In light of the opening of the Expo line in Santa Monica and the subsequent duplication of public transit options, Santa Monica City Council gave the go-ahead Tuesday to move forward with work on a totally revised Big Blue Bus transit integration plan.
Discussing City work on the local service at a special City Council meeting, council members disseminated lengthy alterations to current services while contemplating new route suggestions.
The Expo Integration Plan seeks to capitalize on the opening of seven new rail stations in the Big Blue Bus (BBB) service area, according to City staff.
All BBB operations have been examined in the service’s entirety while drafting the report said Edward King, Director of Transit Services for the City.
“I think it’s an opportunity for us to make the most significant changes in our 80 year history,” King said.
The transit director said that after nine months of public outreach, the options put forward in the Integration Plan will best service the community as a whole, while keeping a reasonable budget and personnel constraints.
“This is a significant change of conditions for a system that has served rail only at the periphery until now,” City staff stated.
Alterations of bus routes to attract new rail to bus transfers have the potential to increase ridership, make more efficient use of transit resources, and reduce overall levels of congestion, according to the report.
The revised Expo Integration Plan includes an increase of approximately nine percent in revenue service hours and associated costs.
Stated objectives are: creating first-and-last mile connectivity; more north-south corridor service to serve the stations; reducing redundancy with other transit providers; eliminating inefficient routing; improving speed and reliability; and maximizing resources; and acknowledging that current BBB service must continue to serve markets and customers that do not interface with Expo.
Annual revenue service hours are expected to increase from the current 507,000 to 553,000 annual revenue service hours, according to the report.
The revised plan creates access to the new Expo Stations from areas to the north and south on six new routes, or new corridors on existing routes:
• 4th Street south from Downtown Station to Rose Ave. commercial area and Abbott Kinney Blvd.
• 23rd Street south from Bergamot Station to Walgrove, Costco on Venice Blvd., and Marina del Rey
• 26th Street north from Bergamot Station to San Vicente
• Stewart to Colorado to Centinela north from Bergamot Station to Wilshire
• Barrington Ave. north from Bundy Station to Sunset Blvd.
• Bi-directional service on 14th and 20th between Pico Blvd. and Montana Ave. serving Memorial Park Station both ways
• Continuation of the Main Street corridor southward to Marina del Rey
• Extension of Centinela Ave. corridor to Playa del Rey from Bundy Station
• Sawtelle Blvd. to Sepulveda Station both north and south
Increased access for key destinations beyond walk distance from closest stations:
• North end of downtown Santa Monica
• Venice east
• Venice west
• Marina del Rey
• Playa Vista
• Sony Studios
• Santa Monica College
• Saint John’s Hospital
• UCLA Medical Center
• Brentwood Village
• Several high schools and middle schools
BBB held 18 meetings with other transit providers to discuss duplication and coordination of service resulting in agreements to reduce LA Metro trips to downtown Santa Monica by 15 percent and eliminating over 42,000 miles of LA Metro bus operation from downtown Santa Monica.
An extensive public outreach program was part of the new plan. The City received over 4,600 survey responses and over 12,300 individual written and verbal comments through email, survey, public meeting, letters and workshops.
“We did a lot of survey work to gauge the interests of our customers, residents, and stakeholders here and in Los Angeles,” King explained, “what they would like to see as far as Big Blue Bus’ service, especially with the integration of Expo light rail line.”
Much was discussed during the Council meeting Tuesday, with the main concerns arising including the operation specifics of suggested new services and the removal of several lines that could result in commuters faced with an extensive walk between stations and stops and hence their reliance on cars instead.
One of the major issues of the plan is the limited times of some of the newly-proposed services Councilwoman Gleam Davis said, especially Route 43, connecting 26th Street/San Vincente with Bergamot Station and scheduled to operate from 6 am – 9 am and 3 pm – 6 pm weekdays.
“I’m afraid that we might be setting this line up to fail,” Davis said. “These hours may work well for some people, but if the service is only going to work until 5 pm, then I need to leave my office building in downtown L.A. at 4 pm, and the people who live in this area that the line is going to service, are not people who leave the office at 4 pm.”
Councilwoman Pam O’Connor echoed Davis’ concern but in regards to Line 18, which is a proposal to link Abbot Kinney/ Montana/UCLA from 6 am – 7 pm weekdays only.
She also stressed the need to keep focus on Santa Monica’s business hubs.
“We really need to be conscious and look at how we are serving Downtown Santa Monica and not as just as this is the place where people will connect to Expo but Downtown Santa Monica being a destination in and of itself,” O’Connor said.
Projected weekday ridership for the Exposition line is 64,000 boardings per weekday as of 2030, and over 5,000 projected daily boardings at the 4th Street Terminus, according to City staff.
Public hearings and requests for Council adoption of the proposed BBB route structure changes are planned for spring 2015 with implementation of the proposed changes planned for late summer or early fall 2015 and spring 2016 in order to be ready for Expo opening in 2016.
Staff will also return to Council during the financial years 2015 – 2017 Biennial Budget process with specific capital and staffing needs to support the projected increases.