City Council Report

 

City Council Meeting: March 24, 2015

Agenda Item: 9-A 

To:               Mayor and City Council 

From:           Edward F. King, Director of Transit Services

Subject:        Big Blue Bus/Expo Service Integration Plan Public Hearing and Adoption of Service Plan

 

 

Recommended Action

 

Staff recommends that the City Council hold a public hearing, receive public comment, and approve the revised Big Blue Bus operating plan for new and restructured BBB routes and schedules that will provide seamless integration with Expo Light Rail at the 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 for a system that has served rail only at the periphery until now. Alterations of bus routes to attract new rail-to-­bus transfers have the potential to increase ridership, make more efficient use of transit resources, and reduce overall levels of congestion. The Expo Integration Plan process included extensive public outreach, a survey of existing conditions, a City Council Study Session, and a resulting recommended plan of action.  

 

The primary objectives of the plan are:

 

·       Creating first-and-last mile connectivity

·       Creating 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

·       Acknowledging that current BBB service must continue to serve local passengers, markets, and customers that do not interface with Expo 

 

A study session was held at the December 16, 2014 Council Meeting to review the Expo Integration Plan and obtain Council direction prior to final adoption. The plan recommended at the time provided the above enhancements to the BBB system and called for a 9% increase in annual revenue service hours to a projected 553,000 from the current 507,000, anticipating a July 1, 2016 fare increase to offset that 9% increase. Based on feedback from the Council, staff adjusted the plan by revising three of the routes presented to Council in the December 2014 presentation.   In addition, one other route was adjusted based on stakeholder comments received after the December 16th presentation.

 

The proposal, described in detail herein and in the attachment, includes an increase of approximately 11% in revenue service hours (507,000 to 563,000) and their associated costs. Implementation would rely on a January 1, 2016 fare increase to offset the associated increase in service.

 

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. The opening of Expo Phase II in early 2016 is perhaps the most impactful in the short term as it involves the opening of seven new rail stations at one time in the BBB service area. 

 

BBB currently serves nine rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) lines at five different stations.  The nine rail lines are Expo, Purple, Green, Blue, Red, Silver, Gold, Amtrak and Metrolink. The five stations are  Culver City Station,  Wilshire/Western Station,  LAX/Aviation Station,  7th St/Metro Center Station, and  downtown Los Angeles’ Union Station.

 

Further expansion of the Exposition Light Rail Line in 2016 will increase the number of stations served from five to twelve, and bring rail from the fringes of the BBB service area into its center. Out of these seven new rail stations, three are within the City of Santa Monica city limits, including the western terminus for the line at 4th Street.  Projected weekday ridership for the Exposition Line is 64,000 boardings per weekday by 2030, and over 5,000 projected daily boardings at the 4th Street Terminus alone. 

 

This is a significant change of conditions for a bus system that has evolved from serving rail only at Union Station in 1980 (BBB Route 10), to adding the Blue Line in 1990 (also Route 10 at 7th St/Metro Center Station), the Red Line in 1993 at Union Station, the Green Line in 1995 at LAX/Aviation Station (BBB Routes 3 and Rapid 3), the Gold Line in 2003 and the Silver Line in 2009, both at Union Station, The Red and Purple Lines at Wilshire and Western Station in 2011 (BBB Rapid 7), and the Expo Line at Culver City Station in 2012 (BBB Routes 5,12 and Rapid12). Service has been continuously updated to reflect the growing prominence of rail at the periphery of the service area, and finally, now, at the center of the service area. 

 

Changes in demographics, zoning, and land use also provide opportunities to increase ridership and make more efficient use of resources in Santa Monica, Venice and Marina del Rey (Silicon Beach), 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. The Culver City Station will be reduced to 200 spaces from 600 currently available. Municipalities are dedicating more resources 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 plans to significantly adjust service to create more bus/rail integration corridors and enhance first-and-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

·       Maximizing the utility gained from available resources

·       Retaining current BBB service that serves markets and customers that do not interface 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 was significantly revised. This revised plan was presented to Council on December 16, 2014, where Councilmembers offered questions and feedback regarding the plan. The results of that study session informed additional changes to the plan, resulting in the recommended option presented in this report.

