Drop in Bus Ridership Puzzles Orange County Officials
Orange County officials are seeking answers for a precipitous drop in bus ridership that has occurred over the past several years. According to a recent staff report, bus boardings in the county dropped to 48.9 million by the end of fiscal year 2013-2014, compared to a high of 69 million in fiscal year 2006-2007.
The 29 percent decrease has puzzled the Orange County Transportation Authority, which recently commissioned a survey to determine the reasons for the decline. The results of the recent survey show that an exodus of bus riders is partly to blame. In fact, 36 percent of bus riders say they don’t live in Orange County anymore.
Nevertheless, experts say there has to be more to the story because, overall, Orange County’s population has actually increased in recent years.
“One could start to spin theories about improvement of the economy, higher wages and salaries,” said Tim McLarney of True North Research, which conducted the survey. “One could talk about the housing market. There are lots of things you could sit there and spin off about why the inflow isn’t matching the outflow.”
There may be some truth to the upward mobility argument. According to the survey, the majority of former bus riders who still live in the county now own their own car.
“There’s been a dramatic change among former riders in their access to a personal vehicle,” said McLarney.
McLarney was also asked whether he believes bus ridership has been impacted by AB 60, a new law allowing some undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. While he believes it’s too early to have made a significant impact, it’s certainly something to watch for in the future, he said.
Orange County isn’t the only one with a ridership problem. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority reported a five percent dip in public transportation use in March.
Read more about the decline in Orange County bus ridership here.
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