Today, in a letter addressed to Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti, Metro CEO Phil Washington announced that he does not plan to seek a new contract when his current contract expires in May 2020.
Phil Washington has been the CEO of Metro since 2015, when he was recruited from the Denver Regional Transportation District. Washington’s letter touts his accomplishments, including “improved mobility and access to opportunity for all residents of L.A. County” and having “weathered the most devastating health crisis of the past century.” He only hints at his next opportunity, stating, “I look forward to advocating and advancing the mission of Metro in my next endeavor.”
There has been speculation that the Metro CEO might leave Los Angeles for some sort of federal position, though this has not been announced. Today’s letter does come just one day after the U.S. Senate approved President Joe Biden’s nominee Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary.
When Washington was named to the Biden transition team in November, Streetsblog recapped his Metro tenure as follows:
Washington initially managed the passage of the agency’s 2016 Measure M sales tax. He oversees Metro’s ambitious construction portfolio, which includes numerous multi-billion-dollar rail and highway projects. Southern California livability advocates have praised Washington for expanding rail transit, championing generational investment in infrastructure, advancing affordable transit-oriented development, and fostering equity. He has come under some criticism for failing to stem declining Metro’s transit ridership, supporting highway expansion, and steering some mega-projects that are experiencing serious delays – prominently including the Crenshaw/LAX light rail line, a project that began construction just prior to Washington’s arrival.
Metro’s press release also notes Washington’s commitment to advancing Metro’s workforce:
Workforce development and advancing equity have been the hallmarks of Washington’s tenure at Metro. Under his leadership, Metro aggressively created real opportunities for small, women-owned, minority-owned and veteran-owned businesses, including the first Prime contract for a minority business.
“Our Operators are frontline heroes and have remained steadfast in their commitment to service and moving essential workers during some of the toughest challenges of this country, including but not limited to the COVID-19 surges,” continued Washington.
Washington elevated and encouraged Metro’s greatest asset, its workforce (present and future), by advancing and institutionalizing real and effective employee professional development programs, including the SEED Transportation School of Los Angeles County, Workforce Initiative Now (WIN), the Metro Leadership Academy, the ENO Multi-Agency Exchange Program and the creation of the Women and Girls Governing Council (WGGC), which released a groundbreaking study that is changing the way the transportation industry addresses and responds to the needs of how women and girls travel.
Metro’s SEED Transportation School, which broke ground last year, broadened the scope of what falls within Metro’s purview. Along with Washington’s shift from TOD (Transit-Oriented Development) to TOC (Transit-Oriented Communities), his shepherding of the SEED school essentially acknowledged the larger obligation Metro had to ensuring its core ridership communities benefited from Metro’s massive-scale ongoing infrastructure construction portfolio.
Today’s announcement follows departure hints from Metro’s Chief Program Management Officer Richard Clarke, one of last of the executive staff that Washington brought with him from Denver. During a discussion of Metro Crenshaw/LAX light rail construction last week, Boardmember Ara Najarian expressed concerns over who would oversee construction in Clarke’s absence. This week Metro began soliciting job applications for Clarke’s replacement.