Monterey-Salinas Transit JAZZ Line
The new Monterey-Salinas Transit JAZZ Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line serves a 6.75-mile route between Sand City Station and the Monterey Bay Aquarium and travels through Seaside. The new BRT service, funded in part by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), will cut commuting times roughly in half for riders on existing bus service and improve transit connections for thousands of active-duty military, hospitality workers, and tourists traveling to Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and other attractions.
The JAZZ line began operating on September 1, 2012. In partnership with the Monterey Jazz Festival, 30 new, custom-designed kiosks along the route will showcase a linear jazz museum that will feature dramatic Monterey Jazz Festival jazz-themed displays, highlighting the history of the Festival.
The design for the new bus line was created by Pablo Lobato, a graphic designer and illustrator from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Phil Wellman of Wellman Advertising & Design, based in Carmel.
Below is a story by Salinas Californian reporter Robert Walch about the project. Reprinted with permission.
New buses jazz up busy route
by Robert Walch
November 26, 2012
With their new, eye-catching color scheme, it is hard not to notice the newly painted Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) buses cruising the main thoroughfares of Monterey and Seaside. One of the most visible features of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, along with new, custom designed shelters along the JAZZ line, the buses are the central feature of the first BRT corridor in Monterey County.
Running along one of the Monterey Peninsula’s busiest traffic corridors, the line stretches from the Edgewater Shopping Center in Sand City and runs along Fremont in Seaside and North Monterey, through central Monterey and along Lighthouse Avenue in New Monterey. It ends at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Approximately 3,800 passengers are served daily on this 6.75 mile route. With the introduction of BRT technologies, such as queue jump lanes, transit signal priority, and increased stop spacing, traveling along this busy corridor will be decreased by an estimated 25 percent. During the morning and afternoon rush hours the system is designed so that a rider doesn’t have to wait more than ten minutes for a bus to arrive at a shelter. During non-rush periods that span increases to between twenty and thirty minutes.
Although the new vehicle livery and many of the new shelters are already in place, the JAZZ line won’t be totally operational until the middle of next year.
Hunter Harvath, MST assistant general manager for finances and administration, explained that what makes JAZZ unique is MST’s collaboration with the Monterey Jazz Festival. The MJF staff has opened its archives for this project and is working with MST to create a year round linear jazz museum that will feature dramatic jazz-themed displays at thirty, new, custom designed shelters along the route.“Instead of advertising in each shelter, there will be a museum quality display that features vintage Monterey Jazz Festival photos that will profile a particular year,” Harvath said. The display will highlight performers and special events that occurred that year. There will also be a bar code that can be scanned with a smart phone and will link the person to a live recording of a performance from that year’s festival.
(l-r): U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; Monterey Jazz Festival Board of Directors President Terrence O'Connor and Monterey Jazz Festival Managing Director Chris Doss at the grand opening of the first-completed high-tech bus shelter on the new Monterey-Salinas Transit JAZZ Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in Sand City, November 12, 2012. Photo: Randy Tunnell.
“These features give each shelter a unique visual and audible component that a person can enjoy while waiting for a bus,” Harvath said.
Two small cameras are also incorporated into the shelter design. They record what is going on inside the shelter and can be useful in prosecuting anyone who vandalizes a shelter.
The new system will also feature GPS-enabled electronic information screens that tell the passenger when the next bus will actually arrive at the shelter.
Traffic signals along the JAZZ Fremont and Lighthouse corridor will be ungraded and transit signal priority will be added which allows the buses to communicate with the signals. If a signal is about to turn red and a particular bus is running late, the signal will “hold” the green a little longer so the vehicle can pass through the intersection. Harvath stressed, though, that this computer system does not change a red light to green to allow a bus to move on. Another benefit of the system is that it will synchronize all the traffic lights along the bus route.
This will be a major improvement and benefit all drivers, not just the transit system. One other innovation that will move the JAZZ buses along the route a little faster will also be a special lane at some intersections that will allow a bus to proceed ahead when the light turns green before the adjacent line of other vehicles.
All the seven buses dedicated to the JAZZ line will also feature a low floor component that allows for an easier entry and exit from the vehicle.
The project is funded by $2.8 million from the Federal Transit Administration and an additional $2 million in transportation bond funds from the state.
Explaining the connection with the MJF, Harvath said that part of the requirement that accompanies the federal funding is that the BRT system be branded differently than the regular local buses. The branding must set it apart and suggest a higher level of service.
“Other communities have used names like ‘Bravo” or ‘Viva’ to designate their improved transit system,” Harvath said, explaining that designations like that were not very appealing to MST.
Three years ago, while he was attending the Monterey Jazz Festival, Harvath said he noticed the eye-catching, colorful, vibrant backdrops used for the performers. The MST staff approached the festival’s directors and suggested a partnership. “We didn’t want to use the word ‘jazz’ if they weren’t in favor of it,” he said.
Not only was there support for the idea, but this also offered the festival’s staff the opportunity to raise public awareness of what the iconic music event has meant to the Monterey Peninsula over the years. It would also hopefully further jazz education and the career opportunities in jazz.
Once they received the green light from the MJF, the transit staff hired the festival’s graphic designer, Phil Wellman, so he could develop a brand that would incorporate many of the same qualities as the annual jazz festival. Wellman worked with South American artist Pablo Lobato on the graphics, color schemes and logo for the buses and shelters.
“We hope that when drivers are sitting in their cars during rush hour and they see these colorful buses pass them they might figure they can get home faster if they take the bus,” Harvath said. “Naturally, the idea is to increase our ridership.”