Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times
All OC Bus routes will temporarily shift to the Sunday service schedule seven days a week, beginning Monday, March 23, the Orange County Transportation Authority announced Friday, March 20.
A reduction in service, the agency said, is necessary to help protect the health of OCTA employees while providing reliability to riders who are still depending upon the OC Bus service.
Changes are in effect until further notice in response to the coronavirus pandemic while ACCESS paratransit service will operate as usual for eligible riders.
The Sunday schedule, which is about 40% of the typical amount of weekday bus service, is listed by route on ocbus.com and in all OCTA bus books.
The OC ACCESS paratransit system, for riders with physical or cognitive limitations, will continue to operate at full service levels.
According to a news release from OCTA, the temporary service changes are in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the importance that OCTA places on the health and well-being of its employees and the community.
“Following state and federal directives, OCTA has been requiring employees over 65 or with underlying health issues to remain at home, which has put a significant strain on the agency’s ability to operate a regular weekday schedule,” the release states.
School closures and the lack of childcare options have placed an additional burden on employees, according to OCTA.
“The health and safety of our customers and OCTA employees is of utmost importance and we believe these changes to service are proper and necessary as we all do our best to navigate through unprecedented and unsettling times,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, who is also the mayor of Garden Grove. “We also know that for some people transit service will continue to be critical to shop for food and get to essential jobs for our communities and medical facilities to function.”
The temporary reduction of service also reflects a sharp decline in ridership since Orange County residents and workers were advised by health experts to stay home, avoid large gatherings and work remotely when possible. Thursday night, the governor issued a more restrictive order for all residents, except when conducting essential tasks.
The OCTA release stated that there has been a more than 50% drop in ridership over the past two weeks, with 61,000 boardings on Wednesday, March 18, compared to a typical average weekday of 125,000.
The OCTA Stationlink buses carrying passengers from Metrolink commuter trains will continue running as usual.
OC Bus riders are encouraged to periodically check the OC Bus website and look for updates.