The Villaraigosa Interviews: Coming Tomorrow and Wednesday

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa addresses a question by Damien Newton as Veronica Hernandez looks on. Photo: Barb Solish/Mayor's Office

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.

  • Cool “clapped and gave a broad grin” with the A- report card (originally from Bikas.) Happy to hear it… and glad that the Mayoral staff and LADOT really earned that A-! 

    (See Bikas report card here: http://labikas.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/bike-report-card-for-fy11-12-overall-a/ ) 

  • Erik Griswold

    The “Subway to the Sea” *is* being built in the form of the Expo Line.  The Pico Ave. SMBBB 7 buses have (plus SMBBB 10) proven this is a necessity.  The LAMetro “Rapid” 720 buses demonstrate the need for rail transit along Wilshire, and since it is a Subway already it will have to be extended as such (unless you really want to try to build elevated rail through Beverly Hills.)

    At least half of the 720 buses termintate today at Westwood, therefore the V.A., just west of I-405 is a logical terminus for the Purple Line at present as it gets the rider past the congestion wall created by the I-405 corridor so that they can easily connect to a bus heading west on Wilshire, on San Vicente or on Santa Monica Blvd, based on their ultimate destination.  At the point it is built, Metro can decide based on actual ridership, which way to go from there, west to downtown Santa Monica or north to Sherman Oaks under Sepulveda Pass.  

    That’s not a decision that can be made from Wilshire/Western today, so stop your complainin’!

  • Juan Matute

    I think it’s awesome that you and Veronica got an hour-long interview with the mayor.  Sirinya and I are looking forward to both parts.

  • calwatch

    Hope you enjoyed the Getty House. Obviously Villaraigosa cares deeply about transportation, although I hope you got some highway questions in as well since he did mention his efforts at improving highways. The street quality in LA hasn’t gotten worse under the Villaraigosa tenure, but neither has it gotten better, which affects bicyclists and transit riders as well as car users. As with most people they can wax poetic about their passions and clam up on uncomfortable subjects, but it seemed that the mayor was in a comfort zone. 

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