L.A. Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington to step down in May

Los Angeles Mayor and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board Chair Eric Garcetti announced today that Metro Chief Executive Officer Phillip A. Washington is stepping down later this year.

“Phil Washington has been a visionary leader, reimagining our transit network and steering our region toward an era of generational growth and lasting progress,” said Mayor Garcetti. “With Phil at the helm, Metro had a clear direction, strong steward, and champion for Measure M. He leaves this agency much better than he found it, with an expanding public transportation system that remains a force for sustainability, equity, jobs, workforce development and shared prosperity across the L.A. area.”

Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington.

Washington recently informed the Metro Board that he does not plan to seek a new contract or extend his current contract, which expires in May of this year. 

“It has been my distinct pleasure and absolute honor to serve and lead Metro’s nearly 11,000 employees for the last six years,” said Washington. “I leave with great satisfaction knowing that working together we have improved mobility and increased access to opportunity for all residents of L.A. County, and weathered the most devastating health crisis of the past century. We have quickened the sense and pace of public service and left L.A. County’s mobility space better than it was.”

As Metro’s CEO, Washington manages a balanced annual budget of $7 billion, is responsible for overseeing $18 billion to $20 billion in capital construction projects and provides oversight of the nation’s third busiest transit agency that transports 1.2 million passengers (pre-COVID) daily on a fleet of 2,200 clean-air buses and six rail lines. Washington is also engaged in all facets of transportation and infrastructure in L.A. County including aviation, goods movement, freight/railroads, water, public works, housing and transit-oriented communities. 

“Phil Washington has provided exemplary leadership for Metro throughout his tenure, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board First Vice Chair Hilda L. Solis. “The past year brought a myriad of challenges for the agency in terms of budget, operations and capital projects — and Phil met the moment every time.”

Washington, who has been with Metro since May 2015, spearheaded a number of notable successes including the passage of Measure M, the largest transportation investment ballot measure in North America. L.A. County voters overwhelmingly approved Measure M by more than 71 percent, launching the nation’s largest public works program  that will create an estimated 700,000 jobs in the region.

He was also instrumental in securing $9 billion in grant funding over the past five years by working with Metro’s federal and state partners and building their trust in Metro’s leadership and undeniable track record of success.

“I have served the public in three different cities and on countless boards over the past 48 years. Worked with some great managers and leaders…none greater than Phil Washington,” said Inglewood Mayor and immediate past Metro Board Chair James Butts. “Metro and Los Angeles County will sorely miss him. Thank you for your visionary leadership and service.”

Workforce development and advancing equity have been the hallmarks of Washington’s tenure at Metro. Under his leadership, Metro aggressively created real opportunities for small, women-owned, minority-owned and veteran-owned businesses, including the first Prime contract for a minority business.

“Our Operators are frontline heroes and have remained steadfast in their commitment to service and moving essential workers during some of the toughest challenges of this country, including but not limited to the COVID-19 surges,” continued Washington.

Washington elevated and encouraged Metro’s greatest asset, its workforce (present and future), by advancing and institutionalizing real and effective employee professional development programs, including the SEED Transportation School of Los Angeles County, Workforce Initiative Now (WIN), the Metro Leadership Academy, the ENO Multi-Agency Exchange Program and the creation of the Women and Girls Governing Council (WGGC), which released a groundbreaking study that is changing the way the transportation industry addresses and responds to the needs of how women and girls travel. 

Under Washington’s leadership, innovation flourished at Metro. He placed emphasis on not just talking about innovation but implementing it in concrete ways that help real people improve their lives. The Office of Extraordinary Innovation, Metro Micro, Mobility on Demand, the NextGen Bus Study, Metro’s TAP apps for Apple and Android phones, a partnership with the Transit app and the very real possibility of a Fareless Transit System in L.A. County are a few examples.

And, finally, as a disabled U.S. Army veteran, Washington has honorably served his country. The Metro Board of Directors is grateful for his service to the people of Los Angeles County and to the United States of America. The Board will conduct a national search for the next CEO.

20 replies

  1. So much for Washington’s ridiculous ‘Office of Extraordinary Innovation” that sucked up resources and accomplished nothing.

    His two big ideas were fare free transit and micro-mobility. He made zero progress on either goal.

    He came in as a reformer and leaves having arguably accomplished even less than Art Leahy.

    • Hi Dave;

      The fareless initiative is still in its early stages with a report scheduled to come to the Board this spring. And Metro Micro launched in December and is presently running in five service areas with more to come. And I think those two projects/programs were just two of many that Phil pursued and the agency will still pursue.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • I agree with you, Dave Metro sucks.I drove buses 23 years.
      The worst job in my life.

