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Riders Ponder Big Blue Bus Service Changes:

The Big Blue Bus (BBB) makes service changes three times a year and holds annual community meetings to discuss possible changes with bus riders.

At the most recent meeting, held at the Santa Monica Main Library on December 13, BBB director Stephanie Negriff went over proposed service changes scheduled to begin in February 2009.

Negriff noted some of the bus company’s successes. In 2007, the Blue Bus made 10.3 billion trips; in the second quarter of 2008, it made 2.8 billion trips. Each person who used public transit saved $10, 500 annually by using the bus instead of a car. Ridership on the Big Blue Bus was up by 25 per cent in the third quarter of 2008.

But Negriff added, “Unfortunately transit has really been challenged by the state budget cuts.” Funding for the BBB does not come from the City of Santa Monica, but from sales tax measures and from state and federal sources. With state cuts looming, and the Governor’s plan to eliminate STA (state transit assistance) funds in 2010, there will be less money for the BBB, and it will be necessary to make service cutbacks in the areas where there will ostensibly be the least amount of impact.

Based on rider usage on the various lines, the following changes have been proposed:

Line 1. Improved on-time performance on weekdays, with buses running every 10 minutes before 11 a.m. and from 1 – 6 p.m., every eleven minutes between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and every twelve minutes between 6 – 7 p.m.

Line 3. An extra trip will be added each weekday at 11:45 a.m. from 4th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard to Century at Aviation Boulevard. Weekend northbound trips will be extended from 4th Street and Santa Monica to Wilshire at Bonsall. Rapid 3 express service will also be extended until 10:30 a.m. in the mornings and will begin earlier in the afternoon, at 1:35 p.m.

Line 4. Service will be discontinued after 7:30 p.m. and weekend service will be reduced. Also, the route may be changed to run westbound on San Vicente Boulevard instead of on Carlyle Avenue.

Line 5. Reduced evening service and improved weekday reliability with an extra weekday bus.

Line 6 (SMC commuter). A route change will eliminate part of the route going north to Colorado. A bus stop at 20th and Pearl Streets will be moved to accommodate neighbors’ concerns about noise and congestion.

Line 9. Reduced evening service.

Line 10 (Freeway express). Sunday service will feature fewer trips, with earliest and latest trips cancelled.

Mini-Blue Sunset Ride. Reduced service 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. weekdays.

Tide Ride. No Tide service during the week, but there will be service from 10 a.m – 6:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 30-minute service frequency, a smaller vehicle, and a new route providing service to the Annenberg Community Beach House, scheduled to open in the spring.

Reactions to the proposed changes reflected the fears of bus riders who travel at night and have come to rely on certain routes. It was mentioned that the 4 Line currently serves a portion of north Santa Monica not served by any other line, that the 3 Line seems to “disappear” at certain times of day, and that the 5 is the only line serving Bergamot Station.

Negriff said she appreciated the concerns, but for now, some changes may have to be made for financial reasons.

“I’m confident that we will ‘cycle’ out of this,” she added. “Unfortunately, this isn’t the time for that now.”

Actual service changes will take into account feedback from the recent round of community meetings.

For more information on service changes go to bigbluebus.com.

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