Audio and article: Metro CEO Phil Washington interviewed

Photo: Zocalo Public Square.

Photo: Zocalo Public Square.

Metro CEO Phil Washington gave his vision for transportation in Los Angeles County at an event in downtown L.A last night at a Zocalo Public Square and Metro event last night. Washington was interviewed by NBC4’s Conan Nolan.

If you would like to listen to the audio only, it’s on this page.

Zocalo’s Joe Mathews wrote up the event. The entire article is here. Some highlights:

On accelerating projects:

Washington, who came to Los Angeles three and a half months ago after years of heading Denver’s Regional Transportation District, spoke passionately about the need for Los Angeles to finish the build-out of its transportation infrastructure under Measure R—and for the country as a whole to devote far more attention and money to infrastructure.

To that end, he said Metro needed to leverage its assets and existing funding, and use more tools to complete projects faster. He mentioned in particular public-private partnerships, sometimes called P3s, in which private companies invest money upfront, assume the risks of the project, and are paid back over time. He noted that this approach could accelerate projects in L.A., and had been crucial to a rail project to connect Denver’s downtown and airport. [snip]

Asked by Nolan which of the five Metro rail projects currently under construction was a “game changer,” he mentioned the Regional Connector because it can connect existing lines and “open up economic development”; he suggested he was looking for ways to accelerate its scheduled completion.

On the Blue Line:

In response to two audience members who complained about how security and sheriff’s deputies treat riders on the Blue Line, Washington said he had hired a new security chief at Metro and asked him to assess security throughout the entire system. He described security as one of several ways— including cleaner buses and rail cars, on-time buses, and technology—of “enhancing the customer experience” and convincing more people to use Metro.

On Metro’s potential long-range plan update and accompanying ballot measure to raise funds for projects:

In response to an audience question about the balance of bus and rail projects in a successor measure to Measure R on the 2016 ballot, he said Metro had asked local governments to prioritize projects by September 1. He said Metro has 2,300 projects it’s currently evaluating, worth a total of $250 billion.

Some reaction on social media:




23 replies

  1. LA says they want to become a full transit oriented city like New York, London and Tokyo, but then they go backwards and try to run it like Denver. Like really? When I Google up Denver, this is the information I get:

    Consolidated city and county of Denver:
    Pop. 600,000

    So you really think a regional transit system used in county with a population of only 600,000 is going to work in LA County where there’s over 10 million people living here?

    What part of “honor system doesn’t work” don’t these people understand? If the honor system is supposed to be so great, the cities that LA wants to become like such as New York, London and Tokyo would be using them already.

    If you want to run transit right, stop pretending LA is like Denver, stop trying to re-invent the wheel and instead, learn from the masters who has the collective experience to run mass transit for over a century by now.

    Seriously, stop playing around and just install the gates at all stations. People who cling onto going back to the old ways have some kind of special interest thing going on anyway like being fare evaders themselves. They don’t want to ride Metro because they now have to pay, fine, they can stop riding Metro. We don’t need to be padding ridership numbers and make the figures look good by including freeloaders.

  2. The honor system was the LACTC’s idea with the Blue Line and was transferred over to the MTA when it was created and those from the former LACTC took control. The LACTC was a funding agency which in many cases was anti improved bus transit. At one point when the former RTD improved service by adding more buses to it’s lines the LACTC threatened to withhold all funding until those improvements were eliminated.

  3. As I recall exiting Bart requires the proper fare before the gates allow one to exit

    • Yes it does, and BART has station attendants to help you if there is an issue, as well as a whole extra set of Fare Vending Equipment inside each station so as to let customers add fare to their tickets/cards and be able to get out. Funny how Metro didn’t study BART before implementing turnstiles. Well, it is very far away and in a different area code.

      • “Yes it does, and BART has station attendants to help you if there is an issue, as well as a whole extra set of Fare Vending Equipment inside each station so as to let customers add fare to their tickets/cards and be able to get out.”

        But it also comes with auto-reload feature so that once it gets below a certain balance, the ClipperCard automatically reloads from your credit or debit card that you tie with it.

