Earlier this month, Los Angeles Streetsblog editor Damien Newton and Streetsblog Lite editor Veronica Hernandez sat down with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for what turned out to be a long, far-ranging interview on all things transportation in Los Angeles. Originally scheduled as a chance to talk about the Mayor’s three terms as Chair of the Metro Board of Directors, the interview went long…very long. Villaraigosa clearly relished the chance to talk on a variety of transportation and development projects.
An interview scheduled for fifteen minutes lasted nearly an hour. Twenty minutes in, Villaraigosa literally tossed the notes prepared for him over his shoulder and spoke completely candidly. Twenty minutes later he clapped and gave a broad grin when we mentioned Streetsblog awarded the city an A- for its bike planning efforts in the last fiscal year. It was, quite honestly, one of the more remarkable interviews either Streetsblog writer had ever been part of.
Joining the Mayor were Deputy Mayor Borja Leon and communications deputy Barb Solish. They spoke a combined thirty words during the interview. This was all-Villaraigosa, all the time. Here’s a sample quote laying out the challenges Villaraigosa and his pro-rail transit allies faced after the passage of Measure R.
“First of all, everyone’s making fun of us saying, ‘where’s your subway to the sea.’ They forget that we’re doubling the size of our rail system, that there’s this incredible effort to improve our highway system, that there’s all this local return money, that there’s all this operations money for buses.”
A lot of transportation experts – including Streetsblog – have tried to pinpoint the moment where the Mayor embraced creating Livable Streets; Villaraigosa rejected that framing, arguing that he always believed and always pushed as far as he could on clean transportation issues and projects.
Tomorrow morning, Streetsblog will post part one of a two part series based on the interviews entitled, “Building a New Transportation System.” Wednesday morning’s story, “The Subway Mayor Triumphant” will focus solely on Metro and the battle to change Los Angeles’ transit system. We’re hoping to make audio from the interview available a little later this week as well. When it’s available, we’ll post it on Streetsblog Lite.