“Rapid Blue” limited-stop service is scheduled to begin Monday, June 27th, taking passengers from downtown Santa Monica and three other Santa Monica stops, along Lincoln Boulevard through Venice, Marina del Rey, Playa Vista, Playa del Rey and Westchester to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and the Metro Green Line light rail station.

The service will be operated by the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, the city bus company.

Stephanie Negriff, director of Santa Monica transit services, said Rapid Blue buses feature state-of-the-art elements such as:

n lower floors allowing passengers to load and unload luggage quickly;

n reachable luggage racks and reading lights;

n traffic signal technology that keeps lights green as buses approach the intersection;

n future bus-only lanes to expedite travel time;

n limited number of stops to reduce commuting time;

n new bus logos and branding so passengers could easily recognize the Rapid Blue line; and

n the use of natural gas and an environmentally safe fuel burning system.

“Riding the new bus will be an easy on-and-off experience and it costs a fraction of what people now pay to drive their own cars,” Negriff said.

The Santa Monica City Council approved designs for and the placement of 28 Big Blue Bus shelters for the new Rapid Blue bus service Tuesday, May 10th.

“We are finding that the public is becoming open to new commuting alternatives now that gas prices are higher and owning a vehicle is so expensive,” Negriff said.

“Imagine getting to the airport from downtown Santa Monica in about half an hour for only 75 cents,” Negriff said.

The new Rapid Blue line parallels Big Blue Bus Line 3, but will make only 13 stops along its eight-mile route between the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and the Green Line station south of LAX.

Rapid Blue makes three other stops in Santa Monica before continuing on to Venice, Marina del Rey and Playa Vista.

Santa Monica city officials said Rapid Blue is the first municipal-owned rapid transit line in Los Angeles County.

A rapid transit line between Santa Monica and LAX is also “desperately needed” because Lincoln Boulevard is the “principal roadway connecting Santa Monica to points south,” city officals said.

According to traffic studies, travel demand along Lincoln Boulevard continues to increase, while major intersections along the corridor remain at a service level grade “F.”

During the evening rush hour, average driving speed between Washington Boulevard in Venice and Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica is six miles per hour.

“Lincoln Boulevard cannot carry any more vehicles and the only way to move people through there faster is this bus service,” said Paul Casey, city transit programs analyst.

“People will shift to bus transit if bus service is reliable and the journey is just as fast as by car,” Casey said.

Rapid Blue will start service before major projects that are expected to create an increased demand for usage of Lincoln Boulevard are completed.

Projects that would significantly add more traffic on Lincoln Boulevard are the LAX Master Plan Alternative D expansion proposal and the already approved Playa Vista Phase II.

“We have recognized them as factors that will definitely add to the demand of using Lincoln,” Casey said.

Councilmembers said “distinguished bus shelters are the single most important customer interface” and the shelter designs enhance the Lincoln Boulevard streetscape.