Many Cal State Fullerton students use public transportation to get to and from campus. Since 1991, the Orange County Transit Authority (OCTA) has provided a way for them to do just that.
In 2010, however, the transportation company cut 150,000 hours due to budget constraints. Some university students feel that in addition to these cuts, the rising price of gasoline has caused an influx in passengers that many OCTA buses can no longer accommodate. Students also cited that as a need for public transportation increases, OCTA remains ill-equipped in its current state.
Among the routes that appear to be impacted is the Route 26 bus, which stops at the Fullerton Transportation Center before eventually arriving at the intersection of Commonwealth and Nutwood.
With a large number of students taking advantage of this particular route, some have begun to wonder whether the problem of overcrowding might be mitigated if OCTA were to employ a double bus or a shuttle exclusively for CSUF students.
“We need a bus or a shuttle just for students,” said sophomore Theresa Jones.
Jones said that overcrowding has been a frequent problem during the instances she has taken the bus in the mornings and that a different system needs to be put in place.
CSUF’s Parking and Transportation Services could not comment at this time on their involvement with OCTA or any plans they might have for the future.
“I think it’s fine besides getting a bigger bus,” senior Meagan Senkbeil said. “The first one in the morning and the last two in the evening get packed; it’s like herding cattle.”
In order to facilitate a change in route or bus operation, a formal request must be filed with OCTA, according to OCTA bus driver John Hinsley.
“I’ve submitted a request a few times,” Hinsley said. “I’ve been driving here for 32 years, and I’ve been driving this route for a little more than two. There’s a form we have to fill out and then OCTA makes the determination of whether or not we need another bus.”
Hinsley also said he believes OCTA’s decision not to approve the request for an additional bus or a larger bus has something to do how OCTA receives funding from revenue garnered through California’s sales tax.
OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik agreed with Hinsley, saying that there is a common misconception that public transportation is the type of business that makes a profit. On the contrary, Zlotnik says that 80 percent of OCTA’s funding comes from subsidies, whereas only 20 percent of the funding received is a direct result of fares paid.
“Three major factors impacted our decision to cut service,” said Zlotnik. “Cuts in state funding, a decline in sales tax as well as lower ridership. All of these are a result of how the economy has been.”
Zlotnik said when this “triple threat,” of economic factors caused hours to be cut, it affected the state of transportation throughout Orange County, not just Fullerton.
However, changes have gone into effect this month. OCTA is planning to add 23,000 service hours in the coming fiscal year due to an increase in funding.
Route 29, which runs from La Habra to Huntington Beach, and Route 47, which runs from Fullerton to Newport Beach, will both see an increase in service hours. With an operating budget of $267.5 million, OCTA is looking to add even more routes in February.
Although some may remain unconvinced that things will improve with the Route 26 bus, Zlotnik said that might not be the case at all. He said that OCTA monitors all buses three times a year, and that the transportation company makes a concerted effort to make improvements if doing so is within its power.
“We certainly recognize that there are periods of crowding depending on the route and time of day,” he said. “If possible, we will adjust routes in order to alleviate the issue.”