Big Blue Bus

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For other bus operators known as Blue Bus, see Blue Bus (disambiguation).
Big Blue Bus
SMBBB Logo.svg
Big Blue Bus at UCLA Hilgard Terminal
Slogan Ride Blue. Go Green
Founded 1928
Headquarters Santa Monica, California
Locale Santa Monica, Westwood, and Venice, California
Service area United States
Service type Transit Bus
Routes 18[1]
Fleet 196
Daily ridership 71,133 (Weekday, 2012; 34,433 (Saturday, 2012); 23,726 (Sunday, 2012)[2]
Fuel type LNG, CNG
Operator City of Santa Monica, California
Chief executive Edward F. King

The Santa Monica Big Blue Bus is a municipal bus operator in the Westside region of Los Angeles, that provides local and bus rapid transit service in Santa Monica and adjacent neighborhoods of Los Angeles (including LAX). Express service is also provided to Downtown Los Angeles and Union Station.


In 1928, the City of Santa Monica launched its first route. Choosing a blue livery, it was called Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines. It kept its base fare at 10 cents for a long time.Template:Howlong The impetus for the creation was a fare increase on the Pacific Electric interurban trains between Santa Monica and Los Angeles. The Santa Monica bus connects with the Los Angeles Railway streetcars at Pico and Rimpau Boulevards in the Mid-City section of Los Angeles. That historic terminus point has become an important transit center in Los Angeles simply because it is the point where thousands of bus riders along Pico Boulevard must transfer to continue their trips eastward to Downtown Los Angeles or westward to the Westside.

The Big Blue Bus is considered one of the best bus services in the Los Angeles area. The system won the American Public Transportation Association’s Outstanding Transportation System award in 1987, 1992, 1997, 2000 and 2011. The Big Blue Bus did not raise its regular fare above 50 cents until 2002, when it became 75 cents. In contrast, most public bus lines in California were charging fares of a dollar or more well before 2000. There was no monthly pass until August 2010[3] except for the EZ Pass, and unlike other EZ Pass agencies, Metrolink fare media are not accepted. However, allowing for the inevitability of traffic delays on weekday afternoons, the Big Blue Bus system provides frequent and convenient service to most neighborhoods in its service area. Many routes serve UCLA.

The Big Blue Bus was one of the last transit agencies using the GMC New Look buses; they were retired in 2005. Big Blue Bus received the last New Looks ever built. The last one built, #5180, was driven off the property in May 2013 after being donated to the Museum of Bus Transportation in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which preserves the bus.

For 20 years until December 1999 Santa Monica Bank ran a series of humorous ads on the back of the buses. Examples include "Old and wrinkled is beautiful. Especially in large denominations", "Go invest, young man", "Was it his eyes? His lips? His jumbo CD?" and (the final one) "After 20 years on the bus, we've reached our stop". The campaign ended as the bank was absorbed by U.S. Bank.[4]

The system was started by former Brentwood resident Ruldolph F. Brunner, who later sold the system thinking it wouldn't amount to any more than a few dollars a week.


On November 20, 2012, a Big Blue Bus turned left in front of an oncoming motorcyclist, which resulted in the 25-year-old man's death. The accident occurred at approximately 10:33 a.m. at the triangular intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Marquez in the Pacific Palisades. Only buses are allowed to make the left turn, a maneuver that has been determined to be too dangerous for other vehicles.

On June 7, 2013, Bus 4057 of Big Blue Bus was among several vehicles fired at during a thirteen-minute killing spree that left six people dead, including the gunman, and four others wounded. Three women suffered minor injuries aboard the bus, one from shrapnel-type injuries and the other two from injuries unrelated to the gunfire.[5] Approximately two dozen people were inside the bus at the time of the shooting. The attack on Bus 4057 marked the first time a Big Blue Bus came under attack by a gunman in its 85-year service.[6]

Some popular destinations[edit]

A Big Blue Bus in Westwood.

