The Big Blue Bus pitch to expand service and increase fares in anticipation of the incoming Expo Light Rail got largely positive feedback from council Tuesday night.
City Council agreed unanimously to move forward with the proposed changes, which will be up for a final vote likely next month.
Several members of the public, and ultimately members of council, recommended that BBB reconsider its decision to ratchet back Route 10 service on the weekends. Route 10 runs from Downtown Los Angeles to Downtown Santa Monica.
Much of BBB’s plan involves beefing up north to south service and cutting back on redundant east to west service. Expo will run east to west along Colorado Avenue. These new north to south BBB routes will help connect riders with the train, BBB officials said.
With the increased service ‚Äî a proposed 11 percent increase in revenue service hours ‚Äî BBB is asking for a 25 cent far hike starting in January. A normal fare, which currently costs $1, would cost $1.25.
Council members did not express any misgivings about the fare bump. Fares for seniors and people with disabilities will be unaffected by the hike.
Service changes would start in August.
The Expo Light Rail is on schedule to open next year, though numerous politicians have wondered if it may open early.
BBB is considering experimenting with an Uber-like service that would allow late-night Expo riders to call for as-needed rides.
“Understanding that while elimination of low-ridership routes and trips creates system-wide efficiency, there may be pockets of rider demand that warrant introduction of a new type of service known as demand response service,” BBB officials told council in report. “Where demand for transit is light, demand response service may be able to provide a higher level of convenience at a lower cost per passenger than fixed route service.”
Many BBB routes will end for the night before Expo stops running.
This service would let riders call BBB at odd times, like weekend nights, for a ride. BBB would dispatch a vehicle for that individual. The proposed fare is $3.
“An Uber trip within either the proposed North or South zone costs between $4 and $8 depending on distance, and has a minimum charge of $4,” BBB officials said in a report to council. “The $3 demand response fare would be less expensive, but may take longer based on the fact that passengers may be sharing rides to and from the station with other parties.”
This service would have to be subsidized at a higher rate than most bus routes. The service would likely be contracted out as a pilot program during Expo’s first year, BBB officials told council.
While it requires a greater council subsidy (it’s estimated that it would only recover 11.6 percent of its cost to operate) BBB officials say it would be cheaper than paying someone to drive a largely empty bus around at odd hours.
No final decisions regarding BBB were made Tuesday night.