Ode to the Big Blue Bus

Dear Big Blue Bus,

I am a proponent of taking public transit whenever possible.  I became jaded by owning a stick shift vehicle and having to commute cross town to Santa Monica on a daily basis.  But then, there was you.  I was so happy that I’d found you.  My one way of being able to get to work and have a bit of extra time to relax, read, and not have to deal with the droll of traffic on the 10 freeway.

My savior came about with the same name as that stretch of dreaded asphalt.  It was the rapid 10 Big Blue Bus from dowtown all the way to Santa Monica.  At first, these days, they were glorious.  But then time would change.  The drivers would change.  The schedules… are now about about to change.

I remember standing on the bus last week and seeing the signs literally and figuratively that my days on the Big Blue were potentially coming to a close.

On the way to work on the 10 going westward at approximately 830am, I boarded the Big Blue as per my normal routine at the 11th and Grand stop.  As we navigated towards the freeway, I witnessed a mother and her child of approximately 16 or 17 years old wanting to board at a stop.  The bus driver stopped and let the mother in but pulled away as the daughter ran to board.

“Stop!  My daughter needs to get on the bus!”

Bus driver: “Your daughter should have ran faster.”

The bus driver did eventually stop and let the girl on, but the experience as a passenger was dreadful.  Why was this person allowed to navigate a public bus and interact with the public?  What does it show about you Big Blue Bus?  A lot I must say.  A lot.

When I sat on the bus I saw more.  The signs, she read, were that of a piggy bank “Change goes here.”  and another of the Big Blue “Not here.”  At first, even working in marketing, I didn’t understand what was trying to be said.  Were they going to take away the ability to pay for the bus with coins?  What were they trying to say?

There was a note that said the bus routes would be changing.  I didn’t think to really look at the time.  I just wanted to get to work.  Little did I know that I was not going to be happy when I read the route changes.  But that comes later.

The bus route Eastward was originally coming every 45 minutes.  Now it seems it’s possibly every hour if not more.  I remember the days when I would run out the door of work at 630 hoping to catch the 645 bus at Wellesley and Santa Monica near my favorite board game emporium.  Nowadays I will see the number 1 bus drive by at least 3 times, and empty, before one edition of the nearly always crowded rapid 10 comes to bring me home.

Thursday I walked into the store as per usual to waste the few minutes before the bus came.  I pulled myself aside from the miniatures painting and headed to the stop to wait for the bus that seemed like it would never arrive.  It didn’t get there until nearly 745.  By the time that I finally arrived home, the kitchen for the catering business below my abode had nearly closed.

The express 10 bus is just one of the routes that was approved by the Santa Monica council that will be changed on August 28, 2011.  A total of five current routes will be affected with the changes.  One additional downtown route will be added that will only be available during morning peak hours of  7am to 10am and night peak hours of 3:30pm to 7:30pm.

Big Blue’s site shows a comment regarding the proposed changes, stating: “These changes will allow us to provide the most service to the most people while maintaining a balanced budget this year,” said Stephanie Negriff, director of transit services for the Big Blue Bus. “We’re pleased that as a result of effective research and outreach, we’ll be a better bus service without any negative impacts to this year’s operating budget or fares.”

As a citizen that commutes cross town to reduce my carbon footprint, and uses this as my only real way of getting to and from work everyday, my disdain and sadness for the Big Blue grows more and more as the days roll by.  I think about the others that will be affected.  I ponder the thought used to make these decisions, especially on the one major connection route that services the downtown to the west side.

Are the days I ride the Big Blue really coming to a close?  If things keep up like this, I fear it may be.  Both the stop where I pick up the bus and the one where I’m to be dropped off to catch my connecting bus are to be eliminated.

If you make it difficult for a consumer to come to your city on public transit, is it reasonable to expect less money to go into the city coffers? Is this a ploy to keep the “riff raff” out of the West side?   What’s your take on it?  Big Blue Bus and Richard Bloom are you listening?


