SANTA MONICA — The Santa Monica City Council will consider on August 25 the purchase of plexiglass dividers for Big Blue Bus drivers, allowing front door loading and subsequently fare collection.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Big Blue Bus instructed passengers to only load the bus from the rear entrance door in order to encourage social distancing and to protect drivers. Those with disabilities who needed help boarding the bus or needed a ramp to board the bus were allowed to board through the front door. One consequence of this decision was the inability to collect bus fares, as the collector is at the front entrance of the bus.

Installing Plexiglas dividers between the driver’s seat and the front entrance area will provide safety measures to drivers and allow for bus fare collection once installed. If the measure to install the dividers is passed, Santa Monica will contract ArrowGuard and Gillig LLC to produce and deliver the dividers.

Director of Transit Services Edward King said previously that when BBB begins collecting fares again this fall an, “even more rapid growth of mobile ticketing adoption is expected.”

Big Blue Bus maintenance staff will install the dividers rather than contracting the installation to the vendor. The barriers are estimated to last 12 years and are able to installed into new buses if a bus is decommissioned. The price of the dividers themselves is $987,129.

In a photo in the staff report for the measure, a prototype of what the divider looks like is shown demonstrating the ability for the divider to slide open and closed.

The proposed divider in its extended position
The proposed divider in its retracted position.

To promote social distancing and to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Big Blue Bus will reduce the costs of riders who are using contactless forms of payment, such as the Transit and Token Transit applications. The dividers also encourage the contactless TAP payment system. By July 1, 2021, Big Blue Bus intends on transitioning to a completely cashless payment system.