All community colleges in Orange County are now on board.

The Orange County Transportation Authority this week marked a major milestone in the effort to provide OC Bus passes to thousands of community college students when it presented resolutions to all nine Orange County community colleges now participating in the College Pass program.

The College Pass, a shared-cost program that allows enrolled community-college students to travel free on any OC Bus fixed route, helps students access higher education, employmennt and recreational opportunities all across Orange County.

“It’s great to see how this program has expanded, reaching all of our community colleges,” said OCTA Chairman Mark A. Murphy, also the Mayor of Orange. “The College Pass is helping thousands of students discover how convenient and beneficial public transit can be and, at the same time, it is offering them easier accesses to higher education and the path toward their dreams.”

The College Pass program began as a pilot program in 2017 at Santa Ana College and expanded to each of the other community colleges in the county, including:

  • Rancho Santiago Community College District Continuing Education program
  • Santiago Canyon College
  • Fullerton College
  • Goldenwest College
  • Saddleback College
  • Irvine Valley College
  • Coastline College
  • Orange Coast College

At Monday’s Board meeting, OCTA CEO Darrell E. Johnson presented administrators from each of the colleges with a resolution thanking them for participating.

The program is a shared-cost program, partially funded by the colleges and by Clean Transportation Funding from the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction and Review Committee and the state’s Low Carbon Transit Operations Program through California Climate Investments.

The state’s California Climate Investments is 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.

By using the pass, college students enjoy a free, convenient ride while avoiding parking costs and hassles and contributing to a cleaner, healthier environment.

The program also has helped bus ridership, introducing new riders to public transit and removing barriers to higher education for students, some who say they wouldn’t be able to attend college without it.

An initial survey of students at Santa Ana College, where the program began. showed that 86 percent were satisfied with the college pass. Nearly 70 percent of those who rode the bus to school chose to also ride OC Bus to other destinations, and 96 percent said using the pass helps them achieve their educational goals.

Although bus ridership fell sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic, OC Bus continued with a modified schedule to help riders reach essential jobs, appointments and other important destinations. Service has gradually been added back based on demand and always guided by safety of passengers and coach operators.

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