 

Discussion

The arrival of the Expo rail line in Santa Monica is an opportunity to increase transit ridership, make a substantive contribution to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion, and to contribute to overall quality of life for Santa Monica residents, workers and guests. In order to achieve these results, light rail passengers must be able to get to and from multiple destinations that are not within walking distance of the stations. BBB integration of the bus route system with the new rail stations is part of a larger initiative of increasing access to active transportation and alternative modes of travel underway in Santa Monica. This larger initiative is referred to in the City’s Land Use and Circulation Element as improving alternative transportation choices (LUCE, Ch. 4.0-58, p. 482).

 

In order to better understand the projected demand, BBB staff undertook an extensive study which included the analysis of land use, key origins and destinations, current transit ridership patterns, existing transit service and routes, corridor analysis, industry best practices and transit demand market analysis. A transit demand market analysis is the assessment of conditions that affect demand for transit services, and the types of services that might best match that demand. The overall study goals included maximizing ridership through efficient allocation of resources, minimizing impacts to traffic, stimulating Expo ridership, creating a budget sensitive service plan, and creating new direct links between stations and adjacent areas. 

 

The additional input from stakeholder and public outreach helped guide staff toward a comprehensive plan to integrate BBB service with Expo that will encourage the use of Expo and also retain the usefulness of the current BBB system. 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/elimination of redundancy between BBB, Metro, and Culver CityBus, and seamless intermodal connectivity. In addition, the study will undertake a Title VI[1] Civil Rights evaluation of the proposed changes, and a follow-up study to be conducted one year after BBB service implementation to determine successes and continued challenges. 

 

Staff conducted an extensive public outreach effort to seek input from stakeholders, the details of which were described in the December 16, 2014 staff report and which are summarized in the table below.


Milestones

Start

Finish

First Expo Online Survey

Jun 2013

Sep 2013

Data Collection, Establish Baseline of Existing Conditions

Oct 2013

Dec 2013

Create an Anticipated Demand Model

Jan 2014

May 2014

First Round of Community Meetings

Feb 2014

Apr 2014

Second Expo Online Survey

Feb 2014

Jun 2014

Create Dedicated Web Page for Project

May 2014

Jul 2014

Route Design & Implementation Plan of BBB Services

Mar 2014

Nov 2014

Publish Draft Expo Integration Proposal

Jun 2014

Jun 2014

Second Round of Community Meetings

Jul 2014

Aug 2014

Third Expo Online Survey

Jul 2014

Oct 2014

City Council Study Session on Plan

Dec 2014

Dec 2014

Final Service Recommendations and Adoption of Plan by City Council

March 2015

March 2015

Public Hearings

March 2015

March 2015

Promote Council Decisions

May 2015

June 2016

Implement Service Changes

Aug 2015

Aug-Sep 2016

Follow Up Study

June 2017

Dec 2017

 

 

December 16, 2014 Proposal

Informed by the 12,300 individual written and verbal comments received through email, survey, public meeting, letters and workshops regarding the initial iteration of proposed changes to BBB service, the second iteration of the plan, which incorporates the following nine elements, was presented to Council on December 16, 2014.

 

1.     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 projected systemwide ridership and efficiency as a result. Understanding that while elimination of low-ridership routes and trips creates systemwide efficiency, there may be pockets of rider demand that warrant introduction of a new type of service known as demand response service.

 

Where demand for transit is light, demand response service may be able to provide a higher level of convenience at a lower cost per passenger than fixed route service. A demand response system is defined by the Federal Transit Administration as any non-fixed route system of transporting individuals that requires advanced scheduling by the customer, including services provided by public entities, nonprofits, and private providers. A demand response service in place would allow passengers to call BBB for the desired service at the desired time during hours of availability, such as weekend nights, where it is conceivable that increased demand may exist. BBB, in response to the trips generated by such calls, would dispatch a vehicle to pick up the passengers and transport them to their desired destinations. BBB is exploring opportunities to introduce demand response service in areas where overall ridership is low, but may have pockets of increased demand during certain time periods such as weekend nights.

