Big Blue Bus

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Big Blue Bus
SMBBB Logo.svg
Big Blue Bus at UCLA Hilgard Terminal
Slogan Ride Blue. Go Green.
Parent City of Santa Monica
Founded 1928
Headquarters Santa Monica, California
Locale Santa Monica, Westwood, and Venice, California
Service area United States
Service type Transit Bus
Routes 20[1]
Fleet 201
Daily ridership 65,600 (weekdays, Q1 2016)[2]
Fuel type CNG, LNG
Operator City of Santa Monica
Chief executive Edward F. King

The Santa Monica Big Blue Bus is a municipal bus operator in the Westside region of Los Angeles County, 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.

Rapid 7 on layover (bus 4022 retired).


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. 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 connected 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. It was also the first transit agency in the State of California to use the Grumman-Flxible Model 870 advanced design transit buses equipped with Lift-U wheelchair lifts beginning in 1978, and the third customer after Atlanta's MARTA, and the Connecticut's Department of Transportation's CT Transit's order of these buses. These buses never experienced the same chronic structural problems that plagued these early vehicles that were also sold to other transit agencies. These were also the very first production buses built with wheelchair lifts before ADA effectively became law of the land in 1990.

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 Rudolph 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]

A Big Blue Bus in Westwood.


Big Blue Bus operates 14 local routes, 3 Rapid routes, and 1 express route in Los Angeles County.[7]

Route Terminals Via Days of Operation# Notes
UCLA Venice
Windward Circle
Santa Monica Boulevard, Main Street Daily service
UCLA Santa Monica
Civic Center
Wilshire Boulevard Daily service
Santa Monica
Arizona Avenue and 5th Street
Westchester, Los Angeles

Aviation/LAX station

Lincoln Boulevard Daily service
  • Operates alongside the Rapid 3
  • Serves LAX City Bus Center
Rapid 3
Santa Monica
Arizona Avenue and 5th Street
Westchester, Los Angeles

Aviation/LAX station

Lincoln Boulevard Daily service
  • Operates alongside Line 3
  • Serves LAX City Bus Center
  • See also: Metro Rapid
Santa Monica
Civic Center
Century City
Westfield Century City
Colorado Ave, Olympic Blvd (daily)
Motor Ave, Manning Ave (weekdays)
Daily service
Palms station (weekdays)
Santa Monica
7th Street and Olympic Boulevard
Rimpau Transit Center (Pico Boulevard and Rimpau Boulevard)
Pico Boulevard Daily service
  • Operates alongside the Rapid 7
  • Three trips westbound in the morning and three trips eastbound in the afternoon deviate from Pico Blvd. to serve Beverlywood.
Rapid 7
Santa Monica
7th Street and Olympic Boulevard
Wilshire/Western station
Pico Boulevard Daily service
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
Santa Monica
2nd Street and Colorado Avenue
Downtown Los Angeles
Main and Alameda Streets
In Santa Monica: Santa Monica Boulevard
Express Portion: Santa Monica Freeway
In Downtown LA: Grand & Olive Streets
Weekdays only
  • Charges an express upgrade upon boarding.
  • See also: Metro Rapid
Rapid 12

Charles E Young/P2 Hub

Culver City

Overland Avenue and Venice Boulevard

Westwood Boulevard, Overland Avenue Daily service
San Vicente Boulevard and Gorham Avenue
Playa Vista
Artisans Way and Centinela Avenue
Bundy Drive, Centinela Avenue Daily service
  • Select trips continue to Paul Revere Middle School after reaching Brentwood.
Barrington Place and Chayote Street
West Los Angeles
Expo/Bundy station
Barrington Avenue Daily service
  • Service runs every 30 min on Weekdays and Saturday and hourly on Sunday.
Marina del Rey
Lincoln Boulevard and Mindanao Way
West Los Angeles

Saltair Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard

Walgrove Avenue/23rd Street, 20th Street Weekdays only
UCLA (weekdays) Culver City

Culver City Expo Line Station

Sawtelle Boulevard, Palms Boulevard Daily service
West Los Angeles (weekends)

