Long Beach Transit to receive $6.5 million grant to electrify UCLA route

Long Beach Transit is slated to receive $6.5 million in grant funds from the state to purchase five electric buses for its commuter service to UCLA’s Westwood campus.

The local grant is part of $39 million that was allocated this week to transportation projects in Los Angeles County by the California Transportation Commission. The grants are funded by an increase in gas and diesel taxes, as well as vehicle fees, passed in 2017.

The Long Beach Transit grant will help the agency meet its goal of having an entire fleet of zero emission buses by 2035, said spokesman Michael Gold.

“We know that the communities we serve are impacted by pollution from trucks and the port, so we want to be part of a sustainable solution,” he said.

Once the funds have been dispensed, the agency will have to pick a vendor from a state-approved list to produce and deliver the vehicles.

Because of the route’s run time—a trip takes one hour to an hour and a half, depending on traffic—the agency is looking to purchase coach-style, long distance buses. So far, the route has been serviced by regular city buses, but customers have requested more comfortable accommodations, according to Gold.

“They love the service, they like that they don’t have to drive themselves,” he said. “But for a longer ride, the customers have been asking us for something a little more comfortable.”

As long as funds are dispensed as expected, Gold said the buses should arrive in Long Beach in approximately 18 months. The agency has not yet zeroed in on a selection of vendors.

Long Beach Transit started the express commuter service to UCLA in April 2019. In its first year, the service transported an average of 2,597 passengers per month on six daily trips—three morning trips to and three afternoon trips from Westwood.

During the pandemic that number dropped to 288, with one trip per day in each direction, mirroring the agency’s overall drop in passengers numbers, according to Gold.

Editors note: This story has been updated to clarify that average ridership numbers for the commuter service were reported on a per-month basis.

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Alena Maschke writes about all things business and beyond for the Long Beach Business Journal/Long Beach Post. Born and raised in Germany, she first fell in love with California during an exchange year at UCLA. After receiving her master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in 2017, she returned to the Golden State with an appetite for great stories, pupusas and the occasional Michelada.