OCTA staff welcomes community members. (Angie L. Pineda)
Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) proposed a 25 percent increase of bus fares to the Orange County community at the bus council meeting in the Santa Ana, on Thursday, Sept. 20.
The city council bus meeting gathered in the Southwest Senior Center mixed with the OCTA board members, community members, and Spanish interpreters. The room was colorfully decorated with piÃ±atas hanging around the room and a large projector that would soon introduce the next stress-induced issue into the OC commuter’s lives. Although the meeting was announced publicly as only a proposal for the Orange County transit consumers, Vice Chairman of the board, Gregory Winterbottom, promises an increase during the recorded meeting.
Andrew Oftelie, director of Finance and Administration, said that there is a fare adjustment every four years. He continues to explain that in order to receive funding from the state, they need to condition the sales tax.
According to the Transportation Development Act (TDA) the consumers must pay at least 20 cents for every dollar spent on transportation service. OCTA will be forced to cut bus services if they fail these agreements. “Wouldn’t you rather pay more than have less service?” Oftelie asked. “Five percent of the bus service will be cut if we do not raise fares.”
“We are trying to get people to ride the monthly pass because it’s the cheapest way to go,” Winterbottom insists. The passengers are paying $55 for the monthly pass, but early next year they will be paying $69.
Alejandra Arcos, community member of Santa Ana, asks, “Are you sure you will do this? Let’s just say gas goes down, will you think about lowering the fares?”
“That will never happen,” Winterbottom responds.
The OCTA passengers continue to battle the meeting with concerns asking the board members what will happen if passengers discontinue using the bus due to price increase. Oftellie explains that when they had last increased fares, they lost eight percent of their riders. “But they come back,” he continued, “and the 92 percent stay and pay the increase anyway.”
Efraim Medina, who has been purchasing the bus pass as a disabled commuter voiced his thoughts to Winterbottom, “Its too much for me, I don’t have a job, I can’t do it, it’s impossible.”
Medina was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2009. After being let go from his duties of driving school buses, he had no way of making means for his family.” I understand that the economy is not well, everyone of us is suffering. We are having cuts on education and jobs. I’m thinking with the [presidential] election it will get better,” Medina said.
“I don’t think the election will effect the price of the fares, Obama or … the other guy,” Winterbottom laughed.
Stella Lin, Marketing and Customer Engagement Manager, listened intently to Medina. “We need to hear voices, it is very important to hear your opinion.” She gave her personal number for anyone who would like to comment or ask questions.
As the community tries to understand the proposal anxiously, the OCTA staff members respond with the same answers over again. They have no choice except to raise the bus fares, they don’t want to, but it will happen.
Next bus meeting will be presented Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. at the Fullerton Library in the community room. Oct. 2 will be the following meeting in the St. Anselm’s Cross-Cultural Community Center in Orange at the same time.
California and buses
Transportion Development Act
Bus fare background and meetings
Medina explains why he can’t afford price increase. (Angie L. Pineda)