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Santa Monica Big Blue Bus to Drop Fare Fares for TAP Card Users


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

July 6, 2017 -- In an effort to go cashless at its bus stops, Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus (BBB) system is dropping the cost of a regular one-way trip from $1.25 to $1.10 if the customer uses a Transit Access Pass (TAP) card instead of money.

The BBB is holding an August 1 public hearing on the fare re-structuring, which is part of an overhaul strategy to discourage passengers from paying cash for bus trips -- which one in three riders do.

Transit officials say using cash delays the departure of buses and increases operating costs because it is more work intensive, requiring staff to spend additional time counting revenue.

At the end of the 2014 fiscal year, cash accounted for 48 percent of all boardings, BBB officials said.

But after a series of changes, the BBB hit a milestone in May when riders using cash declined to 39 percent of all boardings officials said.

“This is a significant reduction over a two-year period,” the BBB said in a statement announcing the new fare restructuring.

In the interim, the bus system took several steps to discourage cash.

In March of 2015 it introduced the TAP card. In January of 2016, a fare change dropped the cost of monthly passes and the City Council agreed to continue subsidizing the monthly Youth Pass.

The City's bus system also launched the “Buy One Get One Free” promotion from May to October of 2016 and started mobile ticketing in April of this year.

As of July 1, the BBB also stopped accepting L.A. Metro tokens on board buses, officials said.

Big Blue Bus tokens will also be discontinued, as of December 31, 2017.

To replace tokens, the BBB is launching a “1-Ride TAP-enabled card (coming in September) for $1.25, the same price as the single-ride token.

The public hearing on the fare changes is August 1 at the Santa Monica Main Library, 601 Santa Monica Boulevard, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the 2nd Floor multipurpose room.

The BBB accept public comments until August 12, 2017. Based on feedback received, Big Blue Bus may make adjustments to the draft proposals before submitting a Staff Report for City Council review in September.

If approved by City Council, fare adjustments would become effective November 1, 2017.

Other changes include the introduction of a new Annual Pass, which would cost $500. There will be no changes to cash fares or passes for senior citizens, the disabled or those using Medicare cash fares and passes.


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