This weekend, unarmed transit security officers began riding on the Santa Monica’s buses and monitoring transit stops as part of the Big Blue Bus’ “Transit Safety Officer Program.” The City Council unanimously approved the program at their January 23rd meeting.

“Big Blue Bus has long maintained an exceptionally clean, safe, and secure system,” said Anuj Gupta, director of Santa Monica Department of Transportation, in a press release. “We are introducing transit safety officers as another component of our multilayered approach to safety and customer experience, and to provide greater support to our dedicated riders and employees.”

The contract allows for the hiring of ten officers, working in teams and eight hour shifts. Officers will begin some shifts as early as six in the morning and later shifts will ride into the late evening. Obviously, the security will not be omnipresent, but will provide an added layer of security and presence for riders.

The Big Blue Bus established what routes and what stops will see the added security based on feedback provided by passengers and bus riders. Bus Line 3 has seen the largest uptick in incidents, but even that route sees a relatively low number of incidents when one considers that dozens of buses run the route for nineteen hours every day. 

According to the staff report provided when the Council approved the program, the number of threats or assaults against drivers rose from 2022 to 2023 (22 to 27) and a similar rise in reported “disturbances” (75 to 83) where buses were pulled over until a security concern could be managed.

The program is a departure for the Big Blue Bus, which has never used security other than to guard facilities and respond to incidents as they are reported on buses. Metro has contracts with law enforcement agencies – LAPD, the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, and Long Beach PD – but most other local transit agencies aren’t adding their own security personnel.

In addition to providing security, the officers have other duties including:

  • Assist riders with navigating the regional bus and rail network
  • Provide guidance on Big Blue Bus fares and payment methods
  • Address safety and maintenance concerns reported by passengers
  • Offer support and resource materials to passengers in need
  • Educate riders about Big Blue Bus’s Code of Conduct and ensure adherence

The security guards will be provided by Good Guard Security. The contract is for $1.35 million per year, with this year’s contract prorated for the rest of the fiscal year.

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