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Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus Sees Improvements, Some Setbacks

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

December 19, 2012 -- Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus will see some $14 million in technological improvements over the next few months, including a new fare collection system that will allow travelers to use the Transit Access Pass (TAP) cards -- used by L.A. Metro -- to pay fares.

The improvements, paid for by a combination of regional, state and federal money, will mean new ticket vending machines and mobile ticketing, through smartphones.

“I believe each of these technological improvements will positively impact the rider experience,” said Suja Lowenthal, manager of Transit Government and Community Relations for the Big Blue Bus (BBB).

“Staff is working with L.A. Metro, Santa Monica College, UCLA, and other City departments to ensure that BBB fare media, parking media, other fare media, and student ID’s can be used with the new system,” BBB officials said.

Still, BBB is trying to find a company that can build bus shelters in the City.

The City put out a request for proposal (RFP) last fall, but found that all the bids came in above the proposed budget.

“We thought the prices were excessive,” said Santa Monica's Chief Information Officer Jory Wolf. “We rejected all bids and we put out a new RFP.”

The City put out that RFP Monday and has set the deadline for January 28. Until then, Lowenthal said she cannot comment on the how much the previous bids were nor what the proposed budget is.

Despite the setback, BBB is moving forward with its mobile bus application for smart phones that would give travelers real-time information about bus arrivals.

The app development was originally tied to the prospective launch of the new bus shelters, which will include signage that will update travelers with real-time information about bus arrivals.

Now, said Wolf, “we're working on (the app) separately.”

Officials expect the launch of the app to happen around April, but they cannot be sure about the bus shelters.

“We won't know about the shelters until we get the responses to the RFP,” said Wolf.

Still, the new fare collection system will go forward, integrating BBB with other regional transit systems, including the largest: L.A. Metro.

“The system will include new fareboxes on the BBB fleet, new back office infrastructure, ticket vending machines (TVM), new vaults for BBB revenue room, new reporting capabilities and open architecture that will allow integration with other fare technology that includes mobile ticketing (through a smartphone) and other fare media (Transit Access Pass [TAP]) from partner transit agencies,” staff said.


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