Laurence Jackson gets Long Beach Transit on track

Laurence Jackson, President and CEO, Long Beach Transit

As the largest municipal transit operator in Los Angeles County, Long Beach Transit has a very specific mission: serve the area’s residents, employees and visitors with world-class service.

With Laurence Jackson at the helm as president and CEO, Long Beach Transit has done just that, and in the process, it has become a nationally acclaimed public transit system that serves nearly 30 million customers each year.

It hasn’t been easy, but Jackson has done the job well.

“In a time when public agencies are struggling with huge deficits and unfunded services, conservative fiscal management has allowed us to operate as a business for over 47 years with a balanced budget, never missing a single day of service,” he says.

Because of this, Jackson was named one of the 2010 Smart Leader honorees by Smart Business and Chase Bank. We asked how he keeps Long Beach Transit on time and on budget.

Give us an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.

Until we started our specialized Dial-A-Lift program, it was nearly impossible for persons with disabilities to get around. For our residents who were unable to ride a fixed route bus system, Dial-A-Lift was a successful public/private partnership with our local taxi company service, Long Beach Yellow Cab. This made a huge difference in the lives of many people who were not otherwise able to leave their homes. On the business side, we sought ways to make the service more cost-effective and efficient by making our vehicles part of the taxi fleet. Long Beach Yellow Cab now has accessible taxi cabs for the general public while Long Beach Transit was able to lower its total operating costs by nearly 50 percent.

In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

Long Beach Transit has always been a leader in working to improve the environment, well before regulatory deadlines. We were the first transit agency in California to use ultra low sulfur diesel fuel and install particulate traps on our entire fleet of full-sized diesel buses. We then pioneered a new propulsion technology with the purchase of hybrid electric buses, replacing aging diesel buses in our fleet. Long Beach Transit now has the largest fleet in the nation of hybrid gasoline electric buses, and we can boast that these buses have the lowest emissions of any transit bus currently available. The effort was so successful that several other Southern California transit operators joined in purchasing hybrid vehicles for their fleets.

Long Beach Transit is also a leader in real-time bus arrival information. We were first in Southern California, and third in the nation to provide real-time technology via the web and now offer trip planning through Google Transit. We also make real time bus arrival information available at bus stops, on board the bus, and from a customer’s phone.

How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?

Long Beach Transit is a critical link in the economic and social well being of the area’s residents, employees, and visitors, who have positively rated the system’s overall service quality above 90%. We are a nationally acclaimed public transit system providing a wide range of transit services to nearly 30 million customers annually. The organization directly employs over 700 people plus 100 private partnership persons, with an annual capital budget and operating budget of $100 million.

How to reach: Long Beach Transit,