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Countywide : Improving Bus Service for Disabled Studied

The popularity of a bus service that provides rides for disabled people has dramatically increased over the past two years, transportation officials say.

The Access service now has about 10,000 riders, up from 2,000 at its inception in 1993. The service carries about 1,500 people on an average day.

Given this increasing demand, the Orange County Transportation Authority is looking for ways to serve the disabled more efficiently.

One idea is to encourage some disabled riders to use the regular OCTA bus system if possible, officials said Monday.

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The authority is considering a plan to hire special “conductors” who would ride some regular bus lines, helping disabled riders get on and off the vehicles.

The OCTA is also working with a service group to create training classes that would offer disabled people tips on using the regular bus system.

OCTA officials expressed concern Monday that the state could move to take away some of the funding that goes to the Access program, leading to reductions in service. So far, state action does not threaten Access funding, but “it’s one of the things we are watching closely,” OCTA board chairman Charles Smith said.

To qualify for Access service, riders must meet certain requirements defined in the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. Those deemed eligible can request door-to-door mini-bus service by making phone reservations. Riders use the service to go shopping, visit the doctor and travel to and from work.

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In another matter, OCTA officials said Monday they plan to carefully examine many of the proposed road projects listed in the county’s master plan of arterial highways. Cindy Krebs, the OCTA’s manager of programming, said the goal of the reappraisal is to determine if some proposed road projects should be removed from the map and if others should be added.

In May, the OCTA took over countywide highway planning from the county’s Environmental Management Agency.


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