Long Beach Transit hosts first summit meeting to discusses sustainable transportation

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Sebastian Echeverry | Signal Tribune

Long Beach Transit officials hosted their first Mobility and Sustainability Summit on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Long Beach Transit President and CEO Kenneth McDonald (far left) and panelists from the Port of Long Beach, Long Beach Airport, Cal State Long beach and Los Angeles Metro spoke about their agencies' respective efforts to reduce carbon emissions and face an ever-changing work environment.

Executive members from the Port of Long Beach, the Long Beach Airport, Los Angeles Metro and political figures converged Wednesday morning at the Hyatt Regency Hotel to talk about sustainable transportation solutions across the Southland during Long Beach Transit’s first Mobility and Sustainability Summit.

Long Beach Transit (LBT), the port and the airport (LGB) are key players when it comes to moving people and cargo across the city and the country. Transit had over 23.8 million customers in 2018, the port is considered the nation’s second busiest port in the nation and LGB had an average of 3.8 million passengers take off from its runway. Despite all the success these agencies share amongst each other, the need to adapt to a growing population and a fast-changing work environment while keeping emissions and environmental impacts low is a challenge they all face.

During the summit, a speaker panel consisting of LBT, LGB, port, LA Metro and Cal State Long Beach executives presented sustainable-mobility projects their respective agencies are working on to address their carbon footprint.

CSULB
Dr. Thomas O’Brien, executive director of the Center for International Trade and Transportation at CSULB, spoke about the next generation of workers, and the programs that are being offered at the school to train them.

O’Brien said workers need to update their training every three years. Rapid changes in technology and artificial intelligence are keeping future employees on their toes, and that’s a challenge the school is working to address.

The school continues to partner with the port to train students on cargo logistics and how to operate what O’Brien calls the “largest market gateway in the US.”

LGB
Cynthia Guidry, director of LGB, mentioned that changes to water-less urinals and LED lights may seem like minor tweaks, but that they all effectively reduce the airport’s carbon footprint.

“We have to be more efficient and be environmental stewards,” she said.

Guidry added that the airport is planning to install solar panels on top of its parking garages to power 70% of the historic terminal.

Port
Representing the Port of Long Beach was Dr. Allison Yoh, director of Transportation Planning Division in the Planning Environmental Affairs Bureau. She opened up her presentation by highlighting the Clean Air Action Plan, which was a joint effort between Port of Long Beach and The Port of Los Angeles in 2017 to reduce their carbon emissions.

Yoh said the port is actively to increase the amount of clean-air vehicles at the shipyard by 2035. To help reduce semi-truck traffic on the roads, Yoh said the port is looking to use rail transportation to move its cargo. One train double stacked with shipping containers is equivalent to 750 trips via trucks on the highway.

Lastly, Yoh closed out her presentation on the port by mentioning that the Gerald Desmond Bridge will open to public traffic next year. It will feature a bike lane, three lanes in each direction and is considered “critical to the nation and Long Beach.”

LA Metro
LBT and LA Metro will be celebrating the reopening of the Metro Blue Line, now called the A Line, on Saturday, but Phillip Washington, chief executive officer of LA Metro said more work needs to be done to address congestion problems and public transit issues across both cities.

LA Metro is the third largest public transportation agency behind New York and Chicago, Washington said. He added that speeding up the process of transporting people to their desired destinations is a top priority for LA Metro, and bus-only lanes on the street may be a solution.

Another challenge Washington mentioned was the severe traffic jams found across the metropolitan area of Los Angeles County.

“Part of Metro’s mission is to reduce congestion,” he said. “If we do nothing we are going to have a complete gridlock in this county.”

LBT
Lastly, Kenneth McDonald, president and CEO of LBT, closed out the summit by highlighting projects the public-transportation agency is working on. Recently, LBT had worked on its Systemwide Transit Analysis and Reassessment (STAR) initiative, which analyzed the agency’s services and tried to find better ways to improve them.

McDonald said that the STAR initiative helped LBT focus on expanding bus corridors, replacing 40-foot-long buses with smaller ones and implementing better regional connections. LBT also created special services such as LA Galaxy and LA Rams express buses that help soccer and football fans get to the stadium on gameday.

In an effort to lower its carbon footprint on the environment LBT is comprised of an 89% alternatively fueled fleet, which includes 125 compressed natural-gas (CNG) buses, 88 hybrids and 10 battery-operated buses.

Community input
As the summit came to a close, the panel took questions from the public. Attendees expressed that few was mentioned about an improvement to bus stops. A man who rose up from his seat said the high temperatures are making waiting at uncovered bus stops unbearable.

Another woman, Barba Fay, is a Long Beach senior who asked the panel if there was a way seniors could get involved in the planning process of future public-transit projects.

“If you do these feasibility studies, have us be part of the input– many of us are college educated, we’ve had careers, we’re very intelligent and we’ve worked all our lives,” Fay said in regards to having seniors provide input for future projects. “We’re a valuable resource, and I don’t think we’re perceived as a voice at the table because we don’t represent the jobs economy, but that’s my view on things.”