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BBB Misrepresented Bus Stops


July 18, 2014 --In your 10 July story about the uproar concerning the new and supposedly “improved” lily pad-style bus benches, an official with the BBB states that “…BBB and the City underwent an extensive public engagement process [my emphasis-RR] during the design phase for the Bus Stop Improvement Project.” 

While there is no doubt some truth to this, the greater truth is that during none of these interfaces with the riding public did the BBB ever make clear just exactly what was going to be replacing the traditional bus bench. 

Can there be any doubt where the riding public would have come down on this issue had they been privy to a side-by-side display of the traditional bus bench vs. the new and “improved” lily-pad benches?

Traditional Bus Bench
New and “Improved” Lily-Pad Bench
Old Benches
New Bus Stops

Had the BBB been honest, transparent, and aboveboard from the beginning, it would have gotten instantaneous feedback from the riding public and this entire waste of tax-payer money could have been avoided. 

But for some reason, the BBB chose to make “adjustments once the design is built and installed.”  What? Really?  The thinking was it would be better to spend 7 million dollars to build these blue lily pads, and only then, after they had been built and paid for, to ask the bus-riding public for input?

Not only did the BBB attempt to hide the real nature of the “lily pad” benches from the public, it went out of its way to misrepresent them.  On the BBB website, we see only a lovely art-deco drawing, in pleasing pastel shades of blue, and casual and presumably content figurines soaking up their newly artistic bus stop under giant massive umbrellas offering shade and shelter to the weary.  Just look at all that shade!


This is nothing less than a disinformation campaign designed and executed by a government entity expressly for the purpose of misleading the public that it putatively serves. 

To those of us who live in or frequent Santa Monica, the point of the lily-pad benches was crystal clear, to eliminate instances of the homeless sleeping on them and depriving riders of a seat.  BBB officials have been quite candid about this: “The pod seating is part of the new bus stop design which required a small footprint…and even a certain degree of discomfort for long time guests.” 

Stop for a moment and think about what is being said here. 

Because there are some instances when homeless people take over the bench thus making comfortable seating—sometimes— unavailable for bus riders, the decision the BBB made was simply to make sure that there was never comfortable seating available.  For anyone. 

There are laws against sleeping on bus benches and Santa Monica has a very capable police force, but instead of simply working with their fellow government agency to ensure that laws are enforced, they choose instead to throw the baby out with the bathwater by doing away with comfortable seating altogether, for the homeless and for bus-riders alike.  (The part about wanting a “small footprint” begs the question: how big a footprint does a regular bus bench have anyway that it needs to be reduced?  Or is this idea of a “small footprint” merely cipher for a desire to keep the homeless out of sight and out of mind?)

The BBB was chosen to be a steward of public monies in the amount of 7 million dollars.  We now find ourselves in a situation in which the riding public is not suggesting, but rather demanding, the return of all the benches.  This was a misuse of public funding on a massive scale, and someone should be held accountable. 

The BBB’s latest move is to re-route three of the five bus routes—the #8, the #3,and the #2—that currently serve UCLA.  The reasoning is somehow tied in with the integration of the Expo light-rail into the BBB system, although one cannot help but wonder why this new light-rail would not pay for itself, especially if it will be as popular as we’ve been led to believe.  Even if there is a cost associated with it, no doubt much of this cost could have been ameliorated with 7 million dollars.

The Santa Monica City Council needs to take the bull by the horn and order an investigation into the bus stop fiasco and especially into the proposed route changes.  The city and state attorneys general should investigate just who agreed to what, and the nature of the relationship that obtained between BBB officials, on the one hand, and the manufacturers of the various elements that comprise the Bus Stop “Improvement” Project, on the other.

It’s not too late to turn around the situation with the Big Blue Bus, at one time one of the finest public bus lines in the country, but it will not happen by itself.  Those who are charged with fiduciary oversight of the BBB must step forward, and the bus-ridership must continue to be vocal in demanding that this absurd situation be righted.


Ron Richard

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