Riders of the Big Blue Bus (BBB) will soon be able to provide more feedback on their experience in real-time through the “Rate My Ride” feature of the Transit app. 

The feature is being further developed with the help of a $330,432 grant awarded to BBB by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as part of its Enhancing Mobility Innovation (EMI) Program. 

A version of the survey is already available to BBB users through the Transit app, but Robert McCall, the community engagement manager for BBB, said the new funding will allow them to take it a step farther towards better understanding customer needs.

“The funding will afford us an opportunity to test and develop methods to improve the functionality and end-user experience for future iterations,” said McCall. 

Congressman Ted Lieu announced the grant award last week, stating that he believes it will be “invaluable to residents and visitors in Santa Monica.” 

According to McCall, BBB will be testing new ways of gathering feedback from customers,  including ratings and direct questions. Surveys will touch on topics such as safety, accessibility and timeliness. 

“The questions asked in the surveys will allow BBB to understand what our riders are thinking, when they are thinking it,” said McCall. “It will allow BBB to help shape our service to best meet customer expectations in an evolving post-pandemic public transportation landscape.”

Surveys will be anonymous and riders will be prompted to respond before, after and during trips. 

BBB has been awarded substantial money before, including $870,000 in 2016 from the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee’s Near-Zero Engine Incentive Program. This money helped BBB to install low emission engines into many of its vehicles. The department has a goal of completely transitioning to a zero emission fleet by 2030.

McCall said that the grant money will not directly affect BBBs sustainability goals or transition to zero emissions, but will allow the department to collect more specific customer feedback and overall enhance the service.

BBB is one of nine projects across the country to receive money through the EMI program this year. The goal of the program is to “promote technology projects that center the passenger experience and encourage people to get on board.” In a press release last week, Rep. Lieu said he believes BBB embodies these goals and is a worthy investment.

“Investing in eco-friendly public transit systems like the Big Blue Bus is key to helping people get where they need to be while reducing damage caused to the environment,” said Rep. Lieu. “It is a climate-friendly and equitable service that has proven to be an innovative public transportation model in our community.”

McCall said he does not yet have an exact timeline for the launch of the enhanced survey feature, but is actively working with Transit to develop a rollout plan.

grace@smdp.com