Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus is slashing six Rapid 10 trips and shortening Route 2, a cost-saving maneuver that will impact seniors in the Ocean Park neighborhood.
The City Council approved the service changes Tuesday night. They will take effect Aug. 26.
A , including the elimination of "Downtown Ride"—which gives riders a lift every eight minutes between the Santa Monica Civic Center and downtown Santa Monica—and the "VA Commuter."
"With challenging times, difficult decisions must be made," said Ed King, Director of the Big Blue Bus.
Route 2 is being truncated south of Fourth Street at Pico Boulevard. In the past six months, ridership there averaged three people on the buses where there’s capacity for about 40. It costs the Big Blue Bus about $191,000 to operate, plus an additional $300,000 to subsidize fares, or $4.25 per trip compared to $2.75 on the same route north of Pico Boulevard, according to King.
The agency has tracked ridership and operational costs since last August, when they made a number of . The changes included a proposal to completely eliminate a segment of Route 2 south of Pico, but the city compromised with residents and kept about half, a three-quarter mile stretch on Fourth Street from Hill to Main.
Now that service is gone, too.
"Many times you'll see empty buses operating on that segment of the route," King said.
The few people who do ride south of Pico on Route 2, which connects downtown Santa Monica to UCLA via Wilshire Boulevard,.
Now, they'll have to schlep downhill to Pico Boulevard in front of to catch the Nos. 1 and 8, which take the same Main Street route in Ocean Park, said resident Jerry Rubin.
"It's not good for seniors or anyone—especially at night—and you can't pick up the 3 or the 7," he said. They are "rapid buses mostly that come by and don't even stop at Fourth and Pico."
Big Blue Bus officials said seniors and disabled residents have access to Dial-a-Ride and ADA transit services.
Resident Stanley Huntsman said he's tired of seeing a "parade" of nonstop noisy, empty buses traveling through his neighborhood'
"It really is a joke," he told the council. "If they don't stop this, maybe they can change the name from Ocean Park to Bus Park."
King said his agency has to close a nearly $5 million gap in the next fiscal year's budget, which starts July 1. The changes approved by the City Council on Tuesday night, including to Rapid 10, are estimated to save $275,000 a year.
Six trips on the Rapid 10 service are being cancelled between Main Street at Marine Street and Second Street at Colorado Avenue. Rapid 10 trips along Main Street are duplicated by Route 1 service, "so passengers can ride that service instead and make a convenient time transfer in downtown Santa Monica to Rapid 10," King wrote in a memo to the City Council.
"Since 2009, we've had some very big challenges on our revenue," he said.
"State transit funding has dropped by more than 50 percent from roughly $6 million to $3 million a year and we are still wrestling with federal reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU Reauthorization," he continued.
King noted that the alternative options would be to raise fares or reduce service hours.
"During these challenging economic times, most municipal operators in the region and MTA reduced service hours 4 to 9 percent ... but not Big Blue Bus," he said.