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Orange County

OCTA Warned of 2030 Overload

An increase in seniors could severely strain bus services, grand jury report says.

June 08, 2004|Erin Ailworth | Times Staff Writer

A rising tide of senior citizens could overwhelm Orange County transportation services by 2030, according to a county grand jury report issued Monday.

By then, the county's population of those 65 years and older will increase by an estimated 70%. Currently, the county has 290,000 seniors, and they ride the county's fixed bus routes at least 60,000 times per month.

"What [this projected rise] means to transportation planners, to OCTA, to the county ... is that we need to take a look at existing resources that are available in Orange County right now" to determine how to beef up the system, said Ted Nguyen, a spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority.

"I think the next step will be to work with other county resources, other agencies, to determine where the funding will come from and how much it will cost," he said. "We are not there yet; I think this [report] is one of the preliminary phases."

In addition to its fixed bus routes, the OCTA also offers several transportation options for seniors. These include the ACCESS program, a shared-ride service for people who cannot use fixed routes because of a disability or other limitation, and the Senior Mobility Program, which attempts to plug the gap between local fixed route services and ACCESS by providing cities with funds and vehicles for more localized transit programs. OCTA uses information sessions to educate citizens about their options.

Services currently provided by the county are "quite adequate," said Tom Staple, the foreman of the grand jury. But he said city and county agencies should be aware that the senior population would grow significantly in coming years.

More important, Staple said, agencies must start coordinating their efforts in order to eliminate duplicated services.

Responses to the grand jury's report from several county agencies are expected within 60 to 90 days and will be posted at www.occourts.org.

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