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City Council Report

 

City Council Meeting: December 16, 2014

Agenda Item: 4-A 

To:               Mayor and City Council 

From:           Edward F. King, Director of Transit Services

Subject:        Big Blue Bus/Expo Service Integration Proposal

 

 

Recommended Action

 

Staff recommends that the City Council review and comment on the proposed recommendations for new and restructured BBB routes and schedules that will provide seamless integration with Expo Light Rail at the eight stations in the BBB service area.

 

Executive Summary

The Expo Integration Plan seeks to capitalize on the opening of seven new rail stations in the Big Blue Bus service area.  This is a significant change of conditions for a system that has served rail only at the periphery until now.  Alterations of bus routes to attract new rail to bus transfers has the potential to increase ridership, make more efficient use of transit resources, and reduce overall levels of congestion. The Expo Integration Study includes extensive public outreach, a survey of existing conditions, and a recommended plan of action. 

 

The primary objectives of the Plan are: creating first-and-last mile connectivity; more north-south corridor service to serve the stations; reducing redundancy with other transit providers; eliminating inefficient routing; improving speed and reliability; and maximizing resources; while acknowledging that current BBB service must continue to serve markets and customers that do not interface with Expo.  Staff recommends that the City Council review and comment on the proposed recommendations for new and restructured BBB routes and schedules. 

 

The revised plan includes an increase of approximately 9% in revenue service hours and associated costs.  Annual revenue service hours are expected to increase from the current 507,000 to 553,000 annual revenue service hours.  There is no immediate financial impact or budget action necessary as a result of the recommended action.  Staff will return to Council during the FY2015-2017 Biennial Budget process with specific capital and staffing needs to support the projected increases.  

 

 

Background

The area served by Big Blue Bus (BBB) is changing in ways that promise to have significant impact on transportation and BBB services with one being the evolution of light rail in BBB’s service area.  BBB currently serves four rail stations, including three light rail lines (Expo Line, Purple Line, and Green Line) as well as the regional Amtrak and Metrolink station in downtown Los Angeles.  Further expansion of the Exposition Light Rail Line in 2016 will increase the number of stations served from four to eleven, and bring rail from the fringes of the BBB service area into its center.  Of these seven new rail stations, three are within the City of Santa Monica city limits, including the western terminus for the line.  Projected weekday ridership for the Exposition Line is 64,000 boardings per weekday as of 2030, and over 5,000 projected daily boardings at the 4th Street Terminus. 

 

This is a significant change of conditions for a system that has served rail only at the periphery until now.  Changes in demographics, zoning, and land use provide opportunity to increase ridership and make more efficient use of resources in Santa Monica and other areas of the Westside.  The City has made a commitment to aggressively reduce single occupant vehicle trips and diversify transportation options with the goal of no net new PM peak-hour vehicle trips by 2030.  Two of the three new rail stations within the City of Santa Monica do not have designated parking or park and ride amenities, and the third has very limited parking dedicated exclusively to light rail users.  Additionally, of the seven new stations in Phase II, only one (Bundy Station) will provide 200 spaces, and the Culver City Station will be reduced to 200 spaces from 600 currently.  More resources are being dedicated to walking, biking, ridesharing, and transit to optimize the efficiency of the transportation system, and this change is remaking the fabric of the service area by introducing new transit propensities and altering the transit landscape.  Big Blue Bus has existing service near or adjacent to all seven new stations, and expects to significantly adjust service to create more bus/rail integration corridors and enhance first-last mile connectivity.

 

Recognizing the unprecedented landscape change in mobility options, on September 24, 2013, the Council awarded a professional services contract to Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates to assist BBB in the planning process for integrating Big Blue Bus services with the seven new Expo Stations. The purpose of this study was to assist BBB in developing appropriate responses to these changing conditions. The study provided a review of the existing conditions, created a series of projections and demand estimates expected as a result of the impending changes, and formulated a plan to meet demand with an adjusted and appropriate service model. The primary objectives of the Plan were: creating first-and-last mile connectivity; creating more north-south corridor service to serve the stations within the City; and maximizing resources; while acknowledging that current BBB service must continue to serve markets and customers that do not interface with Expo.  The BBB/Expo Integration Study included extensive analysis of service and routes, public outreach, and development of a comprehensive plan to integrate BBB service with Expo.

 

The preliminary BBB Expo service integration proposal was presented to stakeholders and the public at large over a five-month period between June and October 2014 during which time BBB staff invited and received extensive feedback on the route restructure proposal. Informed by over 4,600 survey responses and over 12,300 individual written and verbal comments through email, survey, public meeting, letters and workshops regarding the initial iteration of proposed changes to BBB service, the preliminary plan has been significantly revised and incorporated into the Big Blue Bus Expo Service Integration Plan.