Big Blue Bus provides service to the following popular destinations:


Big Blue Bus operates 15 local routes and 5 Rapid routes, in Los Angeles County.[7]

Route Terminals Via Days of Operation# Notes
UCLA Venice
Venice Boulevard and Walgrove Avenue (weekdays)
Santa Monica Boulevard Daily service
California Avenue and Frederick Street (weekends)
UCLA Santa Monica
Civic Center
Wilshire Boulevard Daily service
(Weekdays and Saturdays)
Santa Monica
Civic Center
Montana Avenue Daily service
San Vicente and Gorham (Sundays and Holidays)
Santa Monica
Arizona Avenue and 5th Street
Aviation Station Lincoln Boulevard Daily service
  • Operates alongside the Rapid 3
  • Also serves LAX
Rapid 3
Santa Monica
Arizona Avenue and 5th Street
Aviation Station Lincoln Boulevard Daily service
(5:30a-10p weekdays, 8a-10p Saturdays, 9a-8p Sundays)
Santa Monica
Civic Center
West LA
Westside Pavilion
San Vicente Boulevard, Carlye Avenue, Sawtelle Blvd, and 4th Street Weekday only service
Santa Monica
4th Street and Arizona Avenue
Expo Culver City Station Broadway, Olympic Boulevard, Robertson Boulevard Daily service
Santa Monica
7th Street and Olympic Boulevard
Pico Boulevard and Rimpau Boulevard
Pico Boulevard Daily service
  • Operates alongside the Rapid 7
Rapid 7
Santa Monica
7th Street and Olympic Boulevard
Wilshire/Western Station Pico Boulevard Daily
Santa Monica
7th Street and Olympic Boulevard
UCLA Ocean Park Boulevard, National Boulevard, Westwood Boulevard Daily service
Pacific Palisades
Sunset Boulevard and Marquez Avenue
Santa Monica
Civic Center
Sunset Boulevard, Chatauqua Boulevard, 4th Street Daily service
Rapid 10
Freeway Express
Santa Monica
2nd Street and Colorado Avenue
Downtown LA
Cesar E. Chavez Avenue and Vignes Street
In Santa Monica: Santa Monica Boulevard
Express Portion: Santa Monica Freeway
In Downtown LA: Grand & Olive Streets
Daily service
  • Charges an express upgrade upon boarding.
UCLA Expo Culver City Station Westwood Boulevard, Palms Boulevard Daily service
  • Operates alongside the Rapid 12
Rapid 12
UCLA Commuter
Expo Culver City Station Westwood Boulevard, Palms Boulevard Weekdays peak periods only
(6a-10a to UCLA; 2p-6p from UCLA)
  • Operates alongside Line 12
San Vicente Boulevard and Gorham Avenue
Playa Vista
Artisans Way and Centinela Avenue
Bundy Drive, Centinela Avenue Daily service
Barrington Pl and Chayote
Exposition Line Bundy Station
Barrington Ave, Bundy Dr, Sunset Blvd, and Exposition Blvd Daily service
  • Runs every 30 min on Weekdays and every hour on weekends.
Crosstown Ride 41
Santa Monica
20th Street and Montana Avenue
Ocean Park
14th Street and Pearl Street
14th & 20th Streets Weekdays only (6:59-10:10p)
  • Service operates in a clockwise loops terminate on 17th Street and Pearl Street
  • Former MiniBlue route
Sunset Ride 44
Santa Monica College main campus
Pico Boulevard and 20th Street
Santa Monica College Bundy campus/Santa Monica Airport
Bundy Drive and Airport Avenue
Ocean Park Boulevard Weekdays only (7a-6p)
  • Service connects the Santa Monica College main campus and Bundy campus, making a loop around each.
  • Former MiniBlue route


Fare Type Adult Student‡S Senior(62+)/Disabled/Medicare
Local & Mini Blue $1.00 $0.50
Express Upgrade $1.00 $0.50
Interagency Transfer $0.50 $0.25
Day Pass $4.00 $1.50
13 Ride Pass $12.00 $6.00
Local 30 Day Pass $60.00 $40.00 $24.00
Express 30 Day Pass $80.00 $40.00
  • † Children five years of age and under may ride free (maximum 2 children with accompanying adult).
  • ‡ Proper identification must be presented to obtain the reduced Student and Senior/Disabled/Medicare fare.
  • S Santa Monica College students and staff may ride free with college I.D. and valid semester sticker.[9]
  • The BBB ended intra-agency transfers on January 1, 2014.

