As soon as July, the city of West Hollywood could be operating its own entertainment shuttle program along Santa Monica Boulevard that will cater to patrons of the city’s bustling nightlife.
Earlier this month, the West Hollywood City Council approved an agreement with Symblaze Inc. to brand and develop graphic and collateral materials for the program. The shuttle is expected to run from Robertson Boulevard to Orange Grove Drive, with nine stops in between.
“I hope that it works,” Councilman John Duran said of the six-month pilot program. “The whole trick is going to be in the branding and marketing of the shuttle.”
Since at least December 2011, the city has been looking at ways to bring back its Niteline shuttle, which was defunded in 1997. In April, the city council directed staff members to create the six-month pilot program.
Preliminarily, the council plans to operate two shuttles that would run east and west on Santa Monica Boulevard from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. According to city documents, the shuttle would be free to riders and would be designed to have — at most — 15-minute headways using existing Metro and West Hollywood City Line stops.
City staff anticipates that the operational costs of the shuttle will be $62,000 during the pilot program. Council members looked into offering a third shuttle, but its cost, $31,000, could be prohibitive, the documents state. The costs, however, could change during the city’s bidding process for an operator.
Duran hopes the city will develop a shuttle that will be just as noteworthy to patrons as the nightclubs they visit. He referenced San Francisco’s cable cars, which he said are not the most efficient way to traverse the city.
“But it’s a memorable way to sort of get around that city,” Duran said.
He said the shuttle “definitely has a public safety aspect to it,” as it will allow people who are drinking to return home without taking their car.
Mayor Abbe Land said the only potential drawback to the shuttle program is people not utilizing it. Ideally, the shuttle would help traffic “a little bit” and encourage residents to shop in West Hollywood, she said.
“It could be a very positive thing,” Land said.
Duran said residents in the greater Los Angeles area tend to view public transit as though it “is for someone else,” which means the city will need to convince nightlife patrons that the shuttle is specifically for them.
He said city staff members are working to have the shuttle ready by July, and the council may choose an operator as soon as June.
“It’s more likely to be useful during peak periods … and clearly we are coming up on one of those periods,” Duran said.
With the city in the preliminary stages of implementing the program, the council may still fine-tune the number of vehicles in the fleet and what bus stops the shuttle will utilize, he said.
“We’re going to monitor the ridership, and we’re going to monitor the impact on the businesses,” Land said.
“We still have some things to work out, but I think everyone on council wants to know if this really works out.”
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