Credit: Courtesy

With Santa Barbara’s cruise-ship program set to resume after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the city is beginning to work out the specifics for its return, including deciding which service will shuttle the thousands of passengers from the waterfront to downtown destinations.

Before the program was halted in March 2020, Santa Barbara MTD provided a daily Downtown and Waterfront shuttle service, but the line was discontinued in April of the same year when public transportation was cut back during the initial lockdowns. When MTD brought back the Santa Barbara City College and UC Santa Barbara services in 2021, the waterfront shuttle remained shut down.

Now the shuttle service will be run by Santa Barbara Airbus, if the contract is approved by City Council on Tuesday. The shuttles will run as needed, with the waterfront department chartering the 56-passenger tour coaches and 23-passenger mini coaches for each cruise ship visit, depending on the number of passengers. The contract would extend through the rest of the fiscal year and can not exceed a total of $50,475.

The funds for the shuttles will come out of the waterfront department’s property management account — directly offset by cruise ship revenue, specifically from ships that need shuttles — so that the waterfront is only charged, according to a staff report, “if a cruise ship visits Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Airbus shuttle service was provided.” The number and type of shuttles required for each ship visit will depend on the number of passengers on the ship.

The city would also have an opportunity to renew the contract every year for the next four years if the service is successful. The contract is part of the city council’s consent agenda and, barring any last-minute changes, is expected to be approved on Tuesday.

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