 

Discussion

The arrival of the Expo rail line in Santa Monica is expected to create a dynamic shift in demand for BBB service when it opens in 2016. In order to prepare for that change, BBB staff undertook an extensive analysis of service and routes, facilitated public outreach, and developed a comprehensive plan to integrate BBB service with Expo. The purpose of the study was to assist BBB in developing appropriate changes to the bus service that would encourage the use of Expo. The goals of the study and resulting plan are to maximize ridership through efficient allocation of resources, minimize impacts to traffic, stimulate Expo ridership, create a budget neutral service plan, and create new direct links between stations and adjacent areas. 

 

The BBB/Expo Integration study evaluated land use, key origins and destinations, market analysis, corridor analysis, and industry best practices in order to develop a comprehensive Service Integration Plan between BBB  routes and the eight stations on the Expo Line in the BBB service area. Throughout the planning process, BBB staff involved key stakeholders, residents, neighborhood associations, business improvement districts, the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., and local businesses in a series of workshops designed to elicit public input about the process. BBB also worked closely with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and Culver CityBus to eliminate duplication of services where possible.

 

Framework of the BBB/Expo Service Integration Planning Process

Key components of the BBB/Expo Service Integration Study included public involvement, analysis of the current system, update of demographic information based on the 2010 census data, first-and-last mile connectivity analysis (connecting people between station locations and destinations that are beyond walking distance), reduction of redundancy between BBB, Metro, and Culver CityBus, seamless intermodal connectivity, Title VI Civil Rights evaluation of the proposed changes, and a follow-up study to be conducted one year after Expo opens to determine successes and continued challenges. 

 

The timeline for this study included a set of public stakeholder meetings that was held in February of 2014, followed by analysis and a second set of meetings in July of 2014. 


 

Milestones

Start

Finish

First Expo Online Survey

Jun-13

Sep-13

Data Collection, Establish Baseline of Existing Conditions

Oct-13

Dec-13

Create an Anticipated Demand Model

Jan-14

May-14

First Round of Community Meetings

Feb-14

Apr-14

Second Expo Online Survey

Feb-14

Jun-14

Create Dedicated Web Page for Project

May-14

Jul-14

Route Design & Implementation Plan of BBB Services

Mar-14

Nov-14

Publish Draft Expo Integration Proposal

Jun-14

Jun-14

Second Round of Community Meetings

Jul-14

Aug-14

Third Expo Online Survey

Jul-14

Oct-14

City Council Study Session on Plan

Dec-14

Final Service Recommendations  and Adoption of Plan by City Council

March -15

Public Hearings

Promote Council Decisions

May-15

April-16

Implement Service Changes

Aug-15

April/May-16

Follow Up Study

Mar-17

Jun-17

 

 

Public Outreach

 

The study began with an online survey in the summer of 2013 which asked participants for general perceptions regarding BBB/Expo integration, as well as demographic and locational information.  Over 1,200 responses were collected.  In December of 2013, a web page was launched detailing the progress of the study, and Nelson\Nygaard was forwarded detailed information on Big Blue Bus routing, passenger counts and on-time performance. Once the existing conditions data was collected, Nelson\Nygaard prepared a presentation, a series of information boards, and exercises to engage members of the public in the process.  Five meetings were held the week of February 10, 2014 to engage the public and to solicit stakeholder opinion in West Los Angeles and Santa Monica.

 

Big Blue Bus also worked with municipal and other government agencies to assure that sufficient infrastructure is in place to accommodate the changes.  Since the Spring of 2013, Big Blue Bus has scheduled and facilitated 18 meetings with other transit service providers to discuss integration and duplication.  Furthermore, BBB staff has met regularly with LADOT staff, staff for Los Angeles elected officials, LA Metro Expo project staff, Los Angeles City Planning staff, City of Santa Monica’s Planning, Traffic Engineering and Public Works Division staff, and County of Los Angeles staff to discuss needs.

 

Big Blue Bus continued stakeholder engagement during the Summer of 2014 by seeking input from key institutions as well as local residents, students and workers.  Merchants associations, colleges, neighborhood associations in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, other neighboring transit providers, local government offices, and schools were solicited for input and opinions on how to proceed. The information collected through this engagement process was then distilled in a series of workshops to create preliminary service proposals for Big Blue Bus/Expo Integration.

 

Upon drafting the preliminary set of service proposals, BBB reengaged the public in a second round of meetings in July of 2014. In addition to the public meetings, the public was engaged through a second online survey in English and Spanish as well as being encouraged to participate in a “Design Your Transit Service” game. BBB received over 4,600 survey responses and over 12,300 individual written and verbal comments through email, survey, public meeting, letters and workshops regarding the initial iteration of proposed changes to BBB service.

 

Proposal

Informed by the Expo Integration Study and public and stakeholder outreach, the preliminary BBB/Expo service integration plan has been significantly revised. The following details the proposed Big Blue Bus Expo Service Integration Plan.

