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Posts from the "Long Beach Transit" Category

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Damage Control: BYD Brings Crisis Manager to Address Issues

(We’re not going to republish every Long Beachize article on Streetsblog, so you really should Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter. – DN)

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Lanny Davis

Like sand through the hourglass…

In an attempt to create some form of damage control, BYD Motors brought on a crisis management lawyer by the name of Lanny Davis to help alleviate some of the problems the bus manufacturer currently faces. Specifically, Davis attempted to iron out concerns regarding alleged labor violations, Altoona testing problems, and possible delivery delays for Long Beach Transit (LBT)’s electric bus fleet.

Additionally, Davis even sent out a letter to LBT President and CEO Kenneth McDonald—not even six months into his position—as well as Mayor Bob Foster, the entire City Council, and the entire LBT Board. In it, he sought to “set the record straight” on subjects that BYD & Company “understands why you might be confused” over.

They brought out Supervisor Michael Antonovich, the conservative overseer of the County’s district where Lancaster, the site of an apparent BYD manufacturing facility, is. They brought out the mayor of Lancaster, R. Rex Perris (ah, good ol’ Rex, kinda reminds me of the Mayor of Windsor, Canada, who also sang the praises of BYD bringin’ a manufacturing plant to town only to have a whole choir perform for an empty church).

The irony is not just the fact that they brought out players we’ve heard of before—Rex had a lovely full-page national spread in the Los Angeles Times if you didn’t catch wind of it—but the fact that their message hasn’t really much altered.

In a nutshell, I present to you the press conference: We didn’t violate labor laws; we’ve just been cited for the possibility of having committed them. We have no idea why LBT is expecting delays; we are testing the right bus despite LBT Boardmembers stating otherwise. We find no reason to panic over our Altoona testing; despite cracks in the rear and faulty bracket installation and failed subassemblies, everything is perfectly safe.

Davis failed to mention that BYD has been handed 112 citations, to be exact, by the DIR and the investigation is currently ongoing with the possible determination—to use Davis’s own word—of a $100K fine occurring should the allegations prove true.

Davis was adamant to the point of being redundant about supposed “misinformation on the Internet” and “negative rumors or innuendo, certainly those reported in the newspapers anonymously.”

“I just want to address issues that we believe to be beyond factual dispute and that are capable of being substantiated,” Davis said. “The [State of California Department of Industrial Relations, or DIR] has given citations which are allegations of violations; they are not determinations. And a citation is different than a fine, which some news reporting confused those two words.”

Davis failed to mention that BYD has been handed 112 citations, to be exact, by the DIR and the investigation is currently ongoing with the possible determination—to use Davis’s own word—of a $100K fine occurring should the allegations prove true. Read more…

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What’s Next? A Re-Boot of Long Beachize

LBI

For just over a year, the Southern California Streets Initiative, the co-publisher of Streetsblog Los Angeles and publisher of Santa Monica Next, has teased that a “Streetsblog Long Beach” is just around the corner. After forming a local advisory Board, and publishing news/opinion pieces by the Long Beach Post‘s Brian Addison, we’re proud to make a little different announcement.

During the week of December 2, we are going to re-launch Long Beachize. The popular website for news and culture for Long Beach’s bike culture, which last published in March of 2012, will get a new editor, a somewhat new look (we’re not crazy enough to change too much the excellent branding of the website), and a broader range of topics. In addition to cycling, Long Beachize will cover Long Beach Transit, transportation issues around the port, open space, highway expansion and removal, public health, the unique culture of Long Beach communities and more.

“Long Beach is home to one of Southern California’s most vibrant biking and pedestrian-oriented communities. Tack onto this the fact that it harbors one of the nation’s largest ports, an increasingly active urban design culture, and a triad educational structure that is inherently connected to the employment and creative sphere, it becomes clear that the discussion of the implications of these structures in a city as large as Long Beach becomes essential,” writes Addison, the future editor of Long Beachize.

“I truly believe Long Beach doesn’t just need but deserves a media outlet that is solely dedicated to the subject of its health and well-being.”

In addition to Addison and myself, we’ve recruited a powerful team for our Long Beach Board of Advisors who have helped guide us and will contribute to Long Beachize in a variety of ways. This team includes former professional cyclist and president of Cruz Industries Antonio Cruz, Long Beach travel writer and photographer Kayte Deioma, Peace Builders founder and Millworks managing director Michelle Molina, program and design coordinator for City Fabrick and original co-editor of Long Beachize Baktaash Sorkhabi and executive director of City Fabrick Brian Ulaszewski.

