OC Bus ridership is trending upward and averaging 100,000 average weekday riders for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The average weekday ridership on reached 101,600 boardings during the last two weeks of August and ridership numbers remain strong.
The milestone comes as OCTA puts an emphasis on gradually and safely restoring bus service and implementing programs to make riding the bus free for tens of thousands of students and youth throughout Orange County.
“During the height of the pandemic, we saw a sharp decline in bus ridership,” said OCTA Chairman Mark A. Murphy, also the Mayor of Orange. “Now, it’s highly encouraging to see this steady climb, which is only possible through thoughtful planning, the hard work of coach operators and OCTA staff, and good relationships built with the community.”
In March 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, OCTA reduced bus service levels to approximately 40% of regular service, to protect public and employee health while continuing to provide lifeline transportation for people to reach essential jobs and medical appointments.
Prior to the pandemic, the OC Bus system saw an average of nearly 120,000 riders per day. That number dropped in March and April 2020 to approximately 33,000 daily riders at its lowest.
Ridership gradually returned as more businesses reopened and service was incrementally restored, with safety as the top priority and guidance from local, state and federal health officials.
At the same time, OCTA continued to innovate and look at ways to make the bus system more efficient. The Youth Ride Free pass, which offers free bus rides to all youth ages 18 and younger, has so far provided more than 2.1 million rides. The College Pass Program has expanded to all nine Orange County community colleges and allows unlimited free rides on OC Bus throughout the semester.
In addition, OCTA looked for ways to assure customers that OC Bus was safe and a good value. Riders responded positively to two reduced fare promotions including the Welcome Back Pass, which emphasized safety, followed by the Value Pass, which focused on the high cost of gas.
OCTA continues to offer affordable rides via public transit, with bus rides at just $2 per ride or $5 for a day pass and additional discounted pass programs.