Big Blue Bus Gets a Green Shock

Our beloved Big Blue Bus received a
much needed boost during these trying
economic circumstances in the form of
12.8 million federal stimulus dollars.

In keeping with their new motto,
"ride blue, go green," the Santa Monica
Big Blue Bus will purchase as many
as 16 new gas-electric hybrid powered

The decision to use stimulus money
on new buses came easily to SMBBB.
The federal investment came with two
major stipulations: the money had to
be used on a capital expenditure, and
see a turnaround within 120 days.
"Bus replacement is an ongoing project
(for SMBBB) that's very high on our
priority list," says Dan Dawson of
SMBBB public relations. "(Buses are)
how we provide service ... the only thing we could put this money into
(and still meet federal guidelines) is
bus replacement."

The $12.8 million amount comes from
a formula based on ridership. It is part of
a larger stimulus investment allocated to
Los Angeles Metro, which was in turn
part of what was requisitioned for the
California department of transportation.

SMBBB then had to write a formal
request of funds, and report to Senators
Diane Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and
Representative Henry Waxman to insure
that the money will be used effectively,
and transparently.

Of the 16 new buses to be produced,
ten of these will be smaller, 30 foot buses
to serve on SMBBB's neighborhood
Mini Blue lines. The hybrid vehicles
will replace older buses, marking a huge
step towards addressing the concerns
of the Santa Monica community. "In
surveys conducted (that lead to the
creation of the Mini Blue routes) we
identified 3 key points: (1) smaller, safer
buses, (2) short, familiar routes, and
(3) environmental friendliness," says
Dawson. On top of appeasing the green
conscience of Santa Monica residents,
the application of hybrid technology to
Mini Blue lines will also reduce noise
pollution in residential areas.

Furthermore, both local and
commuting Blue Bus riders will
benefit from the addition of three new
standard sized 40-foot buses to replace
older, diesel powered models, as well
as three 60-foot articulated buses for
use on SMBBB's highly impacted
Lincoln 3 and Pico 7 lines. The larger
articulated buses are a cost effective
solution to overcrowding during peak
transit hours; they allow SMBBB to accommodate more passengers while avoiding increased gas and salary expenses associated with augmenting pickup frequency. SMBBB's dedication to green technology will also mean more money saved on gas.

This large investment in infrastructure does more than save money; it should make money as well. Studies done for the city of Santa Monica project a 3 to 1 return for ever dollar spent on transit capital. "Investment in capital expenses leaves potential for further investment in operational expenses," says Dawson. "That number becomes something closer to 6 to one [if you factor in that potential]."

The investment in transit capital does even more to paint a brighter public transportation future in Santa Monica by laying the groundwork for the infrastructure needed to support the upcoming expo rail line. Dawson suggests that the expo will call for the creation of an entirely new bus route, and the vehicles used to run those routes are like the ones now being built by the stimulus injection.

In light of California's astronomical budget deficit SMBBB has seen millions taken away in state funding. Within its nearly fifty-two square mile service area over 80,000 passengers a day ride rely on the Big Blue Bus. Fortunately, thanks to federal surplus money, riders can be confident that the BBB will keep its head above water, and its eyes firmly pointed towards a better, greener future.