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The Mini-Blue Bus Is Calling Us

By Ann K. Williams

August 1 -- Bus service is expanding with a series of new mini-blue buses taking students, shoppers and tourists to their favorite destinations this year.

Last Tuesday, the City Council unanimously approved the transit services department’s “mini-blue service plan,” okaying five new routes -- including one geared specifically to alleviating Santa Monica College traffic -- providing bus service to special events, and extending service on existing routes.

The 30-foot, low-floor “mini-buses” have been seen around town for several years and the Downtown “Tide Ride,” the Crosstown Ride and the farmers market rides are community fixtures already.

But July 1 was the kick-off for the “mini-blue” brand, called “rides” to suggest “a more relaxed and neighborhood-oriented experience,” according to Stephanie Negriff, director of transit services for the City.

The rides scheduled for expansion are:

? The Tide Ride serving the Main Library, the Third Street Promenade, the Pier, the Civic Center and Main Street,

? The Crosstown Ride linking Montana Avenue and Ocean Park boulevard, bounded by 20th and 14th Streets,

? The Downtown Market ride, linking neighborhoods north of Wilshire to the Wednesday and Saturday farmers’ markets on Arizona and 3rd Street, and

? The Pico Market ride bringing Pico and Sunset Park neighbors to the Saturday farmers’ market at Virginia Park.

Santa Monica College students and local residents can hop aboard a new ride connecting the new College parking lot at the eastern edge of the city with the College’s campuses, as well as with Crossroads School and the Water Gardens on Olympic Boulevard. Called the Sunset Ride, it will run weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Rob Rader, a member of the College Board of Trustees, said the project was a joint effort between SMC and the City.

“I’m ecstatic to be here. I’m very proud to be working so closely in partnership with the City to accomplish all of our goals,” Rader told the City Council.

In fact, the College is ponying up $212,154 to help the City pay for the new service, and college students will be able to ride the Sunset line for free.

Incoming Associated Students President Jason Van Buren told the Council he’s looking forward to energizing the student body to embrace alternative transportation.

“This is going to take basically a student movement to convert the car culture of our generation to mass transit, and I think we’re ready to do that,” Van Buren said.

The Council also OK’d special services for events that attract thousands, such as the recent SOULstice festival last month and the annual Fourth of July celebration at the College.

In the works are plans for bus service to the Annenberg beach club at 415 Pacific Coast Highway when it opens in 2009 and for a special weekend line designed to encourage residents to get around town on the traffic-clogged weekends.

Maps and more details are available at the City’s website.











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