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Hoping to save money while the struggling Tide Ride undergoes a makeover, Big Blue Bus officials are proposing to eliminate weekday service on the lowest performing line in the public transit system. The City Council tonight will be asked to limit the Tide to weekend hours starting Sept. 8, saving the agency about $444,000. (photo by Maya Sugarman)

CITY HALL — Hoping to save money while the struggling Tide Ride undergoes a makeover, Big Blue Bus officials are proposing to eliminate weekday service on the lowest performing line in the public transit system.

The City Council tonight will be asked to limit the Tide to weekend hours starting Sept. 8, saving the agency about $444,000 as it spends the next year redesigning a line that averages just 12 passengers an hour, a significant drop off from the 50 passengers an hour that the system as a whole averages. The issue will be on the table as part of the council’s consent agenda, which also includes a $3.5 million spending package.

The Big Blue Bus originally considered eliminating the service altogether but changed its mind after the proposal received opposition from residents and businesses along Main Street where the route is located. The agency decided to evaluate its lines after learning that operating revenues this year would be about 8.4 percent lower than last, a result of the elimination of State Transit Assistance Funds and recessionary impacts to county transit subsidies. Ridership overall has also increased on the system.

The Tide was originally developed in 1993 as a way to serve the growing tourism sector and offset traffic impacts. In 1995, five local hotels — Casa del Mar, Shutters on the Beach, Sheraton Delfina, Loews Santa Monica and the Doubletree — agreed to pay approximately $231,000 a year toward the operation of the Tide Ride as part of a development agreement with City Hall. The amount pays about 27 percent of the yearly operational costs for the shuttle with the Big Blue Bus picking up the remainder.

Through community outreach meetings and a survey, the transit agency learned that businesses and residents believe the line is currently not serving their needs, pointing to the route configuration and limited hours of operation as reasons. Officials said that the Tide Ride will need to be redeveloped to benefit the needs of hotels and tourists while a new Mini Blue route will be created to serve the neighborhoods. A steering committee consisting of representatives from the various hotels, business improvement districts, Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau, will be formed to help the staff redesign the line.

The goal is to relaunch in July 2010.

Keeping tabs on Section 8

Trying to weed out fraud in federally-funded rental assistance programs like Section 8, the Housing Authority is planning on hiring an investigator who will follow cases of alleged deception.

Program Compliance Solutions is expected to receive a three-year, $218,400 contract to investigate fraudulent activity among those who benefit from programs like Family Self Sufficiency, Shelter Plus Care and Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. Such enforcement is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Investigation begins once a discrepancy is reported or discovered by the Housing Authority.

“Most of the fraud activity is related to unreported income that is discovered on recipients’ records through required third party verifications provided by HUD,” the city staff report said.

The Housing Authority is also planning on hiring Dorothy Berndt, a licensed care social worker, to provide clinical support, assessing the needs of the homeless, senior and disabled households. Berndt is expected to receive a three-year, $237,057 contract and will work for both the Housing Authority and Human Services Division.

Monitoring pollution to Ballona Creek

The City Council is expected to enter an agreement with the city of Los Angeles to institute a cost-sharing program for monitoring bacterial levels of the Ballona Creek Watershed.

As part of the agreement, City Hall will pay $8,000 to cover its costs for monitoring for the next three years.

City Hall is obligated to share in the costs of monitoring as a jurisdiction that drains into the Ballona Creek, according to the city staff report.

Maintenance for dispatch center

As the Santa Monica Fire Department prepares to reactivate its Communications Center in the Public Safety Facility, officials are planning on hiring a company that will maintain the software for the dispatch system.

The council will be asked to approve a five-year, $560,000 contract with Public Safety System, which had supplied software for dispatch services to the SMFD before it joined the Los Angeles Fire Department Regional Dispatch Center in 2007.

City Hall decided in January to terminate the contract with the Los Angeles Fire Department and reactivate the Communications Center after a more than year-long relationship with the regional dispatch center because of numerous concerning issues, including confusion caused by emergency calls that came from addresses that existed both in Santa Monica and Los Angeles and an overwhelmingly large call volume that would lead to periods when the system would be saturated, leaving 911 lines to ring longer than the department preferred.

Budgets for CVB and Bayside

The council is expected to approve an allocation of roughly $2.5 million for the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The CVB, which was created in 1983 to promote tourism, has received the majority of its funding from City Hall since 1985 from a contract that has been extended in five-year increments since. The contract, which was set to expire on June 30, 2009, will be extended again for another year as officials begin renegotiating a new contract.

The council will also be asked to approve an estimated $5 million budget for the Bayside District Corp., which manages Downtown Santa Monica. The majority of the revenues for the budget comes from the Property Based Assessment District, which was approved by property owners last year, totaling about $3.4 million for fiscal 2009-10. Another $1 million will come from mall assessments while about $47,500 will come from the Central Business District.

New in the budget this year is the Ambassadors Program, which deploys walking concierges throughout Downtown, and enhanced maintenance services above what is already provided through City Hall.

melodyh@smdp.com