Incoming Metro CEO Phil Washington (left) speaking with outgoing Metro CEO Art Leahy after this morning’s announcement. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
This morning, the Metro board of directors voted unanimously to hire Phillip A. Washington as the agency’s new CEO. For the past six years, Phil Washington was General Manager and CEO of the Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD.)
Metro’s board established quorum, then entered a closed session to discuss the CEO personnel matter. The board returned to open session where Metro board chair, and Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti enthusiastically moved to hire Washington. The motion was quickly seconded by all the directors present and passed unanimously. Washington will earn a $326,000 annual salary, and will begin in May.
The board meeting was followed by a press event at Patsaouras Plaza. Garcetti and the Metro board vice chairs, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and city of Duarte Councilmember John Fasana, all praised Washington’s experience and reputation. Garcetti emphasized that Washington had increased ridership, created jobs, and delivered Denver’s rail connection with their airport. Directors also thanked outgoing CEO Art Leahy for his service to the agency.
Phil Washington thanked the board, then opened emphasizing that he rides his transit system every day. “This is our product,” he continued, emphasizing that transit officials need to ride to “know how it’s doing.” Washington stated that his priority would be a “clean, efficient, reliable, accessible, and cost-effective system” and his first order of business would be better understand what Metro’s board and Metro’s “customers – riders” want and need. He stressed that transit infrastructure can and will continue to transform the region.
Washington repeatedly emphasized partnerships, including with other agencies, the private sector, academia, community groups, and whoever would work with his agency.
Washington makes a good sized step up from Denver RTD. According to APTA, RTD’s overall 2014 ridership was 105 million trips, about 30 percent of Metro’s 353 million trips. RTD riders break down similarly to Metro’s with about three-quarters of trips on bus, and roughly one-quarter by rail.
Washington oversaw Denver RTD’s implementation of FasTracks, an ambitious voter-approved capital expansion program, including 122 miles of new rail service, 18 miles of bus rapid transit, redevelopment of Denver’s Union Station, plus plenty of park-and-ride lots.
Denver livability advocates, from Transit Alliance, Walk Denver, and Bike Denver, all gave Washington high marks, and expressed disappointment in his leaving.
Walk Denver acting board chair Gideon Berger, fellowship director at the Urban Land Institute’s Rose Center for Public Leadership, worked with Washington at RTD. Berger describes Washington as “a breath of fresh air” for having taken the reins at RTD during the fiscal challenge of the recent recession. According to Berger, Phil Washington was instrumental in increasing the morale of RTD staff, empowering them, and ensuring they had the resources to be successful.
Transit Alliance board chair Chris Waggett, the developer CEO of D4 Urban, emphasized Washington’s commitment to balanced investment throughout the region. Denver is part of the Front Range – an area consisting of 41 city and county municipalities. Waggett was impressed that Washington’s leadership fostered regional cooperation over factional competition. This collaboration, often between areas with disparate political perspectives, “made things happen” and the “entire region benefited.” Read more…