Starting Sunday, you’ll have fewer bus routes to choose from in Orange County. The cuts come as the county’s transit agency grapples with a declining budget.
The Orange County Transportation Authority is cutting 150,000 bus service hours. That amounts to about an 8 percent cut to try to fill a hole in the agency’s budget. OCTA board member Jerry Amante says the cuts are necessary.
"Unfortunately, we’ve lost some $30 million in sales tax with a 26 percent reduction over the last two years," says Amante. "We’ve lost another $10 million in fare box recovery because the fare box is down because people are unemployed and not riding. And then we’ve had the state take away $20 million a year to put into their own black hole of a budget that they can’t seem to balance."
So the transit agency is eliminating seven weekday routes, several weekend routes and is reducing how often the buses come by on more than a dozen routes. It’s ending Night Owl service between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.
Will Kempton is the CEO of the transit agency. He says he’s gotten a lot of heart-tugging feedback.
"A lot of it has to do with our disabled folks," Kempton says. "I got letters and communications from parents who say, 'My son, who’s been disabled for years is finally beginning to blossom and to develop some independence and you’re taking away his means of achieving his independence and, you know, really affecting his life.' Those stories hit home."
Kempton says they tried to make cuts that would affect the fewest number of people. But that still means several dozen bus drivers will be laid off. And Kempton points out if the agency can’t get state or federal funding, it might have to make even more cuts in June.