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Santa Monica Switches Bus Routes in Venice After Public Opposition
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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP


Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

 

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

July 27, 2016 -- After months of public opposition, a plan to improve Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus (BBB) service to Venice now that Expo Light Rail has arrived is being replaced with routes viewed as safer and more compatible with daily life in the community, officials reported Monday.

As of August 1, the BBB system will stop for passengers on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice, which is much wider and has a better mix of residential and commercial uses than Ocean Avenue, which is the current route.

“The benefit of making this change is that service is moved on to a wider street in response to neighborhood and stakeholder requests that buses stay on major streets and streets without speed bumps as much as possible,” according to a report by Edward F. King, director of transit services, to the City Council.

Picture of Big Blue BusCourtesy Santa Monica Big Blue Bus
“Ocean Avenue, where Route 1 is currently running, is predominantly 30 feet wide and has speed bumps,” King said. “Conversely, Abbott Kinney Blvd south of Venice Boulevard where Route 18 will run is predominantly 55 feet wide and does not have speed bumps.

Abbott Kinney, King added, "is also expected to cause less impact to area residents."

Restructuring bus service in Venice is part of the BBB “Evolution of Blue Plan,” which is meant to better mesh Venice with the new Expo Light Rail extension into Santa Monica. The City Council approved the plan April 28, 2015, well before Expo’s start date on May 20 this year.

The report said the second phase of the “Evolution Plan” started this February, expanding service to key destinations, such as Venice’s Abbot Kinney and to Marina Del Rey, along with regional connections to the new Light Rail stations.

BBB also changed service on Route 1 and Route 18, “the culmination of years of planning” to connect Venice, Oakwood, Marina Del Rey and the Expo Line, transit officials said.

But public reaction was far from uniformly positive.

Although King said Venice’s four BBB routes were boarded or exited an average of more than 4,000 times daily, complaints were growing in Venice.

Some residents didn’t like the inconvenience, potential safety hazards or congestion caused by 40-foot long buses in Venice’s residential core.

Others complained about the placement of stops and about safety, and also accused the BBB and Los Angeles Council Member Mike Bonin (whose district includes Venice) of not vetting the new lines with Venice residents first.

There also were concerns that the buses could bring crime and lower property values.

King said there is no evidence to support those fears.

“Big Blue Bus runs routes on many streets that are congested, residential, and narrow,” his report noted. “These conditions do not make a street inappropriate for public transit bus service under the law.

"There are also no documented losses in real estate value, increased accidents, or new social problems that develop as a result of adding bus service.”

Starting next month, the BBB will truncate Route 1 at Windward Circle and remove service from Venice Way and Ocean Avenue. It also will extend Route 18 to the Marina Peninsula by way of Abbott Kinney Boulevard to Washington Boulevard to Via Marina.

The change "in essence moves the Marina Del Rey to Expo service from Route 1 to Route 18,” King’s update said.

In reaction to complaints that bus announcements are too loud, transit officials also lowered the volume depending on the time of day and is turning the sound off entirely when it can, King said.

Community members are asked to report volume problems, including the bus number, date, and time through the online feedback form at bigbluebus.com (under “Contact Us”) or by calling 310-451-5444. BBB will investigate, he said.

Worries that the buses pose a threat to pedestrians and cyclists is unfounded, King said, adding that "BBB shares the roadway along many high-density bicycle corridors.

He also disputed claims that Santa Monica transit officials and others didn’t involve the Venice community enough before deciding on the routes.

The BBB conducted three surveys in 2014 and 2015, King said, that garnered 76 local responses, although 271 others made comments as well.

Neighborhood councils held three public meetings in Santa Monica and Los Angeles attended by 119 people, the BBB hosted a public study session and a public hearing and also sent letters to property owners adjacent to bus stops before service started, King said.


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