At the Montana Library on January 21, at the first of several community meetings held by the Big Blue Bus (BBB) to gather input on bus projects, community members learned of plans for new bus shelters and a restructuring of fares.
Architect Lorcan O’ Herlihy of LOHA (Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects) explained the plans for new bus shelters. The Blue Bus has studied the role of the transit stop and the needs of passengers, as well as innovative bus stop designs in other cities and countries. Based on these factors, LOHA has proposed a design that would characterize Santa Monica, reflect the climate and riders’ needs, and provide information.
The design features several basic components: a rectangular base, a disc-shaped “canopy,” and individual seats rather than benches. The base will include maps, timetables, and an ID number to allow riders to access information via phones or online. The components can be configured to fit with the size of the bus stop area. High-volume stops will feature multiple bases, disc-canopies, and seats; low-volume stops will have one base-canopy and in some cases, one seat.
Community members expressed concern about lighting, about the ability of even the near-sighted to read the signage, and about adequate protection from rain. O’ Herlihy and Dawson explained that the stops will contain lighting from within the canopies, that signage will be adjusted to levels that they hope will be easy for everyone to see, and that the disc-canopies will provide shade from the sun as well as protection from rain. (Although they noted that nothing can completely protect riders from torrential rains like the ones recently experienced).
BBB’s Linda Gamberg explained the need for fare restructuring. Although BBB receives stimulus funding that allows them to improve infrastructure, they are collecting less revenue from sales taxes and from the State, which means an operating deficit of between 1.7 and $16.8 million over the next three years. To reduce the operational funding gap, some kind of fare restructure is necessary—and the BBB has had few fare increases over the last 25 years. Current cash fare one-way is 75 cents, less than other local bus systems.
Under the proposed restructuring, the cash fare would rise to $1.25 for adults and students and 60 cents for seniors. But day passes and a new monthly pass would provide an overall discount. The EZ monthly pass issued by MTA, which can be used on Santa Monica buses, would be the same price.
This proposal was met with some trepidation by many of those in attendance. But Gamberg said: “This is why we are asking for your input.”
These plans, as well as plans to redevelop the BBB web site and the Tide Ride, will be presented to the City Council in March, along with feedback from the community meetings and online comments. Three more meetings are scheduled, for January 25 at the Fairview Branch, and for January 30 and February 2 at the Main Library. For more info, go to BigBlueBus.com
Mirror Contributing Writerlynne@smmirror.com