Will Kempton, OCTA's Retiring Chief, Sees Reign End with Hefty Bus Fare Increases
The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Board of Directors, advised that something must be done to offset rising operating costs, voted Monday to make it more expensive for people to ride buses.
And so, starting in February, a single bus ride rises from $1.50 to $2, a day pass jumps from $4 to $5 and a 30-day pass increases from $55 to $69--with nary the type of complaints one hears when it's suggested the top 2 percent of American earners pay slightly more in taxes. God bless America!
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Actually, that's not true, there are many disabled and working-class people among the county's 170,000 bus riders who are in a huff about these higher fares, it's just that no one really pays them much mind.
The OCTA will tell you that's not true, pointing to feedback-collection meetings held last fall in Orange, Fullerton, Santa Ana, Laguna Hills and Los Alamitos, where the idea of raising fares for the first time since January 2009 was thrown out there.
"It is never a good time for a fare increase," says Will Kempton, OCTA's chief executive who earlier this month announced his retirement. "Every time you increase the fare, you are hurting someone and I don't want to discount that because it is a difficult decision."
His Orange-based agency has noted a sale tax increase allowed the OCTA to avoid fare hikes last year, but that now there is no way to avoid the sad fact that the cost of providing bus service has increased since '09 from $98 per service hour to $108.
"We postponed a consideration of a fare increase two years ago because we were in the throes of a recession," Kempton states on the OCTA website, "but we are looking for ways to do things more efficiently that will provide transit services more cost-effectively to Orange County residents."
The OCTA adds that fares must be raised so riders are paying at least 20 percent of service costs lest the agency fall below a so-called "farebox recovery" requirement under state law. If passengers are not paying at least 20 cents of every dollar spent for bus service, the agency risks losing state Transit Development Act funding, "a major source of revenue for transit operations," according to OCTA.
Perhaps a new funding mechanism is something Kempton can propose when he takes over the Transportation California nonprofit advocacy and education organization, after he steps down from the OCTA at the end of February, the same month the fare hikes hit. His current deputy CEO, Darrell Johnson, is set to move into the big office March 1.
Meanwhile, in a move that left more people happy than sad, the OCTA board voted unanimously to remove a proposed bridge linking Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach from the county master plan of highways. On the table for years, the 19th Street Bridge would have traversed the Santa Ana River, leading to fears among residents in nearby neighborhoods of backed-up traffic and among environmentalists of damage to ecologically sensitive areas.
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