Last week, I wrote about the horrific parking situation near the Third Street Promenade. Being a California boy, I’m not big on public transportation, we don’t have much of it, and what we do have is generally poorly thought out, and not very useful in a large sprawling city like Los Angeles.
But the city of Santa Monica is trying to get more people to use public transportation — and bikes — in an effort to reduce our environmental footprint and to alleviate the traffic problems.
I promised to try the bus last week in three different scenarios, a weekday trip to the promenade, a trip to the Westside Pavilion and a Friday night excursion. Here are my experiences on each of those three adventures:
First off was navigating the Big Blue Bus website to determine what line I needed to take. The website is www.bigbluebus.com and at first, there’s a lot of overwhelming information that is organized by routes, and if you don’t know what route you want, it can seem confusing. Luckily, there are both written route descriptions and maps to show you.
I needed to go from my house to the promenade and then back to my office on Pico Boulevard. Come to find that’s the 7 bus. Standing at the bus stop, my anxiety rising because I haven’t ridden the bus in ages, I was pleasantly surprised to have a wait of only three minutes for the next bus to arrive. Hopping on, and depositing my three quarters I spied a seat behind the driver and slid in just as the bus lurched away from the curb. There were about 20 people on the bus, half of whom were students about to get off at Santa Monica College.
The 10-minute trip to Downtown put me at Ocean Avenue and Broadway, where it was a short walk to lunch at Johnnie’s. Not bad, total time on the trip was 14 minutes, no parking lot angst and anger, and I was ready to enjoy my meal.
Walking down Broadway to catch a ride to my office, I looked up and noticed that the Big Blue Bus Transit Store is on the north side. I stepped in to buy a pass, since I was going to be on the bus at least five more times. The passes are free, just load them up with the fare and use them like a debit card which avoids having to dig for change.
The ride back was a breeze, and it stops right across from my office. So, the first trip was a grand success.
Next up was a trip outside the Golden Kingdom of Santa Monica to West L.A. I jumped on the bus Tuesday mid-day, and 15 minutes later and I’m at Pico and Westwood boulevards. Finding the entrance was the hardest part of that trip since the mall is undergoing a facelift. Coming back was a bit of an adventure. As I saw a bus pulling up I raced across the street and was able to catch the driver’s eye who let me on.
The adventure continued when I tried to get off the bus. The driver kept going past stops, and I couldn’t figure out what was happening. Then I realized I had taken a Rapid Bus and it doesn’t stop everywhere. I had to get off at Lincoln Boulevard and walk back to my office. The Rapid buses and the regular busses are different colors, but they’re very similar — too close in my opinion, so it was an easy mistake to make.
Now for Friday night: I’m familiar with the system and getting Downtown is a breeze. The bus drops me off on Ocean Avenue, a short walk to the promenade.
Later in the day, and much colder, I wasn’t thrilled with having to wait for a bus, but the wait was only about five minutes.
All in all, I have to say that I was impressed with the system and will be using it more. There are changes afoot in the rates, with an increase to $1 for cash paying customers, but you can pre-pay and realize some savings with the Baker’s Dozen pass that allows 13 rides for the price of 12, hardly the greatest deal in town, but better than nothing in these hard times. The monthly pass allows unlimited regular riding for $60 a month, more for the express.
I have to give City Hall and the Big Blue Bus operators some well-deserved credit, my skepticism was unwarranted. Nice job, guys.
David Pisarra is a Divorce Attorney who specializes in Father’s Rights and Men’s Issues with the firm of Pisarra & Grist in Santa Monica. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.