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A man gets on the Big Blue Bus's Tide Ride on its way down Main Street on Wednesday afternoon. The Tide Ride bus rout is said to have the least amount of riders. (photo by Brandon Wise)

CITY HALL — A much contested plan to reconfigure the Tide Ride and reduce coverage along Main Street was temporarily halted after officials with the Big Blue Bus decided to extend service on the line for six months.

The existing route for the Tide Ride, which travels west of Lincoln Boulevard on the Mini Blue Bus, will continue as officials come up with ways to increase ridership on one of the lowest performing lines in the system.

The Big Blue Bus will in the meantime add another route to service the Annenberg Community Beach House, which is slated to open in April. The changes were approved by the City Council on Tuesday.

The new Beach Ride is scheduled to initially operate only on the weekends from May to September from 9:45 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Two new Mini Blue vehicles that are small enough to fit in the Annenberg parking lot were purchased specifically for the route.

The service could be extended to the weekdays if there is the demand for it, Stephanie Negriff, director of BBB, said.

Mayor Ken Genser said he feels the new Annenberg line will see a higher ridership if the route is shortened and reaches the beach house more frequently.

The current configuration takes the bus up Ocean Park Boulevard to 14th Street and down Montana Avenue before heading into the Santa Monica Canyon to Pacific Coast Highway.

A one-way loop is expected to take about 30 minutes. Officials said the Beach Ride will result in an increase of 942 annual service hours.

The proposed changes to the Tide Ride came after BBB experienced an increase in ridership systemwide while enduring transit funding cuts from the state and county, prompting officials to evaluate its existing lines to ensuring they were operating as efficiently as possible.

“After the outreach, it was clear to us there was a strong sentiment for trying to identify ways that we might be able to attract more riders to the Tide through either enhanced funding arrangements, additional marketing or maybe innovative ideas that we have yet to come up with,” Negriff said at the council meeting.

Officials said they plan to work with the community over the next six months to come up with ways to increase ridership.

The Tide currently travels southbound on Barnard Way, heading east on Marine Street before going north on Main. One of the proposed options was to reverse the route to travel only southbound on Main, while another kept service on Barnard Way but not on Main. There are other lines that service Main Street.

The proposal was unpopular among merchants on Main Street who feared that the reduction in service would negatively affect business in what is already a troubling economic time.

“We’re very happy tonight that the staff is recommending a six month extension of the existing Tide Ride and working further with various stakeholders of which we consider ourselves,” Gary Gordon, the executive director of the Main Street Business Improvement Association, said.

melodyh@smdp.com