The class met up at the Airport Commission Room of the John Wayne Airport over a continental breakfast. They were welcomed by Assistant Airport Director Courtney Wiercioch who presented on the Airport and its role in Orange County commerce and the national transportation system. John Wayne is the smallest big airport in the nation at less than one square mile, and it serves a vital role in the region’s transportation system and for Orange County residents, businesses, and visitors. There were a lot of insightful questions from the class.
Following the Assistant Airport Director was Steven Brown of Fehrs and Peers Transportation Consultants. Several current County transportation issues were examined, including the extension of the 241 toll road. As well, Steve presented on the future of transportation. Interesting take-aways were the reduction in Vehicle Miles Traveled from predictions, the prospects of fully autonomous vehicles in the not too distant future, and the effects on traffic of on-line shopping. Again the class had ample opportunity to ask questions of the expert.
We boarded the luxury coach for a trip back in time to Marine Corps Air Station Tustin, and a private tour of a massive World War II era blimp hangar. These hangars are amongst the largest wooden buildings ever constructed. After an introduction by Tustin City Manager Jeff Parker, the class heard a presentation by Tustin Deputy City Manager Matt West on the history and the future of the giant hangars. The class had an opportunity to tour the building and hear about how the Air Station was closed by the Base Realignment Commission in 1999, and how it is being reused for housing, business development, and transportation by the City of Tustin. The management and decision making involved in repurposing 1,600 acres of prime Orange County land is a mammoth task.
The class boarded the bus and drove by the Anton Legacy Affordable Housing development and adjacent airbase themed park on their way to Coventry Court, an Affordable Housing development for Seniors. In the welcoming clubhouse of Coventry Court with its holiday themed decorations the Class heard three speakers from the City of Tustin.
Jerry Craig, the City’s Economic Development and Housing Manager spoke helping the class understand the challenges and competing needs faced by Tustin in respects to the Housing demand in general, and especially housing affordability. There is a strong demand to convert commercial properties to residential properties, and that gives rise to traffic concerns.
Following Jerry, Melissa Trahan, Community Impact Officer for the Tustin Police Department spoke about how Tustin addresses the issue of Homelessness. Officer Trahan shared success stories, and some of the ongoing challenges in an excellent presentation. There was discussion about how the efforts of the police department are integrated into the broader efforts of the County in a coordinated effort.
The class then had a presentation from Tustin’s Public Works Manager, Krys Saldivar. Ms. Saldivar offered an insider’s view of the difficulty of increasing traffic flows in built out areas. Her slides of street improvements and presentation of the way projects get funded demonstrated how cities not only have to solve problems for their residents, but they have to make difficult choices while doing so, and while paying for their efforts.
It was a beautiful day and a lunch of salads and wraps was served al fresco. Class members met in small groups both indoors, and outside on the large patio, and some took time to ask additional questions of the presenters.
After lunch the class rallied and walked off lunch on a tour of Coventry Court by Melanie D’Avanzo. Melanie described pricing, resident habits, special challenges of housing the elderly, and the integration of the project with the surrounding new neighborhood; built since the airbase had closed. We walked through an empty apartment unit and toured the pool area of this nearly new property.
Boarding the bus we drove to the Irvine yard of OCTA’s MV-ACCESS para-transit program where nearly 250 small busses and countless subcontracted taxi cabs are coordinated daily to transport eligible Orange County Residents unable to use regular fixed bus routes because of functional limitation caused by a disability. After an introductory presentation by Laura Soto and Broderick Dow, the class broke into two groups and toured the in-house maintenance facility supporting the busses mechanically and physically. The groups then switched and toured the dispatch center and observed a large room full of reservation professionals at work, followed by a visit to the operations centers where every vehicle is monitored remotely. It is truly a marvel of coordination how MV Transportation provides this service to OCTA under contract to meet the needs of many thousands of eligible Orange County residents.
After the tours, the class met in the large classroom that MV gratiously provided for a discussion of their class project. It had been an action and fact filled day and the class was sustained by homemade Trudydoodle cookies. Wrapping up their discussion the class boarded the bus for their return trip to the Airport offices and a taste of afternoon traffic on the 405 freeway, and prepared for their own drive home to their homes. It was a busy and informative day learning about Housing and Transportation in Orange County, and the class came away with a more in-depth understanding of both.