 

The primary elements of the plan are as follows:

 

New Ridership Opportunities and Efficiencies

The Expo Service Integration Plan creates most of its new transit opportunities by reducing or eliminating poorly performing services and replacing them with services that are expected to carry more passengers.  In some cases, key destinations are serviced by a different route that is designed to be more efficient.  While eliminating some routes or trips to create new ones can inconvenience some passengers, there are significant increases in efficiency and ridership expected as a result.

 

An Engaged and Responsive Public Process

Significant analysis was conducted regarding Big Blue Bus’ current ridership base and the initial plan contained elimination of several routes and parts of routes.  Big Blue Bus received extensive feedback on some of those proposals from existing riders, specifically in regards to Routes 2, 3, Rapid 3, 8, and 12, and Rapid 12.  The revised plan responds to the feedback, in many cases restoring what riders currently have or improving upon what was proposed.  The plan, as revised, 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. Several route proposals for new and existing services were strengthened through the public participation process.

 

New North South Connectivity to Stations

The revised 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 as follows:

·       4th Street south from Downtown Station to Rose Ave commercial area and Abbott Kinney Blvd

·       23rd Street south from Bergamot Station to Walgrove, Costco on Venice Blvd, and Marina del Rey

·       26th Street north from Bergamot Station to San Vicente

·       Stewart to Colorado to Centinela north from Bergamot Station to Wilshire

·       Barrington Ave north from Bundy Station to Sunset Blvd

·       Bi-directional service on 14th and 20th between Pico Blvd and Montana Ave serving Memorial Park Station both ways

·       Continuation of the Main Street corridor southward to Marina del Rey

·       Extension of Centinela Ave corridor to Playa del Rey from Bundy Station

·       Sawtelle Blvd to Sepulveda Station both north and south

 

Increased Access for Key Destinations beyond Walk Distance from Closest Stations:

·       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

·       UCLA Medical Center

·       Brentwood Village

·       Several high schools and middle schools

 

Reduction of Duplication and Better Coordination with Other Transit Providers

Big Blue Bus held 18 meetings with other transit providers to discuss duplication and coordination of service resulting in agreements to reduce LA Metro trips to downtown Santa Monica by 15% and eliminating over 42,000 miles of LA Metro bus operation from downtown Santa Monica.

 

Coordination with Santa Monica and Los Angeles Transportation Officials to Ensure Smooth Connections at Stations

Big Blue Bus officials coordinated with local officials in both Santa Monica and Los Angeles to ensure that station connections would be seamless and to advocate for a more aggressive approach to providing for “kiss and ride” opportunities, corporate vans and other intermodal needs. This included participation in the Memorial Park neighborhood plan process, the Downtown Specific Plan, and the 4th and Colorado project design.

Big Blue Bus staff continues to work towards seamless connections between Big Blue Bus services and Expo, and is involved in the process with City staff of planning for the interim use at the downtown station site. Areas of ongoing consideration include exploration of the Sears and Big Blue Bus sites for intermodal connections, reviewing impacts of all proposals on circulation, pursuing a plan for the site that is less focused exclusively on bus, and consideration of what intermodal connections might be moved to other areas, or other stations.

 

Reorganization of Downtown Santa Monica Routing

All downtown Santa Monica bus routes were examined for efficiency and the possibility of lessening the number of buses going west of 4th Street in order to reduce congestion in the heart of the city.  The majority of bus-to-bus transfer activity in downtown Santa Monica today takes place between four bus stops – Santa Monica Blvd and Broadway stops at the Promenade, and on both sides of 4th Street at Santa Monica Blvd.  The revised plan shifts the preponderance of this transfer activity to areas closer to the Downtown Expo Station and reduces bus traffic west of 4th Street by approximately half.

 

Better Speed and Reliability

The revised plan includes careful elimination of poorly performing or too closely spaced bus stops, and system wide on-time performance review to better meet riders’ expectation concerning on-time performance.  Combined with the upcoming availability of real time information, these changes are expected to significantly improve the customer experience.

 

Costs

The revised plan includes an increase of approximately 9% in revenue service hours and associated costs.  Annual revenue service hours are expected to increase from the current 507,000 to 553,000 annual revenue service hours.  The department continues to evaluate alternatives for funding the service improvements, including internal efficiencies where appropriate, a fare alignment commensurate with other regional providers and the impact of using reserves that have been established over the last two Fiscal Years.  

 

Next Steps

Public hearings and request for Council adoption of the proposed BBB route structure changes are planned for Spring 2015 with implementation of proposed changes planned for late Summer or early Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 in order to be ready for Expo opening in 2016.

 

 

Financial Impacts & Budget Actions

There is no immediate financial impact or budget action necessary as a result of the recommended action.  Staff will return to Council during the FY2015-2017 Biennial Budget process with specific capital and staffing needs to support the projected increases.  

 

 

Prepared by: Timothy McCormick, Transit Planning Administrator

 

Approved:

 

Forwarded to Council:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edward F. King

Director of Transit Services

 

Rod Gould

City Manager

 

 

Attachment:  Big Blue Bus Expo Integration Study