The Big Blue Bus will host a meeting on August 1 to discuss new rates aimed at incentivizing cashless payment across the system.
Proposed changes include reducing the regular one-way trip from $1.25 to $1.10 for customers who use a TAP card instead of cash, a new Annual Pass for $500, introduction of Blue to Business – BBB’s Employer Annual Pass Program, discontinuation of single-use tokens and introduction of a new 1-Ride Pass that is TAP enabled.
The changes come as ridership continues to decline on bus systems and staff said incentivizing the TAP card over cash improves service overall.
BBB staff said the changes follow a series of customer surveys, the most recent occurring in May of this year, that show customers make transportation decisions based on speed, reliability and convenience of service.
“Part of our comprehensive and ongoing approach to better serve the needs of our customers includes incentivizing cashless boardings, to reduce both dwell time (time spent by customers conducting on board transactions at the farebox) and the average travel time,” said Suja Lowenthal, Transit Planning & Community Engagement Manager at Big Blue Bus. “A cashless fare transaction takes 4-5 seconds to conduct when boarding, whereas depositing cash in the farebox takes approximately 22 seconds; less boarding time equates to faster service.”
BBB began using the TAP cards in 2015. The reusable, credit-card sized pass can store multi-ride passes and cash for use on several transit systems including BBB and Metro.
Since that time, officials have embarked on several campaigns to make TAP the primary payment system including a 2015 fare change that dropped pass pricing relative to cash, the subsidy of a youth pass on TAP, a Buy One Get One promotion and recently the launch of mobile ticketing.
“As a result of these efforts, cash now comprises 39% of all transactions on board Big Blue Bus, down 9% from the end of fiscal year 2014,” said Lowenthal. “The fare change Big Blue Bus is now proposing represents the next phase of our cashless boarding initiative,” she said.
She said the changes will hopefully make the service more efficient.
“By discounting the single-ride fare on TAP and eliminating the metal tokens, we hope to encourage greater use of prepaid fare media, and further reduce the ratio of cash paying customers from the current 39%, down to as low as 20%, while simultaneously lowering the cost of operating our service,” she said.
The public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 1 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at the Santa Monica Main Library. The hearing will allow for questions beginning at 6 p.m., followed by a short presentation from 6:30 – 7 p.m. and more questions until 7:30 p.m.
Staff said public feedback could cause adjustments to the proposal and BBB will review all public comments received through Aug. 12. A revised proposal will be submitted to City Council in September and if approved, new fares would be in place by Nov. 1.
To submit written comments in advance of the meeting or in place of in-person participation, send comments to:
Big Blue Bus
Attn: Community and Government Engagement
1660 7th St.
Santa Monica, CA 90401