Question: Who rides a bus in Beverly Hills?
Answer: Practically nobody.
For 2 1/2 years, a free shuttle bus service has been operating in the city's congested business triangle, attempting to make things easier for shoppers.
But the two brightly painted buses with signs offering free rides "Compliments of Beverly Hills City" have gone mostly empty. And city officials have grown concerned.
"They just ride around and around the city without any passengers," complained City Councilwoman Charlotte Spadaro. "It's a waste of gas."
City officials said that the buses are used in the early morning and evening to take employees to and from their parking facilities. But between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., the buses usually criss-cross the city in an unsuccessful search for passengers.
"The shuttle is not really designed for shoppers," said Bob Tierney, city transportation coordinator. "Shoppers like to park their cars and walk to the store. They like to look at the store windows."
During April, according to city officials, the buses carried 5,647 riders, an average of nine passengers an hour. The city operates another bus shuttle program for senior citizens which averages three passengers an hour. Each bus carries a maximum of 20 passengers.
The problem of what to do with the shopper parking shuttle was further complicated this year when the city dissolved its Transportation Department and transferred the responsibility for the buses to the Recreation and Parks Department.
Richard Putnam, director of the Recreation and Parks Department, said "The problem has always been what to do with the buses during the day when they are not being used to take people to and from work."
Tax Revenue Used
Recently the City Council asked its staff to study the problem. Mark Scott, an assistant to City Manager Ed Kreins, said the study is focusing on ways of changing the shuttle program, which spends a major portion of the $290,000 Beverly Hills receives from Proposition A, the half-cent increase in sales tax earmarked for transit programs.
One proposal came from the Beverly Hills Visitors Bureau, which suggested that the buses be used during slack hours when ridership is low to take hotel guests to stores.
"I think that would be a great idea," Mayor Edward I. Brown said. "It needs to be refined and is something the staff is working on. The shuttle, of course, will go to hotels in Beverly Hills and not to hotels in Century City."