While the recently opened bus line 27 is not yet as popular with riders as the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District would like, fortifications to the transit gate – which allows the line access to UCSB from Isla Vista – may help prevent damage by vandals who have repeatedly pummeled it.

Line 27, which began service in September 2003, runs through Isla Vista on its way between UCSB’s North Hall bus loop and the Camino Real Marketplace. However, the line has yet to meet a transportation goal of 12,000 riders per month, said David Damiano, community relations manager for the MTD.

“[Line 27] is performing below our system average, but that’s to be expected with a new route,” Damiano said. “It can take up to three years to maximize traffic.”

In September, the line’s first partial month of operation, Damiano said buses traveling between North Hall and the Camino Real Marketplace carried 2,314 riders. In October, line 27 carried 9,219 riders, and in November, the line carried 7,553 riders.

Since the line only operates on school days, Damiano said the monthly fluctuation of rider totals reflects the number of weekend days in any given month, not a downward trend in bus line usage between the beginning of Fall Quarter of 2003 and this past winter break. The more weekend days in a month, the fewer riders there can be.

Damiano said the MTD has had past success with advertising campaigns targeted at under-performing lines. However, budget constraints have made such advertising difficult for line 27.

“We do promote certain lines, but there’s a tight budget for advertising,” Damiano said. “We have to wait for at least an entire academic year before we can judge [line 27’s] performance. Hopefully,
a line like this will gain popularity through word of mouth.”

While the line shortens the distance buses must travel to get onto the UCSB campus from Isla Vista, residents near the new bus stops along Sabado Tarde Road say they are angry at MTD’s decision to put
them so close to campus at the expense of several street parking spaces per stop.

“There’s no reason to have it so close to school,” said Bryan Jamison, a fifth-year English major who lives several hundred feet from the often vandalized bus transit gate on the 6500 block of Sabado Tarde. “If you can’t just walk from this stop to school then you’ve got a problem.”

Jamison said he has never ridden the bus, and rarely sees people get on or off the bus at the stop that is right at his doorstep.

Geralyn Bustos, a junior communication major and Jamison’s next-door neighbor, said she and her roommates do not like the new line and wish they would have known ahead of time that the stop in front of their house was being installed.

“It would have been nice to have some input, but they don’t care because we’re students,” Bustos said. “I haven’t ridden the bus, but I guess I probably should.”

At the corner of Sabado Tarde and Camino Pescadero, another resident said the new bus line is an inconvenience for the people who live right next to the stops.

“You can hear it coming from a mile away, so you know when it’s time to turn up the TV,” said Anthony Abrahamian, a junior business economics major, who also said he has never ridden the bus.

“There’s no excuse for us not to walk. Skateboarding is probably the quickest way [to campus].”

Although riding line 27 has not been as popular as MTD officials hoped, destroying the transit gate that allows bus access between Sabado Tarde Road and Ocean Road turned out to be much more popular than UCSB facilities management workers anticipated.

The gate, which opens only for MTD buses traveling to and from campus, was repeatedly vandalized after its installation. Vandals snapped off the gate’s wooden arm at least a half dozen times by bending it until it broke, allowing drivers to move freely back and forth between Isla Vista and the campus via Sabado Tarde Road.

After several different temporary fixes, UCSB Physical Facilities workers installed a reinforced metal pole and fork device prior to Winter Break, which was designed to catch the bus gate’s arm as it comes down and prevents it from being bent.

Croft Yjader, a Facilities Management Manager for UCSB Physical Facilities, said the gate survived the long Winter Break unscathed. If the new design fails to thwart vandals, the university will continue to take steps to redesign it.

“Apparently it’s doing what it’s supposed to do,” Yjader said. “The first step was to put it up and see what happens.”