The 2013 spring elections at UC Irvine brought the passage of the Bus Love Initiative, an $8 quarterly student fee that increases by $8 each year for the next five years. With these newly acquired funds, the Anteater Express has been making various changes to their system to ensure that they follow through on their campaign promises such as expanded routes, increased disability services, and new fleets. As a result, the Newport Beach shuttle route came back in fall 2013 to make it easier for students to visit and/or commute to this neighboring city. Now that the revived Newport Beach route has been running for a little over a quarter, here is a look into how the current route is faring and some of this line’s history.
The Newport Beach route first existed in the 1990s for several years. However, after some financial troubles, the route stopped running and didn’t make another return until the 2007-2008 school year. The route continued from 2007 until the end of the 2010-2011 academic year with a full service route operating from Monday through Friday. At the start of 2011-2012, the Anteater Express began to experience some financial troubles. This caused the route to downsize, going from full service in fall 2011 to partial service in winter and spring 2012. Then, during the 2012-2013 academic year, the route was discontinued altogether due to funding and ridership decreases. While the Newport Route was out of commission during 2012-2013 and during the Bus Love campaign, there was a lot of buzz to bring back the Newport Beach route, according to Associate Director of Operations Ryan Gripp. The people campaigning not only stressed being able to replace the aging buses or expanding existing routes — they also campaigned that the Newport Route could be resurrected.
“After Bus Love passed, the [Bus Love Funding Initiative] Board needed to get together very quickly. So the Board convened … and most of the decisions that were made were based on a survey that had been circulated by student government. It was an end of year survey that asked what people thought about our services,” Gripp said. “There was information about Anteater Express and partially it was in anticipation that maybe Bus Love would pass, so we included some information about the Anteater Express. We did use that information … and as far as what routing students wanted to see, Newport was very high on that list.”
According to Gripp, there were two components that really stood out on the survey: bringing back the Newport Route and addressing the congestion that takes place on so many of the shuttles. About 1,000 undergraduate students responded to the survey, so the Bus Love Initiative Funding Board used this information to determine their decisions.
Since the Newport Beach route has been reinstated, some people have been questioning the usefulness of this route and if it should remain in place for the coming years. Based off data compiled by the Anteater Express, since fall 2013, the Newport Route has seen a 35-40 percent increase in ridership compared to previous quarters. For fall 2013, the average daily ridership for Monday through Thursday was 282.19, and by the end of the quarter, there was a 16,163 total ridership for Monday through Friday. In fall 2011, the total ridership was 11,162. Gripp said that these were successful numbers and improvements from the past, but did acknowledge that the ridership for this route is lower when compared to the on-campus community lines (such as the ARC/Arroyo Vista route or the ACC lines).
“In spite of strong growth, the Newport Beach Route still has lower ridership than our on-campus routes due to the density of students living in and around the campus,” Gripp said. “Ridership for on-campus routing will always be superior to that of off-campus routing because off-campus routing services small clusters of UCI affiliates.”
As this is the first year that the Bus Love fees have been put to use, Ryan Gripp and other members of the Bus Love Initiative Board know that these changes are not the end and that they still have a lot more learning and modifying to do in the future. Now that these funds have been secured for the future, the Anteater Express has a lot of decisions on its hands.
“There’s a process now as far as formulating the board, and what types of decisions the board will be making, and how often they will be meeting, and things like how the survey is going to go out and what the survey is going to say, and what really marks a true representative sample,” Gripp said. “I really think that all of that will improve now that we’ll have a year behind us and be able to thoughtfully go through those things.”