Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus
Context for Year Founded
Governing or Corporate Structure
Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus is a line department of the City of Santa Monica.
Significant Historical Milestones
In the early 1900s, the Pacific Electric Railroad ran trolley lines between Downtown Los Angeles and neighboring cities. During a recession in 1914, a group of unemployed automobile owners began using their cars to compete with the railway in Santa Monica. These drivers charged riders five cents and were called "jitneys," a common name at the time for a nickel. In 1921, as the population of Santa Monica doubled, business boomed. The jitney drivers incorporated as Bay Cities Transit Company, and they were soon operating buses throughout the city. In 1928, the City of Santa Monica launched its own bus line and over 16,000 passengers rode the new buses the first week. They chose a blue color scheme for their buses and called their service Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines. The agency's name was officially changed to "Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus" in 1999, reinforcing its role as a cornerstone of the city's "Sustainable City Plan."
John F. "Jack" Hutchison – Director from 1967 to 1995. Member of the APTA Hall of Fame. Worked to create the State Transportation Development Act of 1971. Other notable leaders include John Catoe from 1995 to 2001 and Stephanie Negriff from 2001-2011.
BBB initiated early BRT service in LA County on Pico and Wilshire Rapid corridors. 100% natural gas fleet since 2013; since 2015 using only Clean Energy's "Redeem", renewable natural gas made from organic waste. First-last mile connectivity enhancements in Expo service integration plan adopted for implementation in early 2015.
Public Transit and Commuter Rail Agencies
Number of Employees
Number of Bus Routes Provided
Number of Rail Lines Served
Major Planned Investments
1. In April 2015, BBB received City Council approval for an 11% service increase in the upcoming 18 months to coincide with the opening of 7 new Metro Phase II Light Rail Stations in our service area. The plan features the following enhancements to BBB's service: • Six new routes designed to create new opportunities for Expo integrated ridership either through reformatting existing route segments, or travelling on completely new streets that show high probability of attracting strong ridership according to census data, key ridership locations, stakeholder feedback, and public feedback. • With our three rapid service corridors (on Pico, Lincoln, and Wilshire Boulevards) carrying an average of 55% of all daily riders, BBB will be increasing the frequency on rapid service and lowering the frequency on local service. • Other BBB routes will see changes to frequency, span, or route to provide better connectivity to Expo service, and four existing routes will be eliminated entirely. • New late night/weekend demand response service for last-mile needs outside of normal service hours or fixed routes. 2. To support the increased service BBB is adding new CNG-fueled motor coaches to our fleet including 30-, 40-, and 60-foot (articulated) buses strategically deployed where their configurations are most suitable for ridership and geography. 3. Where feasible, existing fleet along with all new buses has now been updated to include 3-position bike racks to further improve first-last mile connectivity to Expo Rail service. 4. Increasing and re-aligning service will include more than 200 new bus stops throughout our service area. 5. Technology enhancements being implemented to improve the customer experience include advanced fare collection technology (with TAP in use now for most fare products and other enhancements to follow), real-time schedule information powered by the NEXTBUS mobile application and GTFS open data for 3rd party developers, and implementation of Traffic Signal Priority on 4 corridors. 6. Staffing expansion to support Expo-integrated increased service, particularly additional motor coach operators but also other staff across BBB including operations, maintenance, customer service, and administrative.
Motor Coach Operator Rudy Ardon. With more than 18 years of service at Big Blue Bus, Mr. Rudy Ardon was honored in 2014 by the Santa Monica Rotary Club at their annual public service recognition luncheon for his outstanding commitment to service excellence. Mr. Ardon and his colleagues personify our commitment to service and safety as documented by frequent customer compliments about our operators.
Transit Mall in City of Santa Monica.
The Evolution of Blue. In April 2015, after two years of examining alternatives, BBB received Santa Monica City Council approval for an 11% service increase in the upcoming 18 months to coincide with the opening of 7 new Metro Phase II Light Rail Stations in our service area. Service extending to downtown Santa Monica is expected to begin in early 2016. The first phase of BBB service enhancements designed to integrate with light rail ultimately including adjustments to all 20 of BBB's routes is underway now.
Articulated Bus on Rapid 7 Line - Pico Boulevard Corridor. Nationally recognized for its long-standing commitment to a cleaner environment, the entire fleet operates on alternative fuels, including liquefied and compressed natural gas (LNG/CNG), which helps to cut emissions by more than 80 percent.
BBB Maintenance Garage. Our maintenance facility uses green technologies and systems to create a healthy work environment for our employees and the Earth. They include construction of the building with solar panels, a reflective 'cool roof'on the building, and using recycled building materials to reduce waste sent to landfills. Oil is cleaned and refined for reuse, saving over 19,000 barrels of crude oil from having to be pumped. Used tires are recycled by grinding them up for street repavment. We recycle 85% of the water used in our bus wash facility. To do our part to further reduce water usage in the current drought situation we taken the Dirty Car Pledge in 2014, cutting our exterior washing schedule in half, which saves 30,000 gallons of water in 60 days, and reduces a significant amount of energy use.
College Students Boarding. Technology enhancements being implemented to improve the customer experience include advanced fare collection technology (with TAP in use now for most fare products and other enhancements to follow). Real-time schedule information is already available at high-volume bus stops and very soon, via mobile apps.