Sorkhabi first pitched the idea of re-launching Long Beachize. Read more…

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Metro Explores Ways to Make Commute More Comfortable for the Physically Disabled

If you’ve ever spoken to someone who is physically disabled—any one of the 650 million who are estimated to be living with disabilities on Earth—though resilient, there is still something a bit disconcerting about boarding a public bus.

...but will Long Beach Transit?

Even in a transit system that is as efficient and progressive as Long Beach Transit.

And as I was taking the 121 along Ocean, I did something I rarely do as an introvert: I removed my headphones and asked someone in a wheelchair just precisely what their experience was.

“You can’t help but feel, ‘Here I am, holdin’ everybody up,’ y’know?” said Maria, a 53-year-old paraplegic.

When I had asked her to offer me her last name, she skeptically looked up and succinctly informed me that “there ain’t no need to give you my last name unless you plan on giving me a new one.” I was taken aback and my expression had probably shown it. Maria, however, moved on like a train with no breaks.

“Clearly, I’m not a bullshitter—and judging from this situation right here, I don’t think you are one either. Look around: we all have places to be and we are all hoppin’ on this bus together and… Of course, if you’re like me, you get beyond it; you have to. But still, there’s something about having to stop the whole routine of everybody else just to get someone like me on the bus.”

Beyond this short exchange, Maria didn’t want to talk—and rightfully so. Someone shouldn’t have to defend accessing basic rights due to a biological disposition of their abilities; disability does not translate into inability.  Her point, more importantly, was not driven by a need; she was far from victimizing herself or demonizing the all-too-human selfishness that overtakes each of us when we are trying to get from Point A to Point B.

And though the American Disabilities Act (ADA) widely swept away previous legalities that hindered those who were disabled, there is still an unneeded sense of humility that many disabled people carry with them because of the largely misconstrued concept of what “disabled” means for able-bodied folks: handicapped, crippled, even retarded.

In short, horrifically pejorative conceptions that perpetually drive them to sadly and inappropriately question their own worth; to relegate them to the role of holding-up rather than lifting-up. And it explains why, for the 2 million people with disabilities who never leave their home, 560,000 never do so because of transportation difficulties. Read more…

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Houston, We Have (More) Electric Bus Problems

Long Beach Transit (LBT)’s latest board meeting held with it a severe amount of questions regarding the transit company’s procurement of electric, zero-emission buses (ZEB) from Chinese company BYD. Eyebrows were raised over the proposed buses’ weight significantly damaging roadways; the failure of the current China-made BYD bus passing federally mandated Altoona Testing, prompting a longer return time on the contract fulfillment as well as structural questions; and the mysterious addition to the contract that 20 more BYD buses would be purchased without the Board’s formal approval of adding such an incentive.

Build Your Dream (BYD) buses may be coming to the streets of Long Beach. Will Metro enter contract with them for all of L.A. County? Image via:Digital Trends

Firstly, LBT’s choice of BYD over its other main competitor, South Carolina-based Proterra, has not come without its criticism, from both local publications—including the Long Beach Business Journal and the Long Beach Post—as well as right here at Streetsblog. And thus far, the criticisms don’t seem off-kilter.

In regard to the buses being overweight, city traffic engineer Dave Roseman expressed concerned that the weight of the BYD buses would cause significant wear and tear on the streets at the cost of taxpayers. When asked whether this was either previously known or whether the bus’s weight had magically altered during Altoona testing, LBT spokesperson Dana Pynn that the weight was “not a new subject” and had been known “throughout the entire process.”

Information from the original RFQ shows that second runner up Proterra’s contract cost more than BYD’s, however, Proterra’s bus showed both a lower curb weight—25,000lbs versus BYD’s 30,423lbs—and gross vehicle weight—37,000lb versus 39,700lbs. Furthermore, Proterra’s buses had already passed Altoona testing at the time of the bid.

Speaking of Altoona testing, all is not well on the BYD front. Rolando Cruz, Executive Director and Vice President of Maintenance and Facilities at LBT, stated the following at the meeting:

“The most critical item in this project is the status of the Altoona testing of the BYD manufactured bus,” Cruz said. “The bus was returned to Lancaster as our staff was noticing some rear cracks at the bus—the most vulnerable part of the bus.”

