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Bus Route Plan Irks Residents

By Anita Varghese
Staff Writer

January 4 -- Big Blue Bus officials received an earful Thursday night from Sunset Park residents unhappy with a proposal to split the Sunset Ride route in half and possibly turn it into two new routes starting in June.

To help reduce vehicle trips from students attending Santa Monica College and its Academy of Entertainment and Technology, one route would circle around Stewart Street, Pico Boulevard, 17th Street and Colorado Avenue.

In another effort to help reduce vehicle trips from students attending the college and its Bundy Campus, a separate second route would circle around 20th Street, Pearl Street, 17th Street, Ocean Park Boulevard, Bundy Drive and Airport Avenue.

“We are trying to accommodate the needs of everyone,” said Big Blue Bus executive director Stephanie Negriff. “The idea of providing transit so that students won’t drive into the surrounding communities is better for everyone.”

Some residents said the buses are not a community service if the routes add noise pollution along residential streets and crowds of students gather at neighborhood bus stops.

Twentieth Street residents were vehemently opposed to the loop around the main campus.

They complained that buses would be making unnecessary turns on 20th and 17th streets.

The buses could easily stop on Ocean Park Boulevard and students could walk the one block to campus, 20th Street residents argued.

“Buses always have to turn around some place,” Negriff said. “This is an idea we are developing and gathering research and public input on it.”

Negriff said that if Big Blue Bus routes to Santa Monica College did not exist, Sunset Park residents would have to contend with hundreds of students driving in circles on neighborhood streets looking for an elusive parking space on or off campus.

Santa Monica College students ride the bus for free with the college reimbursing the Big Blue Bus for routes to and from the college.

In December, the Big Blue Bus discontinued the 20th and Pearl Street bus stop, a service that had been offered on Sunset Ride and SMC Commuter Line 6 routes.

On the Sunset Ride route, the new stop is at 20th Street and Pico Boulevard.

On the SMC Commuter Line 6 route, the new stop is at Pearl and 17th Street.

The 20th and Pearl Street bus stop was discontinued after neighbors expressed concerns about foot traffic, trash, blocked cars and bus speeds.

Big Blue Bus officials are also proposing to discontinue routes that serve the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and the Pico Farmer’s Market.

The farmers market routes were a half-day, once a week service with the Downtown Market Ride averaging 25 boardings and the Pico Market Ride averaging eight boardings.

“If we discontinue this service, a good percentage of those people who are riding public transit could still get to the markets,” said Big Blue Bus customer service manager Dan Dawson.

He said 70 percent of bus riders could reach the farmers markets by taking Lines 4 or 9 and public transit resources could be redirected to provide other services.

“We will simply move buses and bus drivers to more used areas such as the new Annenberg center on the Pacific Coast Highway coming in 2009,” Dawson said.

“We could create a new line to serve that location, offer more evening service or extended service on existing routes,” he said.

The Santa Monica City Council will consider the proposal for discontinuing the farmer’s market routes at its meeting Tuesday, January 8.

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“We are trying to accommodate the needs of everyone.” Stephanie Negriff.




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