Phillip Washington, the transit executive who thinks Los Angeles isn’t congested enough, has been named the leader of Biden’s transition team in charge of the Department of Transportation and Amtrak. Washington is the CEO of Los Angeles Metro, the main transit agency in Los Angeles County.
A year ago, as Los Angeles bus ridership was collapsing due to LA Metro’s insistence on building costly light rail, Washington blamed the loss of bus riders instead on Los Angeles’ famously uncongested freeways. “It’s too easy to drive in this city,” he told the Wall Street Journal. To restore bus ridership, the city has to “make driving harder.”
“Sometimes you have to tell people what’s good for them,” Washington also told the Journal. He will clearly fit right in to Biden’s top‐down view of how the world should work. Washington’s support for obsolete light‐rail transit will go hand‐in‐hand with Biden’s support for obsolete intercity passenger trains.
In The Best‐Laid Plans, I showed that American cities are increasingly run by a Congestion Coalition, a collection of special interest groups that benefit from increased traffic congestion. The coalition includes urban planners, transit agencies, environmentalists, builders of high‐density housing projects, transportation contractors (especially those who build urban monuments that don’t really relieve congestion), and downtown property owners.
Few have been as explicit in stating their goals as Washington, but Biden’s transportation transition team includes several other members of the coalition. Among them are:
- Polly Trottenburg, a long‐time smart‐growth advocate who was on Maryland Governor Parris Glendening’s staff when he (or someone on his staff) coined the the term “smart growth.”
- Therese McMillan, CEO of the San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the metropolitan planning organization that pushed through the density‐oriented Plan Bay Area;
- Gabe Klein, who believes that buses aren’t “real” transit and so every major American city needs to build expensive rail lines.
- Robert Molofsky, general counsel to the Amalgamated Transit Union, the nation’s biggest transit union.
- Brendan Danaher, chief lobbyist for the Transport Workers Union, the nation’s other big transit union.
- Austin Brown, an advocate for “sustainable” transportation at the University of California, Davis.
- Vinn White, an enthusiast of high‐density, transit‐oriented developments in New Jersey.