The Orange County Transit District reported Monday that its bus ridership for the fiscal year ending June 30 was down 5.6%, the first drop in the district's 15-year history.
The district's annual report, which was released Monday, attributed the decrease to a two-week strike by the bus drivers last December. It also said the problems caused by the strike were compounded by low fuel prices and new, lower-priced cars.
"Let's face it, the car is our competition," said Joanne Curran, spokeswoman for the district.
Curran said the strike affected ridership in that it disrupted people's travel patterns. She said the effects of a strike can last for more than a year.
The drivers returned to work Dec. 22 and subsequently approved a 3 1/2-year contract.
The ridership dropped from 37 million in 1985-86 to 35 million in 1986-87. It was the lowest ridership since the 1983-84 fiscal year, when there were 34.2 million passengers.
In a bid to increase the ridership, Curran said, the district has hired a new ad agency, which is planning to unveil a new campaign in September. She said the agency is polling to determine the markets that might be most favorable to bus riding.
Curran also said every transit district in California had ridership drops last year, except those in San Diego and Santa Monica.