UCLA Students Protest Big Blue Bus Proposed Changes in Westwood


Tonight, the Santa Monica City Council (Agenda, Item 11a) is widely expected to approve the changes to Big Blue Bus (BBB) routes recommended by staff as part of the “Brighter Blue” initiatives. Most of the proposed changes are proving uncontroversial, if not popular as the BBB is increasing service to campus and planning for the future D Line (nee Purple Line) station when it opens. However, changes to the routing of buses in Westwood near the UCLA campus in Los Angeles are drawing concerns from the college students that rely on BBB service.

The North Westwood Neighborhood Council wrote a letter (link to Google doc) explaining their concerns to the BBB and the City Council. In short they are concerned about ending service to, “Hilgard Terminal on several routes and the removal of stops at Gayley Avenue/Strathmore Drive on Route 18” as detrimental to students who rely on BBB to get to campus from both Santa Monica and other stops in West L.A. along the route. 

Hilgard Terminal is located at the north end of the campus farther away from most academic buildings and the center of campus than Parking Structure 2, the new proposed route terminus for BBB routes heading to UCLA. Over the years, service to Hilgard Terminal has been reduced as UCLA has closed the transit center in the evening to appease some local homeowners. You can read Santa Monica Next contributor Juan Matute’s article about UCLA reducing the hours in this Streetsblog article from 2012.

Staff with the Santa Monica Department of Transportation believe the new routes will improve access to the campus for both Santa Monica residents and BBB riders from Los Angeles by providing more direct access to the center of campus.

“Big Blue Bus’s proposed plan to reroute most UCLA-serving routes to Parking Structure 2 is primarily aimed at offering more direct connections to the center of campus and the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center,” said Santa Monica Department of Transportation Planning and Performance Manager Alfredo Torales. 

“Although the proposed changes may result in a slight increase in total travel distance for North Campus riders, this would be largely balanced by the enhanced frequency, improved accessibility, and expanded trip planning options available at Parking Structure 2.”

But as the North Westwood Neighborhood Council sees it, the issues with the new routing aren’t just an issue of whether or not to end services in the center of campus or the north campus, but also whether it makes sense to end routes at a parking lot versus a bus terminal.

The Neighborhood Council argues that Hilgard Terminal offers not just a shaded area, but seating, better lighting and even bathroom facilities. BBB staff argues that the shade provided by the trees is more than sufficient and access to seating is improved because of the nearness of the campus center.

“Additionally, Parking Structure 2 would provide essential rider amenities such as seating and shade, and offer greater resources to our dedicated staff,” Torales continues. “We look forward to the significant improvements Big Blue Bus riders will experience under the proposed plan, and will continue collaborating with UCLA riders and other key stakeholders to further enhance our service in Westwood.”

Hilgard Terminal, photo: Jacob Wasserman

Of course, even if BBB staff or the City Council are persuaded to provide greater service to the North Campus of UCLA, there could be other issues. The smaller station (pictured above) at Hilgard may have capacity limitations as BBB and other bus lines increase service, but even so there are other options on campus such as the McGowen Hall Bus Turnaround that reduce some of the issues that terminating service at Parking Lot 2 might create, such as idling buses reducing visibility for bicyclists, pedestrians and with some of the driveways on the windy UCLA campus roads.

Jaocb Wasserman is the Secretary of the North Westwood Neighborhood Council and Research Program Manager at UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies (professional title for identification only) and believes that the best new routes for the Big Blue Bus would be to change the routes to serve campus that include stops at Parking Structure 2 but end at Hilgard Terminal near Parking Lot A. Maps of those two routes can be found below.

But the NWNC isn’t uniformly critical of the proposal.

“Outside of these routing changes, the North Westwood Neighborhood Council commends Big Blue Bus for other proposed changes, especially more frequent headways on lines serving UCLA and frequent service to the future D line extension,” the letter concludes.

Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.

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