The Santa Monica municipal bus company — the Big Blue Bus — and Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design will showcase visions of the “next generation” of transit at a special event scheduled from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, September 26th, at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St.

The event is free and open to the public, and is being held in connection with the AltCar Expo.

The futuristic transit project is the culmination of a four-month partnership involving transportation officials from the Big Blue Bus and a team of senior-level design students from Art Center College of Design, and it also included input from the public.

The origin for the project came out of the transit agency’s celebration and reflection on what the Big Blue Bus has accomplished over the last 80 years, and where public transit needs to go in the future to inspire people to become regular transit riders instead of drivers, Big Blue Bus officials said.

“People are more interested in public transportation now than they have been in the past 50 years for a variety of reasons, including high fuel costs and the environmental concerns that are a direct result of so many cars on the road,” said Stephanie Negriff, director of transit services for the Big Blue Bus. “This project was launched to give people an innovative vision of what public transit might be like in the future, and to show how it can solve some of the real problems we’re facing today.

“We also wanted to give the public an opportunity to share their own ideas about what they want transit to become.”

Negriff said a key component of the project’s success is the feedback the agency is receiving from the bus manufacturing industry itself. Several bus manufacturers are participating as judges on the project.

“We’re thrilled to be receiving such valuable input from our transit partners,” said Negriff, “and we hope this is just the beginning of an important and ongoing discussion.”

The final Bus of the Future designs all utilize environmentally conscious materials and alternative fuel sources, and include such advanced design features as:

— exterior “gills” that clean the surrounding air by breaking down ozone into oxygen;

— roof-mounted solar cells that provide energy for interior lighting and climate control;

— chameleon panels that change color from white to black depending on energy needs;

— self-cleaning paint that saves water and other resources by eliminating daily washings;

— front vertical seating for the convenience of short-term riders;

— floating digital panels along the front and rear windows for displaying images; and

— large unobstructed translucent panels that create an outdoor-like riding experience.

“We’ve all been inspired by the many creative solutions the Art Center students have come up with,” said Negriff, “and we hope they will enthuse and motivate others to consider a wide range of new and exciting possibilities.”

Scoring the designs is a group of internationally recognized experts in the fields of design and transit, and also leading environmentalists, futurists, bus manufacturers and authors, Negriff said. The final scoring results will be revealed at the event.

The Bus of the Future event will also feature a symposium called “Transforming Transit” and will include experts who will discuss various aspects of the future of transit, including how best to integrate public transportation into society so that it becomes an integral and natural part of travel. Negriff will serve as moderator.

During the event, the public will also be able to meet the project team, view large-scale representations of the futuristic designs, view a motion graphic presentation, vote for their favorite vehicles and see a special video chronicling the life of the project.

Information, www.bigbluebus .com/ or (310) 451-5444.

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