Orange County residents who live a long way from a Metrolink station may soon be able to ride a bus to and from the nearest one. And train riders without a car may get help going to Orange County's beaches, theme parks and major shopping centers.
Orange County transportation officials, looking for transit ideas, turned over the search to the county's 34 cities, giving them each $100,000 to develop ideas that would enhance Metrolink service.
In Buena Park, which is building a Metrolink station, the city may join Cypress and La Palma, cities that lack commuter rail service, and plan bus shuttles and park-and-ride locations to the station.
In Newport Beach, a shuttle from the nearby Irvine Metrolink station could run twice a day, looping to Newport Center, where there are hundreds of workers.
In Orange, the city could provide buses to carry workers from the downtown Metrolink station to UCI Medical Center, the Block and Children's Hospital of Orange.
These ideas, which have not gone before city councils, were mentioned in interviews after the Orange County Transportation Authority's action.
The authority has $30 million to improve Metrolink service in the county, said Carolyn Cavecche, an Orange councilwoman on the county transit board.
"For Orange, it's possible to have bus transportation from our Metrolink station to the two hospital areas and also the Block," Cavecche said. "However, I wouldn't propose a transportation idea without first securing consistent funding, more than just for one year."
OCTA Chairman Arthur Brown, who is Buena Park's mayor, said he would like several nearby cities to join Buena Park on Metrolink ideas.
Instead of building parking structures, Brown said, it's cheaper to increase bus service to major employers in nearby cities or to major attractions like Knott's Berry Farm.
Newport Beach officials have talked about a joint project with Irvine, such as a bus connector that loops twice a day from the station to Newport Center, where thousands are employed, said Richard Edmonston, Newport Beach traffic engineer.
"Because many people work long hours and don't always leave their offices at 5 p.m., we would need a service that offers flexibility, and maybe a Metrolink tie might work," he said.
In other business, authority board members expressed frustration with recent increased cost estimates for the Santa Ana Freeway widening by Caltrans and OCTA engineers.
Estimates were off by nearly 25%. The board on Monday approved $63 million in addition to the original $251-million estimate. Estimates failed to accurately account for rising concrete and steel prices, said county Supervisor Lou Correa, who is on the board.
The board approved a plan by Correa to review the authority's estimates for all major projects within six months.
Work begins in May to add two lanes in both directions in Buena Park, near the junction of the Santa Ana and Riverside freeways, north two miles to the Los Angeles County line.
In other business, the board selected Connex Transit Inc. to provide bus service for older residents and the disabled. Connex's bid of $167 million was lower than the $180-million bid by Laidlaw Transit Services Inc.