LINCOLN AND MONTANA — If you’re waiting for the Route 3 Big Blue Bus there’s a 65 percent chance it will be on time.
BBB officials want to fix that by chopping the route — which at 95 minutes one-way is their longest in terms of travel time — into two seperate lines.
The 3 currently runs in an “L” shape from UCLA to the Los Angeles International Airport, traveling largely north and south along Lincoln Boulevard and east and west along Monanta Avenue.
“The route also travels through five key traffic congestion areas, which are challenging to schedule for, and can add as much as 30 minutes to each trip,” said BBB spokesperson Suja Lowenthal.
The unpredicitablity of high-traffic areas means that buses are too late about as often as they are too early, she said.
“It is not simply a matter of providing more time for the bus to get from end to end, because when congestion does not materialize, the bus then has far too much time and the driver is left to choose between running ahead of schedule or pulling to the side of the road to wait,” Lowenthal said. “Whichever of those two options the driver chooses, he or she is sure to irritate even more passengers and further erode service quality perceptions.”
The solution, she said, is to give drivers more frequent recovery periods, which occur at the end of routes and allow them to get synced back up with the schedule. This requires a shorter route.
In August, BBB plans to cut the route in two, with both terminating Downtown. The new Route 3 will run from Downtown to LAX along Lincoln and the the new Route 3M will run from Downtown to UCLA along Montana.
Route 3 is the third most used frequented line (behind routes 7 and 1) making up 12.6 percent of BBB’s total ridership. Only 16 percent of Route 3 ridership passes through Downtown, Lowenthal said. Most riders get on or off the bus Downtown, travelling to or from Lincoln or Montana.
However, for those who do make the turn from Lincoln to Montana or vice versa it’s going to be more expensive.
“Cash paying Senior and Disabled customers (approximately 7.5 percent of customers) traveling round trip and now paying $0.50 fares on Route 3 ($1 per round trip) will be less impacted with the option of purchasing a Day Pass at a highly discounted rate of $1.50 rather than having to pay two senior or disabled fares each way ($2),” Lowenthal said. “UCLA students and staff (approximately 25 percent of the riders traveling north of downtown Santa Monica) who have a discounted UCLA Flash Pass will see no fare increase.”
The remaining riders, about 400 per day, will be invited to buy a monthly pass or will pay the extra $1 fare each way.
Earlier this year, BBB eliminated the discounted transfer fee, which had previously allowed riders to pay 50 cents when changing lines.
“Despite what riders may perceive, this change is not causing a new inequity in service delivery, but is instead correcting an existing inequity in the system,” Lowenthal said. “Currently Route 3 is almost 50 percent longer than the next longest single fare route, making it an exceedingly better value than other routes.”
BBB held a public meeting about the changes last month. It was attended by about 50 people, Lowenthal said, about 10 of whom were frequent Route 3 riders.
“The majority of Route 3 customers who were able to attend were customers who ride primarily on one segment or the other and recognized the need to address on-time issues and were pleased with the proposed solution to improve schedule reliability,” she said.
They got about 15 e-mail responses, with three of them lauding the proposed changes and the remaining expressing concern over paying the second fare.
The changes will go into effect on August 24.