Instead of a fare hike, Big Blue Bus drivers should enforce the existing fare. As someone who always pays the fare, I am fed up with watching people board the bus and breeze right by the fare box without even glancing at it — and the drivers never say a word. How much money is BBB losing because the drivers do not require people to pay the fare? As a longtime rider, I remember the days when the drivers wouldn’t move the bus until a person paid the fare.
Another problem is the students who are supposed to swipe their card in the fare box but can’t do it because nine out of 10 times the driver has a folded up piece of paper stuck in the slot where the students are supposed to swipe their cards. Every year the agreement with Santa Monica College comes up for approval by the City Council, and it always says the students are supposed to swipe their cards — which is how BBB determines the rate to charge. If that is the case, the school must be getting a great deal because the students almost never have to even show a card, much less swipe it.
How much money does SMC pay, and how many students are accounted for through the fare box? How does the actual fare the school pays for its students compare to the other fares charged by BBB? Simple division should tell us if the school is paying its fair share. Also, how much money is lost because people cannot swipe their cards because the driver has blocked the card slot on the fare box? Do not accept the answer I was given by a customer service person that if someone’s card doesn’t work (which implies it was inserted) or if the fare box isn’t working, the driver presses a key to count the boarding. One ride on a Line 7 will show you that is not true. The other excuse is that sometimes a fare box may not be able to read the card. If that is the case, then 90 percent of BBB fare boxes must be broken.
Before sticking it to the riders again, City Council members should take a ride on a few different buses to see just how many people are riding for free. It is appalling at how lax BBB has become about enforcing fare payment. Ironically, some of the buses carry signs informing customers that fare evasion is a crime.
BBB should be required to enforce the existing fare, whether cash or card, before raising it again.