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Metro steam cleans bus seats daily and other highlights from an AMA with Phil Washington

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Metro’s CEO talks safety, taxes, and those gross cloth bus seats

As the Measure M vote rapidly approaches, Metro CEO Phil Washington took to Reddit this afternoon to answer questions directly from the people. During the one hour "ask me anything" session, Washington fielded questions about Measure M, safety on the Blue Line, and why Metro still dresses its buses and trains in unnerving cloth seats.

Here are some highlights:

On the possible acceleration of proposed Metro projects.

Yes. Through our Office of Extraordinary Innovation, we are seeking public-private partnerships that would use private money to help accelerate some projects. We’ve had some interest already in several projects, including the Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, the Crenshaw/LAX Line northern extension, the West Santa Ana Branch Corridor (Union Station to Artesia light rail) and the High Desert Corridor. These deals are complicated and not easy to pull together, but we want to leave no stone unturned when it comes to delivering projects to taxpayers as soon as possible

The East Valley Transit Corridor Project is in the plan as a rail project and would be completed within the Measure M program. This particular project could lend itself to acceleration through a public-private partnership model.

On cell phone coverage in subway stations and Wi-Fi on buses.

The plans at this time are to continue installing cell phone coverage at underground stations. That will allow people to both make calls and get online via their phones. There is currently cell phone coverage for some carriers -- Verizon and Sprint -- between Union Station and 7th/Metro. The next phase will extend coverage on the subway to Wilshire/Western Station.

We are starting to implement WiFi on our buses. This will begin with the next buses we receive as a pilot in the coming months, and will grow over time.

On the inaccuracy of train departure monitors in subway stations.

[...]as a rider myself, I know how frustrating this can be. I've directed our IT Department to review all station clocks and monitors to determine how we can improve communications to our riders.

Why does Metro use seemingly less hygienic cloth seats trains and buses instead of plastic or vinyl?

Cloth is more comfortable for our customers and the seats are steamed cleaned daily.

What has been Metro’s effect on LA Rams traffic, and what are its plans for the Inglewood stadium?

Taking Metro to the Rams games has been hugely popular. We’ve been carrying about 25% of the people going to and from the games. That’s about 20,000 passengers that aren’t clogging the roads around the Coliseum. The Metro Board voted earlier this year to create a Metro Line to Goal Line task force to study the best way that transit can serve the new Rams stadium to be built in Inglewood.

How does Metro plan to make the Blue Line safer?

We are doubling down on our security. Starting in the next 30 days, patrons will see uniformed law enforcement presence at many of our stations, trains and buses, to include the Blue Line rail stations. Safety is our number one priority.

How often does Washington take the Metro?

Daily. I ride to work.

What's Washington’s favorite trip to take on Metro?

Blue Line to Long Beach.

What's the tax burden Measure M will put on the average Angeleno?

The Los Angeles Economic Development Corp., in a study for Metro, estimated that Measure M would cost the average person in Los Angeles County $24 annually and the average household about $72.

The unknown route of the future Crenshaw Line extension to West Hollywood.

Measure M includes funds to extend the Crenshaw/LAX Line north to West Hollywood. We are going to launch the environmental studies soon that will look more closely at this project and ultimately determine a route. We endeavor to accelerate this project to be completed prior to the published opening date.

Does Washington like the new Kinksharyo P3010 trains currently running on the Expo and Gold Lines?

Yes! The feedback that we’ve received from customers is that they like the layout of the new cars. We’ve also had numerous people saying the new cars are both quiet and offer a very smooth ride. However, there are still some "kinks" to work out on these vehicles, which we're doing.