SCSQUARED halfBy Eric Heinz

With the Orange County Transportation Authority approving two transportation projects for San Clemente, the city is looking to find the best way to implement what could be more than $4 million in cumulative grant funding.

Trolleys Coming in 2017

San Clemente will have its first trolley services in summer of 2017 after the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) approved funding through its trolley program. The grant money is allocated with the assumption the services will have a ridership of at least 10 people per hour, otherwise the money can be reverted back to OCTA.

According to the city’s application, the trolleys will follow a route that goes to the Outlets at San Clemente, down to North Beach and southbound El Camino Real to Del Mar and the Pier, and then they will travel back up Avenida Victoria to northbound El Camino Real and back to the Outlets.

City Councilwoman Lori Donchak, who is also president of the OCTA Board of Directors, said the funding for the trolleys will last seven years, so long as the ridership requirements are met.

The project, if it lasts seven years, will cost $1.2 million with the city contributing 10 percent of the cost.

Friends of San Clemente Foundation put $10,000 toward the match, half of what was needed for the first year of the project.

“The trolley is all about connections, and I think we’ll learn a lot about it in the first year,” Donchak said. “One scenario, if it’s successful and I expect it will be, is we expand the service geographically.”

After the first year, the city could explore expanding routes to Talega and South El Camino Real, as well as connecting systems with Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano, but those plans remain to be seen.

“Another way to go is to expand the hours of operation because right now it’s going to be pretty much a seasonal and weekend way to get around,” Donchak said.

The trolley in 2017 will run from Memorial Day to Labor Day from noon to 10 p.m. on Fridays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

Rideshare to Supplement Closing Bus Routes

It’s not quite a bus service. It’s not quite Uber. And it’s not quite a taxi.

But it should make up for the lack of public transportation the city will face in October when two OCTA bus routes are discontinued.

“Riders would use a rideshare app to input pickup location and drop off at a safe public location within 500 feet of route within the city limits,” according to the city’s application for funding.

The city will contract with a private organization to administer the services using money from an OCTA Project V matching grant.

“The intention of the rideshare program is to have it in place when San Clemente’s bus service is reduced in October and that it will provide an alternative,” Donchak said.

The bus services San Clemente will lose in October are the 191, which goes around the city and up to San Juan and Mission Viejo, and the 193, which circles around the inner parts of the city. OCTA determined through a countywide study the two routes were not generating enough ridership.

At its monthly meeting on Monday, the Mobility Task Force will examine the logistics of the project, and the proposals for the project will be brought to City Council in the near future.

“It’s very innovative,” Donchak said. “From an OCTA perspective, it is a pioneer project, and, if San Clemente executes it well, there certainly is a big place for it in other parts of Orange County where there may not be enough people to justify a full-fledged bus service.”

Because this is an exploratory venture, and because of certain laws that apply to public transportation, there are some requirements that potential bidders will have to meet.

“OCTA, being a public authority, has all sorts of different requirements, so finding the sweet spot between the private sector and a public authority is going to be the big challenge for this project,” Donchak said. “It has to do with insurance, liability … ADA requirements we’re held to. Finding vehicles that can accommodate handicap passengers is going to be high on the list (of bid criteria).”

Costs to use the service will be the same as taking a bus, and if there are any shortfalls with the cost to the contractor, OCTA will make up the difference.

Donchak said she was pleased with how well the projects scored when competing for the grant money against 17 other entities for funding.

As with the trolleys, the rideshare program will track ridership numbers over the course of two years.

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