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Proposed Merger of County Transportation Agencies

September 04, 1988

Re transportation agency consolidation: Hold it just one minute. Before this consolidation train gets up too much speed and runs into unsuspecting taxpayers, let's take another look at what is being proposed and who is proposing it.

The Orange County Transportation Commission says a survey it conducted shows residents complain of a lack of leadership in Orange County. And Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach) has discovered a lack of leadership in solving our transportation problems. Excuse me, but isn't that what we elected him, and others, to provide? And if the public sees the county transportation commission as lacking a leadership image, they haven't done the job of informing the public of their accomplishments on behalf of residents. Tell us!

Could it be that what we are seeing is the old pass-the-buck trick, rather than the job we expect from them? Only two politicians, state Sens. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) and John Seymour (R-Anaheim), have fought for Orange County's transportation interests in Sacramento. So much for leadership.

Consolidation is a nice, efficient-sounding word. The goal of this particular plan is to secure better transportation planning. I'll bet that phrase means different things to each reader, but most of us think of highways, freeways and city streets. Highways and freeways are the responsibility of the California Department of Transportation. Caltrans is a state agency and therefore not included in the consolidation plan. City streets are planned and maintained by local communities.

Let's look at better planning of land use, then. This is the responsibility of the county Environmental Management Agency, which already answers to the Board of Supervisors. But EMA is not included in the plan either.

Then who is to be consolidated? And why?

The Orange County Transportation Commission, Orange County Transit District, Transportation Corridor Agencies, and possibly the Consolidated Transportation Service Agency, would make up a new super agency. But look closely: Two of those agencies--the transit district and the transportation service agency--have nothing to do with planning for growth or building freeways and streets; they run buses.

I read recently that the OCTD had the highest bus ridership in its history. In the 1970s we voted for a bus system for all residents: workers, students, the handicapped and senior citizens. It seems that they're using it. If OCTD was merged with other agencies, the taxes we want used for more buses to carry all those people might be reduced or eliminated, causing a hardship on thousands daily. Would bus service be moved to affluent areas of south county, where bus ridership would be low? (After all, who needs a bus when you have a BMW?)

We want less government, not more, even if it's just another layer. We don't need a super agency. What we need is legislators working with the Board of Supervisors and the county Transportation Commission to get Orange County its fair share of state and federal tax money. And maybe we should redesign the county Transportation Commission to include more city representation so that special-interest groups have less influence over the county supervisors.

Look closely at those promoting this new, improved version of government. Question the motives of those proposing this. They may be trying to restore power they feel is slipping away to our cities.

This consolidation train is not bound for glory; it's heading straight for well-meaning residents. Time to switch tracks and set our leaders' sights on the course of responsible leadership. There are no free rides.



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