The Orange County Transportation Authority was awarded $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation this week to improve transit operations throughout Orange County.
The funding will be used to replace 17 buses used as part of OCTA's paratransit service, known as ACCESS. The new buses will improve the efficiency of the service and reduce operating costs by allowing more passengers to be transported per trip.
The 24-foot buses can carry up to five wheelchair passengers at a time, as opposed to the current buses that accommodate two wheelchair passengers.
"OCTA's ACCESS service provides more than 1 million annual trips and I want to thank the Department of Transportation for recognizing the importance of replacing these buses for our customers who rely upon the service," said OCTA Chairman Paul Glaab, also the mayor of Laguna Niguel. "These federal dollars will ensure we continue to provide safe and reliable bus service for Orange County residents."
The competitive grant award was part of the DOT's Bus Livability and State of Good Repair program, which provided $787 million to agencies across the nation to modernize and improve buses and transit facilities.
In addition to replacing part of the ACCESS bus fleet, OCTA opened the doors this year to a new indoor, simulated transit facility used to determine passenger eligibility for the paratransit service.
One of only four nationwide, the transit simulator includes a 40-foot OCTA bus, sidewalks, wheelchair-accessible curbs, crosswalk and operating traffic signals to fully replicate a bus stop.
Prior to the facility, passengers were taken outdoors to test their ability to navigate uneven surfaces and curbs, but did not board a bus. Evaluators can now test a passenger's ability to navigate a variety of different surfaces, board a bus and pay the fare, all within a controlled environment.