Escalating gas prices seem to be affecting everything these days and the Big Blue Bus is no exception, with its ridership skyrocketing to record levels.
Dan Dawson, who is the Manager of Customer Relations for Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus (BBB) told the Mirror that, “ridership of the BBB has increased by the record number of seven percent in the last 12 months.” This has also helped the sales of bus passes to increase by over $100,000 in the last 12-month period.
Calls to the BBB’s transit center are also the highest since the BBB started keeping records, even surpassing the record set in 2004 when MTA went on strike. Many of these call, according to Dawson are coming from first-time users of the BBB as well as from groups who wish to use the bus for outings. There has also been an increase in employees from various companies who are using the BBB during their lunch hour to go to lunch or run errands.
The Mirror ran into a class from a Los Angles Unified School District elementary school in Venice who used a BBB bus to go on a field trip to the Fowler Museum at UCLA. The instructor explained that in these tight times for education budgets it was much less expensive ($20) to use the BBB for the field trip rather than chartering a school bus for $300.
Dawson also noted that the cost to the BBB for the fuels it uses, including Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Biodiesel, is also escalating, and in some cases escalating faster than gasoline. In fact, “fuel cost increases are the most difficult thing the BBB is dealing with,” but he is not anticipating a fare increase in the near future.
Another issue Dawson noted is that “at a time when the BBB is seeing an unprecedented number of people using it,” the City does not have the funds to increase service. This is the result of the Governor taking the additional revenues California is receiving from additional gas taxes on rising gas prices and appropriating them to other uses. Usually these funds would go to improving mass transit statewide. This year the Governor diverted about $1.4 billion in this way, which meant the BBB lost about $3.5 million that could have been used to increase its services.
The BBB has partnered with the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, mentioned Dawson, to create a “Bus of the Future” by answering the question “What should buses look and ride like in 2050?” The goal is to design buses that are more progressive, meaningful, and pleasurable to use.
Those wishing to give input can do so at the BBB’s blog, BusOfTheFuture.com.