Frequently Asked Questions
What is the South Orange County Multimodal Transportation Study?
Over the next 25 years, the population in south Orange County is anticipated to grow by 16 percent (about 170,000 residents), and employment is expected to grow by 18 percent (about 130,000 jobs). This growth will result in more people traveling throughout south Orange County, and more time lost in traffic if we don’t plan ahead. Therefore, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is embarking on a strategic transportation study that will consider transportation needs of residents, commuters, and visitors to the area. Through collaboration with local stakeholders, the South Orange County Multimodal Transportation Study (SOCMTS) will identify a broad range of improvement recommendations related to all modes of transportation, including streets, bus and rail transit, highways and bikeways. The study will address the needs of how people move in south Orange County well into the future (2045 and beyond).
Where is the study area?
The study area encompasses about 40 percent of the county – generally from State Route 55 (SR-55) to the San Diego County line and from the coast to the foothills. This area captures key employment, entertainment and recreational activity centers, and travel patterns in south Orange County.
Why is this study needed?
The study is an opportunity for OCTA to work with the community and stakeholders to develop an updated transportation vision for south Orange County. This area was previously studied by OCTA in the 2008 South Orange County Major Investment Study. Since 2008, most of the recommendations from the original study have been implemented or are underway, including OCTA’s recently completed Interstate 5 (I-5) carpool lane project between San Juan Creek Road and Avenida Pico, and the I-5 widening between State Route 73 (SR-73) and El Toro Road, which is under construction.
There have also been significant changes since 2008 within south Orange County. The long-planned State Route 241 Toll Road (SR-241) southern extension has been eliminated from consideration. In its place, Los Patrones Parkway, a recently opened north-south arterial, will be extended in the same area. Other notable changes affecting south Orange County include downscaled socioeconomic growth projections, a decline in transit ridership, the introduction of transportation network companies (like Lyft and Uber), demand responsive transit services (microtransit), community-based transit circulators (shuttles, trolleys), an expanding fleet of electric vehicles, widespread use of navigation/traffic apps, and emerging connected and autonomous vehicle technologies.
More recently, public health directives in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have affected travel, economic activity, and transit service in south Orange County. The long-term impacts may not be known for some time.
The transportation planning context has also changed significantly, including additional planning and funding requirements from the state of California to analyze and consider greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and vehicle miles traveled (VMT). This will likely continue to evolve as new legislation and guidance focuses on reducing growth in VMT, lowering GHG emissions, and encouraging alternatives to driving alone.
What types of improvements will be considered in this study?
The purpose of this study is to develop a thoughtful, needs-based, comprehensive multimodal approach that can effectively address traffic growth and provide more travel choices for residents, commuters, and visitors while preserving the local sense of community. South Orange County needs a consensus-driven, systemwide approach to all travel modes to maintain the quality of life and enhance the way people move.
Possible strategies that will be considered include (not in order of importance):
- Signal synchronization.
- Efficiency solutions, such as adjusting bus routes and ride times, partnering with South County cities to fund local circulators (shuttles), and finding private sector partners to deliver transit services such as OC Flex microtransit.
- Working with Metrolink and the LOSSAN Rail Agency (Amtrak) to improve interregional travel options, including first-and-last mile connections.
- Working with Caltrans to evaluate carpool and express lane options on the state highway system.
- Exploring short-trip (i.e. less than three miles) strategies that are not dependent on regular bus service or commuter rail, and may include neighborhood electric vehicles, active transportation, a regional bikeway network, and shared / new mobility options.
How will weekend traffic on the I-5 be addressed?
OCTA plans to evaluate existing traffic and travel demand data for peak and off-peak hours, daily, and weekly demand profiles, as well as seasonal differences. This will include existing weekend travel data.
What is currently planned on the I-5?
At the northern end of the study area, OCTA is planning to widen I-5 between SR-55 and I-405 and one general-purpose lane in both directions, reestablish existing auxiliary lanes, and provide new auxiliary lanes where necessary. This is Project B in the voter-approved Measure M2 sales tax program for transportation improvements. South of the El Toro “Y”, also part of Measure M2, construction is underway to extend the second existing carpool lane from El Toro Road to Alicia Parkway and add one general-purpose lane from Alicia Parkway to Avery Parkway in both the northbound and southbound directions. At the southern end of the study area, continuation of the existing carpool lanes are planned in both directions between Avenida Pico and the San Diego County line.
What is currently planned on the I-405?
Under Measure M2, about eight miles of mixed flow lanes will be added in each direction to the I-405 from the vicinity of I-5 to SR-55 to alleviate congestion and reduce delay. This improvement project is planned to begin upon completion of Measure M2 Project B on the I-5, which is noted above.
When will the extension of the carpool lane that currently ends at Avenida Pico be built?
The exact timeline for construction of the proposed carpool lanes between Avenida Pico and the San Diego County line has not yet been determined. OCTA is in the process of hiring a consultant to prepare an environmental document. Public outreach and input will be a part of the work that goes into the environmental document before the project can proceed to final design and ultimately construction. The current environmental phase is anticipated to be completed in late 2023. Using conservative estimates for the time it takes to finish the activities prior to construction, OCTA has assumed completion no sooner than 2030.
What is the difference between the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) study and OCTA’s SOCMTS?
In the spring of 2020, the TCA concluded a study of toll road expansion options in south Orange County called the South County Traffic Relief Effort (SCTRE). The TCA board endorsed further study of a non-tolled extension of Los Patrones Parkway. In collaboration with OCTA and Caltrans, the agencies agreed that three projects, including the non-tolled Los Patrones extension, would move forward. The other two projects moving forward are the widening of Ortega Highway, and extension of the I-5 carpool lanes between Avenida Pico and the county line. OCTA’s study, the SOCMTS, will incorporate those three projects and consider future multimodal improvements and provide an updated transportation vision that will be carried out through 2045. OCTA’s study will identify a broad range of recommendations for the area (see question 4). The study will focus on reducing congestion and improving the way people move around south Orange County by providing increased and enhanced transportation choices.
How is OCTA gathering input and building consensus?
To ensure the study receives input from the public and a broad range of stakeholders, the engagement program will use both traditional and non-traditional outreach methods. OCTA will seek input from the general public via social media, online surveys, virtual open houses, webinars, and a community information line. Additionally, OCTA will build partnerships with agencies and host a series of Technical Working Groups, Transportation Agency Working Groups and Elected Official and Stakeholder Working Groups to continue collaboration and receive input on the study. OCTA believes that successful studies and projects are the result of sound transportation planning driven by data, and consensus building created through meaningful public engagement and community collaboration.
How can I get involved with this study?
Here are some of the ways you can participate:
- Attend virtual community meetings;
- Sign up to receive newsletters, surveys, and/or email updates; or
- Contact the SOCMTS information line with any questions, comments or concerns at (833) 711-8070.
Log onto the OCTA website at octa.net/SouthOCStudy to learn more about the study, to see a schedule of upcoming meetings, or to sign up for email updates. Contact Marissa Espino, OCTA SOCMTS Outreach Manager, at email@example.com for more information on how you can participate in the study.
How is OCTA adhering to outreach during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic?
All outreach will be responsive to, and continue to adapt to, public health directives while striving to obtain the greatest amount of public involvement as possible. Safety remains a fundamental value to OCTA, as does ensuring all stakeholders have a voice in the study.