South Coast Metro Businesses Starting Ride-Sharing, Shuttle Program to Cut Traffic

Times Staff Writer

A group of businesses around South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa is starting a program to reduce traffic through ride-sharing, van pools and a shuttle service to the Amtrak train station in Santa Ana.

The South Coast Metro Alliance, composed of developers, property owners and hotels, said the Orange County Transit District will run the three-year program and provide $100,000 a year in federal grants. The alliance will provide another $100,000 a year.

Newport Center in Newport Beach and the Irvine Spectrum have already started similar programs.

The county's clogged streets and freeways pressured Orange County businesses to consider such programs. Now those businesses also face the possibility of mandatory ride-sharing programs imposed by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which is trying to cut pollution in the nation's smoggiest urban area.

There are 10 places in the county where businesses or government agencies are packed densely enough to make such big transportation management programs feasible, said Gary W. Edson, manager of the transit district's Commuter Network.

Many businesses and government agencies in the impacted areas are considering starting programs, Edson said, citing the county government complex in Santa Ana.

The Newport Center program, implemented in 1986, came out of talks between the developer--the Irvine Co.--and the transit district. The Spectrum program, also an Irvine Co. project, was required by the City of Irvine before it would approve the huge office and industrial park, Edson said.

While South Coast Metro is "sort of a Johnny-come-lately" to the idea, Edson said he thinks that the program "will work very well." About 25,000 people work in the area, according to the South Coast Metro Alliance.

At a press conference Wednesday, Victor Boyd, South Coast Metro president, said the transportation program was not begun in response to the Air Quality Management District's new rules, which were announced nearly a year after planning for the program began.

Nor, Boyd said, was it influenced by a slow-growth initiative that is widely expected to be approved this year by county voters frustrated with traffic congestion.

"We're implementing this program because of the needs of our tenants," said Boyd, who is president of QB Properties.

A survey in early 1987 showed that half the employees of businesses in the South Coast Metro area would consider alternatives to driving to work alone. About 10% now share rides, and the program wants to increase that to 15% by the end of the year.

Here's how the voluntary program will work: The transit district will set up an office in South Coast Plaza Town Center and use computer data to match employees for ride sharing. Transit district employees will also meet with South Coast employees and try to persuade them to share rides.

Local employers will be asked to establish incentives for employees who share rides, such as reduced parking fees or preferred parking spaces.

The transit district also will lease vans at low cost to employees who form van pools. Both the transit district and the South Coast Metro Alliance will also subsidize part of the van's costs.

The program also intends to expand use of a shuttle, started by developer C.J. Segerstrom & Sons and announced earlier, between South Coast Metro and the Amtrak station.

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