OCTA to change contractors in June for OC Bus fixed-route service

March 27, 2023
The new contractors, Keolis Transit Services, LLC, will take over from First Transit and operate up to 40 percent of the OC Bus fixed-route service while allowing for additional bus service.

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) will change contractors later this year to a new firm that will operate up to 40 percent of the OC Bus fixed-route service beginning in June.

The change in contract is a move that will continue to save taxpayer money while allowing for additional bus service. All OCTA bus service operates under the familiar blue, orange and white OC Bus logo, and the transition will likely go unnoticed by the thousands of Orange County residents, workers and visitors who rely on the bus service daily.

The OCTA Board of Directors earlier this month approved the selection of Keolis Transit Services, LLC, to provide the management, operation and maintenance of the contracted fixed-route bus service. Keolis will take over from First Transit, Inc., which has operated the contracted service since 2015 and was recently acquired by Transdev.

The $286.3 million contract begins June 11, 2023, for an initial term of four years, with two options to renew the contract for an additional two years each.

“Our contracted bus service plays an essential role in keeping taxpayer costs down while at the same time providing the high level of customer service and reliability that the people of Orange County count on,” said OCTA Chairman Gene Hernandez, also the mayor of Yorba Linda. “We are committed to making this a smooth transition to keep our OC Bus passengers moving safely and efficiently.”

For more than a decade, OCTA has contracted with a third-party provider for the operation and maintenance of a portion of transit service. In 2009, the portion of service operated by the third-party contractor was approximately six percent. The most recent contract, awarded to First Transit in 2015, included about 30 percent of overall service, which eventually grew to approximately 39 percent. The limit of contracted service is 40 percent.

OCTA’s decision to contract a portion of bus service is a cost-saving strategy that is helping provide an additional 150,000 revenue vehicle hours – equivalent to approximately 10 percent of OCTA’s bus service overall.

The current contract was awarded under a competitive bidding process, taking into account several factors, including qualifications of the firm, staffing and project organization, work plan and cost.

Keolis is a global public transportation operator founded in 1908. Based in Boston Mass., Keolis began operating bus service in the United States in 2012 and operates multimodal sites on behalf of 300 transit authorities in 15 countries. In the U.S., Keolis operates 11 locations in five states, with five locations in southern California, including Foothill Transit in Pomona, two facilities in the Victor Valley Transportation Authority, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority and the North Los Angeles County Regional Center.

The contracted fixed-route service will continue to operate and maintain vehicles out of the Anaheim and Irvine/Sand Canyon bases. Keolis’ work plan calls for retaining employees under the current contract, so the vast majority of contracted coach operators who bus riders have come to know and rely upon will remain the same.