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September 24, 2020

OCTA Again Awarded National Honor for Financial Reporting

The Government Finance Officers Association of the United State and Canada recognizes OCTA for comprehensive report in ‘spirit of full disclosure’

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority was recently recognized by the leading association of government finance professionals for excellence and transparency in financial reporting.

The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada this month awarded OCTA the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year that ended in June 2019.

OCTA has received the high honor each year since it was founded in 1991.

The Certificate of Achievement is the association’s highest recognition for government accounting and financial reporting. It is judged by an impartial panel of experts from the association who review the report for its ability to clearly communicate the agency’s financial story and for a “spirit of full disclosure.”

“OCTA prides itself on being transparent with the taxpayers of Orange County and this award is another clear indication that we are achieving that goal,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove. “Through the tremendous work of our staff and Board, we will continue to fulfill our responsibility to wisely and efficiently use the funds entrusted to OCTA to improve our transportation system and, ultimately, our residents’ quality of life.”

OCTA has an annual budget of $1.4 billion, approved by a 17-member Board of Directors each year after a budget workshop, numerous updates in public committee meetings and the board’s annual public hearing.

An independent,11-member Taxpayer Oversight Committee also holds an annual compliance hearing to ensure that funds from Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements, are being administered in accordance with the ordinances that were first approved by voters in 1990 and overwhelmingly renewed for 30 years in 2006. The Taxpayer Oversight Committee has determined for 29 consecutive years that Measure M is being delivered to voters as promised.

The Taxpayer Oversight Committee has determined for 29 consecutive years that Measure M is being delivered to voters as promised.

Amidst the uncertainty of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic impacts, OCTA continues to provide frequent financial updates to the Board of Directors for utmost transparency and accountability.

September 16, 2020

OCTA Approves $1 Million for Santa Ana Bus Stop Upgrades

Local Measure M sales tax funds will help improve shelters, other amenities at 35 bus stops

ORANGE – The OCTA Board of Directors this week approved more than $1 million to make improvements to 35 of the county’s busiest bus stops in the city of Santa Ana, helping provide newer, more comfortable shelter for passengers waiting to ride OC Bus.

The funds are provided through Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax for transportation, also known as OC Go. The measure, renewed by voters in 2006, includes funding to help provide improved transit amenities at the county’s busiest bus stops.

This week’s award of funding for bus-stop improvements is part of OCTA’s ongoing investment in communities where there is the greatest demand for public transit. Santa Ana, which has some of the county’s most heavily used bus routes, applied for the competitive funds and will work with OCTA to implement the upgrades.

“A big part of our mission is provide our bus passengers with a safe and enjoyable experience that encourages them to ride public transit, and these local sales tax funds will help significantly enhance the experience for OC Bus riders,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove.

Funds will be used to make improvements at 35 of Santa Ana’s bus stops, including several popular routes along Bristol Street, 17th Street and Harbor Boulevard, among many other locations throughout the city.

The improvements include replacing existing shelters (from rain and sun), benches, trash receptacles, advertising cases and making necessary improvements to concrete at the stops.

While bus stops throughout the county are located on city property and maintained by individual cities, OCTA works in partnership with those cities to determine the best locations for stops and provides competitive funding for improvements.

To date, the OCTA board has approved more than $3.1 million for similar bus-stop improvements throughout Orange County.

September 10, 2020

OCTA Innovating to Keep Public Informed During COVID-19

The agency has shifted to virtual meetings and other technology to update residents living near its various construction projects

ORANGE – While millions of Californians heeded state orders to stay home to help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), construction on public transportation projects continued, leaving the Orange County Transportation Authority to answer the question: What’s the best way to communicate construction updates to the thousands of residents living near its projects?

On the I-405 Improvement Project, the largest highway project under construction in the state, the COVID-19 pandemic forced OCTA to think creatively about how to best reach the diverse communities along the 16-mile stretch of project while ensuring the health and safety of employees and the public.

Traditional communication methods, including hosting information booths at community events, hosting in-person neighborhood meetings and canvassing fliers to residents’ homes, was no longer a viable option. But OCTA wanted to do more than relying on the project’s website, mobile app and social media presence to keep residents living in nine different cities throughout the project area informed.