        “Funny how Metro didn’t study BART before implementing turnstiles. Well, it is very far away and in a different area code.”
        But same state. And same Cubic contractor as TAP. And their cards can do both flat rate (MUNI) and distance based (BART and Caltrain) that somehow, the same vendor that Metro uses, cannot figure out how to do with Metro (flat rate) and Metrolink (distance based)

  4. I was quite impressed with the new CEO and got a glimpse of what his visions are for Metro and how he intends to move forward in leading Metro and its challenges.

    I agree with many of the points he made such as focusing on P3, multiple transit nodes vision, his five megatrends of the future, expanded uses of technology, not jumping the gun toward more fare hikes and understanding that the vast majority of Metro riders are low income, looking for talent from across the world who has better mass transit knowledge and experiences, and seeking more value capture methods from Metro owned real estate properties.

    But that being said, there were also several parts that I don’t agree with such as his views on not looking seriously at gating the rest of the stations to fight fare evasion, which actually is contradictory to his pro-technology views as fare gates themselves provide valuable automated data collection for Metro. He also made a point to state the honor system works fine in Denver kinda raised eyebrows for me as it sounded like he’s assuming running Metro over the whole LA County is similar to Denver, which is very far from the truth. He seem to be leaning towards more reliance on taxes to fund the majority projects, and his vague use of the word “safety” which is too often used these days as a social buzzword to advance certain specific political agendas.

    Overall, I rate CEO Phil Washington as a B+ and that hopefully, by spending more time in LA to study and understand it’s issues, challenges, and politics, he’ll begin to realize that running transit in LA is a going to be a very different ball game than Denver. But being said that, I think he has the confidence, credentials, leadership skills (any person who has served in our nation’s military gets high marks from me in leadership qualities) and many good ideas that I support that will make the challenges ahead an interesting one and will add to more experience for his future endeavors.

  5. Great interview. My only concern is the public private partnership if done in such a way that we would be indebted to a company that will later take away from our revenue stream to either build more or maintain current infrastructure. I think it would be a great idea to build live/works spaces over metro owned properties and use part of the income from the rents to either run and maintain infrastructure or even build out. This is also another opportunity to put reduced rent apartments for low income people on the market.

  6. They need to have this “talk directly to the CEO of Metro with your issues” forums more often across different parts of the county than just centric to DTLA on a weekday.

    You can’t really put a full metric on having people try to get to Olvera Street on a weekday, even at night to discuss about Orange Line issues, Green Line issues, Expo Line issues, Lancaster/Palmdale/Antelope Valley issues, etc.

    No matter what, I’m not going to be able to get to Olvera Street at 1900 hrs when I have work on a weekday and I have to get there from the Westside.

    Alternatively, have some questions picked out from Twitter or so for those who can’t make it. I could be in Taipei on a business trip, but I certainly still can be able to voice my concerns and opinion as an LA County resident and taxpayer.

  7. I sure would like to know his opinion on the daily grid lock for east / west commutes between downtown Los Angeles and the Westside in part caused by the cancellation of the two freeway back when Brown was govenor previously. But of course no one wants to talk about that or offer a alternative. Not only are autos caught in this gross avoidance but MTA buses as well.

    • Well, you can continue to whine and complain about the westside and wait for government to say “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” (cringe), or you can do something about finding alternative ways to beat gridlock and learn something new over a weekend.

      The government will take decades to solve westside gridlock problems. You can learn how to ride a motorcycle safely, under the supervision of CHP certified instructors, zip around cars and get where you are going quickly and safely in just a weekend.

      Anyone can ride a motorcycle regardless of sex, gender, orientation, age, or disability.

      Your choice.

      • The problem with grid lock did not develop by it self, it was created by Jerry Brown. Century City and other large commercial and residential developments were built with the understanding that the two freeway would continue to the westside from Echo Park. The Hollywood Freeway was built with the interchange in mind at Vermont Ave. That’s the reason for the large gap between the northbound and southbound lanes there. Property had been acquired, plans completed and construction schedules set up when Jerry Brown, anti auto Governor Moon Beam, by Executive Order cancelled the construction.

