Santa Monica Big Blue Bus’ Revised Expo Line Integration Plan Includes On-Demand Service, Possible Fare Increase



At today’s City Council meeting, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus will present its updated plans to integrate the municipal transit service with the coming Expo Line. With the addition of new lines and more frequent service, BBB officials say they will also need to raise fares to make it work. The proposed plan also includes a weekend and late-night on-demand shuttle service.

The municipal transit agency says a fare increase of $0.25 (from $1 to $1.25) would be necessary to offset the estimated $4.2 million — for personnel enhancements and supplies — cost of the Expo integration plan. The proposed increase wouldn’t affect fares for seniors or disable passengers and, if approved by City Council, would go into effect on January 1, 2016.

“The [Expo integration] plan includes an increase of approximately 11% in revenue service hours and associated costs. Annual revenue service hours are expected to increase from the current 507,000 to 563,000,” according to the staff report.

Following a City Council meeting in December, BBB officials revised the ambitious Expo integration plan, originally unveiled last July. With the Expo Line projected to carry 64,000 riders per day along the entire line from Downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica by the year 2030, BBB staff said that the integration plan will help make connecting to the Expo stations as easy and convenient as possible for riders.

In response to Council’s comments and a series of community meetings, the following changes have been made:

  1. Route 16 — introduced as Route T in the original plan — was extended to create a connection to Routes 3 and Rapid 3 on Lincoln Boulevard.
  2. Route 18 has been revised to add night service until 9:30pm, seven nights per week, as well as weekend day service. Both this new night service and the weekend service are recommended at a frequency of every 30 minutes.  This route also was rerouted slightly due to LADOT feedback regarding streets in Venice.
  3. Route 43 was originally recommended as having a span of service from 6am to 9am and 3pm to 6pm, but now includes service from 6am to 9am and 2pm to 7pm.
  4. Route 44 had been shown to have a frequency of every 20 minutes at the December Study Session.As a result of feedback offered by Santa Monica College, the recommended frequency is now every 15 minutes all day from September through June, and every 30 minutes all day for the months of July and August.

It’s those changes that Big Blue Bus officials say necessitate a fare increase sooner rather than later, since the changes would add service hours to the system. The changes would also mean that the original two-phase implementation plan would have to be introduced in three phases.

“These adjustments have resulted in an additional 2% increase in revenue service hours, or an 11% total increase,” according to the staff report. To offset the additional service hours, the fare increase anticipated for July 2016 would need to be moved up to January 2016.”

The proposal also includes a possible on-demand late night and weekend ride service that would connect to the Expo light rail station.

“The demand-response service is modeled on making a real-time reservation for service using either a phone call or a mobile app similar to ridesharing services such as Uber or Lyft. A pickup would occur within 20 to 30 minutes of the call. A reservation could also be made to meet specific trains at the 17th Street Station to ensure a seamless transfer,” staff said.

As proposed, the on-demand service would be available from 8 p.m. to 3:15 a.m. so that passengers from the last train could use it to get to their destinations. BBB officials are recommending that this service cost $3 per ride.

Jason Islas
Jason Islas
Jason Islas is the editor of Santa Monica Next and the director of the Vote Local Campaign. Before joining Next in May 2014, Jason had covered land use, transit, politics and breaking news for The Lookout, the city’s oldest news website, since February 2011.


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