 

2.     An Engaged and Responsive Public Process

Significant analysis was conducted regarding Big Blue Bus’ current ridership base. 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.  Additionally, the Council provided feedback on Routes 18, 43 and 44. The revised plan responds to the feedback, in many cases restoring what riders currently have or improving upon what was proposed. 

 

Meetings with UCLA student groups were particularly productive in finding solutions. Currently, Routes 1, 2, 3M, 8, 12, and Rapid 12 serve UCLA. 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. It also seeks, through enhancements to Routes 18, 43 and 44, to create new connectivity for Santa Monica residents and local neighborhoods, through additions to the number of days of service, span of service and frequency. Several route proposals for new and existing services were strengthened through the public participation process.

 

3.     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 via Seventh Ave in Venice

·       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 connecting UCLA, the Veterans Hospital, and Palms Blvd, also serving Sepulveda Station

 

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

·       North end of downtown Santa Monica

·       Venice east (Abbott Kinney)

·       Venice west (Main Street and Canal area)

·       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

 

5.     Reduction of Duplication and Better Coordination with Other Transit Providers

Big Blue Bus held 21 meetings with multiple transit providers to discuss duplication and coordination of service resulting in informal 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 effective January 2016.  Meetings with Culver CityBus were fruitful in successfully analyzing ways to work together to preserve connectivity for UCLA students and create a staged service integration framework.

 

6.     Coordination with Santa Monica and Los Angeles Transportation Staff to Ensure Smooth Connections at Stations

Big Blue Bus staff coordinated with local staff 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 terminus site project design.  This work continues in key non-station locations such as Marina del Rey and the Culver City Transit Center.  Big Blue Bus met with Culver CityBus to discuss an eventual integration of the two services at Culver City Transit Center and is working on a workshop with LA Metro regarding Marina del Rey overall service.

 

7.     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.  Route 18 in one direction is shifted to 6th Street to help lessen bus congestion on 4th Street.

 

8.     Better Speed and Reliability

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

 

9.     Civil Rights Impacts

In accordance with the requirements as detailed in the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Circular C4702.1B, titled TITLE VI REQUIREMENTS AND GUIDELINES FOR FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION RECIPIENTS, chapter IV-10, part 7, Requirement to evaluate service and fare changes, Nelson\Nygaard was engaged to execute a Title VI analysis on the service plan to judge whether or not there are negative disparate impacts on minority populations on the basis of color, race, or national origin and/or disproportionate burdens on low income populations.  There were no disparate impacts found on minority populations in the service area and no disproportionate burdens found on low income populations in the service area based on the recommended plan.

 

In the interim since the plan was presented to Council in December, BBB has conducted further engagement of key stakeholders to discuss remaining questions and issues, including UCLA student groups, Santa Monica College, Culver CityBus, LA Metro and various neighborhood groups and council, and these issues and questions, along with the issues and questions raised by Councilmembers on December 16th, 2014, have resulted in further modifications.  The revised plan is outlined below and fully detailed in the attachment.

 

Proposal

The revised Big Blue Bus Expo Service Integration Plan as proposed herein is substantially similar to what was presented to Council in December 2014 and summarized above.  The revisions can be summarized as follows:

1.     In response to Councilmembers’ feedback, four of the 20 routes have been substantially adjusted from those presented in December; the remaining 16 routes are essentially unchanged from the December 16th presentation

a.     Route 16 was extended to create a connection to Routes 3 and Rapid 3 on Lincoln Boulevard.

b.     Route 18 has been revised to add night service until 9:30pm, seven nights per week, as well as weekend day service.  Both this new night service and the weekend service are recommended at a frequency of every 30 minutes.  This route also was rerouted slightly due to LADOT feedback regarding streets in Venice.

c.     Route 43 was originally recommended as having a span of service from 6am to 9am and 3pm to 6pm, but now includes service from 6am to 9am and 2pm to 7pm. 

d.     Route 44 had been shown to have a frequency of every 20 minutes at the December Study Session.  As a result of feedback offered by Santa Monica College, the recommended frequency is now every 15 minutes all day from September through June, and every 30 minutes all day for the months of July and August. 

