SANTA MONICA, Calif. - The California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) announced that Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus (BBB) will receive a $22.9 million grant to purchase 5 battery electric buses (BEBs) and develop infrastructure to support on-site charging for more than 100 buses. BBB is one of 28 transit agencies in California to be awarded grant funding through CalSTA's Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), as part of a multiyear investment to upgrade the state's transit system to support transportation equity, improve service and mobility options, and reduce overdependence on driving.
Specifically, the funding will help BBB complete Phases 2 through 4 of its Fleet Electrification Master Plan, which outlines the agency's fleet transition from renewable natural gas to zero-emission by 2030. The award will support electric utility and charging equipment upgrades at BBB's depot, including construction of a large canopy with overhead reel charging dispensers. The grant will also allow BBB to create green jobs, provide over 1,100 hours of advanced, high-voltage safety training for its staff in partnership with the California Transit Training Consortium, and improve transportation outcomes for marginalized communities disproportionately burdened by climate change.
Further, BBB will use TIRCP funds to enhance the customer experience, by purchasing and deploying 5 BEBs on Route 3 and Rapid 3, as part of a comprehensive plan to reimagine service along the Lincoln Boulevard corridor, between Downtown Santa Monica and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Route 3 and Rapid 3 will be rerouted to connect to both the Metro Rail K Line and the LAX People Mover, when the new LAX/Metro Transit Center is completed in 2024. Moreover, one additional mile of bus lanes will be implemented on Lincoln Boulevard in Venice during peak hours, and BBB will add 11,500 service hours annually on Route 3 and Rapid 3, to increase frequency to every 10 minutes most of the day.
"This is a landmark moment for Big Blue Bus and the City of Santa Monica in our collective efforts to realize carbon emission reduction goals; provide frequent, sustainable, and equitable transit service to low-income and disadvantaged communities; and strengthen the region's transportation network," said Ed King, Director of Santa Monica's Department of Transportation. "The funds will be used to make substantial investments in climate and workforce resilience, as well as capital improvement projects that increase ridership and improve the customer experience on our system."
During Phase 1 of its Fleet Electrification Master Plan, BBB installed 20 standalone chargers at its depot and purchased 19 BEBs. In February 2023, the Santa Monica City Council approved BBB's request to purchase 15 additional BEBs. The funds received from CalSTA's TIRCP will elevate the agency's number of zero-emission buses to 39, and support the construction of infrastructure capable of charging up to 104 buses at its depot.
TIRCP provides grants from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, to fund transformative capital improvements that modernize California's transportation systems and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, vehicle miles traveled, and congestion.
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About Big Blue Bus
Big Blue Bus operates a fleet of 195 vehicles transporting passengers daily across a 58-square mile service area. Nationally recognized for its long-standing commitment to a cleaner environment, the agency plans to convert its entire fleet from natural gas to zero emissions by 2030. Currently, 10-percent of the fleet is battery electric. The rest of the fleet operates on other alternative fuels, including renewable natural gas (RNG), a form of liquefied and compressed natural gas (LNG/CNG), which helps cut emissions by up to 90-percent. Serving Santa Monica and the Los Angeles area since 1928, Big Blue Bus has won numerous awards for its marketing, customer service, safety, and efficiency.