The Orange County Transportation Authority has been awarded a $160.4 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to help continue providing safe and reliable public transit services during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
OCTA applied for the funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, signed into law in March. OCTA signed the grant agreement on July 6.
“Orange County is grateful to have federal support in addressing the challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove. “This essential funding highlights the critical role transit has and will continue to play in providing support for essential travel during the pandemic, and in the future as part of a balanced and sustainable transportation system within the county.”
OCTA will utilize the funding to help sustain bus operations and to comply with state and federal requirements for public health and safety. The CARES Act funding will make up for a sharp decline in revenue that corresponded to plummeting bus ridership when OC Bus service was temporarily reduced in March to protect the health and safety of the public and coach operators and to coincide with stay-at-home orders issued by the state.
Similar revenue losses were experienced across the nation and the CARES Act is providing $25 billion in grant funding across the country. U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a press release it “will ensure our nation’s public transportation systems can continue to provide services to the millions of Americans who continue to depend on them.”
FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams added: “We know many of our nation’s public transportation systems are facing extraordinary challenges and these funds will go a long way to assisting our transit industry partners in battling COVID-19. These federal funds will support operating assistance to transit agencies of all sizes providing essential travel and supporting transit workers across the country who are unable to work because of the public health emergency.”
OCTA responded quickly to the COVID-19 crisis and has continued to adapt operations as necessary.
On March 23, OCTA temporarily reduced OC Bus service to Sunday service levels – about 40 percent of regular service – on all days of the week.
That temporary reduction in service was implemented to provide necessary public transit for essential workers and those who relied on public transportation for essential trips.
In June, as Orange County started to gradually reopen under the state’s guidance, ridership also showed corresponding increases, and OCTA added some service back, operating on a modified Saturday schedule – or about 60 percent of regular service.
The OCTA board approved funding for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which began July 1, for pre-COVID-19 levels of bus service, made possible with the federal CARES Act grant funding. Service will be added back based on ridership demand and with public health and safety as the guiding principle.
Since the public health crisis began, OCTA has implemented numerous safety measures, which continue. That includes hand sanitizer available to riders on every OC Bus, enhanced nightly cleaning of buses with extra focus on surfaces frequently touched and temporary rear-door boardings.
For more information on OCTA’s bus service, visit www.OCBus.com.
This article was released by the Orange County Transportation Authority.