‘Much More Needs To Be Done’: LA Metro CEO Phillip Washington At Bisnow’s Long Beach Boom
The future of the Los Angeles waterfront will be on the docket at Bisnow’s Long Beach Boom event on July 23. Speakers will weigh in on topics like falling vacancies in the residential market and how to revitalize the city’s retail — both downtown and in the nation’s two largest ports. Register here for the event.
Despite its reputation as a city built for cars, Los Angeles’ largest transit system provides 1.2 million rides each day on 2,200 low-emission buses and six rail lines. Behind those trips is Phillip Washington, the CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, known locally as LA Metro.
Washington joined LA Metro from Denver, where he implemented the FasTracks program, one of the largest voter-approved transportation expansion programs in the country, and oversaw the redevelopment of Denver’s Union Station. In LA, he is responsible for over 11,000 employees and $15B of capital projects.
Washington gave Bisnow a sneak peek of what he will be speaking about at Bisnow’s Long Beach Boom event.
Name: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Phillip A. Washington
City: Los Angeles
Years in the industry: 20
Bisnow: Why is the upcoming Long Beach Boom event so important to you? What will you be talking about?
Washington: Transportation drives economies — both locally and nationally. This is particularly true in Long Beach. Forty-six percent of the containers entering the United States come through the ports of LA and Long Beach, while 26% of containers leaving the country go through these ports. Building affordable, safe and reliable transportation infrastructure provides access to economic opportunity for everyone.
The challenge lies in the vast disparity of income and resources that exists in Los Angeles County among 88 cities, hundreds of neighborhoods and millions of individuals. As a transportation leader, Metro can and should address disparities; it is a key part of our mission and we have taken concrete steps to make it happen. We helped pass Measure M, a taxpayer-funded ballot measure that provides millions of dollars for equitable transportation projects that will serve Los Angeles County for decades to come, and forged a new Long-Range Transportation Plan.
Bisnow: What is the best way to describe what you do for Metro?
Washington: Metro is the lead transportation planning and funding agency for LA County, and the third-largest transportation agency in the United States, with a $7.2B budget. We are implementing the largest public works program in America and changing the urban landscape of the Los Angeles region. As CEO, I am responsible for all of that.
Bisnow: In your opinion, what is the most pressing issue affecting commercial real estate at this time?
Washington: There are two. One of the most pressing and impactful issues affecting development in Los Angeles County is the shortage of skilled talent in construction and engineering. We are in the middle of a building boom, and demand is outstripping supply by a wide margin, which drives up costs.
The second issue is the affordability of housing and the resulting homeless crisis. Metro has one of the most progressive affordable housing policies of any transit agency in the country. We have adopted a goal that 35% of all housing built on Metro-owned land be affordable to households at 60% area median income or below. We are also providing a discount to our development partners, up to 30% of land value, to support these affordable housing units built on Metro-owned land.
But much more needs to be done, particularly when it comes to homelessness. In the last year, Metro added six more homeless outreach teams, quadrupling the number from two to eight. We also extended our contract for homeless outreach services. Through these efforts, we have placed over 88 homeless persons into permanent housing.
Bisnow: Outside of your work, what are you most passionate about?
Washington: I am passionate about my family and my privacy, but I am inspired by the real opportunity we have in LA County to change communities and lives through transportation infrastructure innovation and delivery.
Bisnow: Finally, if someone reading this wants to do business with you or your company, what's the best way they can reach you?
Washington: We want you to know that Metro is open for business. In the next 12 to 24 months, we have more than 60 projects that will go out for bid. These range in size from $100K up to $700M. All these projects will have contracts being issued on a regular basis, and Metro will be looking for qualified companies.
Also, at Metro we have our Office of Extraordinary Innovation, which seeks unsolicited proposals. New proposals are received and reviewed, ideas and concepts are developed and advanced, and projects are designed and implemented. For example, the Aerial Rapid Transit system is a proposed 1.25-mile aerial gondola system that would carry baseball fans between Los Angeles Union Station — the region’s transit hub — and Dodger Stadium. This project came to Metro through the Unsolicited Proposal Process overseen by the OEI.