Opinion: A Vision for Irvine Transit

A recent article here on Irvine Watchdog by Joshua Moore gave a full-throated advocacy of good public transit in Irvine. That article inspired me to build on that and imagine in a concrete way what an Irvine with good public transit would look like and how we might get there. Here’s what I came up with.

Current Status

First, here’s what public transit looks like in Irvine today. For clarity, I only included the Irvine portions of major routes. There are gaps in coverage and even the areas that are covered may require long transfers. I’ve excluded the iShuttles which run on extremely limited schedules and can’t be used most times.

Proposal

Now, here’s a fantasy map of what I imagine Irvine buses can look like with the proper vision and investment. The lines are listed in the order of what I think is their importance. I tried to design the system to connect major destinations with the goal that most trips could be done with 0 or 1 transfer. Just keep in mind that this is all speculative, and I don’t have the granular ridership data the government has, so these might not necessarily be the optimal choices but are meant to give an idea of what’s possible.

The A Line

This is loosely based on the 401B iShuttle. Right now, that runs from Tustin Station to Irvine Business Complex on a very limited schedule. But arguably this is and will be the most important transit corridor in Irvine. Jamboree is packed with trip-generating destinations: The Marketplace, Tustin Station, Tustin Legacy, Diamond Jamboree, John Wayne Airport, and adjacent is UCI. In addition, the city hopes to pack tens of thousands of housing units mandated by the state into this very corridor. Under current circumstances, traffic will explode along Jamboree, but it can be mitigated if a larger portion decides to take transit instead of driving to do that, these current and future residents need a bus they can rely on. So, I propose to extend the line north to The Marketplace, and then extend it south to John Wayne Airport and then UCI. Frequency should be every 15 minutes at peak (the threshold for frequent transit) since this is the highest source of potential ridership.

The B Line

The area along Yale to Woodbridge is a mid to mid-high-density residential area that’s woefully underserved. No transit even runs along Yale. This fills a major gap in the network as any current trips to Spectrum require a transfer and could be successful with high frequencies. The city council actually voted to create this line in early 2023, but the implementation plan has not been decided yet. Initially proposed was a frequency of every 30 minutes, but with some areas along this line approaching light rail servable densities (10000 people / sq mi), that would be a missed opportunity. The council seemed receptive to the idea of 20-minute headways, but we’ll have to revisit this when the implementation plan comes to Council.

The C Line

Route 79 is a high ridership line that passes through mid-to-mid-high density residential, several shopping centers, and crucially, goes to UCI. The route is already good, but a line with such high potential needs high frequencies to take advantage of it. I increased the peak frequency to 15 minutes.

The D Line

Route 86, despite going through dense areas, the Spectrum, and Irvine Station, only runs hourly with no weekend service. I propose increasing the frequency to every 30 minutes. There is substantial overlap with Yale-Barranca, so I was comfortable not increasing frequency as much as other lines.

The E Line

This is route 90, with a slight detour to go to Irvine Station before going back to south Spectrum. Irvine Station is the most used train station in OC, so that’s just how important it is to cover it. The line also goes through IVC and Tustin Station. I propose increasing the frequency to every 20 minutes.

The F Line

This is based on route 167. I cut off the Irvine Blvd portion to allow this line to skip a lower-demand area. Especially since The Marketplace area would have line A to go to UCI, it makes more sense to separate out the lower demand portion into its own line to allow line F to be shorter. This frees up the time budget to extend it on the southern part a little bit to John Wayne and IBC. With IVC, UCI, IBC, and John Wayne on this route.

The G Line

The Irvine Blvd portion from 167 got split off into this, along with a turn to cover Sand Canyon Ave since it’s lacking coverage right now. There’s not as much high-density residential here. This will still generate trips but perhaps not as much as the ones above. That’s why I put it at 30-minute frequencies.

The H Line

I am the least sure about what to do with this one and it was the product of some compromises. Route 66 is currently the most frequent line in Irvine, with 15-minute peak headways. For Irvine’s purposes, I made the line turn south on Harvard so it could go to Tustin Station and terminate there. On the eastern half, there’s a bit of a dilemma. Currently, at Jeffrey, the line heads south to IVC. This is a trip generator, but looking at the future, Great Park will be a major attraction that currently has no transit at all. Given that both Line E and F go to IVC, I decided to have H be the one to connect Great Park. Tentatively, I gave it a 20-minute frequency. In essence, distributes a small amount of its frequency budget to other supporting lines.

The I Line

This line doesn’t add any coverage to the lines above but merely makes it so that IBC, John Wayne, UCI, and Spectrum are on a single transferless ride since they are the biggest destinations.

The J Line

Currently route 473. It only runs in the morning and afternoon on weekdays. There is a good chunk of mid-high density housing here, and residents near Harvard are a bit far from both Jamboree and Culver, so this is meant to provide a ride to UCI and connections to other lines.

Diagram

Additionally, here’s a system connectivity diagram to visualize what lines or transfers you might need to take for various trips.

Conclusion

Notice a lot of this can be accomplished just by increasing frequencies on the Irvine portion of OCTA routes to usable levels. Unfortunately, Irvine cannot tell OCTA what to do, as it alone doesn’t have a majority of votes, and OCTA has been reluctant to increase frequency. If we want the future of Irvine to be transit-friendly, it ought to create its own transit agency to take its destiny into its own hands.