Reason’s Baruch Feigenbaum raised some good points in a recent column in these pages regarding declining transit ridership, and for more than two years now, OCTA has been working to implement many of the measures he suggests could help turn the trend around.
Changes in employment, demographics, housing and technology have all contributed to a 30 percent drop in O.C. bus ridership following the Great Recession, a trend being mirrored throughout the nation. For decades, ridership had closely tracked with the ups and downs of employment, and more service on the streets translated into more ridership. However, post-recession, our analysis showed this was no longer the case and past trends could no longer predict future performance. So in 2015, we launched an initiative to make significant changes and reinvent bus service in Orange County.
Called OC Bus 360°, our efforts to boost ridership are centered on one basic principle: matching the service OCTA provides with the market demand. To put it simply, one size does not fit all when it comes to running bus service and we are delivering solutions that best meet the varying needs of each community within the county.
The changes come following data-driven research and after significant public input, including an industry peer review, a comprehensive fare study, in-depth customer surveys, as well as new branding and marketing efforts. We heard a consistent theme from current and former riders. They wanted faster, more frequent and more convenient service.
Starting in June 2016, we began reducing or eliminating unproductive and inefficient routes so that we could cost-effectively boost service in areas where we know the demand is strong. We made adjustments to nearly half of our routes and increased the frequency on popular lines. We also launched Bravo! Route 560, a new limited-stop service between Santa Ana and Long Beach, which according to 57 percent of riders, has shaved 15 or more minutes off their commute. The new service has also attracted new bus riders, with about one-third saying they have been riding the bus for less than a year.
In addition, OCTA has been implementing technology solutions and working with cities and third-party partners to find alternative transit models that meet local needs. Along with the Lyft pilot program in San Clemente, OCTA has helped launch — and is continuing to work with cities on — options like shuttles and community circulators, many of which operate on weekends…