The Driving Force Behind LADOT

It has been said that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa chooses only the best and the brightest to work for him.

Thus, when he announced last year that our kababayan Jaime de la Vega was his nominee for General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), it proves that de la Vega belongs to LA’s crème dela crème.

As General Manager of LADOT, Jaime de La Vega is responsible for leading the department, as well as day-to-day operations.

He manages a multi-faceted organization with over 1,700 employees and an annual budget of US$493 million (FY 2012-2013).

De la Vega’s work is tremendously challenging. His organization enforces state and local parking laws; provides traffic control services to support public safety agencies and special events; designs, operates, and maintains the most advanced traffic signal system in the US; operates the second largest bus service in Los Angeles County; supports private development and public works projects, including major new transit lines, through traffic management plans and review and approval of signal and striping plans; maintains the city’s traffic signal system, road markings, and regulatory signage; implements the city’s bicycle plan; operates the city’s over 39,000 on-street parking meters and 118 off-street parking facilities; and regulates taxis, ambulances, and pipelines in the city.

Aside from his work at LADOT, de la Vega is also a voting alternate on the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink) Board of Directors representing the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Metrolink oversees a five-county commuter rail system operating seven lines and 512 route miles, with an annual budget of US$568 million (FY 2012-2013).

Education and career

Born in London to a Filipino father and a British mother, de la Vega moved to California with his family in 1971, when his father found a job here.

Influenced by his father (who is an architect), de la Vega chose to go into urban planning. ” I wanted to make the city a better place to live in,” said Jaime who graduated summa cum laude from California State University at Northridge (CSUN) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Urban Studies. He also holds a Master of Arts in Urban Planning from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

De la Vega worked as an independent management consultant serving various public sector  clients in the Los Angeles area. From 1993-1995, he was consulting for the Office of the Mayor, from 1993-1995 and  then became the Assistant Deputy Mayor and senior policy advisor to Los Angeles Mayor Richard J. Riordan from 1995-2001. He was a member of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors from 1999-2001 and was Mayor Riordan’s voting alternate in 1997.

He then served as Budget Director for Los Angeles City Attorney Rockard J. Delgadillo from 2002-2005.

From 2005-2011, de la Vega served as Deputy Mayor for Transportation for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa.  He was responsible for developing and implementing Mayor Villaraigosa’s transportation agenda at the MTA, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), with a combined budget of over US$8.3 billion .

He led signature transportation initiatives for the mayor, including the successful 2008 Measure R half-cent transportation sales tax as well as the 30/10 initiative and America Fast Forward.

Born to lead

“Jaime is an experienced public policy leader and manager with extensive experience working in city government, reforming departmental operations, and developing and implementing transportation projects at both the local and regional level,” Villaraigosa said of De la Vega. “Jaime has the leadership, management ability, and dedication to the City of Los Angeles to successfully lead the Department of Transportation.”

Upon his appointment by the LA City Council, De la Vega said in a press release:

“The Department of Transportation is home to some of the hardest working and most innovative employees who are advancing cutting-edge projects throughout the City. I look forward to working with them to fix what is broken within the management system.”

De la Vega is currently working on the largest transportation infrastructure building project in City history including: doubling the amount of rail; finalizing the synchronization of the city’s traffic signals; supporting construction on the I-405 which will reduce daily commutes by up to 20 minutes; and implementing the recently adopted city-wide bicycle plan.

In an interview with Streetsblog.com, de la Vega talked about his work. “The challenge for Los Angeles is to expand the overall capacity of the transportation system and create viable alternatives to driving.  This includes: expanding the rail system (which is faster and more reliable than bus); maintaining a robust bus system (because rail will not connect every neighborhood in the near-term); making policy decisions that make transit more effective (such as the city’s transit priority system and bus lanes); and facilitating development patterns (transit oriented development) so that people have choices and can take transit, cycle, or walk instead of driving.

“LADOT will continue its leadership role in supporting the evolution of Los Angeles from an auto-centric to a multi-modal city.  This includes: operating the second largest bus service in Los Angeles County (after MTA); continuing to partner with MTA to make its bus service more efficient (e.g. priority signals and bus lanes); implementing the city’s Bicycle Plan; improving pedestrian safety; supporting development of MTA’s rail and busway program; and working with Department of City Planning on new transit-oriented plans.”

Making an impact in the community

Married with three daughters, de la Vega lives in Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley.

De la Vega wishes more Filipinos would build a career in public policy because that’s where you can really make a difference and create impact in the community. “There’s a lot of work to be done. You can overcome challenges, if you just truly work hard,” he said in an interview.

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