The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District is initiating changes to multiple bus lines and adding a new “microtransit” service, which would go into effect Aug. 14.

The map of the Wave’s service displays two large shaded areas representing “microtransit zones” in Goleta where service will function, as well as six pick-up and drop-off points. Courtesy of Santa Barbara MTD

The proposed changes include increasing its UC Santa Barbara shuttle service Line 28 and connecting Lines 23 and 25 through a reconfiguration of the bus routes. Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) also plans to offer two new transit options: Line 19x — an express route connecting Carpinteria, the eastside of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) — and the Wave microtransit service in Goleta and Isla Vista.

Hillary Blackerby, the planning and marketing manager for Santa Barbara MTD, provided an overview of the proposed service changes on April 25 at the I.V. Community Services District (IVCSD) board meeting.

Blackerby said that Line 28, which stops at UCSB, El Colegio Road, Santa Catalina Residence Hall, Phelps Road and Camino Real Marketplace, steadily experiences significant demand from the campus community and bus overcrowding.

“We know there is extreme demand on this route,” Blackerby said at the meeting. “We use the 60-foot articulated buses on Line 28. They fit a little over 100 people in a standing load. They are full consistently. We are still turning people away.”

Before the pandemic, buses would arrive at each stop every 10 to 12 minutes. The line was suspended with the COVID-19 campus closure and later returned in Fall Quarter 2021 at a reduced operational level, with a headway of 36 minutes between bus arrivals. Santa Barbara MTD is exploring options to restore headways to every 18 minutes for potentially eight hours of the day, depending on bus driver availability.

“We know that the demand is there, and we need to bring back some more service,” she said.

The introduction of Line 19x would be the first new bus route since Line 28 in 2015, according to Blackerby. Santa Barbara MTD plans to offer the line as an express weekday service running during peak-transit hours with seven stops total: three in the city of Carpinteria, two along Milpas Street, one on Gutierrez Street and terminating at SBCC.

Line 19x, which targets SBCC students, is scheduled to begin service coinciding with the start of the SBCC’s fall semester on Aug. 28. The line will operate year-round, except for SBCC spring and winter breaks, and offer two northbound trips in the morning, one round trip midday and two southbound trips in the afternoon.

In the past, Santa Barbara MTD had two bus routes servicing the leg between Carpinteria and Santa Barbara with Lines 20 and 21x. The express route Line 21x was discontinued due to slowness and ineffectiveness, and its stops were incorporated in Line 20’s route.

The creation of the Wave on-demand microtransit service reflects an effort to bring flexible, curb-to-curb transit service to I.V. and the neighboring city of Goleta. 

The culmination of a yearslong project, the microtransit service will begin as a one-year pilot program, according to Blackerby. Santa Barbara MTD secured state funding for the Wave on a temporary basis from the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program, a program administered by the California Department of Transportation.

The map of the Wave’s service displays two large shaded areas representing “microtransit zones” in Goleta where service will function, as well as two additional specified pick-up and drop-off points in Goleta and four in I.V.

The Wave operates similarly to a rideshare service, where users can select a pick-up and drop-off location so long as they exist within the microtransit zones or at a specified point. Rides can be ordered via a smartphone app or through a direct call to the MTD Transit Center during open hours. 

If directed, drivers may pick up other people using the service while completing any rides. Santa Barbara MTD anticipates wait times for a ride to be no more than 15 minutes, according to Blackerby.

“If you are at one of those points or in one of those zones and you want to go anywhere in one of those zones or to one of those points, you would, for example, open up the smartphone app and say, ‘I’m at the I.V. Community Center. I want to go to Trader Joes,’” Blackerby said. “It’ll say, ‘Your ride will be there in eight minutes.’ Meanwhile, the driver’s getting turn-by-turn directions that they’re getting fed from the algorithm.”

The first microtransit zone is the region bounded by Cathedral Oaks Road in the north and Calle Real in the south, extending from N Los Carneros Road to N Patterson Avenue. The second zone is south of the freeway, bound by Storke Road, Hollister Avenue and Highway 1, and it encompasses newer housing projects such as Willow Springs Apartments and Goleta City Hall.

The individual points on the map are the Goleta train station, Santa Barbara Airport, UCSB Elings Hall, UCSB Bus Loop, El Colegio & Embarcadero del Mar outbound bus stop and the I.V. Community Center.

Blackerby noted that Camino Real Marketplace and the Target shopping center were not included in the microtransit service given the potential for high traffic in those areas to result in slowdowns to the service.

“A couple questions that we’ve had are, ‘Why doesn’t it just cover all of Isla Vista,’ or I’ve had other people say, ‘Why doesn’t it just go to Camino Real Marketplace?’” Blackerby said. “So, why don’t we want to go through the Storke and Hollister intersection? Have you been there? If our van had to reckon with that, it would never get out.”

The Wave will run from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, operating on a fleet of all-electric Ford Transit vans.

“We had to pick those six most important days for something like this, and we thought that Sunday would be a pretty important day for groceries and getting around,” Blackerby said.

Regular one-way fare will be priced at $3 a ride, with a discounted fare of $1.50 for people ages 62 and up and for people with disabilities. An option will also be available for anyone to take a free transfer on a fixed bus route within one hour of riding the Wave. The vans will have cashboxes and contactless payment methods onboard.

A version of this article appeared on p. 6 of the April 27, 2023 print edition of the Daily Nexus.


Nisha Malley
Nisha Malley (she/her/hers) is the County News Editor for the 2022-23 school year. Previously, Malley was an Assistant News Editor for the 2021-22 school year. She can be reached at