Commentary

L.A. Welcomes Two New Transit Chiefs

Los Angeles’ two major transportation agencies announced this week the hires of new CEOs to take their respective helms — one involves a new hire from Denver while the other is only moving a few floors up.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) board of directors voted to appoint Phillip Washington as the new head of the agency.

“Phil Washington is the ideal person to manage our $36 billion transportation infrastructure program to ease congestion, cut smog and boost our economy for decades to come,” Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chairman Eric Garcetti told The Source blog. “Phil Washington’s track record of maximizing project efficiency, securing much-needed funding and increasing customer service will well-serve Metro riders and taxpayers.”

Washington previously served as the CEO of Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD Denver) for six years. During that time, he presided over the FasTracks program, a voter-approved transit initiative to expand rail service in the Denver metropolitan area. His tenure saw the completion of a light rail line eight months ahead of schedule and under budget as well as presided over the start of construction for the state’s first commuter rail system due to open for service in 2016.

Also at One Gateway Plaza near Union Station, Metrolink board of directors tapped Art Leahy to be its new CEO of the commuter rail agency effective April 20.

“When the position became available at Metrolink, I was immediately intrigued,” Leahy said. “Having had the opportunity to work at both Metro and OCTA, I have witnessed first-hand the incredible diligence of the Metrolink staff, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to further grow and enhance Southern California’s six-county rail system.”

Leahy served as Metro’s top boss since 2009. From 2001 to 2009, he was the CEO of the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and as general manager of Metro Transit in Minneapolis from 1997 until 2001.

Leahy will take over the top job at a time when the commuter rail agency is in dire need of a turnaround. Declining ridership, increased delays and mechanical issues with its trains and financial mismanagement have all plagued the agency in recent years. With Leahy’s experience manning the ships in L.A., Orange County and Minneapolis over the decades, he is expected to bring with him the same energy and passion for revitalizing and maintaining a robust passenger rail network that he demonstrated elsewhere.

RailPAC hopes to work closely with Mr. Washington as well as continue to work with Mr. Leahy at his new post in order to push for a solid, comprehensive passenger rail network in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. We hope to ensure that we maintain the same amount of momentum for the expansion of rail in the area like the one Mr. Leahy presided over as Metro CEO.

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