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LA Metro's Goal: Tackle City's Transportation Challenges Today and 'Once and For All'
As APTA and its members prepare to descend on Los Angeles for the upcoming Annual Meeting starting on Sept. 11, they will land in a city being transformed by public transit.
Passenger Transport asked Phillip Washington, chief executive officer of Los Angeles Metro, host system for the meeting, and APTA immediate past chair, to tell us how the agency is changing the city, what’s next on the horizon and to share some insights for his industry colleagues on what’s next for the agency and the city.
How is public transit changing the transportation landscape in the greater LA metropolitan area?
Los Angeles County is in the midst of a transportation revolution. At Metro, our goal is to be bold and not only tackle the transportation infrastructure challenges of today … but once and for all.
We cannot leave future generations with crumbing bridges, highways and rail. We must leave them with an infrastructure inheritance so that when they look back on this time they will say, “We’re enjoying a good quality of life today because of the efforts made yesterday by folks who invested in mobility.”Los Angeles County was once known as the car capital of the world but that is changing. On the heels of Metro Rail’s 25th anniversary we opened two major rail line extensions: the Gold Line to Azusa and the Expo Line to Santa Monica. This brings our system from 0 miles of rail to 105 miles in just 26 years.
Three other major rail projects are under construction. The Regional Connector will link our light-rail lines under downtown Los Angeles so that passengers don’t have to change trains. The Crenshaw/LAX Line will connect us to LAX and the people mover being built by the airport authority. The Purple Line subway to Beverly Hills will eventually travel to UCLA and the Veteran’s Administration campus in Westwood.
We are supporting numerous highway projects, including a massive multi-year I-5 Freeway widening between Orange County and the 605 [freeway]. And we are investing in active transportation because we know our customers are no longer “single-mode” travelers.
In LA County we now move around by car, bike, bus, train, foot, rideshare and ride-hailing—often in combination—to get where we want to go.
Some of our multimodal efforts involve building bike paths—like a beautiful path along the Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley and a bike path along the Expo Line to Santa Monica.
We have partnered with ride sharing services such as UberPOOL and car-sharing companies like ZipCar at our stations—to help travelers connect to our buses and trains.
In July, hundreds of bicyclists hit the streets of downtown LA for the launch of Metro’s new bike share program, putting more than a thousand bikes at dozens of bike stations in downtown LA. We predict it will be a huge success as part of Metro’s effort to improve first-last mile connectivity.
What do you want your industry colleagues to know about Metro before they arrive in LA?
Here in Los Angeles County, we’re excited about the future of transportation and we know we are having an impact. As usual for transit, among the primary issues are securing the support of the public and getting the political will and funding needed.
At Metro, we are fortunate to have a board of directors that supports system expansion and is looking toward the future. Our board decided in June to place a sales tax measure for transportation on the November ballot. The sales tax measure—called the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan—proposes a new half-cent sales tax starting in 2017 and a replacement of the current Measure R tax, starting in 2039 and continuing until voters decide to end it.
Goals of the measure include improving freeway traffic flow and safety; synchronizing street signals; repairing potholes, local streets and sidewalks; earthquake retrofitting of bridges; job creation; keeping fares affordable for seniors, students and the disabled; and expanding our rail and bus system.
Once we build out projects, we need to keep them in a state of good repair—so our plan would also dedicate funding to keep our system in good working condition.
Whether the ballot measure passes or not, Metro will continue to do all it can to move LA County forward as we tackle the transportation challenges of today … and tomorrow. We are proud to be a part of that.