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Santa Monica’s Worn-Out Big Blue Bus Fareboxes to Get Overhaul

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

September 30, 2015 -- The worn-out fareboxes on Santa Monica’s Big Blue Buses will get a major overhaul after the City Council approved a nearly $3.5 million contract Tuesday with an Illinois-based company.

The two-year, $3,401,394 contract with SPX Genfare will refurbish the existing 189 fareboxes, which are 17 years old and are used by 18 million customers a year, transit officials said. The company also will renovate the counting room vaults and upgrade the back-end software

The fareboxes are old, sometimes rusty and just worn out, and the signs “of excessive wear on the units are apparent,” Edward King, the Big Blue Bus’ director of transit maintenance wrote in his report to the council. They suffer “high rates of failure,” he said.

Such problems can be particularly frustrating as riders brace for an increase in fares as part of the effort to pay for boosting bus service for the upcoming Expo Light Rail Line, which is expected to arrive Downtown early next year. Basic fares go up a quarter to $1.25, along with several other hikes.

The BBB’s fareboxes, which were purchased from SPX Genfare in 1998, accept coin, cash and magnetic passes and issue day passes, officials said. The counting room vaults were later installed by the company.

Refurbishing the existing fareboxes and vaults and upgrading the software could add another five to ten years of life to the system, the report concluded.

All told, the BBB has spent $4.4 million doing business with SPX Genfare since 1999, the report says.

A recent inspection of the fareboxes and cash vaulting systems found many of the farebox components need to be replaced, King said. The farebox housing units, as well as the cashbox receivers inside, are rusting and the mechanical components show signs of excessive use and are out of alignment.

“Due to the high number of failures as well as the difficulty of maintaining the system and with obtaining replacement parts, it is not feasible to continue using the existing farebox system as is for another five or more years,” King said in the report.

The sad shape of the fareboxes also comes at a time when the future of the BBB as it now exists is up in the air, officials said. The BBB is part of a broad campaign by local governments to create a region-wide metro transit system and that, officials reason, would necessitate a whole fare collection system altogether.

But the report anticipates that scenario will not play out for another five to six years – too long to wait before overhauling Santa Monica’s current fareboxes, King said.

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