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Orange County Focus

COUNTYWIDE : OCTD Cancels Hike in Seniors' Bus Fare


The Orange County Transit District on Monday rescinded a 5-cent bus fare hike for senior citizens and the handicapped, as well as a 5-cent transfer fee pending further study.

Both increases were scheduled to take effect July 1. A 10-cent fare increase for the general public will kick in July 1 as scheduled, boosting prices to $1.

The fares for senior citizens and the handicapped currently are 45 cents during peak traffic periods and 15 cents the rest of the day. The proposed increase will be studied by an advisory group whose recommendations are expected by the end of June.

Orange County Transportation Commission Chairman Dana W. Reed persuaded transit officials to hold off implementing the county's first-ever bus transfer fee until the issue can be reconsidered at a June 24 meeting.

Reed argued that people such as him who have their own cars but ride the bus to be "socially responsible" will greatly resent a transfer charge. He likened it to American Airlines levying a surcharge on coast-to-coast travelers who switch planes at the airline's hub in Dallas even though switching planes is done for American's convenience, not the passengers'.

But Supervisor Roger R. Stanton, who serves on the boards of both the commission and the transit district, replied that an airline charges for the actual distance flown, while OCTD is planning to charge only a nickel for sometimes lengthy, additional legs of a trip.

Members of the OCTD board approved the fare changes last month, assuming that a second panel--the OCTC--would go along. But the commission balked. Some commission members worried that the fare hike violated a pledge in Measure M to stabilize fares for senior citizens and the handicapped.

Also, other OCTC officials said the fare plan improperly uses Measure M money to replace some state subsidies for senior citizens. Measure M, a half-cent sales tax approved by county voters last November, specifically bars government agencies from using tax-hike proceeds to replace or free up funds already being spent.

Now transit district officials have asked an advisory group to check on how much, if any, Measure M money is needed to subsidize fares in the face of an expected decline in state funds, and if so, whether any fare hike is needed.

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