August 29 marked the first day of the Big Blue Bus’s (BBB) new fare structure. The basic fare went up from 75 cents to $1.00, with seniors, disabled, and Medicare card riders paying 50 cents rather than the 25 cents they had paid for 25 years.
The Little Blue Cards and student cards formerly sold by BBB are no longer being accepted and must be exchanged at the Blue Bus Store at 233 Broadway for new fare media. The new media includes the “13” Pass, good for 13 rides for the price of 12, and the 30-day Pass, which allows unlimited rides for a 30 day period.
Passengers had varying views on the new fare structure.
Adam (no last name given) who sells balloons on the Third Street Promenade, said that the new fares were, in a word, “painful.”
“I’ve been riding buses since I was a teenager,” he told the Mirror. “It has gotten so much worse.”
Adam takes a total of four buses to get from the Valley to Santa Monica. “The express and daily passes cost about the same as the cost of the four buses so it’s almost pointless.”
Jerry Rubin, peace activist, lifelong bus rider, and current Santa Monica City Council candidate, stated that the BBB is “still the best deal in town.”
Noting that the BBB was voted America’s best bus company three times. Rubin offered to pay the first fare for anyone “who has never ridden the bus to show them what a good experience it is.”
Students at Santa Monica College were reluctant to comment on the bus fares. One student who did not give his name said he thought the higher fares would be unfair to those who could not afford to pay them.
SMC students and staff who show legitimate ID (driver’s license) can ride free on Blue Buses thanks to a subsidy from SMC to the bus company.
In the gathering of this story, this reporter encountered tourists from other countries taking the Blue Bus. To them the new fares are less expensive than they are used to paying. A tourist from England said that bus fares in London are the equivalent of three American dollars, while an Australian visitor said that bus passes there cost the equivalent of eight American dollars.
What options are there for those who must save money on transit? The Big Blue Bus is encouraging use of the 13-trip pass and according to BBB Director Stephanie Negriff: “The 13 ride pass is certainly the most popular pass that we’ve been selling. It’s actually a card that has no expiration date on it.”
Negriff explained that the bus company created this pass after receiving comments from riders who only used the bus occasionally and wanted a card they could use at any time.
For those riders who find the total cost of multiple bus fares too much, Negriff recommended the MTA’s monthly E-Z Pass which covers rides for all bus lines in LA County. A regular pass costs $84; a senior pass $35.
“The E-Z pass is the most economical way to travel if you use multiple transit systems,” said Negriff.
For those who have trouble with the cost of passes, Negriff said that the BBB has signed on with Metro’s Rider Relief Transportation Program, which provides fare subsidy coupons for low-income riders. The coupons, are available at a variety of social service agencies. At this time, the Blue Bus Transit Store is not yet accepting these coupons but Negriff said that she is working with the store on getting the program going within the next few weeks.