Phillip A. Washington
Regional Transportation District
Member, APTA Executive Committee
How many people do you employ in your agency?
Nearly 3,000. That includes consultants and part-timers who are integrated into the organization.
How long have you worked in the public transportation industry? 12 years
How long have you been an APTA member? 12 years
What drew you to a career in public transportation?
When I retired from the U.S. Army in 2000, I learned of an opportunity in public transportation in Colorado, followed up with an interview, and was brought on board. It was really nothing that I planned.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource that helps you do your job?
I think that how APTA advocates for public transportation is the most valuable asset. That advocacy, on national and worldwide levels, is so key and such a benefit to transit agencies around the country. We can point to APTA even at the local levels—such as reports and other documents APTA has published.
Please explain why or how this has helped.
Here’s the most recent example: How APTA was able to articulate the pros and cons of public transportation authorization (now MAP-21) as Congress was deliberating, and explain how what the House was proposing would be a detriment to public transit. Other examples include key safety standards, the lobbying APTA does, and explaining more about MAP-21, including its public-private partnerships and pilots for Bus Rapid Transit provisions.
APTA’s diligence in helping to explain the expediting of the New Starts process has been a direct benefit to me as I go out and talk to stakeholders on how we can mix the various funding opportunities—local and federal—as well as grants. I call that a direct connection.
What do you like most about your job?
The people. Not just the people working here at RTD, but the entire region and the community we serve. So every single day, it’s a good day when my operations person says to me: “We got everyone home safely after the rush hour.”
What I like most is dealing with our riders, our passengers, and the stakeholders of the region. Further, making sure that people arrive home safe every day is the best part of my job—especially when you’re talking about moving almost 400,000 people daily!
What is unique about your agency?
Our unique claim is that we are constantly executing innovation. A lot of people talk about being innovative, but that’s not enough for me. I want to execute and implement innovation, I don’t want to just talk about it.
These ideas come from employees through the agency: the driver, the mechanic, the cleaners. I wanted to understand the ideas that come from every area of the organization and, if they make sense, I want to (and will) implement them. What we’ve put together is a culture of receptivity in terms of ideas and innovations, and we turn around and executive that innovation.
The way we have approached transit-oriented development (TOD), which I prefer calling “transit-oriented communities,” is we no longer have the mindset that we are simply the “T” of this. We want to do more than build a station; we want to spur development around the station. For example, do you need the 1,000-space parking lot, or can you get away with 700 spaces in exchange for some development that can create a vibrant station? As a result of this way of thinking, we changed our policy on TOD and took a look at our parking policy—all of which combines to make it easier for developers to come in and produce structures and retail with our stations as the hub.
Another example is WIN (Workforce Initiative Now), our workforce program. Through it, we identify, assess, train, and put to work people in the corridors where we are building the infrastructure. We wanted to go to the zip codes affected by various rail lines we’re building and help put people there to work—in their own neighborhoods. That’s very personal to me—that they help build in their own communities. This is particularly important as a way to engage the young people who live in those communities where we build our infrastructure.
Make sure you see Phillip A. Washington's video, now that you've read this!