Item 10-A

Council Meeting: 2/25/97                Santa Monica, CA

To:       Mayor and City Council

From:     City Staff

Subject:  Recommendation to Approve the Big Blue Bus Service
          Improvement Plan and Modifications to Fare Schedules
          and Policies regarding Service of the Big Blue Bus,
          TIDE Shuttle, and WISE Paratransit after Holding a
          Public Hearing to Receive Comments.

Introduction
This report requests that the City Council adopt the Big Blue Bus
Service Improvement Plan which identifies proposed improvements
to transit operations, capital projects, as well as TIDE Shuttle
and (WISE) Paratransit Services.  The report also recommends that
the City Council amend the fare policy for fixed route services
to comply with suggested changes by the Federal Transit
Administration, adopt a fare structure for the TIDE Shuttle
service and revise the fare collection policy for the WISE
Paratransit service.  Service improvements are proposed to be
implemented on March 2, 1997.  Proposed fare modifications are
recommended to take effect on April 6, 1997.  City Council action
on the proposed service improvements and fare modifications
should follow public testimony pursuant to federal public hearing
guidelines, Section 9(e)(3)(H) of the Surface Transportation
Assistance Act of 1982.

Background
The service improvement planning process began approximately one
year ago with the first of three phases of community meetings
designed to solicit public input on ways to improve Big Blue Bus
service.  A total of eleven meetings were conducted in Phase I of
the Municipal Bus Lines' Community Outreach Program.

The main priority identified at the conclusion of the Phase I
process called for more frequent service on existing Big Blue Bus
lines. Other top priorities included expanding the hours when
service is available, particularly in the evenings and on
weekends.  Input was also solicited on other aspects of the
service, such as passenger amenities and the type of vehicles
used by the Big Blue Bus.  The community expressed a need for
improved information at bus stop locations and a significant
level of support for the use of smaller vehicles where they would
be more compatible with street configurations and ridership
levels than a standard 40 foot transit coach.  As the Community
Outreach Program progressed, these priorities remained
consistent.

In addition to public outreach, an independent market research
firm was engaged to conduct focus groups to obtain opinions from
riders and nonriders on Big Blue Bus and TIDE services, passenger
amenities, vehicles and graphics.  Responses from the first four
focus groups were used as input to service plan development.  The
last two focus groups were designed to evaluate recommendations
which grew from the service planning process.

Although the focus groups were structured to solicit responses to
specific issues, the feedback from focus group participants was
significantly aligned with that received from the community
meeting process.  Both riders and nonriders indicated that the
most needed bus service improvements were more frequent service
and more service available in the evenings and on weekends.

The community outreach and market research processes both gave
clear communication on how the Municipal Bus Lines should
approach service evaluation.  Existing users were particularly
concerned that the process not result in unnecessary change. 
Current users expressed a high level of customer satisfaction
with the existing system and urged staff not to fix those aspects
of the service that were not broken.  Riders also expressed a 
preference for maintaining the Big Blue Bus $.50 fare.  Even
nonriders found this low fare an attractive enticement to use the
service.  A more thorough evaluation of this issue conducted
during the focus groups indicated that most people, both riders
and nonriders, would be willing to pay a higher fare for improved
service that better met their needs.

Discussion
The proposed Big Blue Bus Service Improvement Plan focuses
primarily on achieving the objectives identified from the public
process and market research conducted over the past  year.  This
information, combined with technical assessments of land use and
route specific operating performance was used to evaluate
existing services and recommend a strategy for implementing
improvements.

Service Improvement Proposals
The Service Improvement Plan formulates a package of improvements
for the fixed route, TIDE Shuttle and WISE Paratransit Services. 
The proposed improvements and fare policy modifications regarding
each type of service are discussed below.