Less than a week after the state issued its stay-at-home order in March, the I-405 Improvement Project hosted its first ever virtual neighborhood meeting to update residents living near major upcoming construction. The meeting was similar to the dozens that had been previously held, except instead of being at a community park, school or meeting room, residents were able to have their questions answered from the comfort and safety of their own home.

Since then, the project team has hosted nine additional virtual community meetings, directly communicating with nearly 450 people live. The meetings are all recorded and available online and have generated more than 2,000 views.

I-5 South Team Goes Virtual

The outreach team focused on improvements being made to I-5 between El Toro Road and SR-73 in South Orange County also converted its typical approach of chatting with residents over donuts in local neighborhood parks. Instead, they also quickly set up virtual meetings.

At first, they held a virtual meeting and discussed the entire 6-mile project, but quickly discovered it was a bit too much information for many residents who wanted detailed information about the freeway bridge near their house or whether there’d be a sound wall in their neighborhood.

So, they switched to “Webinar Wednesdays” that focused on smaller segments of the project.

And the I-5 South team looked to see how TV entertainment shows engaged viewers while going online. Using that example, rather than having just one presenter talk to the camera, they decided to have two presenters from the project team interacting.

One acts as the host for the meeting, welcoming the audience and explaining how it will work, then allows the other to present the information. The host asks follow-up questions and sometimes even jumps in to ask for clarification that the audience might want to know.

The I-5 South project team also focused on branding by always wearing button-up shirts that prominently featured the project logo when on camera. Otherwise, they limited branding, keeping it informal and presenting from their homes, with books, photos and artwork in the background.

The approach intended to send a message: Thank you for letting us come into your homes (virtually) for the presentation – from our homes to yours.

The team found that the team approach from home led to more engagement and more informal questions from viewers – as if they were still just chatting over donuts.

When completed in 2025, the I-5 South project will add a regular lane in each direction of the freeway, extend a second carpool lane, widen bridges and make other improvements to ease traffic congestion for approximately 360,000 drivers who use that part of the freeway daily.

Technology Helping Find the Right Audience

In addition to the virtual events, OCTA began using geofencing campaigns to target hundreds of thousands of residents and commuters that live and drive through specific areas of the I-405 Improvement Project.

This method of advertising allows OCTA to select a 1-mile radius near major construction work. If someone enters that zone with their smartphone, laptop or tablet, they will begin seeing construction alerts on their favorite apps, including ones like Waze or Pandora.

To date, the project team has completed six of these advertising campaigns, reaching nearly 700,000 people.

Moving forward, as restrictions continue to ease, OCTA will continue to build on the success of these virtual outreach efforts as a convenient way to keep the community up to date on its many projects and programs.

The $1.9 billion I-405 Improvement Project will add one regular lane in each direction between Euclid Street and I-605, and a second lane in each direction in the center of the freeway from SR-73 to I-605 that will combine with the existing carpool lanes to form the 405 Express Lanes.

For more information about the projects, visit octa.net/405improvement and octa.net/i5south.

July 16, 2020

OCTA Meeting Major Transportation Milestones Despite Pandemic Challenges

2020 mid-year report shows continued delivery of essential capital project improvements and public transit services

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority is pushing ahead through the many unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and continuing to keep its promises to deliver a balanced and sustainable transportation network for Orange County.

The OCTA Board of Directors this week received a mid-year report on the status of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer Initiatives and Action Plan showing that the agency has met 41 of 92 milestones for 2020 through the first six months of the year.

The milestones achieved have included advancing projects promised to voters through Measure M, the Orange County’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements. Among them are important freeway improvements on the I-405, I-5 and SR-91, continuing to build the OC Streetcar, funding street improvements and enhancing the OC Bus system.

“While there’s no question that we, like public agencies everywhere, have faced enormous challenges with the ongoing public health crisis, I think this report is further proof of the tremendous effort of our agency to work through those obstacles and continue providing essential services for Orange County,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove.

The milestones, first approved in January, were adjusted slightly in May in response to the pandemic, resulting in the 92 milestones.

