The Passport Shuttle Bus – Long Beach’s FREE Transportation Service

Normally I am pretty good at, in finding cheap and often free ways to get around in a place. Most of the public transportation in the U.S. is not expensive, but if you are on a budget trip, you want to save every dime you can while also getting around fast and reliable. Long Beach makes it very easy for visitors and locals to get around the major attractions.

I have to admit, it took me over one year and three visits to Long Beach to figure this out. Most of the time, I just walked around the waterfront area, as I had my camera with me. Walking makes it easy to stop wherever I wanted to, to take pictures. But if you want to get to a place or back to the hotel after an exhausting day, you really value a free ride. It’s also great if you travel as a family with small children.

Long Beach Passport Bus

The city of Long Beach offers a free shuttle bus going around the major attractions and hot spots in the city. They call it the Passport Bus. These are the big red buses and all of them are 100% electrical powered and emission-free. This makes it cheaper to operate for the city and it helps the environment. Go Green Long Beach!

All of the buses are well maintained, clean and the drivers are super friendly. If you need, bike racks are available on every Passport Bus as well as the Water Taxis and other buses of the Long Beach Transit (LBT) network. The water taxis AquaLink and AquaBus only accept cash onboard or mobile tickets through the app.

AquaLink and AquaBus

Passport Buses make multiple stops throughout the city and make it easy to connect to other public transportation methods like the Metro to reach different parts of the Los Angeles area or hop on an Aqua Link ferry to get to the nearby Alamitos Bay Landing. These other modes of transportation are not free but offer great and valuable connections to other parts of the greater Los Angeles area.

Stops along the Passport Route are marked with the Passport Sign

To find these stops, you have to know the route, as the official website only gives you 5 stops. It was disappointing, that there are actually more bus stops than these five mentioned in their schedule. Talking about the schedule, the times are pretty vague too. It can be up to -/+ 10 minutes on each stop compared to the timetable in the PDF. The same map as in the PDF is also posted at the stops along the Passport route. Why are they not showing all the possible stops?

Passport Route on Google Maps

I found the best route overview in the Google Maps mobile app. It shows you all the stops and the route. To be honest, I have no idea how accurate the route is, but for what I used it for, it was good enough.

After a conversation with Long Beach Transit, they gave me a link to their website with a map of all the stops. Finally! Why did they hide this route so well? I was trying to find the passport route on their website as well, but who would have guessed to search for “Route 37” as it is everywhere advertised as “Passport”. ❓

Passport Route aka Route 37

To get off the bus, you have to pull on the yellow line on either side of the bus. Otherwise, the driver won’t stop if there are no people trying to get on. Along the route, there are longe scheduled stops, two of them are Shoreline Village and Queen Mary.

Pull the yellow line to let the driver know you want to get off.

Currently, LBT is testing an interactive touch display to replace the regular paper route displays at bus stops. Their prototype is currently located at the bus stop outside of the Long Beach Transit Office at E Anaheim St and Cherry Ave. I tried it out and it has potential. It will show the full route of a bus, this will include the Passport Route and all of its stops.

Interactive Touch Display

Long Beach Transit App

The easiest way to buy your ticket is through the Long Beach Transit app, which is available for Android and iOS.

Long Beach Transit
Long Beach Transit
Developer: way.com
Price: Free
‎Long Beach Transit
‎Long Beach Transit
Developer: way com inc
Price: Free

All you have to do is sing up for an account and add a form of payment. I know, another account you have to track and worry about your payment method being compromised. But the whole process is not as simple anymore if you are concerned about your personal data. Everybody out there wants now your metadata. All say they don’t sell it and protect it. You can believe them or not, especially nobody can guarantee the safety of your data.

