Southern California’s Long Beach Transit (LBT) has long been a pioneer in both incorporating innovative technological advancements and developing valuable partnerships to raise the level of training needed for these advancements. At LBT, the need for advanced skills in the transit maintenance field has escalated over the last decade.
For instance, in 1994, the agency purchased its first New Flyer low-floor buses equipped with Allen Bradley SLC 500 electrical control systems. This, along with the introduction of newer, micro-electronic circuitry in fareboxes, bus head-signs, engines, transmissions and HVAC systems, highlighted the need for suitable electrical training for technicians. Additionally, because the cost of replacing electrical boards was growing rapidly, the need for skills to repair rather than replace these boards was evident. With the purchase of each new bus, it became clearer that LBT’s level of basic mechanic skills would need to include an advanced electronic component.
Building a partnership
Long Beach Transit opened the doors to its second major operations, the Larry Jackson Transit Center maintenance and training facility in 1998. In anticipation of a greater involvement in repairing electronic components, this state-of-the-art facility included a clean room electronic shop, complete with lab workstations and specialized repair equipment. However, repairing micro-circuitry in-house presented a few new challenges, and it was clear that outside assistance was needed to help develop the necessary skills.
LBT enlisted the help of Edison Power Production Services to develop a new training program. Edison already had a complex, in-depth training program used at its own facilities called Fault Assisted Circuits for Electronic Training (FACET). LBT worked with Edison to select relevant modules from FACET and customize them to transit technicians. After a careful in-house selection process, four LBT technicians were chosen for a multi-year training program, which began in mid-2002.
The Edison training program included coursework on subjects such as digital logic fundamentals, operational amplifier fundamentals, thyristors and power control circuits, power supply regulation circuits and transistor power amplifiers. Instructors taught courses twice a month, during the technicians’ regularly scheduled work hours.
Positioning for the future
As a result of the partnership with Edison, LBT is now equipped to repair components of bus head signs, transfer machines, fareboxes, advanced communications systems and other electrical equipment. When components fail, they are sent to the in-house electronic shop for repair, and then returned to the stockroom for reissue. The electronic shop is heavily involved with all new technology and is a source for cost savings and efficiencies.
Moreover, because the onset of advanced technology is continuous, investment in this training will continue. In 2005, LBT was one of the first transit agencies to put production model gasoline-hybrid buses into revenue service. These vehicles have an electric drive and other complex electronic systems, requiring maintenance technicians to acquire a basic skill set of electronic circuitry.
In the future, LBT is planning to build another electronics shop at its headquarters to further support growing electronic repair requirements. The agency is currently developing a six-month electronic instruction program that will be offered to technicians and will include some of the concepts offered in the Edison course.