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Orange County, California/Orange County Transitway Project

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Orange County Transitway Project

Orange County, California

(November 1998)


The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is developing a 28-mile Transitway Corridor in central Orange County between Fullerton and Irvine. The proposed Transitway will connect major activity centers within the Corridor, including downtown Fullerton and the Fullerton Transportation Center, downtown Anaheim, the Anaheim Resort Area (including Disneyland, the Anaheim Convention Center, Edison Stadium and the Arrowhead Pond) downtown Santa Ana (and the county government center), John Wayne Airport, El Toro Marine Base (which is being converted to civilian use), and several hospitals and regional shopping, employment, cultural, and entertainment centers. The diversity of attractions throughout the corridor is expected to generate a significant number of bi-directional and non-peak trips.

A preferred rail technology has not yet been specified. Several alternatives are being examined in Preliminary Engineering. Assuming a rail system which is 94 percent at-grade and 6 percent elevated, the project is estimated to cost $1.92 billion (escalated dollars) and to carry 55,800 riders per day.

Orange County Transitway Summary Description

Proposed Project Rail Fixed Guideway
28.0 miles, 27 stations
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $1.92 billion
Section 5309 New Starts Share ($YOE) $959.1 billion
Annual Operating Cost ($YOE) $23.0 million
Ridership Forecast (2020) 55,800 average weekday boardings
FY 2000 Financial Rating: Medium-High
FY 2000 Project Justification Rating: Medium
FY 2000 Overall Project Rating: Recommended

The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 1998. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


OCTA completed a Major Investment Study (MIS) for the Corridor in June 1997. The MIS led to the selection of a rail/bus project consisting of a 28-mile transitway and a 49% increase in bus service. The Transitway is included in the financially constrained and conforming regional transportation plan and transportation improvement program. In February 1998, FTA approved entry into the Preliminary Engineering (PE)/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) phase of project development. The DEIS effort is expected to conclude in December 1999 with the selection of a Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), at which point OCTA will focus its remaining PE effort on the LPA.

The Transitway project is included in the metropolitan planning organization's financially constrained and conforming Regional Transportation Plan and Transportation Improvement Program. TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(59) authorizes the Fullerton-Irvine Corridor for final design and construction. Through FY 1999, Congress has appropriated $7.45 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria.


Mobility Improvements

Rating: Medium-High

OCTA estimates the following travel time savings for the New Start compared with the No-Build and TSM alternatives.

Mobility Improvements New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Annual Travel Time Savings (Hours) 23.0 million hours 5.4 million hours

Based on the 1990 US Census, OCTA estimates that there are 20,141 low-income households within ½ mile of 25 of the 27 proposed stations (44 percent of all households located within ½ mile of stations).

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Medium

Orange County lies within the South Coast Air Basin and is currently classified as an "extreme" nonattainment area for ozone, a "serious" nonattainment area for carbon monoxide, a "serious" nonattainment area for PM-10, and a nonattainment area for NOx.

OCTA estimates the following changes in annual regional emissions.

Criteria Pollutant New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Carbon Monoxide (CO) decrease of 66 annual tons decrease of 162 annual tons
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) increase of 78 annual tons decrease of 84 annual tons
Hydrocarbons (HC) increase of 11 annual tons decrease of 26 annual tons
Particulate Matter (PM10) 0 0
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) decrease of 9,516 annual tons decrease of 6,277 annual tons

OCTA estimates the following reduction in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units - BTU).

Annual Energy Savings New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
BTU (millions) decrease of 111,831 million annual BTU decrease of 57,209 million annual BTU

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Medium

OCTA estimates a decrease in the systemwide operating cost per passenger mile, compared to the No-Build, and a slight increase for the New Start compared to the TSM.

Operating Efficiencies No-Build TSM New Start
System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2020) $0.51 $0.35 $0.36

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1998 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium

OCTA estimates the following cost effectiveness indices:

Cost Effectiveness New Start vs. No-Build New Start vs. TSM
Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger $6.99 $14.65

Values reflect 2020 ridership forecast and 1998 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium

The Medium Land Use rating reflects the varied densities and transit-supportive conditions found along the corridor, but acknowledges the proactive role of OCTA and several local jurisdictions in encouraging transit-oriented development around proposed station areas. The 28-mile corridor serves several single and multi-family residential neighborhoods, some office park and retail development, several industrial areas, and Disneyland, Anaheim Stadium, and other entertainment attractions. The corridor contains over one-half of the county's employment, although more growth is forecast outside of the corridor than inside. Net densities are moderate to high in a number of areas in the north of the corridor, but tend to decrease in the southern portion of the corridor. The corridor is auto-oriented, with a significant supply of parking in most employment centers, shopping areas, and attractions. Pedestrian friendliness in the corridor varies; however, most of the seven communities traversed by the corridor have adopted policies and plans which support redevelopment and pedestrian access around station areas. OCTA has been working with these communities during PE to promote and facilitate transit-oriented development. In addition, OCTA has conducted education and outreach on transit-oriented land use planning, and is investigating joint development opportunities.

Other Factors

Santa Ana Enterprise Zone: The city of Santa Ana has three sites designated by the State of California as Enterprise Zones, and within the boundaries of these zones are three Transitway stations. Santa Ana is also designated as a Federal Empowerment Zone. OCTA has been involved with the city in development activities and is committed to supporting Enterprise/Empowerment Zone initiatives.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Non-Section 5309 Share of Total Project Costs: 50%

The OCTA financial plan proposes $959.1 million (50 percent) in Section 5309 New Start funds and an additional Federal contribution of $273.5 million (14.3 percent) in Federal flexible funds. The plan includes $504.5 million (26.3 percent) in State funding and $179.4 million (9.4 percent) in local funds.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Transitway has received a Medium-High capital plan rating because 100 percent of proposed local funding for the project is committed from existing sources; however, OCTA has yet to identify a specific alignment type or rail technology. Capital cost estimates are consistent with light rail. One proposed local funding source is the County's Measure M sales tax, which is expected to generate $450 million for both capital improvements and ongoing operations. The capital plan provides coverage for cost contingencies.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High operating plan rating reflects the existing dedicated revenue stream for operating the Transitway. OCTA proposes that operation of the completed Transitway would be funded with an interest-bearing operating fund comprised of Measure M ($250 million) and CMAQ ($49 million) funds. This resource is estimated to yield sufficient funds to operate the completed 28 mile system through FY 2030. OCTA has similar funding in place for both its bus and commuter rail operations. Annual O&M costs estimates appear reasonable given the proposed size of the system.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Section 5309 New Starts $959.1 $7.45 million appropriated through FY 1999.
STP/CMAQ $273.5


STIP $504.5


Measure M $179.4


Total: $1,916.2

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Any errors are due to rounding.

[Orange County Transitway Project Map (PDF)]

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