New to The Source is a feature called Metro Minutes, an audio recording that you can click on and hear Metro’s Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy talk about transportation related news and information.
In this first edition of Metro Minutes, Art Leahy reflects on the past year at the agency and what to look forward to in 2010.
Read a transcript of the interview after the jump.
1/7/10 Interview with Metro CEO Art Leahy
Rick Jager: Welcome to Metro Minutes, your source for information on transportation issues. Today, we’re speaking with Metro’s chief executive officer Art Leahy. Art, welcome to The Source.
Art Leahy: Well, thank you very much. I’m pleased to be here.
Rick Jager: Art, as 2009 comes to an end, why don’t you talk a little bit about the accomplishments made the past year, and then what’s in store for the region in 2010?
Art Leahy: Well, first I’d like to say I’m pleased to be here. I began with the MTA in April, so it’s hard to believe I’ve been here nine months. And I’m only pleased to be here to help make a contribution to Los Angeles.
In the last year, of course, we had the Eastside Gold Line opening. Great – a great opening. People are riding the trains every day. We’ve had great service over the New Year’s holiday to the Rose Bowl and the Rose Parade and so forth.
I think one of the most difficult events during the year was the rail car purchase, the light rail car, with Breda. In the end, it didn’t work out, but it took a lot – a great deal of time.
I’m very pleased that during the fall of the year, the Board approved both the federal New Starts approach as well as the Long-Range Transportation Plan. So that really puts us on the path now for getting those rail projects moving.
Measure R funds are flowing. We have a one-year extension of our labor contracts. And we’re working hard to balance our budget, despite the very serious loss of State funds. So a lot is going on.
Rick Jager: It’s been a very busy year. You’ve been here eight months. Your assessment of the agency so far?
Art Leahy: Well, there are a lot of great people here. We are making a major contribution to Los Angeles County. Every time I go into a new station, I’m amazed to see all the people there. I ride the trains and the buses whenever I can. There are a lot of folks moving on the MTA. So I’m pleased to be here. We’re going to – we are revolutionizing Los Angeles.
Rick Jager: And as we look ahead in 2010, a brand new year approaching, or actually here already, what are some of the things we’re going to – we’re going to see in the New Year?
Art Leahy: Well, of course we’re working on the Expo Line. It’s under construction. We’ll open it up in the next year or so. Been some delays there, but it’s still moving. We’re working on an extension of the Orange Line up in the San Fernando Valley to Chatsworth Metrolink Station.
And the Measure R projects are beginning to move. The Westside Subway, the Crenshaw Line, Expo phase 2. Of course, the Gold Line Foothill Line out in the San Gabriel Valley. And the regional connector. So a lot of exciting things are happening.
Rick Jager: And in terms of the bus system. I know one of your top priorities here as the new CEO is to really try to improve the performance of the bus system. What’s in store for that?
Art Leahy: Well, you’re right. I care very much about buses. The bulk of our ridership is on buses. So I think we need to do a great deal to get much more focus on operating quality service. That means on-time service. That means clean buses with courteous operators.
We have some work to do in that area, but luckily we have a good platform from which to work.
Rick Jager: Any final thoughts as we enter the new decade?
Art Leahy: Looking forward to the coming year. We’re going to continue to do great things for the county. We’re going to be looking to work together with all the various cities and regions in Los Angeles County and indeed the other counties to do the very best we can for Los Angeles and Southern California.
Rick Jager: Thank you for joining us today. This has been Metro Minutes with Metro CEO Art Leahy. Reporting for The Source, I’m Rick Jager.