Missing bus drivers force students to scramble

Students who depend on the bus to get to classes are finding that coaches are not arriving and leaving them stranded. Some students resort to Uber to get to OCC while others say they worry they'll have to drop classes.

The Orange County Transit Authority dropped bus routes in February and March, forcing some Orange Coast College students without cars to pay for ride sharing services or drop classes.

Judie Ramirez, a 23-year-old business major who commutes to OCC from Newport Beach, said her buses have not arrived several times in the past few weeks.

“I either call an Uber or just have to miss class,” Ramirez said.

She explained that she may have to drop a class if she’s not able to catch up with her work.

Joshua Chong, a 20-year-old computer science major, said he’s also impacted by the bus schedule, even though he lives  in Costa Mesa.

“Sometimes the bus is 20 to 30 minutes late, or even 15 minutes early, which is much worse,” he said. An early arrival means riders have to wait until the next scheduled pickup, which could be an hour or more later, depending on the route and time of day.

According to an OCTA representative, the reason for the missing buses is that many routes don’t have an assigned driver, due to scheduling failures with a contracted company.

Eric Carpenter, a media relations specialist for OCTA, said that the scheduling problems happened after Feb. 10, the most recent service change, which is the regularly scheduled date when OCTA updates their routes.

As part of the service change, First Transit, a company that OCTA is contracted with to provide coach operators, updated its services to comply with federal regulations regarding breaks during work.

First Transit adjusted its schedules to include more coach operators, but didn’t have sufficient staff to cover the routes. There were more than 500 missed bus trips out of 48,000 for the company, a less than one percent failure rate.    

Despite the low rate of missing routes, the effects can be devastating for the people counting on those particular routes. The routes were most often dropped in the early morning, when people are counting on the bus to get to work and school.

Coral Mestas, a 22-year-old art history major, knows how devastating missing buses can be.

Mestas’ mother suffers from serious physical disorders that make it impossible for her to work, so Mestas has supported her since she was still a minor.

According to Mestas, when she was younger, they rode the bus every day so that she could attend a better school in a different neighborhood. But she and her mother were simply unable to keep up with the challenges of the bus system and accepted a less optimal, but closer, high school.

“When it’s late you can complain, but when you really have to be somewhere it’s a  problem,” Mestas said.

This month, when her bus failed to arrive, Mestas thought maybe it had arrived early or would be late. She called the OCTA help line and was surprised to hear that the bus was not coming at all.

She had to wait an hour in the early morning cold and rain, and when she got to school she dried her shoes off using a hand dryer in the school bathrooms.

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