VA West Los Angeles Medical Center

UCLA (weekdays/Saturday) Marina Del Rey
Admiralty Way and Via Marina
Montana Avenue, 4th Street/Avenue Daily service
Brentwood (Sunday)San Vicente Boulevard & Bringham Avenue
Santa Monica
14th Street and Pico
14th/20th Streets Daily service
  • Service operates in a clockwise loop and terminates at 14th Street and Pico
  • Operates in the opposite direction of Line 42
Santa Monica
16th Street and Pico- Santa Monica College
20th/14th Streets Daily service
  • Service operates in a counterclockwise loop and terminates at 16th Street and Pico- Santa Monica College
  • Operates in the opposite direction of Line 41
Santa Monica
16th Street and Pico- Santa Monica College
Santa Monica
San Vicente Boulevard and 14th Street
26th Street and San Vicente Boulevard Weekdays only during peak hours
  • Select eastbound trips to San Vicente Boulevard and 14th Street deviate to serve Paul Revere Middle School.
Santa Monica

17th Street/Santa Monica College Station

West Los Angeles

Santa Monica College Bundy Campus

Bundy Drive, Ocean Park Boulevard, 14th Street, and 17th Street Weekdays only
  • Service connects the 17th Street/Santa Monica College station, the Santa Monica College Main Campus and the Santa Monica College Bundy Campus.
  • Limited service when SMC is not in session.
  • On the non-rapid routes, weekday trips between 7am and 8pm serve UCLA Transit Center / Hilgard Terminal; weekday trips from 8p-7a and all weekend trips serve Charles E Young/P2 Hub (Charles E. Young Dr. between Westholme Ave. and Manning Ave.). Rapid 12 always serves Charles E Young/P2 Hub.[8]



Order Year Manufacturer Image Model Length
Fleet Series
Fuel Propulsion Notes
2004-05 NFI Big Blue Bus 4057.JPG L40LF 40 4038-4089
(41) (12 retired)
  • The last LNG buses in the Big Blue Bus fleet.
  • 4070-4072, 4078, and 4080-4089 are in big blue bus livery, but retain the rapid blue paint.
  • As of May, 2018: 4041,4042, 4044, 4049, 4050, 4055, 4057, 4060, 4064, 4066, 4069, 4075, 4077, 4078, 4079, 4084 have been retired have been auctioned, or are waiting to acutioned at Ken Porter.
2006 L40LF 40 4090-4099
  • 4090 retains the light blue livery.
  • All in service as of June 2017.
  • 4091-4099 are in big blue bus livery but retain the rapid blue paint
  • Last New Flyer L40LF buses ever built
2010/2012 ElDorado National
Big Blue Bus El Dorado.JPG
Big Blue Bus 2900-1.jpg
E-Z Rider II BRT 32 2900–2914
  • Buses 2900-2904 are 2010 models that have been converted to big blue bus livery and CNG, previously operating as hybrid buses in the Mini Blue livery.
  • 2905-2915 are 2012 models powered by CNG
  • Weekdays: used on lines 8,16,18,41,42/43 (routes are not exclusively 30 foot buses; 40 foot buses run them too)
  • Weekends: used on lines 5,8,9,15,18,41/42 (routes are not exclusively 30 foot buses; 40 foot buses run them too)
  • Line 15 only uses 30ft buses on weekends.
  • 30ft buses appear on line 8 in the evening/night because certain blocks/runs on lines 16 or 18 will transfer to line 8 in the evening.
2010/2012 NABI Big Blue Bus 5307.jpg 60-BRT 60 5300-5320(21)
  • Cummins Westport ISL-G
    • Allison WB-500R
  • Used exclusively on Rapid 3, Local 3, Rapid 7, Rapid 10, and Rapid 12 service.
  • 5300-5315 are 2010 series & 5316-5320 are 2012 series models
2011 NABI Big Blue Bus 3871.JPG 40-LFW 40 3868-3876
  • Cummins Westport ISL-G engine
  • 44' turning radius
    • 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
  • Replaced 1997-98 New Flyer D40LFs
2013 Gillig Big Blue Bus 1304.jpg BRT 40 1301-1344(44)
  • Cummins Westport ISL-G
    • Voith D864.5
  • Replaced 1997-98 New Flyer D40LFs
2014 Gillig Big Blue Bus 1355.JPG BRT 40 1345-1357(13)
  • Cummins Westport ISL-G
    • Voith D864.5
  • Replaced some 2002 NABI-40 LNG LFWs
2015 NFI Big Blue Bus 1560.JPG XN60 60 1560-1566 (7)[9][10]
  • Cummins Westport ISL-G
    • Allison B500R
  • Replaced some 2002 NABI-40 LNG LFWs
  • Used exclusively on Rapid 3', Local 3, Rapid 7, Rapid 10, and Rapid 12 service.
  • On very rare occasions on line 8
2015 Gillig Big Blue Bus 1501.JPG BRT 40 1500-1510 (11)