Fixed Route Service Plan
The Service Improvement Plan proposes a multi-year program of
improvements to the fixed route service which will be phased into
the existing system beginning this year and continuing each year
through FY 2000-01.  The service plan also proposes some route
re-alignments that would create the opportunity to utilize
smaller vehicles on some existing route segments.

The first implementation phase of the Service Improvement Plan is
scheduled to occur on March 2, 1997 and will effect five of
twelve Big Blue Bus routes.  Two routes, Line 1 (Santa Monica
Blvd.) and Line 7 (Pico Blvd.), are proposed to undergo minor
schedule adjustments to improve on-time performance.  Major
service enhancements are proposed for three routes:
     Line 9, Pacific Palisades/Olympic Blvd. - Midday service is
     proposed on Olympic Blvd. between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.  Midday
     service frequencies on this line are improved to 30 minutes.
     Line 12, Robertson Blvd./Palms - Planned improvements
     include extending weekday evening hours on this line to 9
     p.m. and additional Saturday service that will serve UCLA at
     30 minute intervals.
     Line 14, Bundy/Centinela - Weekday peak hour service
     frequencies are increased from every 30 minutes to every 15
     minutes.  In addition, a new Sunday schedule will be added
     which will operate from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

In FY 1998, service improvements will focus on enhanced service
frequencies on Line 3 (Lincoln Blvd./Montana).  Modifications to
this service will enable the Big Blue Bus to provide more
frequent service on Lincoln Blvd. on weekdays, Saturdays and
Sundays.  In addition, more service will be operated to UCLA from
Montana Avenue on weekends.

In FY 1999, re-alignment of service operated in the Olympic Blvd
corridor is planned in order to provide more direct service
between downtown Santa Monica and Century City.  This re-alignment also offers the first opportunity to deploy a small
vehicle in fixed route service on Sawtelle Avenue.  A small bus
is also proposed on Carlyle Avenue by separating this segment
from Line 8, Ocean Park Blvd.  Additional FY 1999 improvements
include increased midday service intervals on Line 10 (Freeway
Express); new Sunday service on Line 12 (Robertson/Palms); and,
extension of Line 14 (Bundy/Centinela) to serve Fox Hills Mall.

In FY 2000, re-alignment of the southern portions of Line 1
(Santa Monica Blvd.) and Line 2 (Wilshire Blvd./Venice) is
proposed thereby providing the opportunity to deploy a small bus
on 4th Street between downtown Santa Monica and Hill Street. 
This former Line 2 segment is proposed to operate as part of a
new route, Line 16 (Rose/Palms Avenue), which would run via
Pacific Avenue to Rose, Walgrove and Palms Avenue extending to
Westwood and Pico Boulevards.  As a result of this re-alignment,
the remaining portion of the Line 2 (Wilshire Blvd.) would
operate at improved frequencies between downtown Santa Monica and
UCLA.  Line 1 (Santa Monica Blvd.) would be extended at its
southernmost terminus to provide service between Venice Circle
and Venice High School, similar to that currently provided by the
Line 2.

In FY 2001, adjustments are needed in order to maximize the use
of timed transfers during evening hours and on weekends, when
service is less frequent.  The Service Improvement Plan does not
recommend any reductions in existing route frequencies or hours
of service.

The FY 97 service improvements will not require an increase in
the $0.50 fare. However, an issue concerning the fare policy must
be addressed in order for the Big Blue Bus to remain eligible for
Federal funds. In 1995, a passenger with a visual impairment
lodged a complaint with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
alleging that the Municipal Bus Lines' policy of allowing blind
persons to ride for free while charging other passengers with
disabilities a fare was a violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA).  Historically, most transit operators in
Los Angeles County have allowed legally blind individuals to ride
for free. The City Attorney responded to the FTA's inquiry and
explained the basis for the policy.  The FTA evaluation concluded
that the complainant's concerns were valid.  The FTA
determination also indicated that failure to conform with this
finding could result in the termination of its Federal funding
eligibility. Although the Municipal Bus Lines has not received
Federal financial assistance since 1985, the Municipal Bus Lines
has attempted to comply with all FTA regulations and requirements
in order to remain eligible for these funds should they be
needed.  As described in the Big Blue Bus Service Improvement
Program, service is expected to increase significantly over the
next five years, and Federal financial assistance will be
necessary to meet the increased service levels.  Therefore, it is
imperative that the Municipal Bus Lines remain eligible for these
Federal funds. 

