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Big Blue Bus Improvements:

About 50 people attended the first of a series of community meetings on Monday, March 5, to learn about and discuss upcoming improvements and changes to Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus.

The meeting, held at the Santa Monica Main Library, began with a presentation by Big Blue Bus Public Relations Director Dan Dawson, who introduced other bus employees in attendance, including Executive Director Stephanie Negriff and planner Paul Casey.

Dawson went over a list of Blue Bus services both current and planned for the future. Current services include Getaways (monthly excursions to nearby tourist attractions on chartered Blue Buses), the SMC Parking Lot Shuttle (which provides over 5,400 annual hours of service and has over 2,000 daily boardings) and Peak Hour Service (extra buses during times of high ridership volume).

Among the upcoming services Dawson listed:

“Blue” – The Transit Store. Scheduled to open this summer at the corner of Broadway and the Third Street Promenade, the Transit Store will provide all the services currently offered by Big Blue Bus Customer Service – phone service, lost and found, fare media for sale (bus passes, tokens) and schedules. The store will be built “green,” making use of photo-voltaic panels and floors made from recycled Blue Bus tires.

Mini Blue Buses. These smaller buses (30 feet or less) will be used on shorter new lines created in response to customer requests for lines that will serve specific areas. All the Mini Blue buses will use alternative fuels, as do the 213 buses in the current Blue Bus fleet.

The new lines will include the Tide Shuttle, which will expand its route to include a loop through downtown over to Wilshire Blvd. There will be shuttles to both the Pico Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and the Downtown Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There will also be a Crosstown Mini Blue shuttle (replacing the current line #11) and a Sunset Park shuttle. Except for the Sunset Park shuttle, these other lines should all be operating within the year.

Dawson also discussed a proposed fare restructure, under which the basic fare of 75 cents would stay the same but children’s and student cards would both cost 50 cents, seniors and disabled fares would be 25 cents and all transfers both local and interagency, would be 50 cents regular, 35 cents for seniors/disabled. This proposal was protested by a man in the audience who said the transfer policy was “gouging” low-income riders.

Dawson reminded the audience that the fares are simply proposed rates, which will go before the City Council in April.

During the Q&A session, which followed the presentation, Dawson and Negriff fielded questions and comments ranging from concern that drivers don’t always stop at bus stops to a complaint that some drivers are rude, to a man who said, “I can feel every little pothole in the street! There is an invention called a shock absorber – shouldn’t you try to replace them from time to time?”

Dawson said that the older buses are scheduled for replacement. He and Negriff assured riders that they can always call the bus company to report problems with buses or dissatisfaction with bus drivers.

The community members were asked to vote on whether they liked bus route signage at stops to feature time points (a schedule showing only the times the bus arrives at certain stops), a schedule featuring the first and last bus times only or a stop-specific schedule. An overwhelming show of hands voted for time points.

Input from this meeting and the week’s other meetings will be used by the Big Blue Bus to determine future commuter needs.

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