UCLA students and staff[edit]

Santa Monica Big Blue Bus and Culver CityBus participate in BruinGo program, in which UCLA students and staff can swipe their BruinCard (university I.D.) on the farebox, so that the university pays a part of the fare.[8]

Type Fare
One-way (not available during summer quarter) US$0.50
BruinGo! Flash Pass US$33.00 per quarter



Order Year Manufacturer Model Length
Fleet Series
Fuel Propulsion Notes
2002 NABI 40-LFW 40 4001-4037
  • Detroit Diesel Series 50G
    • Allison WB-400R
  • Santa Monica's very first buses to run on Natural Gas.[10]
  • Soon to be retired
  • 4001,4008,4013,4015,4017,4021,4022,4024,4028,4029,4031,4033,4036 (still remain in weekday service)~4006,4007,4010,4011,4014,4020,4030,4032, and 4034 are on site at the Big Blue Bus but are not used in active service anymore as of Oct 31, 2015.
  • Some are used during mid day, but most are used during peak hours
  • Used on lines 1,2,3,R3,3M,4,5,7,8,9,12,14
  • Some are retired; only 24 buses remain active as of September 2014.[11]
  • 13 Remain in service as of OCT 31 2015
MCI D4500 45 5501-5504
  • Used exclusively for Charter service. Sold off in 2012 when the city terminated the charter program on July 1 of that year.
2004-05 NFI L40LF 40 4038-4089
  • 4070-4072, 4078, and 4080-4089 are in big blue bus livery but retain the rapid blue paint.
  • Soon to be retired
2006 L40LF 40 4090-4099
  • 4091-4099 are in big blue bus livery but retain the rapid blue paint
  • Last New Flyer L40LF buses ever built
  • Soon to be retired
2010/2012 ElDorado National E-Z Rider II BRT 32 2900–2915
  • All buses have big blue bus livery except 2900-2904 which remains with mini blue livery
  • 2900-2904 are 2010 models & have been converted to CNG
  • 2905-2915 are 2012 models powered by CNG
  • Generally used on lines 3M, 4, 5, 9, 15, 41, and 44, and occasionally on lines 2 and 8, however they have also been spotted on lines R3, 7, and 14 likely as spares.
2010/2012 NABI 60-BRT 60 5300-5320(21)
  • Cummins Westport ISL-G
    • Allison WB-500R
  • Used exclusively on Rapid 3, Local 3, Rapid 7, and Rapid 10 service.
  • 5300-5315 are 2010 series & 5316-5320 are 2012 series models
2011 NABI 40-LFW 40 3868-3876
  • Cummins Westport ISL-G engine
    • Allison WB-400R Generation IV
  • Replaced 1997-98 New Flyer D40LF's and some 1995 Novabus Classic's
  • these were an option of 58 units but was canceled after 9 units were delivered
2012 Gillig BRT 40 1300(1)
  • Cummins Westport ISL-G
    • Voith D864.5
  • Delivered
  • Replaced 1997-98 New Flyer D40LFs
2013 Gillig BRT 40 1301-1344(44)
  • Cummins Westport ISL-G
    • Voith D864.5
  • Delivered
  • Replaced 1997-98 New Flyer D40LFs
2014 Gillig BRT 40 1345-1357(13)
  • Cummins Westport ISL-G
    • Voith D864.5
  • Delivered
  • Replaced some 2002 NABI-40 LNG LFWs
2015 NFI XN60 60 1560-1566(7)[12][13]
  • Replaced some 2002 NABI-40 LNG LFWs
  • Used exclusively on Rapid 3, Local 3, Rapid 7, and Rapid 10 service.
2015 Gillig BRT 40 1500-1511


