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Taxpayer-funded bus service in Orange County

Supervisor Pat Bates' Fifth District Report. OCTA Proposed Fare Adjustments

Due to rising costs and a decline in revenue, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Board of Directors will consider a proposal to increase fare amounts at its November 24th meeting. Since fares were last increased in 2005, fuel costs have soared 185 percent, employee pension costs have increased 92 percent and healthcare costs have risen 28 percent. Due to the weak economy, the largest OCTA transit revenue source, the quarter cent sales tax enacted under the State Transportation Development Act (TDA), declined by more than 3 percent for fiscal year (FY) 2007-08 as compared to FY 2006-07. Additionally, the recently approved state budget is expected to provide $7.8 million less to the State Transit Assistance funds than expected.

While OCTA has experienced growth in ridership in recent years, fare revenues have not kept pace with escalating costs, thus reducing the farebox recovery ratio. The TDA mandates OCTA meet a minimum 20 percent farebox recovery ratio to continue to receive full funding and for every 1 percent below the minimum, OCTA will be penalized approximately $2.7 million. In order to continue to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and to increase the farebox recovery ratio, OCTA will consider increasing fares along with reducing expenditures where it can.

Right. The fares charged to ride the buses in Orange County are only covering about one fifth of the costs of running the buses. Not exactly what you would call a profitable operation. The county bus service in Orange County was started in the 1970's. For a while, just after high school, I used the buses to get to classes at the local community college ... at least until I realized that riding a bicycle was faster and far more convenient.

Orange County is not laid out to allow any sort of efficient mass transit. We do get periodic attempts to establish various taxpayer-funded forms of mass transit (light rail, subways, etc.). I actually like the idea of being able to read/work/doze while traveling to work or other destinations, but the simple fact is that mass transit is impractical when destinations are too diffuse.

For mass transit to work, you have to zone and build a region from the start in patterns with few, highly concentrated clusters of destinations. That is not what we have here.