While Orange County remains car-centric, the door may be opening to mass transit as long as it directly serves county residents. That’s one of the many relevant findings in the latest Chapman University Orange County Annual Survey released during the University’s fifth annual Public Policy Conference, this year titled The Future of Transportation.
The survey found that residents support mass transit, as long as new projects address local traffic issues. There is majority support for the OC Streetcar light rail line connecting Santa Ana and Garden Grove that is scheduled for completion in late 2021, as well as for a possible rail connection between Orange County and Los Angeles International Airport. But most respondents don’t support California’s $77 billion high-speed rail project, known as the bullet train.
The Orange County Annual Survey takes the pulse of county residents on critical policy issues, and in its second year polled 704 county residents, with a focus on transit concerns. Yet despite frustration with traffic, residents are not likely to give up their automobiles soon.
“Seventy percent said that even if a more efficient public transportation system were available, they would still drive their cars to work,” said Fred Smoller, Ph.D., associate professor of political science and co-director of the survey. “Orange County people like their cars and use their cars every day.”
Orange residents have the advantage of easy access to Metrolink, and the February opening of the Old Towne Orange Metrolink Parking Structure at 130 N. Lemon St. eases local parking congestion by creating 608 spaces to replace a 172-space lot.
In addition, more than 100 spaces are available free to people visiting local shops and restaurants on weekdays, and the entire garage is available to visitors on weekends, when the other 500 spots are not reserved for transit riders. No student parking is allowed in the structure.
When students move into the new Chapman residential village at Cypress Street and Palm Avenue this fall, any students with cars will be required to park in Chapman’s West Campus structure at 230 N. Cypress St. (The University offered courtesy parking to the public in that structure during construction of the Metrolink Parking Structure as well as in the nearby Palm Lot, but that has now ended.) Chapman students, faculty and staff are prohibited from parking on city streets surrounding campus, except for on the curb bordering the University.