Posted on Dec 8, 2008 in Weblog | 1 comment

At today’s OCTA rapid bus public hearing, it was clear that OCTA’s board is not in sync with what’s really going on.

OC’s first line, dubbed "route 543", isn’t that frequent.

  • 22 miles. 15-minute frequency between Fullerton and Triangle Square. 30-minute (!) frequency between Balboa Pier and Triangle Square.
  • Regular bus fares.
  • Stops are 1.2 miles apart, with coordination among 7 cities along Harbor Blvd and Caltrans. 75% of regular local service stops are eliminated.
  • They expect 9,000 additional boardings daily, with 3 million every year just for this route.

Bravo’s so-called BRT is just a limited stop service with a different coat of paint.

  • Implementation timeline
    • June 2009-June 2010: Static signage tacked onto existing bus stops, branded vehicles.
    • June 2010-Dec 2010: No funding has been identified for real Rapid Bus enhancements: minimal shelter designs, real-time passenger information systems, traffic signal synchronization.
    • In the future: Enhanced designs.

The fact that they haven’t found the money for something as simple as bus shelters saddens me. Truly, this isn’t even a real attempt at "bus rapid transit." It’s just a limited bus. It’s what I call Half-Assed Rapid (or HAR).

Don’t get me wrong. Orange County’s bus riders really need a service like this because OCTA’s existing buses stop at nearly every single local stop through the more urban areas, so much that bus bunching happens nearly every day along Bristol.

And a long 30- to 45-minute squabble ensued among Orange County’s cities.

  • Mayor Curt Pringle of Anaheim thinks Bravo doesn’t go far enough.
    • He completely rejected Bravo’s branded shelters because "it’s not allowed" in Anaheim, where they have existing Disneyland-esque shelter designs.
    • He also chewed out Bravo’s team for not having a "unique" product. In essence, he believes Bravo is several million dollars worth of branding a simple "skip stop" limited service with 23 stops, versus 3 or 4 stops for BRT from Riverside or San Bernardino (of which I have no idea what he’s talking about since neither county has any BRT operation in place). "I don’t think we should go forward at all until we go all the way." Several other board members chimed in and said they were afraid they’re just painting buses a different color.
    • But then he contradicts himself, saying "The flip side is that I don’t want traffic light pre-emption on buses. Of course, I want to add more service and serve our constituency."
  • Several board members wanted to eliminate nearly all of the stops and place them in just Fullerton, Anaheim, Triangle Square with roughly one stop per city. Then one or two others mentioned that having few to no stops makes it very fast, but then you’d have very few riders.
  • Many of the board members took issue over the lack of ticket vending machines. Supervisor Janet Nguyen was concerned over the lengthy times that buses take at each stop. Another brought up the idea of forcing passengers to use passes. Art Leahy said they looked into using ticket vending machines and they had big security and maintenance problems with them.
  • One board member brought up the fact that there was only 6 months left to market this. Gordon Robinson and Beth McCormick provided general details about marketing, mentioning targeted marketing along the route, pass sales distributors along the route, target existing customers, and media outreach. But because of shrinking budgets, they have to act creatively.
  • Art Leahy says that the inspiration for Bravo comes from York Region Transit (I was right!), where Viva, their bus rapid transit system, is manned by an outside private contractor. Viva has dedicated bus lanes. But with this system, there are no dedicated bus lanes because "cities have said ‘no way’ to remove the lanes.

I’ll post tomorrow on a few other interesting things I learned. But I just have a general uneasy feeling about this project. The fact is, there’s not enough political willpower nor does there seem to be enough money to give the region the transit service it deserves.