Each January, the OCTA board and CEO work together to prioritize goals for the year and develop and action plan to ensure progress toward those goals.

This year that includes:

Board Initiatives

  • Comprehensive Mobility Solutions
  • Regional Leadership and Public Transparency
  • Resiliency, Sustainability and Innovation
  • Fiscal Accountability
  • Organizational Excellence

CEO Initiatives

  • Enhance Transit Service Quality and Customer Experience
  • Deliver OC Go – Next 10 Plan Commitments (Measure M)
  • Collaborate with Local and Regional Partners
  • Ensure Public Accountability and Transparency
  • Advance Climate Resiliency and Sustainability
  • Promote and Deploy Innovative Technology
  • Champion Fiscal Responsibility
  • Strengthen Safety and Security Measures
  • Develop and Maximize Workforce Potential

The initiatives and milestones will be reviewed again by the board this fall. Information: www.octa.net.

June 24, 2020

OCTA Sets Course for All Zero-Emission Buses by 2040

Plans are in-line with state mandate, as OCTA continues to test hydrogen fuel-cell electric and plug-in battery-electric technologies in two pilot programs

ORANGE – The Orange County Transportation Authority board has approved a draft plan outlining how the agency will convert the OC Bus fleet to 100 percent zero-emission technology by 2040.

It is a milestone step toward zero-emission transportation technology for a balanced and sustainable future – one that will help bring even cleaner air quality to Orange County.

“This is a great opportunity for us to plan for a healthier future that will include both reliable transportation and no potentially harmful emissions into our environment,” said OCTA Chairman Steve Jones, also the Mayor of Garden Grove. “We are accomplishing two important goals at the same time.”

OCTA has already gradually transitioned its fleet over the years, from diesel-burning buses to clean-burning renewable compressed natural gas (CNG) buses with near-zero-emission engines. The state has set a requirement to transition to complete zero-emission transit within the next 20 years.

OCTA’s zero-emission bus rollout plan, approved by the board of directors on Monday, will now be submitted to the California Air Resources Board.

The plan is not a commitment to a specific type of technology at this point. OCTA is in the process of testing both hydrogen fuel-cell electric buses and plug-in battery-electric buses to determine which technology best meets OCTA’s needs related to operations, maintenance and cost, among other things.

In April, the OCTA Board of Directors approved a request for quotes to purchase 10 plug-in battery-electric buses.

The pilot program for the battery-electric 40-foot buses comes following OCTA’s debut at the start of 2020 of 10 new hydrogen fuel-cell electric buses.

Those hydrogen fuel-cell buses, which also create zero emissions, began operating in January, when OCTA debuted its hydrogen fueling station in Santa Ana. In all, it represented a $22.9 million investment. More than half of that funding – $12.5 million – came from California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.

Testing both hydrogen fuel-cell and plug-in battery-electric buses will allow OCTA to collect valuable data and to determine which technology – or the best mix of technologies – to pursue moving forward.

OCTA operates more than 500 buses in the regular OC Bus system across Orange County. For now, most of those buses run on compressed natural gas but OCTA is working toward the goal of producing zero emissions.

OCTA will begin phasing in the purchase of zero-emission buses as part of future bus procurements beginning in 2023. At the same time, staff will continue to analyze emerging technologies and work with partners to secure funding for purchase, operations and maintenance of the buses.

The effort aligns with California’s Innovative Clean Transit Rule, a first-of-its-kind regulation in the U.S. that sets a goal for public transit agencies to gradually transition to 100 percent zero-emission bus fleets by 2040. The Innovative Clean Transit Rule is part of the state’s comprehensive program helping to achieve California’s air quality and climate goals.

The hydrogen fuel-cell buses continue to be tested on routes throughout Orange County. The plug-in battery-electric buses are expected to begin operation in Orange County in late 2021.

June 11, 2020

OCTA Approves $1.4 Billion Balanced Budget for FY 2020-21

The Orange County Transportation Authority has approved a budget of more than $1.4 billion for the upcoming fiscal year – a balanced budget that makes conservative assumptions due to the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping important transportation improvements moving forward...