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Santa Monica Proposes to Reconfigure Bus Routes for Light Rail

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

December 15, 2014 -- The coming of the Metro Rail Expo to Santa Monica will prompt big changes for the city’s Big Blue Bus system, including a host of new or improved north-south routes, according to a proposal that will go before the City Council Tuesday.

“We’ve made significant changes,” said Edward F. King, Santa Monica’s Director of Transit Services.

King’s staff report states that “significant analysis” was conducted of the bus system’s ridership base, and that experts considered feedback on the original proposal that eliminated several routes, or parts of them.

Those routes – Routes 2, 3, Rapid 3, 8, 12 and Rapid 12 – are left unchanged or “improved upon” in many cases, the report said.

The updated plan “seeks not only to attract new riders but endeavors to retain as much of the existing ridership base as possible through the implementation of these plan revisions,” the report said.

The plan creates access to the new Expo stations from areas to the north and south on six new routes or new corridors on existing routes.
These are:

  • 4th Street south from the downtown station to the Rose Avenue commercial area and Abbott Kinney Road
  • 23rd Street south from Bergamot Station to Walgrove, Costco on Venice Boulevard, and Marina del Rey
  • 26th Street north from Bergamot station to San Vicente
  • Stewart to Colorado to Centinela north from Bergamot Station to Wilshire Boulevard
  • Barrington Avenue north from Bundy Station to Sunset Boulevard
  • Bi-directional service on 14th Street and 20th Street between Pico Boulevard and Montana Avenue, servicing Memorial Park Station both ways
  • Continuation of the Main Street corridor southward to Marina del Rey
  • Extension of Centinela Avenue corridor to Playa del Rey from Bundy Station
  • Sawtelle Boulevard to Sepulveda Station, both north and south.

Now under construction, the light rail system is expected to be completed in about a year.  Last year, the system handled 18.9 million riders, or about 70.000 a day.

The proposal on its way to the council anticipates daily ridership will be increasing between 12 percent and 14 percent.  Officials are hoping the combination of light rail and buses will put a big dent in Santa Monica’s congestion.

The new bus  proposal also tries to increase access to key destinations, such as the north end of downtown Santa Monica, Venice East, Venice West, Marina del Rey, Playa Vista, Sony Studios, UCLA, Santa Monica College, Saint John’s Hospital and UCLA Medical Center, Brentwood Village and several high schools and middle schools.

Also proposed is a reorganization of Downtown routing.  All Downtown Santa Monica bus routes were examined for efficiency and the possibility of decreasing the number of buses going west of 4th Street in an effort to reduce congestion in the heart of the city, according to the report.

The majority of bus-to-bus transfers in Downtown occur at the Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway stops at the Promenade and on both sides of 4th Street at Santa Monica Boulevard.

To deal with this, the revised plan shifts most of the transfers to areas closer to the Downtown Expo Station, staff said.

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