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|Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus Gets New Fare System, Continues Free Student Rides|
By Lookout Staff
June 18, 2012 -- Santa Monica College students will continue to ride the Big Blue Bus for free, and all passengers will soon be able to pay their fares with smart cards or by using a mobile ticketing application.
Voting on consent, the City Council on Tuesday authorized a $7.2 million contract with Japan based LECIP Inc. to purchase all hardware, software, and training for an integrated Automatic Fare Collection System.The council also voted on consent to execute an agreement with SMC in the amount of $1.2 million, the same amount the college paid last year, to renew the “Any Line, Any Time” unlimited ride program during the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1.
Under the agreement, the college pays a fixed annual amount that allows "all student, staff, and faculty members with a valid, activated SMC identification card bearing a current semester sticker" to ride the Blue Bus for free, according to transit officials.
The program, initiated five years ago on limited lines and expanded to all lines in 2008, continues to boost bus ridership among students, officials said.
SMC students accounted for 2.16 million boardings on the Big Blue Bus in fiscal year 2010-11, an 8 percent increase over the previous year.
To accommodate the students, the system revised its schedule and launched new services, officials said.
After meeting with SMC officials to review the program, City staff "agreed that the current fixed rate could be maintained for one more year," said Edward King, the City's director of transit services.
"Both parties also agreed that additional time to determine future financial obligations would be helpful in meeting the joint goal of establishing a multi-year transit agreement and to effectively market improvements like new farebox technology to the SMC community," King wrote in his report.
Like all riders, students boarding the Big Blue Bus will be greeted in the future by a new fare collection system with colorized farebox display screens that will replace the 15-year old system.
"Currently, the reliability of the fare collection system is poor, difficult to maintain and cumbersome for passengers to use," transit officials wrote in a report to council.
The new system uses current technology to "enable passengers to use the latest fare media (and) provide a more reliable, easy to use system," officials said.
It will take nearly two years to install the system, officials added.
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