It’s been three months since we last checked in with the LA Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Phillip Washington, and a lot has happened since then.
The L.A. Metro collaborated with the popular game Pokémon Go to increase ridership; it launched an animated (some argued dark) safety campaign; and who can forget the big unveil of the Expo Line extension – the romanticized “subway to the sea.”
Now the LA Metro chief is back to answer your questions about the past, present, and future of public transportation in this ever-growing city.
On alleviating overcrowded Expo lines
Washington: We’re doing that right now. We are building train cars right now. Our contractor, Kinkisharyo, is producing about 4 cars per month. We bring those cars in, we test them, we commission them and put them right on the Gold Line and on the Expo Line; you’re going to see big relief on both those lines very, very soon. Those cars are coming in at 4 a month, we’re trying to increase that to 5 per month, you’re going to relief, you’re going to see 3-cars consists on both those lines very soon.
On the Sepulveda Pass project
Washington:The Sepulveda Pass project is in this plan right now. What’s in this plan is a tunnel and a heavy rail train through the mountain. We need to do some preliminary work on the Sepulveda Pass, but it’s in the plan. We realize and understand that that is a major clogged artery, if you will, and that is why it’s in the plan relatively early.
On public safety
Washington: We are doubling down on our security. You’re going to see much more of a security presence on all of our lines –the Red Line and the Blue Line especially. We understand what’s happening out there in terms of safety. Crime has actually decreased since our double-down efforts about 6 months ago.
You’re going to see a uniform presence, there’s also going to be a plain-clothes security presence that you probably won’t notice, but we’re doubling-down on those efforts. We’re also looking at technology; the audience may have noticed security towers that are around parking ride structures. These are mobile towers that go up 24 feet in the air, we can have two security people at those towers.
On their next projects
Washington: Near the top of the projects in our plan is an extension from Claremont to Santa Monica.
On Metro's presence in underserved communities
Washington: In this plan — I encourage folks to go on our website to take a look at it- — there is much investment in South L.A. and in disadvantaged areas. One of the PowerPoint slides that I put up when I present the plan is all of the disadvantaged communities in the county and how this plan impacts those.
We touch every corner of the county, in terms of disadvantaged communities. Even more importantly, from those disadvantaged communities, we have in this plan, transportation and mobility options going to employment centers.
On bridging the first mile, last mile
Washington: On July 7, we launched our bike program in partnership with the city of Los Angeles and eventually we’re going county-wide with this bike program. It’s a bike-share program, highly successful so far. We want to address the first mile, last mile and bikes are one way to do it. We’ve also created a partnership with Uber and Lyft; we do not see them as the enemy, we see them as partners. They are helping us address the first and last mile.
*First mile, last mile: Getting from your place of residence to the stop, and from the stop to your place of work.
On Pokémon Go
Washington: Our social media folks are working with them. We want to create ridership; we want to create partnerships as we look at the plan that we’ve put forth. we’re talking 18 mega-projects in 15 years, connecting the airport, etc. Whatever partnerships we can establish with the private sector, be it Pokémon Go, or whatever.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
This story has been updated.
Phil Washington, CEO of Los Angeles County Metro
Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the builder of Metro's cars as Kinky Sharyo instead of Kinkisharyo. We regret the error.