OCTD Wants to Pay Its Workers to Car-Pool

Times Urban Affairs Writer

Orange County's transit agency, which urges Orange County residents to car-pool but has had trouble getting its own workers to double up, is proposing bonuses, extra vacation days and work at home in order to meet strict regional anti-smog regulations.

Officials at the Orange County Transit District think such incentives for its employees, including pay bonuses of up to $25 a month, are just the ticket to meet traffic reduction requirements adopted last year by the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Supervisor Don R. Roth, a transit district board member, said Wednesday that he will oppose the agency's plan when it comes before the board on Monday.

"If any group of people should be responsive to ride-sharing requirements, it's OCTD employees," said Roth. "If we have to take people who are this closely related to ride-sharing and have to pay them $25 a month, I'm bothered by it. . . . Throwing money at people isn't the answer."

Roth and Supervisor Roger R. Stanton, chairman of the OCTD board, said parking fees should be considered.

The AQMD regulation requires employers of 100 or more to reduce employees' solo commutes and achieve an average occupancy of 1.5 workers per vehicle during rush hours. Failure to submit a plan to achieve such goals is punishable with penalties of up to $25,000 or a year in jail for each day of violation.

Currently, transit district officials say, the agency's 1,478 employees are averaging 1.1 people per vehicle. OCTD's plan for improving its performance must be filed with AQMD by June 2.

To meet AQMD rules, the district has proposed the pay bonuses, extra vacation days and:

* A 6-month demonstration project in which some employees will be selected for telecommuting--working at home on computers linked to OCTD via telephone lines.

* Personalized, one-on-one bus-routing and car-pool counseling.

* Subsidies for van pools, leasing assistance for vans used for ride-sharing, and free weekly van washes.

* Establishment of a commuter club for purposes of awarding prizes quarterly, and a yearly luncheon for ride-sharers.

* The purchase of five fleet vehicles to have on hand for ride-sharing employees for personal emergencies and business purposes.

Total cost of the program is expected to be about $189,240 this year.

Transit district spokeswoman Joanne Curran said the agency's staff favors the recommended plan, including the monthly bonuses, because it has the best chance to achieve the desired result.

"We have to be a model for the rest of Orange County," Curran said. The AQMD has authority to reject plans that it believes won't work.

Curran added: "It would be embarrassing if OCTD's plan is rejected."

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