To address the concerns of the FTA, it is recommended that the
City Council adopt a fare of $0.25 for individuals with visual
impairments who display appropriate identification, such as a
Transportation Department identification card, a white cane, a
guide dog for the visually disabled, or a card issued by the
Braille Institute.  This fare will be consistent with the current
fare charged other persons with disabilities.

TIDE Shuttle
In addition to improvements to the fixed route service, the
Service Improvement Plan proposes expanding the current TIDE
service, which has operated between Main Street and the Third
Street Promenade since 1993.  In 1993, 1994 and 1995, the TIDE
operated during the summer season only.  In January 1996, the
City Council approved extending  the service to a year-round
operation that is in service daily from noon until 10:30 p.m.

The Service Improvement Plan proposes two enhancements to the
TIDE Shuttle service. First, extend the hours of the existing
TIDE route from 10:30 p.m. to 12 midnight.  Second, establish
another TIDE route, which would operate between Third Street
Promenade and Montana Avenue via Ocean Avenue, pending financial
support from the business community.  This route would operate at
15 minute service intervals and would also utilize small shuttle
vehicles.

To maintain existing service and to support TIDE enhancements a
fare is necessary.  Staff recommends that the City Council
establish a $0.25 cash fare, and a senior and disabled fare of
$0.10 for the TIDE service.  Children under age 5 will ride for
free when accompanied by an adult.

Staff from the Big Blue Bus will work with the business community
to develop a promotional program whereby TIDE tokens are sold to
local businesses for distribution to their customers.  The use of
tokens would allow the service to continue the free fare concept
for many visitors and patrons of Santa Monica's commercial
business districts since any business that wanted to provide
tokens to their customers could purchase rolls of TIDE tokens
from the Big Blue Bus.  The revenue raised would be used to
offset the cost of operating the service, which would be useful
now that the TIDE operates year-round.

The operating costs of the TIDE shuttle service are currently
funded by four hotels as a condition of development project
approvals.  The current combined contribution of these hotels is
$130,000 annually, with the City paying up to $100,000 in
Proposition A Local Return funds for the service.  In recognition
of the fact that these hotels already fund the operating costs of
the TIDE shuttle as conditions of their project approvals, staff
recommends that these hotels be provided with tokens at no
additional cost to distribute to their guests.

WISE Paratransit
Service design changes proposed for the WISE Paratransit Service
are intended to increase service efficiency, while making the
service more available to eligible users.  Recommendations that
will be key in achieving these goals are the elimination of
subscription service and the adoption of a service cancellation
policy.  These recommendations will make WISE Paratransit service
more accessible to those who want to use it.  Under the proposed
policy, a rider would be able to request a trip up to six days in
advance and cancel service up to 90 minutes prior to the time the
service is scheduled.  Under the proposed service policy, riders
will have more access to the service and will be able to schedule
a broader range of trips than could be accommodated under the
current policy.  These factors are expected to produce a positive
impact on both riders and overall performance.