        So here we are many years later with some of the worse grid lock in the county. At the same time the MTA keeps building Light Rail to no where because the land is cheap. There is however the partially intact former Pacific Electric right of way along Santa Monica Bl. I don’t know I f the MTA or Union Pacific owns the land but it has sat unused for decades. Why not build light rail where it is truly needed instead of where some politician can make a speech.

        • I don’t think it’s fair or accurate to blame any one person for traffic in our region as traffic has been an issue for many, many decades here and in many other metro areas in the U.S. and beyond.

          Steve Hymon
          Editor, The Source

          • Steve, it’s a matter of history. In fact a person that I believe is still in management at the MTA lived in one of the houses as a renter thst was slated to be torn down for the freeway.

            Unless you live or commute via the Sunset Bl. / Santa Monica Bl. corridor you have no idea how bad traffic is now. I operated a bus on the four line in the early 1980’s. Traffic was heavy but no where as bad as it is now. Eastbound in the P.M. grid lock on Santa Monica Bl. starts at Centinella and continues east to the 405 freeway, It lightens up until Century City then total grid lock to La Brea Ave. The same is true for Sunset Bl. except it continues almost to the CBD.

            There has to be some relief but nothing is being proposed. Instead we see billions spent to widen the 405 freeway and now a proposed subway or light rail to alliviate the gidlock there. When does our turn come up? The right of way is still mostly in place. It’s just a matter of re-laying the rail and installing the overhead electrical. And I would bet a light rail line along this corridor would surpass the Blue Line in the number of passengers carried each day. Currently I estimate the four line operates with a 20 minute headway on it’s owl assignments using primarily artic buses. Why no action?

    • What “freeways” were these?

      -The Beverly Hills Freeway (SR2)? I’d love to watch that get done!

      -The Laurel Canyon Freeway? Actually it got built, just only in a certain area where it is called La Cienega and is divided with a 55 mph speed limit. Funny how that happened in the Los Angeles so many have nostalgia for.

      -The Santa Monica to Malibu Causeway? Keep dreaming!

      • Sorry folks (fine7760), but the 2 never had a chance of being built. Just because it was a line on a map or a blue print in an engineer’s office at Caltrans doesn’t mean anything. Just look at the name: “Beverley Hills Freeway”. Do you think there might have been one or two NIMBYs who might have raised objections to building a freeway through their front yards, and splitting their city in half? Even the Century Freeway, through the depressed communities of South LA, was delayed by community resistance that tripled the price of the project. Think about South Pasadena and then multiply by ten, that’s the amount of resistance that Caltrans would have received if they tried to build the 2. Look it up. That resistance was already in place and led Caltrans to propose putting the 2 underground through Beverley Hills, but even that plan was rejected, and that was before Jerry Brown took office.
        Even if you don’t account for community and environmentalist pressures, there were also the issues of the massive increases in construction costs and dwindling revenue sources. Yes, Century City was built with the assumption that the 2 was going to be built, but that’s not Jerry Brown’s fault.

        • It was’nt just a line drawn on a mape. It was funded, the property had been purchased and construction was supposed to start when Jerry Brown cancelled it. I realize Beverly Hills may not have wanted it but as I recall the States needs overshadow those of a community. That being said and the freeway off the table relief should come in some form and light rail seems to be the answer. It’s not going to get any better. Century City and the other developments including those in Beverly Hills are not going to disappear. Relief is mandatory. When is it going happen?

      • Cal Trans bought the property that was needed. Jerry Brown by Executive Order cancelled the entire project. At that time he was known as Governor Moon Beam. He refused to live in the new Governors Mansion and was very anti automobile. Perhaps the City of West Hollywood should turn Sunset Bl and Santa Monica Bl. into bike lanes. It would solve the gridlock in the city.

  8. I wish the “pod people” (personal rapid transit) would give it up. No one is going to built a separate infrastructure for automated rail vehicles when automated road vehicles are within a generation away, and much more likely than putting up steel and concrete structures and stations for people to ride their pods.