David Weinreich
“Many of us depend on public transportation to get to class or get away from campus on weekends,” says David Weinreich, a grad student in urban & regional planning who started the group Transit Advocates. Steve Zylius / University Communications

David Weinreich is deeply concerned about public transportation, on both a personal and a professional level. That’s why he formed Transit Advocates with other urban & regional planning grad students at UC Irvine.

The group is dedicated to improving public transit between UCI and key social hot spots and transportation hubs such as the Irvine train station and John Wayne Airport. This year, members collaborated with Associated Students and UCI Shuttle Services to add a Saturday route to the Irvine Spectrum, a popular shopping and entertainment destination.

The organization was created after the Orange County Transportation Authority last March slashed 150,000 hours of bus service, including Route 86, which served the Irvine Transportation Center on weekends.

“I started attending OCTA hearings leading up to the cuts and was disappointed by the lack of student participation,” Weinreich says. “Many of us depend on public transportation to get to class or get away from campus on weekends.”

An epileptic, he lives a few miles from UCI and commutes daily by bus or bike. Through Transit Advocates, Weinreich hopes to enhance the mobility of people who, like him, don’t drive for medical or financial reasons.

The group’s long-term goals include adding Anteater Express service to area train stations, connecting the campus to John Wayne Airport and Diamond Jamboree Mall, and distributing maps in UCI’s Student Center detailing shuttle and OCTA routes.

Members also plan to work with the university to add vanpool service to UCLA and with OCTA to link the campus via Route 57 to Fashion Island, South Coast Plaza, downtown Santa Ana and UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange.

Kim Nguyen, a first-year grad student in urban & regional planning, conducts student opinion surveys for Transit Advocates to gauge travel demand. Top destinations include the Spectrum, Diamond Jamboree, The District at Tustin Legacy, Fashion Island and John Wayne Airport, she says.

“The Irvine city shuttle stops at a lot of the popular shopping and dining spots but doesn’t come to campus,” she notes. “We’ve started a campaign to convince business owners and civic leaders that bringing a shuttle to UCI will make them money and increase the city’s revenues.”

In addition, Weinreich hopes the group can lessen the stigma of using public transportation by making it more convenient and efficient.

“I want people to feel comfortable with transit service,” he says. “It shouldn’t be a weird experience for anybody.”