By Jonathan Montgomery
Daily Titan Staff Writer
OCTA Transit Committee held a meeting Thursday to discuss a revised strategy to the March 2010 service change program, which will reduce 150,000 revenue vehicle hours of service toward bus routes in Orange County. Local residents and some students from Cal State Fullerton joined to voice their concerns over possible route cuts directly affecting them.
OCTA board memeber Janet Nguyen clarified that it is now too late to reduce the 150,000 hours. Instead, the committee looked at what services to eliminate, what services to keep and which hours to reduce. The transit committee voted to pass revisions in a 4-1 vote; Nguyen voted “no” because she said she does not support the cuts.
As a response to public reaction, the presented service reduction strategy now aims to avoid cuts to overcrowded routes, run night owl routes until 1 a.m., retain peak trips, minimize ACCESS, a service for the disabled, impacts and add revenue to maintain service.
But hours and lines are still being eliminated; among those is a route popular to CSUF, Route 24. Although it will discontinue west of CSUF, Scott Holmes, manager of service planning and customer advocacy, said students would still be able to ride part of the route with an extension of Route 167.
However, Jane Reifer, spokeswoman for Transit Advocates of Orange County, said students wouldnâ€™t be able to fit into the reconstructed routes after eliminating service.
â€œTheyâ€™re just not going to fit; itâ€™s already standing room only,â€ she said.
Board member Richard Dixon expressed similar distress.
â€œIâ€™m still concerned about the complete elimination of the segment thatâ€™s going to impact Cal State Fullerton. I donâ€™t know what we can do about it, but Iâ€™m really concerned about that,â€ Dixon said. â€œWhether it serves one student or 700 students is neither here nor there.
Holmes said the decisions were based off of removing parallel service where they thought they could. Route 26 operates parallel to Route 24 for a good part in the segment of western Fullerton, continuing on to CSUF. Holmes said the riders on the impacted 24 could make use of the 26 line; they just may have to walk a little.
Because the frequency of buses will also decrease, Holmes said students will have to plan ahead and reference the schedule to see what the earlier trip is, then use that trip to get to their destination.
Students rely on the buses in order to get to class and continue their education. Board members noted that direct dialogue with the City of Fullerton has been made, but not with CSUF.
Also impacted are those that rely on ACCESS. Christie Rudder and Fullerton resident Margaret Farris, both aided by wheelchairs, said they are worried about not being able to get where they need to go. Rudder said cities such as Santa Margarita and San Clemente are eliminating routes in low-income affordable housing areas for seniors and people with disabilities.
In the meeting, it was also stated that there are plans to delay the additional 150,000 revenue vehicle hours, adding to a total of 300,000 hours, until there is better information relative to the state’s budget regarding state transit assistance. This approach will give the directors more time to find additional revenue, and unless funds are found, the extra 150,000 revenue vehicle hours will be implemented incrementally.
Although board member Greg Winterbottom said they have looked at all the different ways to gain revenue, Patrick Kelly, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Union, said the board needs to utilize different revenue sources, even if it takes some one-time money.
â€œI think this is pretty much a one-time crisis,â€ Kelly said.
Still, he keeps high hopes.
â€œI think the economy is going to recover and that weâ€™re going to get beyond this. Iâ€™m very, very optimistic about Orange County and about the ability for the transportation authority to move forward,â€ Kelly said.
Board memeber Art Brown said the organization is also going to lose a lot of employees with these cuts, which will put more people on the street during a declining economy. He said the economy has affected everyone in this nation, and not just the Fullerton bus service, but every bus service in the country in some way.
â€œ’Fannies on seats.’ Thatâ€™s our job, to put people in those seats and get them to where they need to go. Be it a mother pushing a baby carriage with a baby on the hip, a student needing to get to an economics class, a handicap person trying to get to a job or to physical therapy, or a senior that just wants to go downtown to the theater,â€ Brown said. â€œNobody likes it; we donâ€™t like it, but we have to sit here and make a decision within the financial means of this organization to keep something running.”
The board will have a final vote on the cuts on Nov. 23.