  2. “The Board will conduct a national search for the next CEO.”

    Terrific, but how about an international search for this global city’s next transportation leader? There’s a guy in London I hear is great…

    • Yes! Andy Byford! He was briefly in charge of the MTA in New York and was taking it in a very positive direction (trains were starting to run on time much more, breakdowns were decreasing, etc.) except they scaled back his job duties just as his improvements were starting to take effect, so he left. A shame really. LA Metro does not and should not need to constrain itself to hiring from North America because the fact is, we just don’t do transit that well over here. Hire experienced people from transit rich cities in Asia and Europe and we will likely see more positive results that transit riders themselves notice.

  3. That’s great news. But where’s the hazardous pay for all front line workers. Those that have to put up with all the riders that don’t wear their “Required Facemask”?

  4. Among Metro’s notable deeds during Mr. Washington’s tenure was the proposed “Flying Saucer” passenger terminal that would have hovered over Union Station’s tracks. Alas, the saucer scheme “crash landed” due to a “gerbil” that ran amuck in its retro-rockets. Then there is the architecturally non-conforming eyesore that is the underused Bike Terminal lurking on Union Station’s campus. It houses the single most requested amenity by Union Stations patrons, a clean, state-of-the-art, unisex loo. However, it’s locked-away in a chain-link prison reserved only for Bike Club member$. Finally, there’s Metro’s role carrying the EIR water bucket for “Mr. Blue’s” vision of an aerial cableway linking Dodger Stadium with Union Station and, across the street, the many whirling blades of the Hooper Heliport–“The World’s Busiest Heliport” (thanks Wikipedia). But all was not tears during the Washington years, the former Fred Harvey House was restored and reopened after a 62 year hangover. It’s now the Imperial Western Brewpub. (They can’t call it the “Harvey House”, lest Fred Harvey’s briefs come calling!) Now that was a very good thing “Phil” and it happened on your watch! So in the end, the gerbils are snuggled in their “Superfund” burrows beneath the Metro garage, and the preservation “busy boots” are dancing merrily, their steins full of Imperial suds, and all wishing you Godspeed, Mr. Washington, but to where? Is it the REALLY BIG Washington that has called you away from our Cathedral of Transportation? If so, I remind you what my dear godfather, “The Commodore,” was fond of saying: “Anyone who moves from California to the East Coast must have his head examined!

    • Hi Yorkman;

      In most recent years in terms of ridership, the order is New York MTA, CTA in Chicago and LA Metro.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  5. Thank God he’s leaving! He never cared about the bus operators and never took Covid seriously on protecting the drivers! You will not be missed! We need better administration!!!

  6. I hope the fareless is not going to become a true because fareless is kind encouragement of fare evasion. (Revised)

  7. Metro never accomplished under Washington the most basic of things that bus riders want. Bus shelters, bus arrival information at the bus stop and buses arriving on time. All that other crap didn’t matter if he couldn’t accomplish these 3 things. Also keeping the homeless from using the buses and bus benches as homeless shelters. So much money wasted on ridiculous projects. I hope the next person in charge of Metro will actually ride the bus often without television cameras and an entourage. The fact that Mayor Garcetti is praising Washington let’s you know he was lousy at his job.

    • I couldn’t agree more that METRO’s bus-riders should have more bus-shelters. I recall that some years ago I wrote the same thing on The Source after seeing bus-riders standing shelter-less in 100+ degree summer heat. They are the “poor step-children” of Metro’s Billion Dollar political family–yet they make up the greater portion, by far, of Metro’s owner-patrons. Now METRO is carrying the water for McCourt’s Ariel Cableway to “Blue Heaven” while the greater part of METRO’s family, the bus riders, are drenched in rain during the Winter and drenched in sweat during the Summer–for shame! I don’t know what to do about the so-called “homeless”, that issue goes back to when “The Gipper” (Ronny Reagan) ran the bunkhouse!

  8. An unmitigated disaster. The military career and short experience in Denver were promising but he was completely overwhelmed from the start. Still can’t blame him for everything. The Board promises rainbows, unicorns, and social justice while the system circles the toilet. If I were Mr. Washington I would have gotten out sooner. The Regional Connector is years late, ridership was plummeting, and the Crenshaw Line is practically a Shakespearean tragedy at this point. We passed Measure R in 2008 and have spent 10 billion so far and not a single passenger has been transported anywhere.