By Naomi Nightingale
Note: Ms Nightingale was asked to write an article about the Big Blue Bus Wednesday night meeting because of her extensive experience with transit agencies. She has 25 years with three transit agencies. She was the Deputy Executive Officer of Human Resources for Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where she worked for 18 years.
At a community meeting on Wednesday, March 9, Councilman Mike Bonin and administrators for the Big Blue Bus (BBB) heard loud and clear from Venice residents opposing Big Blue Bus routes 18 and 1 now running on 4th to 7th Avenues and Ocean Avenue.
The Westminster School auditorium was packed with over 100 concerned residents the majority of whom were there to site the inconveniences of the change to the public, traffic congestion and safety hazards caused by the 40-foot long buses, ordinance violations of the large buses exceeding the 2000 ton limit of the streets, noise pollution, the interruption of lifestyles and the imposition of new traffic patterns in the residential core of the Venice communities, and more.
Given the barrage of objections based on the listed complaints the most egregious violation by the apparent collaboration of Santa Monica Big Blue Bus and Councilman Mike Bonin was the failure to conduct a public hearing regarding the changes of bus routes and the proposed introduction of these two new routes into the Venice community. When pressed for an answer to the question of how residents were notified in their outreach effort, Timothy McCormick, spokesperson for BBB said an on-line survey was sent to residents in some areas of Venice. The crowd quickly and loudly expressed their offense to the response: How would anyone know to go to a website to respond to a survey? Why were only certain households targeted for the on-line survey? McCormick did not explain why no other outreach methods were utilized to inform the community of the changes.
Councilman Bonin admitted that the outreach was not extensive enough but stated that the City had little influence on the bus routes. This is hardly believable since public transit is funded by a variety of public funds including the Proposition A half-cent sales tax approved in 1980 of which cities including Santa Monica receive a return of 25% of the sales tax and for Proposition C half-cent sales tax approved in 1990, cities receive 20% returned for transportation purposes. Measure R was approved in 2008 and authorized an additional one-half of 1% sales tax to fund traffic relief and rail expansion.
It’s true that much of the planning for the Expo line was done in years before Bonin became Councilman but he served as the Chief of Staff to former City Councilman Bill Rosendahl from 2005 to 2013 so it is not plausible to even think that he knew nothing of these changes. For certain it doesn’t appear that he was proactive in representing the views and concerns of the Venice community and an obvious failure to properly represent his constituency so that Venetians could have a say in the way public transit serves their community – at the very least public policy calls for a public hearing for taxpayers and community residents to express their support or lack of the same.
Ocean Avenue residents have formed a protest group to challenge Route 1 on Ocean Avenue and residents opposing Line 18 will meet next week to plan their continuing opposition and to determine what other options may be available.