The Board, led by Supervisor Gloria Molina, has taken the last few minutes to recognize outgoing Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, crediting him — rightly, I think — for pushing forward an ambitious transportation agenda over his past eight years as mayor and Metro Board member.
“Much of what has been accomplished and much of what will be accomplished in the years ahead is because of your vision,” said County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. “This is your legacy, among many other things. You've gotten the blame for things that have gone wrong and you should also get credit for things that have gone right.”
“I may have had the vision for where things need to go but the detail and the focus to get it done was done by a lot of people,” responded Villaraigosa, who said that he is pleased to see the region beginning to change the way it plans and gets around.
“People are going to live closer to public transportation, they are going to work, shop, live and play along transportation corridors,” the mayor said. “And I think you will see it in a way that will be transformative.”
He also said that he hopes that Metro fares remain low in future years because it's the best way to serve those who depend on transit and help incentivize others to ride.
My three cents: during his 2005 campaign for mayor, Villaraigosa promised to build the subway to the sea — a promise that some considered outrageous. The project had not a single penny of funding, little political backing and it had been less than seven years since county voters had approved a ballot measure denying use of local sales tax funds for a subway.
One by one, Villaraigosa removed the very tall hurdles facing the project. He pushed Metro to do a new tunneling safety study, he used the study to help persuade Rep. Henry Waxman to remove a federal ban on funding for a subway and he helped lead the effort to get Measure R passed to fund the subway and many other important road and transit projects across Los Angeles County.
As part of that deal — which was heavily political — the mayor helped get the subway funded as far as Westwood and he has been pushing for a novel federal program, America Fast Forward, to accelerate the construction of Measure R projects. The subway may not make it to the sea for now, but it will be nine additional miles of transit that will serve the second largest job center in Los Angeles County. Construction on the first segment of the Purple Line Extension is expected to begin next year.