With the Southern California Air Quality Management District’s (SCAQMD) Clean On-Road Transit Buses Rule dictating they couldn’t operate a diesel engine, they looked at the options. Jackson says, “Half a dozen or so years ago we were faced with that decision and this facility, it’s been here for 80 years. We’re not in an industrial area. CNG tanks and compressors, it’s noisy, it’s not necessarily thought of as being compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods, so we decided we can’t put it here.
“So we went with a hybrid-electric and the engine that runs our hybrid-electric is a gasoline engine. It’s not diesel, they wouldn’t let us have a little diesel engine, so we put in a little gasoline engine.” He adds, “We have almost 100 of them.
“The whole hybrid technology, which is very expensive compared to diesel and much more expensive than even CNG or LNG, it hasn’t lived up to the hype,” Jackson says. “It’s not the Prius; you’re not going to be getting 40 miles per gallon. We were achieving maybe a 5, 10, 15 percent increase, but gasoline prices vs. diesel prices vs. natural gas, it’s a market consideration in terms of cost, too.
“We weren’t achieving the cost savings that we wanted to.”
Just like everywhere else, LBT has been feeling the hardship of the economy. There have been adjustments for both riders and employees. There were little service cuts, fare increases, no wage increases for anybody since 2008, effectively a 5 percent additional contribution toward retirement, and additional contributions toward the health insurance.
“People have felt a 7 percent reduction in their paycheck as we’ve gone through this,” Jackson says. “But we haven’t laid anybody off.
“My mantra has been I’m saving jobs,” Jackson stresses. “We’re keeping everybody employed, and we’re keeping service on the street.