A Rapid 7 crosses the Expo tracks by the Big Blue Bus facility at Colorado and 6th Street as a test train approaches. (Photo by Jason Islas/Santa Monica Next)
A Rapid 7 crosses the Expo tracks by the Big Blue Bus facility at Colorado and 6th Street as a test train approaches. (Photo by Jason Islas/Santa Monica Next)

With Big Blue Bus’ planning on increasing service by more than 10 percent as part of the agency’s Expo integration service realignment, officials are considering a possible 25 cent fare increase in 2016, the first fare increase for the Big Blue Bus since 2010.

The fare increase, as proposed, wouldn’t apply to discounted fares paid by senior, disabled, or Medicare passengers, according to the Big Blue Bus. It would also mean reduced fares for day pass and 30-day pass holders and the introduction of a new 7-day pass.

To discuss the proposed fare increase, a public hearing is scheduled for September 10 from 6:00 p. to 7:30 p.m. at the Santa Monica Main Library.

“As part of [Expo integration] plan, a detailed financial analysis was provided on the provision of new service hours, new bus stops, and new buses, including recommendations for funding an 11 [percent] increase in revenue service hours,” according to the Big Blue Bus website.

“In addition, BBB’s proposed biennial budget that was adopted by Council on June 23, 2015 included a recommended January 2016 fare restructure,” the site says.

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A basic breakdown of the proposed fare increase on the site reads:

1. Senior, Disabled and Medicare cash fares or passes stay the same.
2. Adjust Regular Pass Prices – in many cases, pass prices are reduced.
3. Create a new 7-day pass for a sale price of $14.00.
4. Increase REGULAR Fare Cash Prices from $1.00 to $1.25. No change is proposed on the $0.50 reduced rate cash base fare.

One one reason for the proposed fare increase is that Big Blue Bus is adding service as part of the dramatic overhaul to its service, phase one of which started in August. The realignment of service includes the addition of several new north-south lines, extension of service to Playa Vista to connect with the burgeoning job hub in the area, and the addition of weekend service to the Rapid 7 line.

However, the cost of a Big Blue Bus day pass ($4) will not go up and a 30-day passes will actually decrease by $10, from $60 to $50. The fare changes will also mean the introduction of a rolling 7-day pass for $14. The idea is to increase the speed with which passengers board buses by encouraging more people to start using the passes — instead of paying cash fares — when boarding.

“As of the end of [financial year] 2015, approximately 48 [percent] of BBB customers paid with cash. Cash customers require an average of 23 seconds of dwell time to complete payment, while a prepaid boarding customer using a magnetic stripe card or smartcard requires less than 4 seconds to complete payment,” according to the Big Blue Bus. “Increasing the percent of customers using prepaid fares through discounting of passes increases the attractiveness of transit, while simultaneously lowering the cost of operating the routes.”

A schedule of proposed increases in Big Blue Bus fares that could go into effect next year. From BigBlueBus.com
A schedule of proposed increases in Big Blue Bus fares that could go into effect next year. From BigBlueBus.com

“After the public hearing, adjustments to the proposal may be made based on public feedback. If you are unable to attend the meeting and would like to submit feedback in advance, please submit information here,” according to the Big Blue Bus.

The proposal — as well as the feedback from public input — will go before the City Council for approval on October 10. If approved, the new fare structure would start on January 10, 2016.