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Big Blue Bus to Discuss Proposed Fare Changes

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Lookout Staff

February 2, 2022 -- The Big Blue Bus (BBB) plans to permanently limit fare payments to a cashless system, discontinue annual passes and reduce the price of a single ride for most passengers by a dime.

Those are among the proposed changes agency officials will present and discuss at a public hearing next Thursday, February 10, at the Santa Monica Main Library's Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium.

During the hearing -- which will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. -- BBB officials will present a number of proposals that include reducing the price of a 30-day pass from $50 to $30 for regular passengers

The cost would drop from $24 to $20 for seniors, the disabled and those on Medicare and from $38 to $19 for youth.

Other proposed changes include discontinuing day passes and 7-day passes, replacing the 13 rides pass with a 10 rides pass for $9 and raise the age children can ride for free from 4 to 5.

“As our community continues to endure the effects of the pandemic, providing options for safe, reliable, fast, and affordable transportation will be critical to our recovery," said Ed King, director of Santa Monica's Department of Transportation.

"The ease and simplicity of contactless fare payments allow us to expand access to free and reduced transit fares, continue to safeguard the health of customers and staff, and carry riders more efficiently on our system,” King said.

Santa Monica buses stopped accepting cash fares on July 12, when the BBB launched a new completely contactless fare payment system that only accepts mobile ticketing or the regional TAP fare payment system.

In proposing the move, transit officials acknowledged the new system could adversely impact a growing number of low-income passengers ("Big Blue Bus to Stop Accepting Cash, Fare Cards; Could Impact the Poor," June 25, 2021).

Two months after the fare system went into effect, the City Council voted unanimously to make it easier for Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus (BBB) riders to obtain fare passes but continued barring them from paying cash.

Transit officials say the contactless fare system speeds up travel time and "reduces the time customers spend waiting to board the bus."

The "savings realized from reduced travel time" can then be invested into more frequent service, officials said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, "nearly half of BBB customers migrated away from using cash and/or magnetic stripe paper passes to pay their fare," officials said.

The proposals presented at the hearing will revisit some of the fare changes instituted when fare collection and front-door boarding resumed in February 2021.

"After the public hearing, adjustments to the proposal may be made based on public feedback prior to submitting to the City Council for consideration and approval," BBB officials said.

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