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As Transit Is Gutted in Orange County, Freeways Set to Expand

10:33 AM EDT on March 26, 2009

Communities around the country are bracing for the impact of fare hikes and transit cuts, as jury-rigged funding mechanisms for vital local transportation systems crumble under the strain of the weakening economy. You already know about the MTA's woes in New York City; today, the Times had a report about the 75 percent fare increase that's going to be hitting Long Island bus riders. In Orange County, CA, Streetsblog Network member Orange County Transit Blog reports on a similarly devastating situation. The local transit authority there, OCTA, has voted to decrease service by 25 percent and lay off 400 employees:

blog_octa_carshavewon.jpgCars are set to triumph in Orange County. Photo by Steven Chan.

What no one is getting is that a LOT of people ride transit. They're too busy driving 60 mph and crashing their Ferraris into lamp-posts along Jamboree to notice. Commuters, families, workers, Vietnamese, students, the disabled, and the elderly (which, I should point out, the AARP has just announced they're lobbying for complete streets and better transit) -- all kinds of people ride transit. Line 79 is standing-room-only with UC Irvine students in the morning. Line 175, too, is standing-room-only with University High School students. And the senior inhabitants of Leisure World take Line 60 to many places. Do the trolls in Orange County have something against old people and (gasp) privileged Irvine students?

What do you think? Any way to get out of this funding mess? As I said in a previous post, OCTA's "doomsday scenario" is that 50% of all bus service will be cut within a few short years.

The blog's author, Steven Chan, is a UC Irvine medical student who depends on the bus himself. He's outraged about the way transit is being gutted while money is set to flow into highway expansion:

I wouldn't have a problem with less service if Orange County weren't also studying a $3.8-billion tunnel to lengthen the 57 freeway under the Santa Ana River. Oh, and the 91 freeway expansion. And the proposal to double-decker the 55 freeway through Newport Blvd. And the freeway expansion along the 405-22 junction. The imbalance in transportation makes me pissed beyond belief.

Elsewhere around the network: Bike Jax links to the documentary "Taken for a Ride," which documents the systematic destruction of mass transit by automobile interests in the mid-20th-century; the WashCycle has the latest IRS guidelines on the bike-commuter tax benefits; and Transit Miami has an anti-sprawl action alert.

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