California’s Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) commemorated 50 years of public bus service in Orange County with an event attended by former board members and staff, including the first GM of the bus system.
The gathering at the OCTA headquarters in Orange, Calif., included a vintage 1972 bus with the original OCTD logo — when the buses ran for the original Orange County Transit District.
Pete Fielding, the first OCTD GM, was on-hand representing that era, when Richard Nixon was president and the same year Atari introduced Pong as the first commercial video game.
Parked next to the half-century-old diesel bus was a modern zero-emission OCTA bus powered by hydrogen fuel-cell electricity, with power steering and air conditioning — all technological advancements made during the last 50 years.
After the event, additional small commemorations were being held with employees at each of the OCTA bus bases so all employees could mark the special occasion.
“Public transit service has come a long way since those early days of a handful of buses, growing into a thriving and vital public transit system that helps tens of thousands of residents, workers, and visitors get where they need to be every day,” said OCTA Chairman Mark A. Murphy, also the Mayor of Orange. “That would not be possible without the hard work of hundreds of coach operators, maintenance workers, and operations staff who keep the county moving safely.”
OCTA began the 50th anniversary commemoration earlier this month by offering free bus rides all day on Sept. 1. That day, ridership reached approximately 106,000 boardings, a record for the year.
The agency continues to grow its bus ridership, which fell sharply during the pandemic, from approximately 120,000 daily boardings down to 33,000 during the worst of the pandemic.
With efforts to bring back existing bus riders and innovative efforts to attract new riders, the daily average has rebounded to approximately 100,000 boardings on an average weekday.
Bus service in Orange County began in fall 1972 when the then Orange County Transit District began running five leased buses on just three routes. Those routes in North County served about 25,000 boardings in the first month. The price to ride the bus back then: 25 cents.
Today, OCTA has more than 500 buses that serve passengers throughout Orange County.