CITY HALL — Big Blue Bus officials revealed the first of three rounds of proposed changes to remove inefficiencies and get the system ready for the arrival of light rail and the thousands of new passengers it expects within the next three years.
On Tuesday, City Council members were asked to vote only on changes to service, which focused on increasing the Rapid 7 route in the Pico corridor, decreasing the Local 7 route and reducing the overlap between routes 1 and 2.
The proposal also includes changing two services outside the city limits by cutting in half the service hours on route 13, which runs to Cheviot Hills, and reducing the number of stops on route 10, which goes to Downtown Los Angeles.
BBB officials came to these conclusions after several public meetings and a public survey process.
One of the many challenges was to incorporate community feedback, while at the same time holding the line on cost increases, said Director of Transit Services Stephanie Negriff.
“We don’t want to improve anything that would impact the ability to balance the budget,” she cautioned.
All told, the changes equate to a 7,619-hour increase in service, and a $419,000 additional cost to the system. Of that, $200,000 will be covered by the BBB portion of transit tax funds from Proposition A.
The remaining $219,000 will be absorbed by the bus system’s $55 million budget, said spokesman Dan Dawson.
The changes are a far cry from the original proposal put forward by consultant Transportation Management and Design, Inc., which completed the survey and study of the lines.
In its report, TMD identified 16,935 bus hours that could be cut for a savings of $931,000. Those changes would include axing line 13 altogether and never implementing the proposed Downtown Ride service, as well as reducing all other lines except Route 1 and Rapid 7. The Downtown Ride service is one that would connect Civic Center parking to Downtown businesses while other parking structures are upgraded or replaced.
“They were directed to do everything possible to make changes to the service to make it a zero sum or savings to the BBB,” Dawson said.
BBB officials then took the report and modified it to reflect community desires. The new plan, called the “revised proposal,” reinstated half of the service on Route 13, increased service hours on Route 10 and decreased service on Route 2 less substantially than previously anticipated.
Route 10 was also converted to a Rapid route by taking out strategic stops.
“You’re eliminating the stop I usually take to go home, but that’s OK, I’ll walk a block,” joked Councilwoman Gleam Davis.
Local service on Route 7 was also decreased. Instead of sending two local buses and then a Rapid, service on the Pico corridor will alternate between the Local 7 and the Rapid 7.
BBB hopes that by making the Rapid buses come more regularly, more crosstown traffic and SMC students will board the faster buses and free up space on the over-crowded local routes.
To aid that, BBB will provide 16 articulated buses for the Rapid 7, which can fit 60 seated passengers and up to 90 passengers seated and standing.
Of all the changes, the modifications to routes 1 and 2 garnered the most controversy.
The two lines duplicate some services, and the original proposal involved eliminating part of Route 2 south of Pico Boulevard that travels into Venice.
While this garnered high praise from residents on the route, who described the sound of the buses traveling up the hill next to their homes as “like thunder” and “as bad as the planes,” others worried that seniors would not be able to make it up the hill to the next available stop on Route 1.
As a compromise, BBB extended service on Route 2 to Hill Street, but created a loop so that the buses would only traverse the stretch between Bicknell Avenue and Hill Street once, and on the downhill slope to reduce noise.
“I think it’s a great compromise,” Dawson said. “It addresses the needs of the senior community who are concerned about walking up the Hill to Line 1, and those of the residents with noise issues.”
The council voted 5 to 0 to approve the changes, with council members Bob Holbrook and Pam O’Connor absent.
BBB will come before the council twice more in upcoming years, however, as the system undergoes the biggest changes in service since it connected to the then newly-opened Interstate 10 in the 1970s.
“This is a pivotal time to make sure our service is connecting to the Expo Line, and providing service not only to existing customers, but anticipated new customers coming in on the rail service,” Dawson said.