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City Council OKs Free Rides for Santa Monica College Students

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Staff Writer

May 16, 2013 -- For the fifth year in a row, Santa Monica College (SMC) students and employees will ride the Big Blue Bus (BBB) for free, after the City Council approved a $1.3 million contract between the college and the bus company Tuesday.

The City Council voted to negotiate a contract that would raise the amount SMC pays the BBB for “Any Line, Any Time” program, which allows students currently enrolled at SMC to ride any Big Blue Bus for free, by nearly $100,000.

“As of February 2013 fiscal year-to-date SMC boardings are 1.78 million,” City officials said, “a 12 percent increase over FY 2011-12 boardings for the same period.”

When SMC adopted the plan in 2008, it was a pioneering program, according to SMC President Dr. Chui L. Tsang. But the decision to forge this partnership was driven very much by necessity.

“In 2007, Santa Monica College was the primary trip generator in Santa Monica,” staff said. “However, most of the 34,300 students and 1,700 staff commuted by automobile.”

The sheer number of commuters had begun to create problems.

“Insufficient parking capacity at the campus led to the need for perimeter parking at the City’s beach lots and was a significant community safety and traffic concern,” staff said.

SMC and the Big Blue Bus tested the water together in 2007 with a more modest plan.

“SMC agreed to reimburse BBB for trips taken by students, faculty and staff presenting their school identification card on the Crosstown Ride and a new service known as the Line 6 SMC Commuter, operating from the Palms/Mar Vista area to SMC,” staff said.

“In August 2008 a third route was added: the Sunset Ride which connects the Bundy and Main campuses,” they said.

The limited program proved a success and was eventually expanded to the entire system.

The impact of SMC students using the BBB has been significant, City officials said.

The Rapid 7 bus -- which runs along SMC's northern border -- was extended to connect Santa Monica with the western terminal of the Metro Purple Line at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue.

BBB started using longer, articulated buses on that line to accommodate the number of students using it for their commutes. It even added a line: Route 11, which connects SMC to UCLA.

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