2.     These adjustments have resulted in an additional 2% increase in revenue service hours, or an 11% total increase

3.     To offset the additional service hours, the fare increase anticipated for July 2016 would need to be moved up to January 2016

4.     To accommodate the increased service levels, the changes would occur over three service changes rather than two.

 

 

Phasing of New Service

The plan includes an increase of approximately 11% in revenue service hours and associated costs. Annual revenue service hours are expected to increase from the current 507,000 to 563,000.  Due to the increased hours (11%), the phasing of new service would be implemented over an extended period. In the December 16th proposal service was implemented over 2 service changes.  As proposed, the new hours would require implementation over 3 service changes.  Therefore, minor service changes would be implemented in September 2015, the second phase would occur in the spring of 2016 concurrent with the opening of rail service, and the third and final phase would take place in late summer (August) of 2016. 

 

Funding of Additional Service

The total projected cost associated with the Expo Integration Plan is $4.2 million.  This includes $1.8 million of staffing enhancements and $2.4 million in supplies and expenses which will be absorbed in BBB’s MOE budget over the next two years. The $4.2 million does not include capital expenditures for new buses, and new bus stops.   Funding would require a combination of budget strategies in tandem with a Council approved fare increase effective January 1, 2016.

 

The department continues to identify solutions for funding ongoing costs associated with the service improvements, including internal efficiencies where appropriate, a proposed cash fare increase of $.25 (senior and disabled fares would remain unchanged) and using reserves from Measure R and MOSIP[2] until passenger revenue aligns with ridership projections over time. BBB projects a 4% increase in passenger revenue with the integration of bus service with Expo.  BBB’s new proposed cash fare, $1.25, is still one of the lowest in the County as most Municipal Operators are at $1.35 - $1.50, and much lower than Metro’s cash fare of $1.75.  Senior and Disabled fares would be unchanged at $.50 and BBB passes would be increased incrementally.   Details of the staffing and capital requirements as well as the fare increase will be addressed in the department’s biennial budget request.  

 

Next Steps

Subject to Council approval of the recommended plan, BBB will begin designing and building new bus stops in coordination with City officials in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, as well as County officials in Marina del Rey. BBB plans to advocate for minimal infrastructure investment in bus stops beyond the required ADA improvements for the first year of new service.  Pending a post-implementation analysis of the service


 

plan that will judge all new route performance, BBB will then consider what, if any, additional street furniture or other improvements are warranted.

 

Staff continues to evaluate the phasing of Expo Light Rail Service to optimize transition for customers, staff and operations.   As noted above, staff is currently considering transitional service changes for late summer of 2015, spring of 2016 (commensurate with the operation of the Expo Line) and the final phase in late summer of 2016. 

 

These may change due to the actual date for the opening of the light rail line, Council adoption of the proposed BBB FY15-17 Biennial Budget, and final work that needs to be completed for infrastructure improvements in Los Angeles.

 

Financial Impacts & Budget Actions

There is no immediate financial impact or budget action necessary as a result of the recommended action. Staff anticipates approximately $4.2 million in ongoing costs associated with the proposed service level increases and staff will return to Council during the FY2015-2017 Biennial Budget process with specific capital and staffing needs.

 

Prepared by: Timothy McCormick, Transit Planning Administrator

 

Approved:

 

Forwarded to Council:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edward F. King

Director of Transit Services

 

Elaine Polachek

Interim City Manager

 

Attachment:  Big Blue Bus Expo Integration Study



[1] The Federal Transportation Authority requires compliance under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which addresses discrimination in most areas of public life in the United States including transportation.

[2] Municipal Operator Bus Service Improvement Program