Blue Bus Takes Greener Road
By Anita Varghese
December 6 -- The Big Blue Bus opened a new customer service
center to much fanfare Wednesday, with City officials touting the
facility as one of the most environmentally friendly sites in Santa
Called “blue: the transit store,” the little shop at 223 Broadway,
in between the Third Street Promenade and Second Street, has a big goal -- to
provide the public with easier access to customer service.
The 900-square foot store, designed by Venice architect Warren Wagner, is the
new home of the Big Blue Bus customer service team who will offer trip planning
advice, maps, schedules and a variety of tickets such as Day Passes, Little
Blue Cards, EZ Transit passes, Student Punch Cards and Metro EZ Passes.
“We are so pleased with how the transit store turned out, especially
with all the latest green technology that is built into it,” said Stephanie
Negriff, Big Blue Bus general manager.
“The downtown location just seemed natural and judging by the comments
we have already received, we think the store is going to be a big success,”
The transit store opened to the public a few weeks ago, but the City brought
out blue-frosted cupcakes and the Blue Notes music band on Wednesday for an
official grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
At its downtown Santa Monica location, the transit store is within two blocks
of almost every Big Blue Bus line and is open for extended service hours --
7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday.
Retail offerings include a custom-designed line of earth friendly merchandise
such as paper products made of California wildflower seeds, organic T-shirts,
transit-themed toys, beach towels and bags.
Jewelry items sold are handcrafted by Santa Monica artisans Susan Ryza and
Sharon Keasling, who used recycled materials such as glass and wood beads, semi-precious
stones, seashell and leather.
Tokens used in the jewelry are actual 1930s to 1950s bus tokens, found earlier
this year in a vault at the Big Blue Bus storage facility.
The tokens were crafted into jewelry sold at the transit store because Big
Blue Bus officials wanted the public to have the chance to wear a piece of Santa
“The transit store is using sustainable materials throughout the site,”
said mayor pro tempore Richard Bloom. “It is something the Council mandated
for the project and we are now doing this kind of work for all of our new projects.”
Leading by example, he told the crowd he took Big Blue Bus Line 8 to get to
“People are already using this access point by calling in and showing
up to find out how to use the Big Blue Bus,” Bloom said. “The transit
store is a great facility, something we are very proud of.”
In keeping with the green building theme, energy efficient and sustainable
elements used to construct the transit store include recycled rubber tire floors,
recycled paper and plastic counters, renewable formaldehyde-free strawboard
walls and cabinetry, windows and ceilings designed to bring in natural daylight
and solar panels to light up exterior signage.
“There are certain materials that I like to use in projects like photovoltaic
solar panels and strawboard,” Wagner said. “We also wanted to use
Eco-surface recycled tire flooring because it just seemed completely appropriate
for a transit store.”
Wagner said the most challenging aspect of the project was designing a multi-functional
facility with office space for seven employees, seating for the public and retail
space inside of a former hair salon.
“That is a lot of usage for a small space,” Wagner said, “but
when you are inside the store, it feels very airy and spacious, partly because
of the day-lighting strategy and also because of the high ceilings and light-colored
The Big Blue Bus practices sustainability in other ways as well, said Council
member Kevin McKeown, an avid bicycle rider who appreciates the bicycle racks
built into the front of every Big Blue Bus.
One travel secret he has maintained for several years is to take Big Blue Bus
Line 3 to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
“You don’t have to hassle with parking your car or traffic,”
McKeown said. “The Big Blue Bus is the answer for you not having to worry
about your car, which will be safe at home.
“It is simple, easy and on time. There is a place at the front of the
bus for your luggage. I have never missed a flight,” he said.
The entire Big Blue Bus fleet operates on biodiesel or other fuels such as
liquefied natural gas (LNG), Negriff said.
Research shows that operating one LNG-fueled bus is the equivalent of eliminating
smog caused by 25 to 30 cars.
If Americans used public transportation for at least 10 percent of their travel
needs, the need for imported oil would be reduced by 40 percent every year,
according to another cited statistic.
Council member Pam O’Connor said public transit systems are a major part
of the region’s sustainability efforts.
As chair of Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority
– which boasts 16 different municipal public transit systems -- O’Connor
recently established an ad hoc committee on sustainability.
“The Big Blue Bus is a key part of the network, especially the Line 3
and 7 buses that are regional connectors,” O’Connor said. “Line
3 runs all the way from UCLA to the Green Line Station and if it was no longer
operating, there would be a big hole in the county’s network.”
County officials are strengthening the public transit network with Phase 1
construction underway for the Expo Line, a light rail system between downtown
Los Angeles and Culver City.
Officials from Santa Monica and other Westside communities are currently gathering
public input on a Phase 2 proposal to bring the light rail line to downtown
“Working together and building a transit store to help people use and
access public transit is critical as is taking the Expo Line all the way to
Santa Monica,” O’Connor said.
“Santa Monica has been a leader is sustainability,” she said, “but
there is more we all need to do every day to achieve complete sustainability.”