Metro announces first Chief Innovation Officer

As some of you know, Metro CEO Phil Washington announced over the summer that he was creating an Office of Extraordinary Innovation. Dr. Joshua L. Schank will lead that new initiative. Here is the news release from Metro:

L.A. Metro announces First Chief Innovation Officer

Metro CEO Phillip Washington Taps Nationally Recognized Transportation Expert

Dr. Joshua L. Schank to Head Newly Created Office of Extraordinary Innovation

Los Angeles – The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced today the selection of  Dr. Joshua L. Schank as the first-ever head of Metro’s newly created Office of Extraordinary Innovation. Dr. Schank’s hire reflects L.A. Metro’s commitment to innovation, accessibility and accountability in transportation for all Angelenos.

Dr. Joshua L. Schank.

Dr. Joshua L. Schank.

Dr. Schank currently serves as President and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation in Washington, D.C., an influential, nonpartisan transportation policy think tank. At Eno, Dr. Schank successfully sought innovative solutions to pressing national transportation concerns through consensus and coalition building among industry leaders, elected officials and academics. In this role, Dr. Schank also directed Eno’s highly visible working groups on public-private partnerships (P3s), freight, aviation and transportation finance.

Dr. Schank started his career at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority as a transportation planner and went on to work as a Congressional Transportation Fellow and Legislative Assistant in the United States Senate. He also worked as a senior associate for two major international transportation consulting firms, specializing in public transit and federal transportation policy. He also served as Director of Transportation Research for the Bipartisan Policy Center based in Washington, D.C., where he directed a large panel of former elected officials, policy experts, business executives and civic leaders overseeing a national study of federal transportation policy that resulted in recommendations for accountable, performance-based transportation programs.

“Dr. Schank is highly regarded across the transportation industry as a collaborator and an innovator,” said L.A. Metro CEO Phillip Washington. “He is a leader in transportation policy and driving mobility solutions through his own unique vision.”

In July, just two months after taking the helm as Metro’s new CEO, Washington announced the creation of an Office of Extraordinary Innovation. The intent of this office is to champion new ideas to improve mobility in L.A. County. The responsibilities are threefold:  1) Inform the high-level vision for L.A. Metro through exposure to innovative people, organizations and industries; 2) Support Metro departments in piloting and implementing new and experimental programs and policy and 3) Serve as the primary liaison for new ideas relevant to L.A. Metro coming from entrepreneurs, private sector entities, academia or individuals.

“This office will be responsible for mining and implementing the most out of the box and innovative strategies the transportation industry has ever seen in this country,” said Washington. “This will be our Innovative Strike Force Team in areas such as public-private partnerships, value capture opportunities, high technology and autonomous vehicle impact on transit, as well as leading the agency’s strategic planning efforts.”

Dr. Schank earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Urban Studies – Political Science from Columbia University. He earned a Master of Arts Degree in City Planning – City Design and Development from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Ph.D. in Urban Planning with a Transportation Specialization from Columbia University, New York, N.Y.

Dr. Schank will begin his new role as Chief Innovation Officer on Oct. 5, 2015.

12 replies

  1. Isn’t it kind of ridiculous to create this position when Metro is suffering from lack of basics like safety and maintenance? Metro doesn’t need innovation, it needs fundamental fixes.

  2. How exactly would being asian improve our transportation system in Los Angeles? And how does having numerous degrees improve service also. You can read and study every text that has to do with public and private transit and still not know the basics in’s and out’s of how a system functions the most economically coupled with the highest performance standards. It has been my experience at the RTD/MTA that many have come and gone with new idea’s that proved to be ill conceived. And most of these idea’s came to us from those who’s had little or no practical experience. A good example has been the TAP CARD. The person charged with implementing the program had no idea as to how the DAY PASS program worked which was also an ill conceived program and how the new program needed to be implemented. Since the merger of the RTD and the LACTC the philosophies of two agencies have been at odds. One was an operating agency , the other being a funding agency that thought they knew more about operations although they had never been charged with the task. Now we have a CEO whose longest work experience has been in the U.S. Army and now a new department head who has studied public transit but has not actually headed an agency or managed an operation.

    Huge beuarcracies within transit agencies will not get you to your destinations, a well designed Operations Department will. We saw the previous CEO, Art Leahy , attempt to cut beuarcracy within the MTA only to have his contract not renewed. Art was versed in Operations, he had risen thru the ranks of the RTD from bus operator to an upper management position before being terminated after the merger. He and his wife expertise clashed with those who had none who were former LACTC employees.

    Until the former LACTC philosophy is completely erased from the agency bus and rail service will never be improved. The LACTC threatened the RTD to with hold subsidies if they , the RTD, did not roll back service improvements. That philosophy has plagued the MTA since day one.

    We now see proposals to cancel lines and extend the distance between bus stops. Does this look like a public transit agency that is looking to attract new passengers?

    • “How exactly would being asian improve our transportation system in Los Angeles? And how does having numerous degrees improve service also.”

      Certainly anyone who has talent in running transit services as a business perspective will be well qualified to run the operations of Metro, regardless of age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, or national origin.

      That being said however, if it were a choice between someone who has experience in running transit in the US (none of them being profitable and constantly begging taxpayers for more money with constant fare increases) versus someone who has experience in running transit in Asia (majority of them being profitable with high farebox recovery ratios without resorting to fare increases), then it’s a no-brainer who to pick as the best qualified candidate from a taxpayer perspective.

  3. How about getting the basic’s right? Wayfinding within the stations, cleaner stations and having a better real-time app. Its great to have innovation but let’s take care of the basics, the MTA at its core is a transportation provider who really needs to focus on providing better service; the Gold Line is having more power issues, so how about making sure your existing system are top notch before trying to expand services you can’t maintain and constantly working on 3P’s for highway projects.

  4. Way to go Joshua!
    Keep up the good work and enjoy a wonderful start to your new life in Los Angeles.

  5. I’m skeptical of new bureaucracy, especially when “Extraordinary” is part of its name. Hopefully some good ideas implemented at the street level will convince this skeptic.

    • Metro Board and Executive team is quite diverse in the make up men, women, white, African-American, and Hispanic, but there is a point to be made that the Metro Board and Executive team is quite lacking Asian-American representation despite that LA County has a large Asian-American population and that many Asian Americans do take public transit.

      Certainly one can’t say Metro can’t overlook the needs of the demographic that it serves in places like Thai Town, Little Tokyo, Sawtelle Japantown, Chinatown, Monterey Park, Koreatown, Little Bangladesh, Historic Filipinotown, etc.

  6. Remember when Metro said this new layer of bureaucracy will have “staff [will] be drawn from every corner of the world and may be augmented by student researchers and/or fellows” ?

    I looked at this with skepticism that when they mean “world” it usually means “US, Canada, and Europe”

    Guess I was right, another white guy from the US on the helm, not a single Asian American serving on the Metro Board or on the executive management team of Metro, despite 14% of LA County’s population are Asian Americans.