The part of any transit bus that takes the most stress with the largest load is the rear of the bus, hence Cruz’s emphasis on the cracks being critical. After inspection, it was determined, according to Cruz, to be a result of “low-quality welding” that could be fixed. The coach was fixed and has been returned to Altoona for further testing, which is now expected to be completed by March of next year. Read more…

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Opinion: Metro, Don’t Make the Same Mistake Long Beach Transit Did on Electric Buses

Build Your Dream (BYD) buses will be coming to the streets of Long Beach. Will Metro enter contract with them for all of L.A. County? Image via:Digital Trends

Last week, Metro postponed a decision to procure 30 zero emission buses. Despite my support for electric transit, I regard the vote with mixed feelings. As much as we want to say, “Green is green, that is all,” that no matter how we go about doing it, increasing zero emissions vehicle usage is a good thing despite the means…

In this case I fear, we’ve all been duped. First in Long Beach and what could very well be Los Angeles if the Metro Board votes the way that its staff is recommending it votes.

This past March, I wrote a diatribe pleading for Long Beach Transit (LBT) to procure more electric buses–and they did. This, in and of itself, was a good thing. I was happy, content, even ecstatic that 10 buses–lacking the false green advertising so egregiously brought forth by CNG advocates–would be winding their way through the streets of Long Beach.

After all, the possibilities of electric buses are unquestionably revolutionary (and I don’t use that term lightly) because of the broader implications involved.

Current public transit perceptions mostly run along the pejorative gamut: they are loud, they are dirty, and they are–this being the worst perception of all, particularly in California–for poor people only. The first two are actually correct: they ARE loud and they DO pollute–so why would anyone in a quiet, middle- to upper-class neighborhood ever want them putting around their homes?

Electric buses alter that perception: they run at a noise level of office conversation, they are (truly) zero emissions, and they hold the capability of being in places that were previously impossible (those aforementioned middle- and upper-class neighborhoods), thereby altering the general conception of what public transit can be.

So far, so good. It makes sense as to why LBT went electric.

But why was this endeavor–along with what could be the same for Metro–so… Anti-American? Both of the transit companies’ staff support China-based company BYD rather than South Carolina-based Proterra (with the LBT Board eventually taking their staff’s recommendation while Metro still awaits the vote). Even beyond their geographic locations, many other egregious differences come to light between the two bus makers–and I’ll get to those in a bit. Read more…

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Long Beach Pols Push for Blue Line Safety Measures, More Needs to Be Done

It is a thorn in many of the sides of Long Beach transit riders: the Blue Line, bluntly put, rarely proffers its riders a safe ride.

The past year alone has offered a plethora of disturbing events alter the public perception of even bothering with the Blue: Earlier this year, a man was beaten unconscious at the Willow Platform after being robbed, without a report to police for ten minutes . In November of last year, a 19-year-old man was shot at the 5th Street Station, with Rick Jager of Metro claiming he couldn’t even remember the last time someone was shot on the Metro. That same month, a pedestrian was hit by a train at that same station after a car collided with the Blue Line previously in July, causing a death. One woman blogged of her horrific Blue Line experiences, eventually going viral and showcasing how when one boards the train in Long Beach, “the [hassling] starts right away.”

The Metro line is key to the Los Angeles region, catering to some 90,000 people a day, with over 17,000 being served at the eight Long Beach stations alone. And it is here where Vice Mayor Robert Garcia–with the backing of fellow councilmembers Suja Lowenthal, James Johnson, and Steve Neal–has drafted a recommendation to improve the safety of the Blue Line by modernizing and beautifying the Long Beach strip on which it runs.

According to the recommendation, there are sections of the Blue Line “need immediate attention, including repairing of public art, signage, and improving public safety” in addition to the addition of turnstiles that “would assist public safety officials with monitoring who rides on the Blue Line.”

Garcia is essentially right on two fundamental levels: the electronic turnstiles will help better funnel out non-paying customers and the dilapidated state of many of the stations welcome unwanted visitors. In fact, I am quite sure that Garcia et al understand that Long Beach will be unable to reach its goal of being “The Most Bike Friendly City in America”–amongst other goals–without safe transit connections. Read more…

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Long Beach Transit, Please Go (More) Electric

Mitsubishi, and other bus makers, have developed all electric buses.

Long Beach Transit (LBT) is considering two common, albeit game-changing RFPs (depending on their decisions): to purchase new buses that fit within the so-called alternative fuel sectors–that is, hybrid, CNG, or electric.

Before I even make another statement, there are two that shouldn’t even be on that list–and it isn’t electric.

As dollar signs float through the various minds of various transit board members across the globe, let’s first break down LBT’s two current RFPs.

