Imagine struggling to get around from Point A to Point B — either you have difficulty walking, or you’re confined to a wheelchair. Your only means of transportation is the Orange County Transit Authority (OCTA) and its bus system. That’s the way it is for many people who have disabilities all over Orange County. However, in South Orange County, buses are far too infrequent.
Until last year, buses ran regularly in South County. Today, very few run anymore; especially Sundays. This is a hardship for most people with disabilities. Most of them rely on a ride-sharing program, similar to Dial-a-Ride, called ACCESS — a program that is operated by OCTA. It contracts out to taxi companies on Sundays.
ACCESS allows eligible people who, for whatever reason, are unable to use public transportation. But while that seems fine and dandy on the face of it, the real problem is ACCESS doesn’t travel more than three-quarters of a mile from a bus stop.
“If the stop is more than three-quarters of a mile from a bus stop, there’s no service,” said Mario Martinez, 38, a history major, who regularly utilizes ACCESS services.
For some people, trying to use ACCESS to get to South Orange County can be troublesome.
“South County’s just a nightmare to go to just about anytime,” Martinez said. “More so since Sunday service has been pulled back.”
When routes 82 and 85 were cut off on Sundays, all of Rancho Santa Margarita and most of Mission Viejo were cut off for people with disabilities. The 91 still runs from Saddleback College in Mission Viejo to the Laguna Hills Transportation Center.
People with disabilities can no longer get around in those areas. They can’t go to church. They can’t go to the store. They can’t visit friends or family. They can’t even go to work.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), public transportation entities, like OCTA, are required to provide adequate transportation to people with disabilities. OCTA completely fails in this area due to the fact that this transportation is extremely limited on Sundays.
It makes sense that OCTA would make the cuts. It wasn’t getting the funding it needed. According to The Orange County Register, OCTA cut 400,000 hours of bus services and laid off 400 workers. This solved the budget problem. It’s just too bad it left people with disabilities stranded, especially on Sundays, with no transportation.
For the most part, the only buses that run further south on OCTA’s Sunday service than the 89 are the 91 and the 1, which runs along Pacific Coast Highway.
Rather than bringing back some of the Sunday service, OCTA plans to spend $1 million on a bike-sharing service to the city of Fullerton, which is grant funded.
Maybe OCTA just hasn’t received the right “grant” that would put the South County buses back on the streets.
There are other ways this could have been handled. OCTA could’ve cut a few hours here and there on all buses instead of cutting routes entirely, which negatively impacted access in those areas.
It’s not fair in the least that people with disabilities living in certain areas are left stranded, or that the buses that actually do run are so few and far between. The best solution would be to make OCTA privately funded so it can serve the needs of all Orange County residents adequately.