Behind the Orange Curtain: Massive Service Cuts at OCTA
Around the country, many of our largest transit agencies are dealing with massive deficits by cutting back service and laying off employees. New York City Streetsblog has pretty much been devoted to round-the-clock coverage of NYCMTA's proposed cuts, the politics behind them and the effort to stop them.
Closer to home, our neighbors in Orange County are facing a 25% cut in OCTA bus trips and laying off over 400 drivers. The plan doesn't have specific roots designated for cuts, just a mandate from the board to make these cuts and for the staff to get creative. These cuts would be in addition to the 133,000 hours in cuts that have already been ordered in the last nine months, some of which haven't gone into effect.
So far the only organized opposition to the cuts comes from a local Teamsters branch representing the bus drivers. Naturally, this has led to OCTA staff noting that if the drivers were willing to give up their 4% mandated raise in July, the total cut would drop by 10%.
Meanwhile, the progressive online outpost in Orange County, the OC Progressive, came up with it's own plan to reduce the service cuts by streamlining other parts of the OCTA budget:
OCTA could take less money for the local transit fund for administration,which sucks $8 million a year from the bus fund for administrative overhead - including its wasteful $11 million a year external affairs budget. This year's external affairs budget shows $4.8 million in costs for 45 employees as well as 3.4 million for professional service, like the $5,000 a month they pay Republcan party chair Scott Baugh every month. Putting 8 million a year back into paying for bus services would go a long way to staving off cutbacks.
This would let the other major source of revenue - Measure M funding, carry the administrative burden.
Listening to yesterday's meeting, where the board voted to continue to study a $3.9 billion tunnel under the Santa Ana River, it's obvious that there's plenty of room for eliminating waste by cutting back on consultants contracts.
OCTA could cut back the rates it pays to consultants and defer some of the planning that it's doing. Why spend a lot of money building an Anaheim Regional Transit Center if you've cut the bus services that are at the core of regional transit?
OCTA could rely on its reserves more and work aggressively to restore state revenue.