  • Delivered
  • Replaced some 2002 NABI-40 LNG LFWs


Thumbnail Year Numbers
(Quantity Ordered)
Fuel Propulsion Retired Notes
General Motors Diesel Division T8H-5307A 1982 5101-5122 Diesel 1997 Some sold to Brampton Transit Barrie Transit and STCUQ and refurbishing Companies.
General Motors Diesel Division T8H-5307A 1985-1986 5123-5180 Diesel 2002 2005 some sold to Brampton Transit STCUQ and Private owners and more. 5180 remained on BBB property as a historical bus until 2013. Last order of GM New looks.
  • 5162 is now owned by a private party. (BBB 5162 Website)
  • 5180 Sold to the Museum of Bus Transportation in Hershey, PA (July 2013).
TC40-102A Classic
1988-1991 5181-5210, 4951-4960
(40 buses)
Diesel 2005/2006 Many are still used in secondhand service by Canadian bus operators.
Nova Bus
TC40-102A Classic
1995 4801-4821
(21 buses)
Diesel September 2011 Last high floor buses to be Retired.
Thomas Built Buses SLF 230 2000 2606-2615
(10 buses)
  • Cummins B5.9
  • Allison AT-545
Diesel July 2010 Formerly used for Mini Blue service.
New Flyer D40LF 1997-1998 3801-3867
(67 buses)
Diesel 2014
  • The first low floor buses purchased
  • Replaced 1982 GM T8H-5307A 5101-5122 buses.
  • 3804 & 3855 remain in yard

In popular culture[edit]


Main article: Speed (1994 film)

The most famous Big Blue Bus is probably the one rigged with a bomb in 1994's hit movie Speed. Driving through Los Angeles at rush hour, the driver cannot slow down below 50 mph (80 km/h) or the bomb on the bus will detonate.

The bus operator in the movie is called the Santa Monica Intercity Bus Lines, a barely fictionalized version of the Big Blue Bus's official name, the Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines. Even more tellingly, the bus in the film is a General Motors "New Look" bus, introduced in 1959 but kept in prominent and active service by Santa Monica until early 2005, long after most other American cities had retired the retro-looking bus.

In another effort to differentiate the movie's bus from any real-world bus, the headsigns on the Speed bus display:


However, number 33 buses are operated by Metro, not Big Blue, and run on Venice Boulevard, not the Santa Monica Freeway. The closest thing to the movie bus's routing is Santa Monica's number 10 express route.

The bus number was 2525, not within any equipment number range operated by the real company at that time.

It should also be noted that at the time the movie was released, Santa Monica's GM New Look fleet were the Canadian-built versions with wheelchair lifts; the US-built version were retired in 1990 to make room for the Classics.

Jimmy Kimmel Live![edit]

In an episode that originally aired on May 15, 2007, the ABC late-night show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, was filmed on a New Flyer L40LF model LNG bus. In this episode, titled Jimmy Kimmel Live on a Bus, Kimmel sat behind the desk, which was rigged to fit in a bus. This particular Santa Monica Big Blue Bus that was used in the episode was driven by veteran bus driver Erskins Robinson, who picked up unsuspecting passengers along his route. The celebrity guests who appeared in the Jimmy Kimmel Live on a Bus episode were Paula Abdul, Flavor Flav, and musical guest Feist.

The Doors[edit]

A Blue Bus is referred to twice in The Doors's classic 1967 song "The End", when singer Jim Morrison says "The blue bus is calling us", and "Meet me at the back of the blue bus".

Raymond Chandler[edit]

In Raymond Chandler's novel Farewell, My Lovely, first published in 1940, he writes as protagonist Philip Marlowe, describing a scene in Bay City (Chandler's version of the City of Santa Monica):

"Outside the narrow street fumed, the sidewalks swarmed with fat stomachs. Across the street a bingo parlor was going full blast and beside it a couple of sailors with girls were coming out of a photographer’s shop where they had probably been having their photos taken riding on camels. The voice of the hot dog merchant split the dusk like an axe. A big blue bus blared down the street to the little circle where the street car used to turn on a turntable. I walked that way."


Further reading[edit]

Ayer, Bob. History of Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus. Santa Monica, CA: City of Santa Monica, 1992.

External links[edit]