In order to get a bus pass program for employees of Second Street off the ground again, a funding ordinance would need to be amended by the Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Advisory Commission.
Bill Lorbeer, Chairman of the BSPAC, expressed his approval for moving forward with a modified plan. "For every employee who rides the bus, that's one more parking space freed up for residents and customers. We're all in favor, we just have to come up with a way to change the ordinance without opening up the floodgates for other programs. [Assistant City Attorney] Heather Mahood will be helping us with that," he said.
Last month, Mahood reviewed the program unanimously approved by the BSPAC and determined that it was not on the list of appropriate items for funding, temporarily causing a blip in the blueprints. However, the bumps will be addressed this week in a meeting between Mahood and the BSPAC, and the item will be discussed at Thursday's BSPAC meeting.
The plan was originally for a three month-long trial program for employees of businesses in the Belmont Shore Business Association, offering each employee a personalized bus card for unlimited rides on any Long Beach Transit bus line. Funding up to $15,000 would come from the BSPAC mainly, collected from areas such as parking meter revenue. Long Beach Transit offered to contribute $2,500 for marketing, and if the program is successful, the BSBA might be asked to contribute a more definite amount. The BSBA already contributes indirectly in the form of business license and assessment fees. Lorbeer also recommended that the BSBA would be essential to promoting the program through educating employees.
Gene Rotondo, head of the BSBA, said, "What we thought we had worked out we weren't able to do, but if another proposal comes to the table, we'd be more than happy to take a look at pursuing every avenue we can."
Marcelle Epley, Chief Administrative Officer of Long Beach Transit, said that from their end, they're ready to go. The Second Street program would be modeled after the widely successful Cal State Long Beach U-pass program that started in 2008 and "essentially solved their parking problem," according to Epley.
That program also began with a short trial period, and in the first month, ridership already increased from 1,200 average daily to 6,000 average daily. It has since leveled out at approximately 8,000 average daily.
Epley said the strongest evidence she received of the program's success was a testimonial sent to CSULB. In years past, residents would be able to tell when school was in session because they either had parking or they didn't, but Epley said, "Residents who lived around the campus told the university they were so pleased with the availability of parking they didn't even know when school started or ended."
Could we hope the same for Second Street?
Lorbeer thinks so. He said, "Cal State Long Beach, a commuter school, had the same problem with a limited parking resource. The parking areas here are not big enough to accommodate all the people coming to the Shore. If we feel comfortable with the changes we make to the ordinance, there's no reason why we wouldn't move forward with it."
According to a recent BSBA survey of businesses on Second Street, of the 300 businesses and 1,400 employees, approximately 63% of Belmont Shore employees drive to work. Only about 8% currently ride the bus.
At the May 19th BSPAC meeting, Julie Maleki stated that Councilmember Gary DeLong supports the trial program.
Chairman Lorbeer stated then that "even if 100 – 200 parking spaces are freed up, that would be measure of success."
Epley clarified that the magnetic strips on each bus card makes this a trackable program. Detailed reports would be issued so that policymakers can see whether it is working. Of the 38 bus lines in Long Beach, three go directly to Belmont Shore, and a bus card would be issued to any employee who signs up, allowing them unlimited rides seven days a week on any Long Beach line.
"A program like this has to be easy to use in order to work," Epley said. "We've got the cards ready to go, we're just waiting on funding."
The item will be discussed at this Thursday's BSPAC regular meeting.