The Big Blue Bus is changing the direction of some routes and increasing their frequency, while also eliminating weekend service on certain routes.

Staff recommends redirecting 15 percent of BBB service away from areas and times with low ridership to meet demand during peak hours. The changes will reduce BBB’s operating budget and bring in some new passenger revenue to sustain the agency financially amid falling ridership. City Council will certify the changes at its Tuesday meeting.

“BBB has reformulated the way that it provides service, and is recommending several changes to
routes and schedules to better match service provision to the needs of today’s public bus consumer,” said BBB director Edward King. “These changes are intended to attract and retain customers, increase passenger revenue, deploy resources where they are most needed, and reduce operating expenses in order to ensure that BBB maintains a sustainable operating
budget.”

The reduction in service hours will reduce operating expenses by about $3,073,000 per year while generating an additional $168,560 in passenger revenue, which should close BBB’s projected budget gaps through 2021, staff said. The agency lost 12 percent of its ridership in fiscal year 2016-2017 alone as bus ridership fell around the country, and hopes the new plan will capture about 200,000 new riders per year.

The plan features frequency increases during times of heavy ridership on Routes 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and Rapid 12 and cuts in the form of changes to daily start and end times or elimination of weekend service on Routes 1, 5, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 41, 42, 43, and 44, and Rapid 3 and 10 at times when those routes are attracting few passengers.

Staff is asking to reduce the Rapid 10 fare from $2.50 to regular fare, but no further price changes are included in the proposal. (The line lost 75 percent of its ridership since the Expo Line opened.)
The proposal also recommends extensions of Route 18 on Sundays to UCLA, Route 17 on weekends to UCLA, Route 14 to Inglewood to connect to the new Crenshaw Line, and Route 7 to connect to the Purple Line at Wilshire Western Station. It recommends rerouting Route 18 to UCLA’s Gateway Plaza via Gayley Avenue to reduce overcrowding of buses at Hilgard Terminal.

The proposal includes the elimination of weekend service on Rapid 3 and Rapid 7, and Routes 5, 15, and 42 due to extremely low ridership. Staff also recommend reducing midday weekday service on Rapid 3 to conserve resources.

“Each route is customized to offer the most service when the most customers are riding,” King said.

There is one new service in the proposal: a limited pilot for a new Route 45 which would run from July 4, 2019 through Labor Day 2019 and connect the Downtown Santa Monica Expo Line Station with the entrance of the Santa Monica Pier via Colorado Boulevard, and the Third Street Promenade on Santa Monica Blvd. Route 45 will feature a single bus running in a loop between those points.

King said the pilot route will serve summer beachgoers and shoppers who come to Santa Monica on the Expo Line.

“If it’s successful, we’ll consider expanding it or trying something a little different,” he said. “The marketplace has changed dramatically in the last two years, and we realize we have to try new things.”

Staff will return to Council in spring 2019 for a study session on fare equity, overall system revenue generation and farebox recovery policy.

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