit ­centers and explain the changes that riders were going to see.”

The OC Bus app for Apple and Android allows users to purchase ­regular fares and college passes for travel on fixed-route buses, with other passes available soon. Passengers need only show the pass displayed on the phone when they board. Partial funding for the app and ticketing equipment came from the California State Transportation Agency, the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee (MSRC) and Orange County’s Measure M sales tax.

Funds to cover the cost of temporarily reducing the day pass cost come from the California State Transportation Agency’s Low Carbon Transit Operations Program, a part of the cap-and-trade program that seeks to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions through transformative rail and transit capital improvements.

Another element of the program is an effort by OCTA and its member cities to develop new transportation services—such as community shuttles and a subsidized rideshare program using Lyft—to replace and supplement bus routes that have been either discontinued or changed. A program funded by Measure M helps cities develop solutions to complement regional bus and rail services to meet needs in areas not served by regional transit.

The supplementary transportation services include the Mission Viejo ­Circulator, a neighborhood loop based at the Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Metrolink Station; a rideshare service planned in San Clemente along routes previously served by two discontinued bus routes; and the Westminster Little Saigon Circulator, scheduled to begin service Oct. 31.
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