  • Cummins Westport ISL-G
    • Allison B400R
  • Replaced some 2002 NABI-40 LNG LFWs
  • These Gillig buses were ordered with Allison Transmissions instead of Voith Transmissions, which power the original 1300 series.
2016 Gillig 2016gilligBIGBLUEBUS.tiff BRT 29 1600-1603 (4)
  • Cummins Westport ISL-G
    • Allison B400R
  • Added due to a shortage of 30ft buses.
  • All seats on board do not face forward except those in the very back.
  • Run on same routes as the El Dorado E-Z Rider II BRTs.
  • The buses were purchased because the Big blue Bus did not have enough 30ft buses, with the addition of new routes in 2016 like lines 16 and 43.
  • These Gillig buses were ordered with Allison Transmissions instead of Voith Transmissions, which power the original 1300 series.
2017 Gillig Big Blue Bus Gillig BRT 1701.jpg BRT 40 1701-1725 (25)
  • Cummins Westport ISL-G NZ[12]
    • Allison B400R
  • Replacing the last 6 2002 NABI 40-LFWs.
  • These buses are part of a deal to phase out LNG buses. These 1700 series buses are part of an order for 25, 40ft and 7 30ft buses.
  • These Gillig buses were ordered with Allison Transmissions instead of Voith Transmissions, which power the original 1300 series.
  • As of Feb 24, 2017, all 25 buses have been delivered to the big blue bus yard, have been equipped with the three-slot bike rack, and are now in service.


Thumbnail Year Numbers
(Quantity Ordered)
Fuel Propulsion Retired Notes
General Motors Diesel Division T8H-5307A 1982 5101-5122 Diesel 1998 Some sold to Brampton Transit Barrie Transit and STCUQ (RTC) and refurbishing Companies.
General Motors Diesel Division T8H-5307A 1985-1986 5123-5180 Diesel 1998-2005 Some sold to Brampton Transit STCUQ (RTC) 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. Sold to Woodstock Transit Timmins Transit SCT and Mont Tremblant Autocars de chutes and more.
Nova Bus
TC40-102A Classic
Big Blue Bus 4811.jpg Big Blue Bus 4808.jpg 1995 4801-4821
(21 buses)
Diesel September 2011 Last high floor buses to be retired.
Thomas Built Buses SLF 230 Tide Shuttle.jpg 2000 2606-2615
(10 buses)
  • Cummins B5.9
  • Allison AT-545
Diesel July 2010 Formerly used for Mini Blue service.
New Flyer D40LF Big Blue Bus 3806 turning onto SM blvd.jpg 1997-1998 3801-3867
(67 buses)
Diesel 2011-2014
  • The first low floor buses purchased
  • Replaced 1982 GM T8H-5307A 5101-5122 buses.
  • 3804 & 3855 remain in yard
NABI 40-LFW Big Blue Bus 4036.JPGBig Blue Bus 4011.jpg 2002 4001-4037
(37 buses)
  • Detroit Diesel Series 50G
    • Allison WB-400R
LNG 2014-2017
  • Last trip was on bus #4036 on line 42 on Feb 09, 2017.
  • First Natural Gas.[13] buses


In popular culture[edit]


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 bus has to keep its speed over 50 mph (80 km/h) or the bomb on the bus will detonate.

Two humorous slogans Santa Monica Bank used on Big Blue Buses appeared in the film.[4] 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]