‘Fast, frequent and reliable service is the key,’ says LA transit chief

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Metro Blue Line / Expo Line in downtown LA. Photo credit: Prayitno (CC BY 2.0).

Fewer people are riding public transportation in LA and that’s a national trend, says Phillip Washington, CEO of LA County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. 

“Part of this has to do with a robust economy, and part of this has to do with us making sure we are enhancing the customer experience, whether that is cellular service in tunnels, whether that is putting signage out or countdown clocks to tell people when our trains are coming,” he says. 

Car ownership also plays into the decline in public transit use, Washington adds. 

He sees buses as the backbone to LA’s public transportation system. To improve the bus system, he has an 18 month-long effort called Next Gen

“We are wiping the slate clean in terms of all of our routes and all of our service. And I think that that will go a long way in bringing ridership back,” he says of LA’s bus system.  

He points out that there’s definitely a transit-dependent population in LA. “We have probably the largest percentage of low-income riders on our system than any other system in this country… We have the lowest fares for a system this size in our country as well.” 

Washington himself rides the bus and train regularly, and says there's no class divide between buses and trains. He says, “I see people with suits on -- on the bus and everything else. So I think we’re getting away from that. But the perception is still out there.”

Credits

Guest:
Phillip Washington - CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Host:
Steve Chiotakis

Producers:
Christian Bordal, Jenna Kagel