A downtown bus route the Big Blue Bus tested this summer did not attract nearly as many riders as anticipated, said BBB director Ed King.

From July 1 to Sept. 2, Route 45 traveled in a loop around Downtown Santa Monica, stopping at the Santa Monica Pier, Palisades Park, the Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica Place and the downtown Expo Line station. The bus departed every 12 to 15 minutes between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. and charged the regular BBB fare of $1.10 with a TAP card, $1.25 with cash and $0.50 for a transfer.

When the route launched, King said it was meant to serve customers with disabilities, riders carrying bulky items and people who wanted to escape the summer heat on an air-conditioned bus. He also said it had the potential to relieve scooter and car congestion downtown during the busy summer months.

But the route — which operated as a pilot program — only attracted about 2.5 to 3 passengers per revenue service hour, King said. The goal BBB set for the route was 10 passengers.

“The feedback we received from customers and staff was that congestion downtown during the summer months is such that people like to walk, and they can walk around downtown just as quickly as they can ride a bus or drive,” he said.

King also said the funds allocated to the route prevented it from running more frequently or covering a larger area.

“We’ve talked about whether more frequent service or a longer route would have made the route more viable,” he said.

King said the route was recommended by BBB drivers who felt a route that carried customers from the downtown Expo Line station to the Santa Monica Pier or the beach would be useful. He said BBB decided to test the route as part of its larger strategy to address declining ridership and the rapid growth of ridesharing apps and dockless scooters.

“We’re going to have to try more of these pilot programs in the future, because the traditional transit model that serves Pico, Santa Monica or Lincoln boulevards may not work in some places,” he said. “We wanted to try this loop to see how people would react, and it was not a positive reaction, but it was something we learned from.”

King said BBB will be looking at other pilot programs that could be launched next fall.


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1 Comment

  1. What about a fixed-guideway trolley, like occurs in many walkable cities around the world, such as Zurich or Geneva. Made it grade-separated and median running to get around traffic. I think consolidating BBB funding into a much more dependable, timely trolley would garner daily local riders, not just the tourists that SM leaders seem myopically focused on impressing.

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