The WISE Paratransit Service policy also recommends
implementation of a fare structure which assumes consistent
collection of the existing $.50 one way trip fare and permits a
discount for trip tokens or pre-paid trips.  Currently, the fare
is treated as a voluntary donation.  The implementation of this
fare structure would support service enhancements and associated
increased service demands for WISE Paratransit Services.  The
following summarizes the proposed fare structure:
          $0.50 cash fare per one-way trip (existing policy).
          50  tokens for $22.50, or 10 tokens for $4.50 ($0.45
          per one way trip).
          Tokens will be available at the Big Blue Bus office and
          WISE Senior Services.  Additional locations may be
          added.
          Pre-paid trips will be calculated at the token rate of
          $0.45 per one way trip.  (Some clients pay by check for
          this service.  These payments will be entered into the
          dispatching computer which will automatically deduct
          $0.45 every time the client takes a trip).
          Registered attendants will pay $0.25 per one way trip.
          Companions will be accommodated on a space available
          basis at the rate of $0.50 per one way trip.  Tokens
          will not be accepted for companions.
          Free transfers to a Santa Monica Big Blue Bus.
          $0.10 Interagency Transfers (IAT) to the MTA or other
          bus lines (IAT's cannot be paid in advance).

An appeal process is being developed for those individuals for
whom the fare will be a financial burden.  Under this fare
structure, individuals who qualify for SSI and/or MediCal will be
eligible for the fare subsidy.  This information will be kept
confidential and these customers will not be identified as
subsidized customers in any way.

The proposed Wise Paratransit Service enhancements and fare
structure were unanimously endorsed by the Commission on Older
Americans on December 18, 1996.

Capital Program
The fixed route service program projects a 32% increase in
service levels at full implementation of the Service Improvement
Plan which would require 27 additional buses in service during
peak hours by FY 2000-01.  Factoring a 20% spare requirement, a
total of 32 expansion vehicles will be needed, including 10 small
buses.  The vehicles must be acquired in addition to the
procurement of replacement buses for the existing fleet.

The second major capital element of the Plan is the development
of the downtown transportation mall concept which was originally
conceived as part of the City's Downtown Urban Streetscape Plan
in 1996.  This project proposes to significantly enhance transit
access in the downtown Santa Monica area by providing transit
lanes on Santa Monica Blvd. and Broadway, improved sidewalks,
lighting and transit passenger information kiosks and amenities.

Financial Analysis
A five-year financial forecast is contained in the Service
Improvement Plan.  It shows that the Plan can be implemented
utilizing the Municipal Bus Lines' formula share of transit
subsidy funds allocated on an annual basis by the Los Angeles
County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).  The
Municipal Bus Lines may need to increase its use of Proposition A
Discretionary funds beyond FY 1998 to support the operating
program.  These funds are also distributed to the Big Blue Bus on
a formula basis for operating purposes.  Unused funds may be
carried over for a two year period and may be applied to capital
expenditures, as well as operating expenses.

In FY 1996-97, service improvement funding is available from
transit subsidy revenues allocated to the Big Blue Bus from two
Proposition C Discretionary Fund programs established by the MTA.
The Council adopted a resolution on September 10, 1996 in support
of the MTA Bus Service Improvement Program which provided the
Municipal Bus Lines with $542,000 in funding to improve service
quality on lines significantly utilized by transit dependent
riders. In addition, the MTA has allocated the Big Blue Bus an
additional $3 million in FY 1997 as part of its Proposition C
Recession Mitigation Program.  FY 1996-97 service enhancements
are included as part of the Midyear Budget request.

Acquisition of rolling stock comprises over one-third of the
Service Improvement Plan Capital Program.  Federal capital funds
will be utilized to fund most of the vehicles required to meet 
proposed replacement and expansion needs.  Federal Section 9
capital funds are allocated to the Big Blue Bus on a formula
basis.  Section 3 federal discretionary capital funds will be
sought this year, as part of the Intermodal Surface
Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) reauthorization process. 
Remaining capital projects will be funded using Transportation
Development Act (TDA) funds allocated by formula. No general
funds will be used for the Service Improvement Plan.

Although projected transit subsidies are sufficient to fund
proposed service level increases, the MTA requires that transit
operators maintain a local revenue contribution of 38% generated
from farebox revenues and other local sources.  Based on service
plan estimates, the Municipal Bus Lines can maintain the required
farebox recovery ratio through FY 1998-99 without a fare
increase. At that time, staff will evaluate the need to consider
modification to the current fare structure and will make an
appropriate recommendation to the City Council.

