Long Beach high school students aren't utilizing enough public transportation in the city, according to officials at Long Beach Transit (LBT).
To find out why, LBT turned towards a hopeful target market — high school students — at Poly High School and asked for the students to provide their office with insight.
"I thought it was a great idea to talk to the kids and hear what they have to say about it," Paul Gonzales, LBT public informations officer, said. "The reality is the use of (public) transit is declining, so we need to figure out what we can do to adjust that."
In November, sophomore business students at Poly were provided with criteria to address in a marketing presentation to LBT. That criteria required asking and answering a series of questions, including "What do you like about public transportation," and, "How do you want to pay for it?"
The questions were asked in an attempt to learn about younger riders and what LBT can do to encourage a lifetime of public transportation.
"We're trying to bring riders in who are at high school age," Gonzales said. "If having their insight helps us evolve our transit system, then that would be great."
On Thursday, Jan. 11, three groups — with a combined total of 13 students — from Poly High School's Pacific Rim Academy business program presented their marketing ideas to LBT leaders, as well as Kenneth McDonald, LBT president and CEO.
"We have to rework where we do our advertising," McDonald said. "It's important if we want to reach the demographic we're aiming for."
But to get the attention of high school students, LBT will need to make a few changes, according to student Jahmal Bell.
"I had to go to the LA Metro station to get a TAP card," Bell said. "It's not that easy to get."
TAP cards are reusable cards with a built-in electronic chip. Cards can be refilled at designated sites or online and are used in place of cash when boarding a city bus.
However, to buy a card, users must purchase the card online with a credit card or visit a vendor or Metro location. There are vendor locations in Long Beach, including at the Long Beach Transit and Visitor Center (130 E. 1st St.), but the customer centers are all located in Los Angeles.
Even with the different options, Bell said that he didn't think that LBT has done enough to help their younger, potential users become acquainted with the service.
To fix that, his group added that LBT should host informational booths on high school campuses.
"What better way to find out what teenagers want than to go to a place where they're forced to go to everyday," Bell said.
Another recommendation that the groups offered was to partner with brands that cater to young shoppers. The example used was Supreme, a clothing and lifestyle brand popular with celebrities.
The last, and unanimous, suggestion from each group was to work on the overall image of public transportation.
"If you slapped 'Supreme' on the side of the bus, people will line up to ride it," one presenter said.
Student Melannie Rodriguez told officials that presentation matters, and oftentimes the buses are dirty or filled with less than pleasant smells — although the buses are in good shape.
Other points included lowering the cost of the bus fare and creating an LBT application for smart phones that provides minute by minute bus schedule updates.
The participating Poly students were Jahmal Bell, Angelica Murillo, Mercie Vivao, Kevyn Reyes, Jocelyn Yanez, Sodavid Nit, Kaiya Phillips, Jaileen Williams, Serena Ier, Anahi Nunez, Korey Loueng, Vincent Thornton and Melannie Rodriquez. Their presentations will count as a graded class assignment.
The Poly presenters left the LBT board with a few items to consider, but McDonald added that he's hoping to change the look and feel of public transportation for more than Long Beach high school students.
"Next we want to reach our senior population," he said. "And that's a different ballgame."
For more information on Long Beach Transit, go to lbtransit.com.
To learn more about Poly High School's Pacific Rim Business Academy, go to lbpoly.schoolloop.com/pacrim.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at email@example.com.