Two-Town Transit Service Roiled by Racism Charges
From Issue: Volume XX - Number 14
Nothing in a headline works like charges of racism. No doubt, that’s why the L.A. Times used it in one article and the O.C. Register used it in two articles about an otherwise obscure route change in a Long Beach Transit (LBT) schedule that those papers would never cover sans the brouhaha.
Of a fleet of 225 buses, LBT has 30 red Optima diesel shuttle buses “which no longer meet California Air Resources Board standards,” said LBT spokesman Kevin Lee. “We have to retire those 30 feet long buses and replace them with 40 feet long compressed natural gas buses to complement hybrid gas electric buses.” These new 40 feet buses cannot make a turnaround at the foot of the Alamitos Bay Landing, which the retiring shorter Passport fleet could handle.
Currently, two LBT bus routes serve Seal Beach at the Electric and Main area, which is “light usage compared the other routes in our city.”
“We had to go back and look at our route and how we can safely navigate our system with our 40 foot buses,” said Lee. “We had to make modifications in our route. We were proposing to go down the Marina bridge at the foot of Alamitos Landing and enter Seal Beach” in order to serve passengers and make a needed turnaround.”
The issue came to a head at a May 8 meeting in Seal Beach. “The Seal Beach council member and the assistant city manager were there,” said Lee. LBT CAO Marcelle Epley made a “presentation of the proposed route. There was very strong opposition, it was clear Seal Beach didn’t want us to access via the Marina Bridge. The council member of that area expressed opposition to it.”
That’s because “the houses tend to rock,” in the Marina View area of Seal Beach. “It used to be part of the San Gabriel River basin and it’s all kind of squishy land,” said Seal Beach Councilman Gordon
Shanks, who noted the meeting involved “two young ladies and an engineer from Long Beach Transit were apparently totally insulted by Seal Beach. Where this racial crap came from, I don’t know. I heard nothing racial,” though Shanks did note, “somebody leaving the meeting said ‘we don’t want those people coming to our beach’.”
Shanks denied any racist motivation, stating kids from all over come to Seal Beach during summer months. “We used to have buses from Downey and Norwalk school districts. You’ll see lots of kids waiting for the bus at Electric and Main.”
Shanks stated, “we’ve got a fair number of people waiting for or needing that bus. The new turnaround was never negotiated. We’ve been accused of not paying anything for the bus, which other cities do.
“They got their feelings hurt; not sure why,” said Shanks. “One guy on the board, Laurence Jackson chewed Seal Beach out for our attitude. He named me in the letter. He accused me of being abusive. I have no memory of that. I was repping people in my district who didn’t want the bus going down the Marina. For Seal Beach, the meeting wasn’t rowdy. All the people who were accusing us weren’t at the meeting.”
Though not at the meeting, LBT President Laurence W. Jackson emailed Seal Beach City Manager Jill Ingram, “the level of angry, rude, and unprofessional behavior directed toward our organization helped Long Beach Transit to clearly understand that any bus service directly linking Long Beach and Seal Beach is not in anyone’s best interest,”
Lee, who was also not at the meeting stated “There were comments that were made, but I can tell you those comments don’t affect why we’re not going into Seal Beach. It’s because we can’t use the Marina Bridge, we have to make a right and turn around the parking lot in the Alamitos Bay, which means parking spots have to be moved, crosswalks have to be made. We have to pull our resources to that area or we’d have to cut somewhere else.”
One service indirectly impacted is a major reduction of the current Passport service. “Pine to Queen Mary and all downtown areas will be the single free Passport bus, but it will be the 40-foot bus,” said Lee. “We will go from 30 that now run downtown and to Belmont Shore to seven downtown buses.” As with the current Passport route, “anyone going east of Alamitos has to pay.”
Because the planned cut of service by LBT, plans are for OCTA to pick up transferring passengers on Channel Drive across Seventh Street from the V.A. Hospital. “It will involve a transfer from one bus to another,” which Lee stated will mean additional costs for the transfer. “We do service changes three times a year, August, January and June,” said Lee. “I don’t know what will happen between now and then,” but if the August change is made, there will be no turning back until January 2013 at the earliest.
“We would like to come back in January and do something on this,” said Shanks. “But I’m not going to commit to buses to come down Marina.”