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New Blue Bus Routes, Fares:

Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus introduced four “Mini Blue” routes on June 24, and the system’s previously approved new fares will take effect on Sunday, July 1.

The Mini Blue routes use buses 30 feet or shorter, are powered by biodiesel or other alternative fuels and run every 15 minutes. The Tide Ride replaces the Tide Shuttle connecting the Main Street area with downtown, serving the beach hotels, and features an extended loop to Wilshire Boulevard; it operates seven days a week. The Downtown Market Ride operates a loop north from downtown on 4th Street jogging west on Montana and continuing north on Ocean Avenue to San Vicente Boulevard, and back to downtown on 7th and 6th streets; it operates Wednesdays and Saturdays to serve the downtown Farmers’ Market.

Further inland, the Crosstown Ride runs between Ocean Park Boulevard and Montana Avenue, north on 14th Street and south on 20th Street; it replaces Line 11 and operates Monday through Friday. The Pico Market Ride runs a circle from Ocean Park Boulevard north on 14th Street to Colorado Avenue, then east to Cloverfield Boulevard, and then south back to Ocean Park Boulevard; it operates Saturday only to serve the Pico Farmers’ Market.

Fares on the new Mini Blue routes (or “rides” as the Blue Bus is calling them) are 50 cents regular and student, and 25 cents for senior/disabled/medicare. The Pico and Downtown Market Rides replace the Farmers’ Market Shuttles. Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines says that more Mini Blue rides are being planned for launch as early as September.

The new fare structure effective July 1 was approved by the City Council on April 10 of this year (Santa Monica Mirror, April 12-18, 2007). It does not affect the basic regular (.75) or basic senior/disabled/medicare (.25) fares, but it eliminates free “local transfers” (transfers from one Blue Bus to another) and introduces a new “day pass” that will enable a person to ride all day for $2.50 ($1.25 for senior/disabled/medicare and students). Line 10 Express day passes are $3.50 ($1.25 for senior / disabled / medicare, but not students).

Other changes are an increase in the basic student fare from 25 to 50 cents and an adjustment in the Line 10 Express fare so that seniors (previously .60) and disabled / medicare passengers (previously .25) will all pay 50 cents.

Unlike most bus systems that have initiated day passes, the Blue Bus will not eliminate local transfers altogether, but will now charge 50 cents. The inter-agency transfer (to other bus lines) that was 25 cents will now be 50 cents (still 10 cents for senior/disabled/ medicare).

In other public transit news, a new Topanga Canyon Summer Beach Bus connecting Santa Monica Beach and Will Rogers and Topanga State Beaches with the Metro Orange Line at Warner Center Transit Station began operations June 25. It runs through Labor Day, September 3.

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