Transportation headlines, Friday, March 13

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Metro Board unanimously votes to approve Phil Washington as CEO (Streetsblog LA)

From left: Metro's next CEO Phil Washington and Metro Board Members Mark Ridley-Thomas and James Butts. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

From left: Metro’s next CEO Phil Washington and Metro Board Members Mark Ridley-Thomas and James Butts. Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.

Excerpt from Joe Linton’s write-up:

Denver livability advocates, from Transit Alliance, Walk Denver, and Bike Denver, all gave Washington high marks, and expressed disappointment in his leaving.

Walk Denver acting board chair Gideon Berger, fellowship director at the Urban Land Institute’s Rose Center for Public Leadership, worked with Washington at RTD. Berger describes Washington as “a breath of fresh air” for having taken the reigns at RTD during the fiscal challenge of the recent recession. According to Berger, Phil Washington was instrumental in increasing the morale of RTD staff, empowering them, and ensuring they had the resources to be successful.

Transit Alliance board chair Chris Waggett, the developer CEO of D4 Urban, emphasized Washington’s commitment to balanced investment throughout the region.  Denver is part of the Front Range – an area consisting of 41 city and county municipalities. Waggett was impressed that Washington’s leadership fostered regional cooperation over factional competition. This collaboration, often between area with disparate political perspectives, “made things happen” and the “entire region benefited.”

As Joe notes, the ability to foster cooperation over a big metro area is something that likely appealed to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has frequently said much the same thing  — the city of L.A. must be able to work with its neighbors to solve metro area problems.

There’s a lot more to this post than excerpted above. Please give it a read; it ends with a nice couple of anecdotes about Phil.

Nine ways that Metro’s new CEO can revolutionize L.A.’s transit (Curbed LA)

A healthy slice of this list is comprised of projects underway. Perhaps most notable is the call for a second Measure R sales tax increase to fund new rail lines, including an extension of the Crenshaw/LAX Line to Sunset Boulevard. Curbed also wants Metro keep fares low, noting that the system’s disproportionate number of low-income riders.

As I’ve noted before: Metro is exploring a ballot measure for 2016 but hasn’t made any recommendations to the agency’s Board of Directors, nor has the Board taken a stance on the issue. Stay tuned.

Former MTA chief expected to be named chief of Metrolink (L.A. Times) 

Not ‘former’ quite yet — Art Leahy isn’t scheduled to leave Metro until early April. Nonetheless, the Metrolink Board approved the hiring of Leahy as its next CEO earlier this morning, meaning he’ll be taking a different set of elevators to his new job (Metrolink is headquartered in the Metro building adjacent to Union Station). Excerpt:

Leahy, who announced his resignation from the MTA in January, would head the commuter railroad at a difficult time.

Metrolink officials have been dealing with slipping ridership, a variety of financial irregularities, an aging fleet of locomotives and customer service issues, including faulty ticket vending machines.

The railroad also has been steadily adding safety measures since the deadly Chatsworth crash in September 2008 that killed 25 and injured 135.

Metro is one of the five county transportation agencies that funds Metrolink with Metro making the largest contribution (because L.A. is the most populous county with the most riders). I think Metrolink serves a vital function, providing a transit option to long-distance commuters. The big challenge for the agency has always been speed and safety as Metrolink either must share its trackage with freight railroads or deal with significant sections of single track.

Even with ridership challenges, it’s pretty impressive to stand in the L.A. Union Station tunnel at rush hour and watch all the people walking (okay, some running) between Metrolink trains and Metro buses and trains. There’s little doubt that Metrolink and Metro can deliver a pretty good one-two punch together and improvements to both systems will serve everyone well.

The Sao Paulo commute: walk, bus, train, train, train, bus, walk, repeat (L.A. Times) 

A photo taken in 2006 in Sao Paulo. Doesn't sound like things have changed much. Photo by Dylan Passmore, via Flickr creative commons.

A photo taken in 2006 in Sao Paulo. Doesn’t sound like things have changed much. Photo by Dylan Passmore, via Flickr creative commons.

Really good read about the nightmarish commutes facing some workers each day. The average commute time is about 44 minutes but apparently it’s not hard to find folks who routinely spend more than two hours zig-zagging to work on a public transit system that was long overlooked by Brazilian pols in favor of building out road infrastructure. That appears to have been a mistake — watch the video to see some seriously crowded trains and train platforms.


Things to listen to on transit: Metro carries its share of students each day and I’m sure a few of them would be interested in this Fresh Air interview with writer Kevin Carey about the advent of free online higher education. Carey is very critical of the current university system that he believes has become far too expensive and out of reach of many Americans.

He believes four-year universities could serve students just as well by putting classes online — for free — as some prestigious places such as MIT already do. Host Terri Gross is appropriately skeptical about some of his ideas and assumptions, making for a good and thoughtful interview about a subject near and dear to our hearts: the ability of low-income Americans to climb the ladder to success.

Things to watch on transit: Last Man on Earth, the new Fox show with Will Forte and Kristen Schaal. Yes, it’s that good. Warning: all sorts of adult language/situations — headphones!

Rider of a Certain Age Who Considers It His Sacred Duty to Expose Millennials/Hipsters to Good Music They May Have Missed: Wow, has it really been 21 years since Uncle Tupelo released “Anodyne?” Geesh.