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Our History

There's a lot to know about the Big Blue Bus! From our humble beginnings back at the turn of the century to the ultra-modern, environmentally friendly transit agency we’ve become today, our goal has always been to provide outstanding service and value to our customers and community.

Here’s a look at how we’ve evolved

Timeline Image 1950

Timeline Datemarker 1900-1930s 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 and 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.

Timeline Image 1940-1950s

Timeline Datemarker 1950By 1947, the regular bus rate was 10 cents, but costs kept rising and both the City of Santa Monica and the Bay Cities Transit lines were losing money. In 1950, Bay Cities Transit sold to Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines, now commonly known as the Big Blue Bus.

Timeline Image 1990-2000s

Timeline Datemarker 1990-2000s

During these decades, the Big Blue Bus fleet was upgraded to be one of the most environmentally-friendly in the nation, powered by compressed gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and electric/gas hybrid engines. To lay the groundwork for future service, BBB rebuilt its maintenance facility with an recycled-water bus wash and energy-efficient features including 600 80-kilowatt photovoltaic panels on the roof to help reduce energy costs by up to 15% annually, highly reflective concrete paving in the bus yard to keep the facility’s microclimate cooler and workspaces designed to utilize natural ventilation so less air conditioning is required.

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".

BBB celebrated 80 years of service in 2008.