Beginning this fall, Santa Monica College (SMC) students and employees with identification will be able to ride free on any Big Blue Bus anytime.

In a move designed to improve access to the college and to reduce traffic, noise and air pollution, the SMC Board of Trustees voted unanimously April 14th to approve the “Any Line, Any Time” program with Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus line. The program will go into effect in late August when the fall semester begins.

“This is an extraordinary commitment on the part of the Board of Trustees and the Associated Students to support my vision of creating a reliable way for students and employees to get to campus without having to pay the high price of gas, battle traffic and waste time looking for parking spaces,” said SMC president Dr. Chui L. Tsang. “Only a very few public colleges in California have attempted to provide no-charge transit passes.”

The action is a major expansion of SMC’s transportation initiative, launched in 2007 in partnership with the Big Blue Bus, when free access to three bus routes — two of them newly established — was first made available to SMC students and employees.

Those routes are the Line 6 to Mar Vista, the Crosstown Ride to midtown Santa Monica, and the Sunset Ride connecting SMC’s satellite campuses and new parking lot.

“We are incredibly impressed with the initiative of the SMC student body and administration towards advocating public transit use,” said Stephanie Negriff, Big Blue Bus director of Transit Services. “We are confident that this partnership will significantly reduce the number of cars on local streets.

“With the support of the college, we also hope to address regional traffic issues by introducing Rapid 7 service along the Pico Boulevard corridor to more efficiently transport SMC students and staff from campus to the Rimpau Transit Center in mid-city Los Angeles, and possibly all the way to the Metro Purple Line station at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue.”

The proposed new route, which is expected to be approved and launched by the beginning of the fall semester, would also be free for SMC students and employees.

The new program will require an SMC financial commitment of $1.2 million in 2008-09, of which approximately one-third will come from the SMC Associated Students, one-third from the SMC general fund, and the remainder from new revenues generated by increased parking and Associated Students fees.

Big Blue Bus officials have estimated that the new and expanded transit services implemented in 2007 have reduced vehicle trips to campus by 6,000 a day.

In an analysis done last fall, the Big Blue Bus found that new and expanded service on the Line 6, Crosstown Ride and Sunset Ride have collectively resulted in more than 2,300 boardings every weekday.

The Sunset Ride now ranks eighth among the 19 Big Blue Bus lines in terms of service productivity, and the Crosstown Ride has experienced a 133-percent increase in ridership from Fall 2006 to Fall 2007.

In addition, bus officials estimate that the new “Any Line, Any Time” program will result in more than 5,000 new boardings of SMC students and employees system-wide, over and above the current program.