In the interim, Transportation Department staff will continue to
monitor the financial impacts of both operating and capital
programs through development of a ten year financial plan, the
incorporation of Service Improvement Plan elements into the Big
Blue Bus annual Short Range Transit Plan and in future City
budgets.

Public Notice
On January 11 and 25, 1997, and again on February 11, 1997, the
City published a notice of  City Council consideration of the Big
Blue Bus Service Improvement Plan and specified service
improvements on March 2, 1997.  The notice also addressed
proposed modifications to fare policies on the TIDE Shuttle, WISE
Paratransit service, and fares charged for legally blind riders
on the Municipal Bus Lines.  The public notice appeared in the
Santa Monica Outlook and La Opinion  newspapers, as well as the
City's Internet web site.  Cards announcing the hearing, in both
English and Spanish, were posted on all the Big Blue Buses, WISE
paratransit vehicles, and TIDE shuttle vehicles.  Also, the
service improvements and fare structure for the paratransit
service was presented to the Commission on Older Americans (COA). 
In addition, letters were sent to agencies that provide services
to the visually impaired to request their assistance in
disseminating this information to their clients.

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
According to California statute, a fare increase is exempt from
CEQA requirements if the funds are used for one or more of the
following purposes: (1) to meet operating expenses, including
wage rates and fringe benefits; (2) to purchase or lease
supplies, equipment or materials; (3) to meet financial reserve
needs and requirements; (4) to obtain funds for capital projects
necessary to maintain service within existing service areas; or
(5) to obtain funds necessary to maintain such intra-city
transfers as are authorized by city charter.

The funds generated by this fare increase will be used to meet
operating and capital expenses of the Bus Lines, which is in
conformance with the above mandate.

Budget/Financial Impact
The amount of revenue that the Big Blue Bus will realize from
implementing a fare for visually impaired passengers cannot be
accurately estimated since the Bus Lines does not currently count
these boardings.  It is expected to be a minimal amount,
therefore, it will not be necessary to increase the FY 1996/97
Big Blue Bus passenger revenue budget.  Implementing the fare
will enable the Bus Lines to remain eligible for Federal funding
assistance.  

Based on ridership for the first six months of this fiscal year,
it is estimated that the TIDE shuttle could generate between
$30,000 and $40,000 annually, and the paratransit service could
generate approximately $15,000 annually.  It is recommended that
the TIDE passenger revenue budget in account number 01-600-656-00000-0589-10000 be increased by $3,000 for the remainder of FY
1996/97, and the paratransit passenger revenue budget in account
number 01-600-656-00000-0590-10000 be increased by $1,000.  

Recommendation
Upon conclusion of public comment on proposed service changes and
fare modifications, City staff recommends that the City Council:
1)   Adopt the five year Service Improvement Plan as a blueprint
     for guiding the development of Big Blue Bus transit
     services;
2)   Approve the cancellation policy and elimination of
     subscription service for WISE Paratransit Service;
3)   Authorize implementation of those fixed route service
     improvements outlined in this staff report scheduled to take
     effect on March 2, 1997;
4)   Adopt the attached resolution adjusting fares for the Santa
     Monica Municipal Bus Lines, TIDE shuttle, and paratransit
     service effective  April 6, 1997; and
5)   Approve the budget changes set forth above.

Future service improvements will come before Council for public
hearing and approval each year, prior to implementation by the
Municipal Bus Lines.

Prepared by:   John B. Catoe, Jr., Director of Transportation
               Stephanie Griffin, Manager of Transit Development
               Joseph W. Stitcher, Senior Transit Programs
Analyst

ATTACHMENT #1

RESOLUTION TO BE PROVIDED WHEN FINALIZED