Free ride ends for Culver CityBus passengers

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By Cynthia Gibson

Contributing Writer

CULVER CITY — The city’s bus service resumed collecting fares Sept. 14 after providing free rides for passengers since March 18.

The agency adjusts its schedule every September to accommodate students going back to school. On its Twitter page, Culver CityBus welcomed back West L.A. College, Santa Monica College, Loyola Marymount University, USC, and Los Angeles and Culver City unified school districts, all of which have begun limited in-person classes and have a percentage of students who will take public transportation.

This year the transit agency included the return to front door entry and fare collection along with the September service changes

“We generally implement changes at the same time as changes to service to avoid rider confusion,” said Culver CityBus Community Engagement Manager Dia Turner.

Culver CityBus has also resumed its express service and has added service to four routes that had previously been reduced.

When Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the state-ordered shutdown on March 4, public transportation was considered an essential service and the bus service began an intense focus on health safety for passengers and drivers, Turner said.

“At that time, we had to close the front door of the bus for the social distancing and there is no fare box collection at the rear. It wasn’t about money, it was about safety,” Turner said.

Beginning March 18, Culver CityBus announced that customers were required to enter the rear door to  limit interactions between passengers and bus operators. Only riders who needed support due to physical disabilities requiring the use of the bus’s wheelchair lift, were allowed to enter through the front door.

The transportation system also established other safety measures such as masks for drivers and passengers, physical distancing between riders, on-bus hand sanitizers and increased sanitation efforts of every bus on a daily basis.

Also in March, the agency announced temporary “hybrid service” in response to the reduced ridership resulting from the shutdown. Weekday services on four of Culver CityBus’ seven bus routes were reduced and two of the express services were discontinued.

Since the shutdown began, schools, colleges, restaurants and retail businesses remain completely closed or open with limited service. Culver CityBus, as with public transportation services across the state and country, have seen ridership, and as a result, revenue, plummet.

In an effort to get more funds to support transit, close to 500 agency advocates, transit professionals and elected officials across the country held a virtual rally Aug. 5. calling on Congress to allocate at least $32 billion in the next COVID-19 relief bill.

In April, Culver CityBus dipped to 30% of pre COVID-19 ridership levels. However, since June, the agency has seen a steady recovery and is now at 50% of ridership prior to the pandemic, according to Turner.

“We will continue to provide service, even in these challenging times,” said Rolando Cruz, Culver CityBus

chief transportation officer. “We realize that many of our riders depend on us to transport them to and from essential business and work.”