Centrally located between the beach and downtown Los Angeles with a population of about 40,000 is Culver City. The local transit agency, Culver CityBus, was established in 1928 and currently operates seven routes, serving about 5.9 million passengers annually within a 22.5-square-mile area.
Art Ida, Culver CityBus’ transportation director, ended up in transit by chance and has stayed in it by choice. “When I graduated from college I started out working in corporate America,” he says as he talks about working for Xerox and then TRW Aerospace in the contract area.
“I saw the government contracts that TRW had and we would build accordingly and we would get the money,” he explains. “Well, I started to see all the contracts get closed out early so I kind of saw the writing on the wall that aerospace was about to take a huge dive.
“I looked in the paper and I saw a position at Long Beach Transit for a grants administrator, didn’t even know what a grants administrator was,” he says laughing. “But it was close to my house, so I applied, got an interview.”
As he explains, he was accustomed to working with federal agencies, it was a similar task, but working with the Federal Transit Administration as opposed to the Department of Defense.
“I got the job there and on the second day I was there, one of the things that Long Beach used to require, they used to require that employees go out and do a line ride,” he explains. “I got on the bus, took a bus ride and remembered everything about riding the bus.
“When I was young, we only had one car that was used for my dad’s business,” he shares. “Going back and seeing the people on the bus, remembering my mother taking me to the doctor or to school or to do our chores, it kind of brought everything back to me.
“And that was it,” he exclaims. “I said, wow, I remembered why and how important the bus was to us in growing up. I told myself this is the industry I’m going to stay in; I’m going to grow in this industry.” He adds, “I made a commitment within that year to stay in this industry and I wanted to do something great.”
Although he hated to leave, he said it was just time to leave Long Beach Transit to pursue more challenges, so he moved on to Foothill Transit. After a year he came to Culver CityBus and has been there for eight years now. “The reason why I came here was, this is what I wanted to do,” Ida says.
“I came here as a deputy of transportation director because I wanted to get out of the finance area and into more of the operations, more of the executive-level management.” He continues, “I came here and just last year I was appointed as transportation director because my boss retired.” He adds, “I’m very happy; it’s always rewarding when you reach a career goal.”
Running a Green Fleet
“We have been kind of on the forefront of CNG,” Ida tells me. “I think we were 100 percent back in 2003; 100 percent of our fleet was CNG.” He also says that they expanded it to some of the other city fleets and, two years ago, expanded the CNG station.
“That was a tremendous project for such a small agency, but we knew it was coming because we do service sanitation vehicles, as well as some of the other heavy-duty and publics works trucks,” he explains.
“I have to tell you, when I first came on board and I saw the CNG buses, I was very worried at that point,” he says. There were definitely growing pains, but the team has worked hard to make it successful.
“I think that because our maintenance team has been very proactive and just worked extremely hard in terms of training and making sure that they’re up on the technology, have a very good relationship with the vendors in terms of parts, that is what made us successful in this venture.”
He adds, “Some other properties have struggled due to the fact that maybe they gave up, maybe they didn’t have the relationships like we do.”