CITYWIDE ‚Äî The train is coming but Big Blue Bus isn‚Äôt going to get all competitive about it.
In fact, BBB officials are predicting a 14 percent increase in ridership after the opening of the Expo Light Rail.
And in preparation for the coming train, BBB officials want to revamp the bus routes ‚Äî eliminating redundancies between BBB, Metro, and Expo routes as well as beefing up bus connections to the rail stations.
Here‚Äôs a summarized round-up of some of the proposed changes:
Routes 4, 6, 13, 20 would be eliminated, with other buses and transportation services picking up the slack.
Route 1 would extended to Marina del Rey but avoid the area of Venice High School.
Routes 3 and 12 would shift away from local service buses and more toward the Rapid buses, which skip infrequently-used stops to save time.
Route 8 would use Ocean Avenue rather than Main Street when Downtown.
Route 10 would eliminate weekend service.
Route 14 would get rid of some of the congested northern parts of the route and extend to the south.
The new Route 15 would go crosstown from the incoming Bundy Expo station to Sunset Boulevard.
The new Route 16 would run along Walgrove Avenue, across town from the incoming Bergamot station.
The new Route 17 would run along Sawtelle Boulevard and Palms Boulevard.
The new Route 43 would also serve the Bergamot area.
Route 20, which ran from Santa Monica to the Culver City Expo station (the first phase of the rail line, from Downtown Los Angeles to Culver City, opened in 2012) could be seen, as Councilmember Terry O‚ÄôDay pointed out, as a sort of test service for the Expo line. It was not a popular route. O‚ÄôDay asked Ed King, BBB‚Äôs director of Transit Services, why it struggled to bring in riders.
“We found that, because Culver City offered 600 free parking spaces, the propensity of people in this area was to drive to Culver City,” King said.
That lot will soon be reduced to 200 spaces, he said.
It‚Äôs also an efficient use of the bus, King said, because it needs to get to the area in order to start a different route. If the bus is already going to make the trip, why not take on passengers.
With all the proposed changes is a proposed 9 percent increase in service hours and associated costs, which equates, King said, to 14 or 15 new drivers and more mechanics to support the 10 or 11 buses that will be added to the fleet.
“We’ll have to adjust our business model and some of the things we‚Äôre accustom to and comfortable doing today,” he said, “but I think it’s well worth the investment and I think it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to really compliment what we’re going to have in our community very soon.”
Councilmember Pam O‚ÄôConnor and others expressed concern that some of the changes are more regionally focused but could have adverse impacts locally.
“This has to be not just about Expo integration and how we connect to the regional system but also making sure that people have options for moving around Santa Monica,” she said.
She gave the example of Route 18, which is proposed to have less-frequent service in the area of Montana Avenue.
“You are going to have folks who are not going to use Big Blue Bus because there’s nothing serving them in their neck of the woods,” O‚ÄôConnor said.
Several council members noted the importance of a real-time app to let riders know when a bus is coming.
King told the council that they hope to have an app, NextBus, which is currently used by Metro, in place by the end of this summer ‚Äî prior to Expo‚Äôs arrival.
Several members of council lauded BBB‚Äôs outreach, which included dozens of public meetings and took in 12,300 written and verbal comments on potential changes.
BBB officials will return to council with a final recommendation in March.