The first one was issued last October following the receiving of the Department of Transportation’s Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) grant. It also acted as one of LBT’s most progressive: instead of simply following the grant’s requirement of reducing GHG emissions and energy costs, which means any alternative fuel buses could be purchased with the grant monies, LBT decided to offer an addition of Prop Bond 1B funds to obtain a 10 bus fleet of zero emission electric buses. If succeeded and followed through, it would be the largest electric bus fleet in the nation.

This RFP, whose applicants were narrowed down this past February, has been slightly delayed following LBT staff’s recommendation of one company over another and has prompted the Board to reevaluate their recommendation process. Deferring their vote and holding study sessions, the LBT Board was presented with a breakdown of how the staff went about not just the RFP, but their decision.

In an interesting contradiction to bringing in electric buses, Board Member  Lori Ann Farrell asked if LBT was required to spend the grant on electric buses–to which LBT Maintenance and Facilities Executive Director Rolando Cruz explained that, while not required, the 1B funds LBT would put up themselves allow them to purchase ten of the more expensive, zero-emission electric buses that the grant alone would not permit them to do. Read more…

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New Route, Major Changes in LB Transit Began Yesterday

Major changes take effect this week on multiple Long Beach Transit (LBT) routes. But the biggest change is the creation of a new 11-mile 176 Zap Route.

NEW ROUTE: 176 ZAP

The new 176 ZAP was funded through a special federal operating grant–the Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) program under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act-A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU)–scored by LBT. The program itself is intended to improve access to transportation services to employment and employment-related activities. LBT scored the second highest out of 12 projects from other agencies to receive said grant.

The 176 ZAP will travel between the west side near Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Fe Avenue and end at the Lakewood Mall above Long Beach Airport via Lakewood Boulevard.

The creation of the 176 was key in two major ways: it added another ZAP line to the fleet–meaning it only stops at major cross streets–and it deeply connects the westside (e.g. Cabrillo High School, Villages at Cabrillo, Technology Park, etc) with access to major connection points, mostly intended to help workers and students better commute as the purpose of the grant emphasized. It not only stops at the Blue Line, but also will connect riders to both Long Beach City College campuses, Kaiser, Long Beach Community Medical Center, CSULB’s student housing on PCH, the hotel consortium on Lakewood, the airport, Douglas Park, Boeing, Lakewood High School, and as previously mentioned, the Lakewood Mall.

The first 176 pickup at Technology Place is at 6:46AM and will occur every thirty minutes after, with a total route time of 48 minutes.

ROUTE ALTERATIONS: Read more…

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Major Changes at Long Beach Transit

This image of a Long Beach Transit Compressed Natural Gas bus is from a companion piece by Brian on the Long Beach Post

Long Beach Transit (LBT) underwent what it considered to be major changed last week, replacing much of its diesel model buses with compressed natural gas (CNG) buses, a revamp of its mobile website, and the alteration of routes which included its controversial halting of service to Seal Beach.
THE CNG SWITCH:
The switch to CNG marks LBT’s move to keep with California emission standards, particularly following the model of LA Metro, who retired the last of their diesel buses in January of last year to becomes the world’s first major transit authority to have its entire 2,228 vehicle fleet operate on “alternative” fuels. LBT will incrementally incorporate 64 new buses to replace the older diesel ones. This switch coincides with altered routes mainly due to the CNG’s longer length–about 10 feet more than the popular Passport buses (but have the benefit of 10 more seats for passengers to enjoy).
CNG vehicles are just gaining popularity here in the States, but the global growth of the fuel alternative has seen a 30 percent growth each year (compared to the U.S.’s 3.7 percent increase each year since 2000). The long-term benefits of these vehicles include lessened fuel costs as well as significantly lower emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx; about 94% less per mile), particulate matter (PM; about 98% less per mile) and hydrocarbon (HC; about 89% less per mile), according to Environmental Protection Agency’s MOVES emissions model.
CNG buses clearly cost more money–about 10 to 15 percent more–but the argument lies in the fact that its environmental benefits outweigh the direct costs, particularly when it come to health costs of bad air quality. LA Metro estimates its switch to CNG and a handful of other alternatives–one electric bus and six gasoline-electric hybrids–has prevented some 300,000 pounds of greenhouse emissions from being released per day.

Screen grab from the Long Beach Transit website.

THE WEBSITE:
While LBT claimed that its revamped mobile website is built for those on the go, it is mostly lackluster (and, in my humble opinion, anyone with a smartphone would waste half the time and complications by using Google Maps). Read more…