“It really gave me a great opportunity, when you really understand the funding, then you really understand maintenance better,” Negriff says. “And maintenance utilizes — purchases — 95 percent of the stuff that we have.” A position was created as assistant director of operations, which was a position that the operations and maintenance divisions reported to. Negriff was apprehensive about the maintenance side of things, but understood what they needed; she understood the capital planning process from her previous experience.
“I was just really honest with those employees,” she explains. As she told the employees at the time, “I’m never going to know how to fix a bus and you may not be used to seeing a woman in a role like this, but I know how to get the money to provide you with what you need and if you work with me, I’ll ensure that you have those.” She adds, “It’s been a great relationship with them ever since.”
Working in that role and working with John Catoe prepared her for the role of director, which she has been in since 2002. “I really felt that I was ready to take on the challenge of this job,” she says.
The policy direction of the city has guided everything that the Big Blue Bus has done. The city wanted the agency to operate natural gas vehicles; it just had to make a decision as to whether they were going to operate LNG or CNG. “So we chose liquefied natural gas,” says Negriff. “We knew we needed an infrastructure for it so we built this LNG fueling station, which, of course, fuels LNG and CNG.”
According to Ralph Merced, transit maintenance manager, the Big Blue Bus got its first small all-electric vehicle in 1998 and the first LNG buses about 2002. Currently the agency has 15 gasoline hybrids on order from ElDorado and a natural gas articulated bus from North American Bus Industries Inc.
Christopher Ramirez, marketing & public information for the Big Blue Bus, says, “100 percent of our fleet is now some kind of alternative fuel. Even the remaining diesel buses we have are running on biodiesel.” He adds, “And of course our plan is to get rid of all of those diesel-burning buses and switch them over to other, LNG or CNG.”
The agency’s fuel is delivered as LNG, its buses are fueled as LNG but the fuel can also be converted to CNG. Orange County is going to fill its CNG buses on the Big Blue Buses’ external island. “We take delivery of LNG, convert it to CNG for the CNG use, but we still have LNG to use for our buses,” Merced says. It’s one way in which the agency generates some additional revenue.
As Facilities Maintenance Superintendent Johnny Nettles says, “We’re not going to get rich over it.” Instead they’re focusing on being good neighbors and getting more natural gas buses to the region.
About two years ago The Big Blue Bus opened its Transit Store, where you can buy tickets and passes, get route information or purchase a wide variety of Big Blue Bus merchandise, including things such as bags, toy buses, water bottles and apparel.
“We really wanted that transit store to be a community focal point to make the connection between public transportation and the environment,” explains Negriff. “What better way to do that than to create a store that’s made out of recycled materials and that promotes it.”
A short bus ride from the agency, the store is constructed with sustainable considerations every step of the way. “The floors are made of recycled tires, the countertops are made from a new material that’s a combination of plastic bottles that have been melted down and pressed, and all of the surfaces like the walls and the cabinetry, are all made of straw board,” explains Ramirez.
A special solar panel on the outside helps illuminate the store in the evening and special windows above and below that panel open to allow circulation. Being three blocks from the ocean, the Transit Store gets a nice, cool ocean breeze coming through.
The unique curvature of the ceiling inside the store works with unusual looking window sills that stick far out. The coating on the window sills is reflective so the sun’s light bounces off the reflective panel and up into the curved ceiling to illuminate even the back of the store with natural light so less electricity needs to be used.