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People hop on the Big Blue Bus Rapid 3 line at the corner of Broadway and Fourth Street on Tuesday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — Big Blue Bus officials will conduct a series of public meetings this week to gather input on proposed changes in service that involve eliminating some lesser-used lines and stops and extending service on others.

The first meeting will be at the Ken Edwards Center at 6 p.m. today.

The changes are being considered for the BBB’s five year plan, which is heavily impacted by both the arrival of the Expo light rail line and different patterns of use along bus routes.

The proposals are the result of a line-by-line survey conducted by Transportation Management and Design Inc., an international firm with offices in Carlsbad, Calif., which is also providing planning services for the Expo light rail line.

Big Blue Bus is required to conduct the survey every three years, said Linda Gamberg, spokeswoman for BBB.

“What that means is we actually contract surveyors to go to every stop and ride every bus,” Gamberg said.

BBB then analyzes the information in-house and with the third-party transportation management firm to come up with a clear picture of which lines and stops are getting use, and which are slowing the system down.

The emphasis this time is on reallocation of resources rather than cuts, said Stephanie Negriff, BBB’s director of transit services.

“We have to make difficult choices because there’s not enough money to add more service,” Negriff said. “There will be no net reduction, but some lines would be losing some service to redeploy where there’s greater demand.”

None of the proposed changes will be finalized until after the public comment period ends and the City Council makes the final decision.

Proposals include reducing the number of local buses that run along route 7 from Downtown Santa Monica to the Rimpau Transit Center at Rimpau and Pico boulevards, and replacing them with additional articulated Rapid 7 buses.

Those buses hold 60 passengers rather than the regular 40, but won’t stop as often as the current Local 7s, Gamberg said.

All stops along the 7 route will be preserved under this plan, although buses will not stop at some as frequently.

Though the buses will be able to move more people, Rapid service should be used to supplement local routes rather than replace them, said Esperanza Martinez, spokesperson for the bus advocacy group the Bus Riders’ Union.

Replacing local buses with Rapid affects families, the elderly and students that need more frequent stops, she said.

“They’re waiting longer, the buses are coming less frequently and they’re more crowded,” Martinez said.

BBB is proposing a reduction in bus stops on Line 10, which connects Downtown Santa Monica to Downtown L.A.

It’s becoming more and more difficult to maintain a schedule on Line 10 with the current number of stops as a result of worsening traffic, so the agency will suggest cutting out lesser-used stops so that those that remain are one half-mile apart rather than the current quarter-mile separation.

“This will not be like one whole section going dark,” Gamberg said. “We’re seeking a balance so no one has to walk too far.”

Under the proposal, there will be no changes in the schedule or the buses.

Bus Line 13 will not be so lucky.

Rapid and local line 7 duplicate much of Line 13’s route, which runs down Pico Boulevard except for a detour into the Cheviot Hills neighborhood in Rancho Park.

There are too few riders to support Line 13, given that the majority of its coverage area is also run by Rapid and local 7, BBB officials said.

Other routes will either be rearranged or extended.

Line 3, which now runs between LAX and the UCLA, and Line 14, which runs between Culver City and Brentwood, may switch routes where they diverge at Wilshire Boulevard.

The survey showed that more students live in Culver City and travel to UCLA, whereas more Brentwood employees live in the Marina del Rey area and commute to Brentwood.

Switching the bus routes to connect Brentwood to LAX and Culver City to UCLA will make the routes more efficient and easier on riders, Gamberg said.

Another big change could make it easier for riders to travel to Downtown L.A. via Koreatown.

The Metro Transit Authority gave permission to extend the service of the Rapid 7 route all the way to the intersection of Western Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard. Riders could then pick up the Purple Line and take it to Union Station.

BBB will incorporate public comment in a report that is tentatively scheduled for the April 26 council meeting where council members will consider the proposed route changes.

Those interested in the changes will get an opportunity to comment at any of the six public meetings held between March 2 and March 10. Exact times and locations are available at bigbluebus.com.

ashley@smdp.com