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Transportation and Mobility

LA Metro CEO Phillip Washington Is Stepping Down Later This Year

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The leader of Los Angeles County’s public transit agency is preparing for departure.

L.A. Metro CEO Phillip Washington recently told the agency’s board of directors that he will not seek to renew his contract, which expires this May.

“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,” Washington said in a statement. “We have quickened the sense and pace of public service and left L.A. County’s mobility space better than it was.”

Washington took the helm of L.A. Metro in May 2015 after managing Denver's transportation agency. He's overseen the influx of new tax funding through Measure M, an ambitious expansion plan for Metro’s rail system over the coming decade.

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He established Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation as a team to bring ambitious ideas and public-private partnerships to the agency’s mission. That includes projects like microtransit and the aerial gondola to Dodger Stadium.

Washington has also pushed a more progressive agenda for Metro, including studying congestion pricing (charging motorists to drive at certain times or on certain roadways). And over the summer, he launched a task force to explore how the transit agency could eliminate rider fares as soon as the start of this year. A feasibility report is expected “in early 2021,” according to Metro’s website.

Bus and rail ridership had been falling steadily since before Washington’s tenure, but the crisis was amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The stay-at-home orders last year also sent sales tax revenue plummeting. Those funds make up roughly half of the agency’s operating budget.

Washington joined other U.S. cities in seeking federal aid to keep trains and buses running, which the agency has received. But Metro officials estimated ridership could take two years to return to pre-pandemic levels. In the meantime, the agency slashed its bus and rail service, which has an outsized impact on low-income Angelenos who depend on public transit for essential travel as the pandemic rages on.

Washington has not shared where his next stop is. Following President Joe Biden’s election in November, Washington was tapped to lead the review committee for the federal Department of Transportation.

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Metro’s board “will conduct a national search for the next CEO,” officials said on the agency’s website.

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