Capturing the Rhythm of
Downtown Santa Monica
Santa Monica Centric
Big Blue Bus losing riders
By Kevin Herrera

Big Blue Bus, like most public transportation systems across the U.S., is losing riders thanks to the proliferation of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft, as well as other factors, including the price of gas, changes in demographics and income and the popularity of the Expo Light Rail Line, according to the bus company’s annual report.


This marks the seventh straight year of ridership losses.


Despite some ridership gains on a few new routes, ridership dropped immediately after the opening of Expo on May 20, 2016 to roughly 13.8 million passengers. Bus lines running parallel to Expo lost on average 32 percent of passengers in fiscal year 2016-17 when compared to the year prior. However, new routes running perpendicular to Expo in an effort to get more people to ride rail gained ridership, but not enough to offset the losses to BBB’s high frequency east-west lines, according to the report.


“On BBB legacy lines not impacted by Expo, BBB experienced a roughly 10 percent year-over-year loss in riders, mirroring the results at other transit authorities across the region. This resulted in an overall loss of 12 percent of passengers system wide for the year as compared to the year prior,” the report said.


To recapture riders BBB is looking to expand its Blue to Business program in which employers and universities or community colleges help subsidize rides for their employees and students. For instance, UCLA riders, who receive a fare subsidy and have scarce parking, rode 14 percent more in 2016-17 than they did the year prior despite the overall decline in BBB’s ridership.


Other factors could also help, including the increase in the state’s gas tax, new bus only lanes on Lincoln Boulevard, which help travel times, and the new reduced fare for those purchasing TAP cards.


“BBB is reexamining the underpinnings of why and how people choose transit, and looking at ways that the equation may have changed,” wrote BBB director Edward King. “With a focus on better understanding passenger expectations, looking at the new alternatives available, and a new attention to service quality, BBB is exploring ways to attract riders and reverse the recent ridership declines.”


BBB’s target is to serve 20 million riders by 2020.


To read the full BBB report, go here.


Water rates going up


The City Council earlier this month approved a water rate increase of 5 percent for residents and commercial businesses.


With the five percent increase, household rates go from $3.01/HCF (hundred cubic feet) to $3.16/HCF and commercial rates go from $4.27/HCF to $4.48/HCF. One HCF is equal to 748 gallons.


The rates are expected to take effect in March.


The City’s Water Fund is floating a balance of $36.7 million, hence the recommendation for a 5 percent increase instead of the previously agreed upon 9 percent, according to a City staff report. Better than expected financial performance is the reason.


“City has seen a 16 percent reduction in water use while the residential population has grown from 92,321 to 93,282 over the same period,” the staff report states. “Overall, through its efforts to address the drought, the City has achieved and continues to maintain a nearly 20 percent reduction in water use relative to its 2013 baseline. This reduction has allowed the City to further reduce its use of imported water by 11 percent. Currently, the City’s water supply consists of approximately 25 percent imported water and 75 percent local groundwater. Per capita water use has maintained steady at 110 gallons per capita per day (GPCD) in 2016 versus record low usage of 109 GPCD in 2015.”






Despite some gains on a few new routes, ridership dropped immediately after the opening of Expo to roughly 13.8 million passengers.

Kevin Herrera is a former journalist turned marketing and communication expert, beer enthusiast, cyclist, cultural observer/commentator and expert on all things Downtown Santa Monica. He is currently the sr. marketing & communication manager for Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.