Express bus service from north Orange County to Newport Center will be available beginning May 12 under a program authorized Monday by the Orange County Transit District.
Two mini-buses a day, paid for by the Irvine Co. through the transit district, will run from Anaheim Hills and Orange on the Costa Mesa Freeway’s new commuter lanes to the business and retail center on the coast of Newport Beach, returning in the evening.
The buses will operate as a shuttle within Newport Center between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
The service will be available Monday through Friday.
The transit district has long discussed operating an express bus on the special commuter lanes, which provide a free-flowing route for buses and cars with two or more occupants. But so far, estimated ridership levels have not justified a regular express bus route.
However, Irvine Co. spokeswoman Charity Crawford said the company’s survey of its own employees and those of Pacific Mutual, the two largest employers at Newport Center, showed there was plenty of demand for two daily runs on the 18-passenger mini-buses. Total employment at Newport Center is about 12,000.
“Both the (transit) district staff and the Irvine Co. view this project as an innovative public/private joint venture which meets the private sector’s requirement for improved peak-hour commuter service, while not requiring the district to expend its limited tax-generated revenues on specialized peak period services,” OCTD general manager James Reichert said in a report to the district board of directors.
For the Irvine Co., the bus service is part of the company’s transportation demand management program, which seeks to minimize traffic congestion in and around the company’s developments.
“As we (proceed with) development, we’re recognizing that traffic and transportation are critical needs that need to be addressed, so the Irvine Co. is trying to come up with innovative solutions,” Crawford said.
Over the next year, the district will put aside $120,000 for the bus service, nearly all of which will be reimbursed by the Irvine Co. through monthly billings. The actual buses will be the same mini-buses operated through OCTD’s Dial-a-Ride program through private contractors.
Fares for the express bus service will be $1 each way. It will cost 10 cents to ride the shuttle through Newport Center during the mid-day hours.