One concerned citizen who’s just trying to go to work everyday

3 thoughts on “Ode to the Big Blue Bus

  1. Dear Concerned Citizen,

    We are glad that you have found the Big Blue Bus to be your “savior” from the traffic nightmares of car commuting. And all of us at Big Blue Bus are sad to hear you feel that things are changing in ways that will make your commute more difficult.

    You mentioned the “Change Goes Here” ad campaign that is up on the buses. This campaign was put up in the buses in August of 2010 during our fare restructure as a way to encourage people who are frequent riders to buy the new 30-Day and 13-Ride discount passes that make it cheaper to ride and easier too since they don’t need exact change to ride. In addition, riders who use passes board quicker, allowing the bus to pull out faster, keeping everyone moving faster. That said, those who wish to pay with change, you still can, so overall the introduction of passes is a service improvement.

    Changes to some routes and schedules will begin on August 28. BBB typically makes service adjustments three times per year to assign buses where there are the most riders and to improve schedule adherence. This time the changes are more significant. Like transit agencies across the country, we are facing decreases in public funding (although a City department, BBB staff generate 100% of our budget and no funding comes from the City of Santa Monica general fund). With funding sources under attack at state and federal level and a new proposal on Capitol Hill that could eliminate over 30% of transportation funding for the future, we have to be fiscally responsible and reduce ‘waste’ in our system. This means reducing service where it will be least impactful, like on the southern end of Routes 1 and 2 that operate on a nearly identical path.

    BBB also wants to improve on-time performance. One way to do this on Route 10 is to eliminate the stops with very low rider usage that are located close to another more popular stop. We identified several stops on Route 10 that met this criteria. Since the more stops a bus has to make the slower it operates, eliminating such “duplicative” stops will help improve schedule adherence. Signs will be posted soon on stops being eliminated, showing riders where to reach the next closest stop.

    There are service enhancements beginning August 28, too. For one, BBB is adding 16 new articulated buses (60’ buses) in order to move more people and decrease full buses. Also, Rapid 7 service is being extended to Metro’s Purple Line at Wilshire and Western to improve regional connectivity and adding frequency along the Pico Blvd. corridor to reduce wait times.

    Finally, the story you told about the operator not stopping for a rider is completely unacceptable behavior. When you or anyone riding Big Blue Bus sees something like this, please take note of the day, time, route, and bus number (found in large numbers on the front wall above the driver) and call it in to customer service at (310) 451-5444 or e-mail Bus-Info@BigBlueBus.com so we can investigate the complaint, and if warranted, take action to improve the Operator’s behavior.

    Dan Dawson
    Customer Relations Manager
    Big Blue Bus
    1660 7th St
    Santa Monica, CA 90041

  2. We need better and more service, not cheap service fares.

    Big Blue Bus services the west side, which is arguably where there are more wealthy people per capita. While yes there is the school system, why were the fares to remain the same on normal commuting buses outside of the rapid lines? I’m paying double what your normally commuting riders are by riding the rapid but yet my connections were still cut. If anything, shouldn’t this be the place where more service is added rather than subtracted? What is the point of keeping local transit so cheap over there? Would making the fares on par with Metro really hurt that much? It doesn’t make sense.

    So where does the big pinch happen? Right where the Metro picks up.

    My experiences with the Metro, while not always fantastic have FAR exceeded my experiences with the Big Blue. Lines run are most often as scheduled.

    On the Big Blue Bus, I find myself crossing my fingers that today won’t be another day like the last bad experience. That one bad apple shouldn’t ruin the bunch. However, I’ve found it to be pretty consistent. The buses are rarely on time. Tracking via Google aps demonstrates this even further. While I understand that more stops mean more room for scheduling conflicts, this argument seems pretty moot.

    While the Rapid 7 might be great for some, in the case of my narrative and the issues I pointed out, my point of conjecture was with the downtown connection path to Santa Monica.

    Do tell where the stop is that’s going to coordinate me to get to work if one even is to exist at the end of the month. I’m taking the 76 to get my connection with the Big Blue Bus to get to Santa Monica from downtown. I’d love to know what you would advise as per available options for me and the others who are to be effected by the changes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s