Metro CEO Stephanie N. Wiggins on putting people first

Metro’s CEO Stephanie N. Wiggins gave an address at today’s Mobility 21 Summit Luncheon in Anaheim.

We wanted to share an excerpt of the prepared text of her remarks — which we think gives insight into where Stephanie wants to steer Metro as she begins her second year on the job.

Her goal, in short: putting people first to ensure customers have a great experience riding Metro, employees are able to deliver outstanding trips, and the transportation system is equipped to boost our region in the 21st century.

At the event, Metro Board Chair and Glendale Council Member Ara Najarian also spoke about Metro’s upcoming plans and Metro Board First Vice Chair Jacquelyn Dupont-Walter received the Leadership in Equity Award.

An excerpt from Stephanie’s speech is below.


The theme of this year’s summit is Future Forward:

What does that mean?

It means pivoting from the days of pandemic recovery to the days of growth.

Metro CEO Stephanie N. Wiggins.

It means embracing the 21st century and continuing to build a global mega region for a global world.

It means dealing with the challenges that nearly 100 years of decisions about mobility have wrought on the southern California region and moving forward to supercharge one of the world’s most important regional economies.

As Darrell Johnson said this morning, we can’t move forward to the future we expected in 2019.

We must move forward to the future we have now in 2022.

At Metro, we’re moving forward by Putting People First.

What does that mean?

Putting people first means putting Metro’s customers and constituents first by improving their experience on our system.

And delivering a robust transportation system that meets their needs for mobility.

It means putting our employees first by giving them an excellent work experience and building the talent and skills necessary for tomorrow’s challenges.

It means building a people-centered transportation system that will help Southern Californians thrive in the 21st Century global economy. And Mobility 21’s leaders are helping to make that happen.

In the past few years, many people have changed the way they think about mobility.

For most of our customers and constituents, mobility has not changed at all: they still need to commute to work every day, and they still need a fast, reliable, and safe network of roads and transit to meet their everyday needs.

But lots of Southern Californians have gotten the opportunity to chart a new path for themselves, reducing or opting out of long commutes, and building a new life for themselves from the comfort of their homes through telecommuting.

I should make clear – for most people, telecommuting from home is not an option. But just as having a car was the ambition for people who could afford it in the 20th Century, I believe that the telecommuting lifestyle will be the ambition for people in the 21st Century.

Because a car was the ambition for many in the middle part of the 20th century, Southern California built our entire region around it.

Our single-family homes were built with two-car garages. And a region that once had more miles of rail than almost anywhere else in the country now has more miles of highways than almost anywhere else.

As a result, Southern California attracted more than 20 million people.

Our economy thrived. Our environment suffered. Inequities flourished.

But we built a culture that drove the 20th century American dream. Literally, drove.

Today, I believe we are at a similar inflection point in our culture.

For some, the pandemic unlocked a world that many have long talked about, but few thought was coming so soon: the people-centered economy.

For those lucky enough to live in this new people-centered economy, you don’t have to come to work. Work comes to you.

Want to try that hip new restaurant? Order it on your phone.

Need something from the grocery store? Order it on your phone.

Again – this is not the lifestyle that most people have available to them – but it is the lifestyle that, increasingly, a lot of people want.

And what people want will drive public policy well into the future.

So, what does all this mean for us?

What does a people-centered economy mean for transportation in Southern California? It means we need to build a people-centered transportation center.

It’s important to note here — economies don’t tend to “bounce back” to the way they were. They change.

As transportation leaders, we need to lead that change, so our transportation systems and networks are part of that change.

A people-centered transportation system needs to be multimodal and equitable:

It recognizes that many Southern Californians can’t afford a zero-emission car, and service investments must be targeted towards those with the greatest mobility needs first, to improve access to opportunity for all.

In this people-centered economy, the expectations of our customers will change.

Nobody really wants to deal with opening three different ticketing apps to take transit from Rancho Cucamonga to the Beach Cities in Orange County. They will expect their trip to be planned out for them, the instructions to be clear, and the price to be lower than rideshare.

Anyone attending the Olympic or Paralympic Games won’t be renting a car to get to Olympic venues like they did in 1984.

They will be taking Metro’s transit system — the best way to move large numbers of people quickly in and out of the many Olympic venues.

These car-free Games will be the most inclusive in our region’s history, and I can’t wait to show off our region to the world.

To move our region forward into the future, and to ensure that our regional economy continues to thrive, we need to build a people-centered mobility system.

We are fortunate to live in an era where transportation infrastructure — and particularly clean, green transportation infrastructure — has been valued by our policy makers: through the bipartisan Infrastructure Law, tens of billions of dollars will be invested in our region’s mobility system.

And thanks to our state leaders, one of whom you’ll hear from shortly, billions more will be invested to build clean transportation and goods movement infrastructure.

These are tremendous opportunities for us, and we need to do right by our government partners to ensure continued investment in the future.

And at the same time, we live in one of the most complex urban environments in the world.

The mobility challenges we have in Southern California are massive. And simple, ideological solutions that sound good in a tweet won’t work in this environment.

We need the time and the space to take on these real challenges and deliver the type of real-world solutions that will help Southern California win the 21st Century.

7 replies

  1. Three weeks ago, my A line train was delayed for 53 minutes going to 7th St Metro Center. We were supposed to arrive at 11:40pm but due to track work, we we sat on the train and didn’t arrive till 12:33am. MANY passengers needed to transfer to other rail lines (B/D/E) but by the time we got to 7th St Metro Center, the rest of the system had shut down. Putting people first would be to keep other rail lines running when one line is experiencing serious delays. Families with strollers, elderly, and blue collar workers were all stranded at 7th St because of this delay and lack of coordination. It was total chaos. I saw passengers using the intercom to ask if the B/D trains were still operating and what the alternatives are but all they could say was to call 511 for bus information. Metro seriously needs to evaluate their operational policies and improve service today, not in 2028.

    • That is where the Micro fleet could have been put to good use. Or a Metro co-ordinated Lyft/Uber for all of the riders.

  2. Mrs. Wiggins. If you are the CEO of the Metro in Los Angeles. You have alot things to do first major clean up on the Red Line, people smoking drugs inside of the subway, the seats are full trash, people sleeping on the seats without clothes and finally all the riders need to pay the fare on the subway and buses.

    • Hi Javier;

      We know there is work to be done — and that work is underway. If you have the time I’d like to point you to another recent talk by Stephanie about safety on the system and issues associated with people seeking shelter. Here’s the video and her remarks about safety, etc., begin at the 46:50 mark.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

    • I agree Javier. Right now our Metro would be an embarrassment to the rest of the world. Ridership on trains is off nearly 60% from 10 years ago and showing no signs of rebounding and why would it given the state it is in. I really don’t think Metro Senior Staff or Board Members ride Metro except at ribbon cuttings. If they did, they never would have let the ridership experience degrade so badly.