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SMC Students to Get Free Ride

By Lookout Staff

April 18 -- Starting in the fall, Santa Monica College students and employees will get a free ride on any Big Blue Bus anytime, anywhere, under a program approved by the College Board this week.

College officials hailed the unanimous vote to approve the “Any Line, Any Time” program as an historic move designed to improve access to the college and to reduce traffic, noise and air pollution. The program will go into effect in late August when the fall semester begins.

“This is an extraordinary commitment on the part of the Board of Trustees and the Associated Students to support my vision of creating a reliable way for students and employees to get to campus without having to pay the high price of gas, battle traffic and waste time looking for parking spaces,” said SMC President Dr. Chui L. Tsang.

“Only a very few public colleges in California have attempted to provide no-charge transit passes,” Tsang said.

The program -- which bus officials estimate will result in more than 5,000 new boardings system-wide -- expands the college’s 2007 transportation initiative launched in partnership with the Big Blue Bus, which offers free access to three bus routes, two of them new.

They include number 6 “SMC Commuter” from the Mar Vista and Palms neighborhoods to the Bundy and Main campuses; the Mini Blue Crosstown Ride from Santa Monica or from West Hollywood and Beverly Hills and the “mini-blue” Sunset Ride connecting all three campuses with the Olympic Park and ride lot at the corner of Stewart.

The Sunset Ride “immediately became an instant success” carrying an average of 50 passengers an hour, 95 percent of them students, making it the fourth most productive line in the system, Negriff said.

The ride is in such high demand – ridership grew 133 percent since it hit the road in 2004 – the hours have been expanded and buses now come every 15 minutes, instead of every 20, Negriff said.

“We are incredibly impressed with the initiative of the SMC student body and administration towards advocating public transit use,” said Stephanie Negriff, Big Blue Bus Director of Transit Services. “We are confident that this partnership will significantly reduce the number of cars on local streets.

In an effort to address regional traffic issues, Blue Bus officials plan to add the Super 7 line to the Red Line terminal, which “would capture 1,000 Santa Monica students more,” Negriff said.

Because the line would go into a “reserved service area,” Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) approval is required, Negriff said. “It creates improved regional mobility,” she said, noting that students currently have to transfer two or three times to get to campus from the Red Line terminal.

The new line would supplement the most productive route in the 15-line system -- the number 7 along Pico Boulevard, which has a high ridership among students who flock to the bus stop on the Main Campus when classes let out.

The proposed new route, which is expected to be approved and launched by the beginning of the fall semester, would also be free for SMC students and employees.

The new program will require an SMC financial commitment of $1.2 million in 2008-09, of which approximately one-third will come from the SMC Associated Students, one-third from the SMC general fund, and the remainder from new revenues generated by increased parking and Associated Students fees.

Big Blue Bus officials have estimated that the new and expanded transit services implemented in 2007 have reduced vehicle trips to campus by 6,000 a day.





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