By Andrea Papagianis
Dana Point’s planned trolley and shuttle system will not roll down streets this summer, as previously projected, after state authorities called for additional services, including a water taxi at the Dana Point Harbor, and uncertainties surrounding funding requirements loomed.
The city will now ask the Orange County Transportation Authority, which awarded Dana Point $2.45 million over seven years for the summertime transportation system, for additional time to work out the project’s details, said Brad Fowler, the city’s public works and engineering director.
Dana Point is among five cities set to receive funds through OCTA’s Project V grant. Locally, funds will support a seven-year program bringing a Pacific Coast Highway summer shuttle from area resorts through downtown, a shuttle from Dana Hills High School to the Harbor and special event shuttles throughout the year. The system would include 15 bus stops and would be free to all users.
To fully fund the project, the city plans to use $1 million in coastal transit funds, but in order to do so, the city must come to an agreement with the California Coastal Commission. In February, the city received word the Commission was requiring a water taxi be included in a nine-year plan.
The Commission previously mentioned the taxi under the notion it was required by the Local Coastal Program, a planning tool for municipalities. But according to Fowler, the program only suggests a water taxi, if it is feasible. Fowler said he fears a taxi will not be used.
“You don’t want to spend your money on a water taxi if it will not be utilized,” he said.
After discussions with the Harbor’s director, Fowler said, aside from special events such as the Dana Point Festival of Whales, there currently appears to be little need. During this year’s event, Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching ran a water shuttle, but the need may not be year round, Fowler said.
Staff now wants the chance to evaluate the program. Fowler said the city hopes to find an agreement with the flexibility to install and utilize a water taxi when it is most needed.
The OCTA grant requires an average of 10 boardings per hour for all services, meaning if the water taxi goes underutilized within the first year, the city could lose six years of funding.
With summer approaching, Fowler said the city didn’t have enough time to get the program running. The city must also work out the service timeline discrepancies between the coastal commission and county.
“This is certainly resolvable,” Fowler said. “It’s just a timing thing.”