Council Approves Five-Year-Plan to Improve Big Blue Bus Services

The Initiative Aims to Expand Operating Hours, Improve Connectivity, and Create More Frequent Service

By Zach Armstrong

A five-year plan from Big Blue Bus to expand operating hours, improve connectivity, and create more frequent service was approved by the Santa Monica City Council following 18 months of community and stakeholder outreach by the transit agency.

Under the initiative, the Westside transportation service aims to yield a series of improvements: a weekday service every 10 minutes on select corridors during peak hours; enhanced connectivity to the LAX/Metro Transit Center, Culver City Transit Center and the Metro Rail D Line extensions; and added service time so that most routes start earlier, end later and have weekend operations.

According to a draft of the proposal, changes include several routes being discontinued and reinvested into other routes to increase bus frequencies. These include the Rapid 3 line which would be reinvested into Route 3 for more rapid bus service along Lincoln Boulevard.

The “Brighter Blue” plan was conceived “in response to post-pandemic travel behavior changes” and to make Westside’s transit system adequate and ready for upcoming major events like the 2026 FIFA World Cup and 2028 Summer Olympics. 

“Service needs to be fast, frequent, safe, and reliable to serve as an effective transportation mode.” Santa Monica Department of Transportation Director Anuj Gupta said in a news release. “Concentrating investments on key high-frequency routes will create a stronger foundation for our overall network, making Big Blue Bus’s service more attractive and convenient, reducing wait times, and providing more flexibility to current and future riders planning their trips.”

“Brighter Blue” is one of many projects from the Department of Transportation to bolster rider experience on a Big Blue Bus. 

By the end of the decade, BBB aims to achieve a complete zero-emission, battery electric bus fleet by 2030. After the transient agency conducted an automated bus lane technology pilot last summer, staff is expected to recommend a permanent program to City Council for approval. BBB also began upgrading its fleet communications system for better real-time bus arrival predictions and minimize service delays and disruptions.

Approval of the half-decade-long initiative also comes just months after Big Blue Bus began stationing “transit safety officers” at certain bus stops and on high-traffic routes to enhance safety. The officers were provided by Good Guard Security: a California-based firm that signed a $2.2 million contract with the City of Santa Monica the previous year.

The last time Big Blue Bus conducted a systematic examination of its operations and performance was in 2015 when it aimed to integrate its services with the Metro Expo Light Rail Line (E Line) which had just launched operations in Santa Monica. Since then, conditions within the city and ridership trends changed; particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic. “Brighter Blue” was an effort to address those changes.

For more details on “Brighter Blue”, go to https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/62ad3b005e914852b0f90d5b28ecf7e2.

in Hard, News
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