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Santa Monica Bus System to Reduce Stored Value of TAP Trips in Shift from Cash Fares
By Niki Cervantes
October 12, 2017 -- Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus system will reduce the stored value of TAP cards from the current $1.25 a trip to $1.10 in an ongoing effort to shift away from the popular but too time-consuming use of cash by riders.
The council approved the change at its Tuesday meeting and voted to keep the passes free for disabled passengers.
The struggling municipal bus system has been trying to convince members to stop the old-fashioned practice of using money at the fare box to pay for rides, which causes costly boarding delays in the departure/arrival times for buses.
But in a report to the City Council, the head of BBB said the system is also looking to attract more employers willing to subsidize employees who take the bus.
Staff recommended a new $500 annual pass available to the general public, but mostly expected to be used by employers.
They also "remove the monthly decision as to whether to continue to use transit, shifting all of these activities to once per year for those who choose this product.”
Its new attempt hopes to reduce cash transactions from 44 percent to 15 percent by replacing them with TAP transactions.
Increasing efficiency of city buses is one of several ways BBB is trying to overcome several years of declining ridership, including a hit the service has taken since Expo Light Rail trains started operating from Downtown Los Angeles to the seaside city.
King said the pattern of decline in bus service throughout the nation makes it hard to predict the impact of changes in the base fares and the new annual pass.
He said it could generate another 216,000 riders, and $239,000 additional revenue for Big Blue Bus.
“The introduction of Blue to Business fares would be expected to generate another 102,000 annual rides in the first year and $127,500 in new fares associated with those rides,” he said.
“The effect of these changes would be a net loss of $330,500 annually in fare revenue and an increase of approximately 318,000 riders in the same year."
Paying cash for bus trips ends up being extremely time consuming, and thus costly, compared to new alternatives, the report said.
Cash customers require an average of 23 seconds of dwell time to complete payment, while a prepaid customer using a magnetic stripe card or smartcard requires less than an average of four seconds, King’s report said.
It would also increase the overall travel speed by .5 mph across the system, or a reduced operating cost of approximately 55 cents per customer per ride, according to the report.
“BBB customer surveys have confirmed that the single largest complaint regarding BBB service is the excessive time it takes to travel by bus.”
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