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Santa Monica’s Troubled Transit System Set to Add Upgraded Buses


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By Niki Cervantes
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March 27, 2018 -- Santa Monica’s troubled Big Blue Bus system on Monday announced it is starting a new phase of modernizing the fleet, replacing a quarter of its buses with new, smaller and more agile versions.

Using $18.3 million in federal funds and state bond proceeds, BBB will replace 50 40-foot “New Flyer” buses in use since 2004 and 2006, said Edward King, who heads the bus operation.

Seven new 30-foot Gillig buses will be placed in service this week, he said.

Another 20 40-foot Gillig buses will be delivered in October of this year, with another 23 new Gillig buses commissioned in December of 2019, he said.

“We are making a significant investment to modernize one quarter of our fleet with new and exciting technology that will deliver a safer, more comfortable travel experience for customers and operators,” King said.

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The smaller replacements are more agile and will be enable “us to safely and efficiently serve customers on narrower streets and corridors,” he said.

The new buses are part of a larger series of strategic changes the system will roll out over the next 12 to 18 months, King said.

Like bus systems countrywide, BBB has been suffering sharp declines in ridership ("Ridership Plunges on Santa Monica City Buses as Expo Popularity Soars," January 17, 2018).

Ridership is down is down 27 percent in recent years and the agency is facing rising red ink. Its operating budget is about $75 million.

Last month, the City City ordered transit officials to delve into axing some under-performing routes in an effort overhaul of the system ("Santa Monica City Council Considers Axing Routes in Overhaul of Troubled Big Blue Bus," March 1, 2018)

Still, BBB is part of the City’s determination to replace use of single-occupant automobiles with alternative transit.

The new buses will be equipped Cummins-Westport Near-Zero engines and fueled by renewable natural gas, and include 10-inch monitors to display live feeds from a security camera mounted near the front door.

“The monitor will enable customers to see themselves when boarding the bus, which will help increase safety and security for both customers and Operators and deter crime and vandalism,” King said.

The buses will also employ a better system for those using wheelchairs and include two forward-facing seats that can be stowed in an upward position, allowing customers to safely store carts, strollers, suitcases, and other bulky items.

Buses will also feature durable and slip resistant flooring that allows for increased safety and easy maintenance, King said.

BBB’s fleet includes 200 buses.


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