SANTA MONICA—Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus (BBB) is moving closer to a completely cash-free payment system, as a city council proposal last week detailed incentives for contactless pay and funding for electronic fare validators.

The proposal, written by the director of Transit Services Edward King, announces that when BBB begins collecting fares again this Fall an, “even more rapid growth of mobile ticketing adoption is expected.”

The proposal seeks funding to upgrade the mobile ticket validation process from a visual check with the bus driver to an electronic scanner. King writes that this move would simplify and speed up the boarding procedure, provide detailed route-based rider information, and would increase safety for COVID-19.

In the effort to transition to contactless pay, BBB will be launching a promotional rate on single-ride contactless fares in order to, “encourage customers currently using cash or magnetic fare media to use contactless fare payment.”

Santa Monica College, who offers the Any Line, Any Time program to their students is currently piloting mobile ticketing for BBB, and if successful may transition to a mobile ticketing app for their program.

Currently, BBB riders are only able to purchase contactless tickets through the BBB’s Transit app. Riders will soon be able to purchase tickets through other trip-planning apps such as Google Maps and Moovit in an effort to increase mobile tickets.

When COVID-19 quarantines began, BBB began only loading people through the rear doors and subsequently did not collect fares. The new contactless electronic ticket scanners would allow for the main bus door to be used again.

The proposal would cost $749,122 to cover the purchases and installation of the scanners and to extend mobile ticketing with a three-year extension option.

The further step to contactless payment is a part of BBB’s plan to transition to a completely cash-free payment by July 1, 2021. The plan was approved before the COVID-19 pandemic.