Long Beach Transit and Seal Beach City officials met Wednesday to try to repair the working relationships between the two communities that led Long Beach to pull its bus service out of Seal Beach come Aug. 26.
Wednesday’s meeting may have opened up the lines of communications, but it did little to keep Long Beach’s red Passport bus lines running in Seal Beach.
“The bottom line is that the new routes are going into effect Aug. 26,” said Seal Beach City Manager Jill Ingram, who met with Long Beach Transit President and Chief Executive Officer Laurence W. Jackson in an effort to keep the buses running in Seal Beach. “On the positive side, hopefully we have opened up a line of communication, and left the door open to, perhaps, bring service back to Seal Beach down the line. It’s just a real unfortunate situation because it’s going to hurt a lot of people.”
At Monday’s Long Beach Transit Board of Directors meeting, officials accused residents and some city leaders in Seal Beach of harboring racist attitudes toward black residents and bus patrons in Long Beach. Based on comments made in May at a heated community meeting in Seal Beach, transit officials canceled plans to extend their bus service in Seal Beach and further eliminated existing bus routes in the city, which currently serve hundreds of seniors, handicapped riders and employee commuters.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for the transit agency said the decision to pull the final route out of Seal Beach is a financial one. The savings will allow Long Beach to build infrastructures changes along the Long Beach route, serving its core customers.
The rift came as a surprise to several Seal Beach City Council members because the two cities have a history of working together on transit, coastal and trails issues.
Long Beach City Councilman Gary Delong, whose 3rd District of about 50,000 residents flanks the Seal Beach border, said Wednesday that he would attempt to bridge the dispute at a previously scheduled press conference about the resurfacing of the San Gabriel River Bike Trail that both cities will attend Thursday morning. The media event takes place at 11a.m. at First and Ocean in Seal Beach. Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster and Seal Beach Mayor Michael Levitt both are set to attend a celebration of the repaving of the San Gabriel River bike path. Several other officials from the city of Long Beach also plan to attend.
"I'll be reaching out to Seal Beach Mayor Mike Levitt tomorrow to discuss this issue and look for a solution," DeLong said via e-mail to Patch.
Some in Seal Beach were operating under the assumption that the City of Long Beach oversees or has daily hands-on authority over Long Beach Transit District.
But in fact, the transit district that provides service for millions of riders annually has its own board of directors, and is independent much like the Long Beach water department and the Port of Long Beach, said DeLong.
Long Beach Transit reports to that Board of Directors, however, those directors are appointed by the Long Beach Mayor and approved by the City Council.
LBT’s structure is similar to the Water Department and the Port,” DeLong said. And "the City Council does have the authority to approve or modify their budget."
As the final bus trip to Seal Beach looms in August, officials with Long Beach Transit and the Orange County Transportation Authority are working to coordinate bus schedule so that people taking the bus across the county border won’t have to spend too much time waiting for a bus transfer.