Unfortunately, the experience I was hoping for is not as easy as expected. I registered my account via their website. For some reason, you have to enter a username on the website, which is irrelevant as they only want your email and password to log in. So I created my account and was able to sign in via the web browser but the app always gave me an error message that my username or password is not correct. However, you can’t use your username and have to use your email to login. Without using an email address, you can’t even hit the “login” button in the app. So I tried resetting my password via the app and all of a sudden I got a message that no account was found with my email address. Weird, because on the website I can log in and out over and over. It looked to me that these are two unrelated accounts and I was right. The next day LBT replied to my twitter message and confirmed that both accounts are not related to each other. Who had that “great” idea? >:( But the issue is, that the app was developed by a third party, but there would be always a way to tie both accounts together but that’s a question of budget and infrastructure.

Ok, let us continue on. As I know that these are two different accounts I started creating my account on the mobile app. When you first open the app, it wants you to enter your phone number or you can use one of your social accounts or sign up with email. You guys see the “or” too in the screenshots below? Well, in reality, it’s not an “or” it’s an “and“. After creating an account using my email, they want to verify my phone number. So where is the point in signing up with email? Just so they have more of my personal information which could get leaked?

If you are a security-conscious person, you won’t be too happy with how they have set up their system. Now let’s think about foreign tourists, I am sure Long Beach likes to see tourists visiting the area. Long Beach has a cruise terminal and that’s probably one of the main reasons for foreign tourists. So if you don’t have service by a U.S.-based provider, what do you do? You buy a prepaid SIM card to have a “cheap” internet while in the country. Now the potential hazard. You use this number to sign up for the transit app and let your phone number, later on, expire, as you are leaving the country. Now, this number will get reassigned to someone else after a while and he potentially could access your account. Where on the contrary, if you would use email, you would always own your email address. To this point, it took me a lot of hours to try to sign up for an account and still not able to.

For people who don’t care too much about there personal data, it’s probably a straight forward process. But if this is already that complicated, I don’t know how bad it is with payment and all the other things once you have an account.

Some Good News

As I got told by Long Beach Transit, the TAP app of LA Metro will integrate all the services of LBT and you will be able to purchase your tickets through their app. Which is great.

To be honest, there should be only one app for all public transportation in Los Angeles. To keep the app convenient and small, make modules for the app, which customers can download like an LBT plug-in to use the services of LBT if they need too. This avoids creating dozens of accounts to travel within the same metropolitan area.

Long Beach Transit Website (and Issues)

It already started out while researching the Passport Bus service. I googled it and the first result was the official webpage of Long Beach Transit (www.ridelbt.com). However, the link pointed to a sub-side which was dead. After contacting LBT on Twitter, they told me I have to go to this website and scroll down to Passport Service. (Update: After contacting LBT and letting them know the link is dead, they fixed the issue and it is working now.)

Their website has more issues than just that. If you open the menu and click one of their social icons, like Facebook or Twitter, you get redirected back to whatever page you are currently on instead of linking to their Facebook or Twitter account.

And then it seems the website is outdated by a few months. I wanted to check some information about their water taxis. The page showed that the water taxis are currently not running and will begin service on April 12, 2019. When I checked, it was the first of July. Besides that, I can see the boats on the water even from my hotel room.

Outdated: Screenshot was taken on July 1, 2019

After a good and informative conversation with LBT on Twitter, I felt more confident about their service and that they actually care for their customers. For example, the app is developed by a third-party and LBT had to go that route as it takes forever for LA Metro to integrate LBT into their system. They also had a schedule change and some staffing issues, which all contributed to these circumstances. I am sure it will get better in the near future and some of the issues mentioned here have been fixed now after bringing it up to their attention. As you probably can imagine, I was very frustrated with all that. Things should be easy, simple and safe.

Conclusion

The service has definitely potential but LBT has to do some improvements. Especially in promoting the route. The map has to show all the possible stops, or at least put a note that there are stops in between. The time differences between the posted schedule and actual times are manageable as a bus stops pretty much every 15 minutes throughout the majority of the day. Google Maps is also a great alternative here, as you can tap on your stop and it shows you the schedule and if a bus is delayed.

To be fair, they offer a free shuttle bus service around the important places in Long Beach. You can’t complain about this – it’s free! That’s what the post mainly is about, but I am sure you would like to connect to AquaLink or AquaBus to connect to one of the other points of interest or just to get a mini harbor tour.

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