A paragraph inadvertently was dropped from a story in yesterday's Washington Post about Richard S. Page, the new Metro general manager. The missing paragraph reported that transit ridership in Seattle during Page's three years there had increased by 45 percent, well over the national average. Because of a typographical error, the story inaccurately reported Seattle Metro's annual deficit. The actual deficit is about $50 million. CAPTION: (NEW-LINE)Picture, RICHARD S. PAGE . . . an eye on drivers
The first time Richard S. Page was appointed to run a major transit system he got the job on an 18-17 vote from a board whose members either disliked his politics, suspected he would favor the city over the suburbs or questioned whether he had the necessary managerial tools.
His friends immediately renamed him Landslide Page.
That was in 1974 and the transit system was Seattle's. Now Landslide Page is the new general manager of the Washington Area Transit Authority, its $200 million annual operating budget and its $7 billion subway construction program. There was no hesitancy to this appointment. The Washington Metro Board voted unanimously to hire Page away from his job as head of the federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) and Page was the only candidate ever seriously considered to replace Theodore C. Lutz.
Metro board members have hired themselves a different kind of person in Page. The mercurial Lutz flashed across the Metro horizon for 2 1/2 years, got the subway running, buffed much tarnish off Metro's image, fitted together some pieces of the transit system's financial puzzle (although many others are still strewn across the region) and resigned, saying he was "burned out."
Dick Page, according to firends and close associates interviewed here and in Washington, has a much more relaxed style.
He delegates authority to his staff, then holds the staff accountable. He is regarded as being a first-rate judge of the abilities of other people, and totally unafraid of appointing a strong person to a position immediately sub-ordinate to him. He has no particular inner need for headlines and, in fact, managed to stay out of the Seattle papers for months at a time when he was running one of that city's most visible public agencies.
Page's few detractors, when guaranteed anonymity, say he is indecisive. His fans, to the contrary, say he is careful, even deliberative, but not indecisive. Even his detractors concede that he was successful in running Seattle Metro.
Seattle has a fleet of buses ranging in age from brand-new to 25 years old, but all are clean. Signs at the bus stops contain usefull information that out-of-towners can figure out, such as when the next bus comes, where it is going and what its number is supposed to be. Timetables, complete with informative route maps, are readily available.
New timetables, new bus stop signs, new destination signs on the buses and new maintenance standards were adopted by Seattle Metro when Page was its executive director.
If there are too many complaints about an individual bus driver, he is sent off for special training in customer relations.
"It's simple," Page said in an interview, "We found through a survey that the single most important factor (in attracting new riders) is the dirver's attitude."
On Jan. 1, 1973, one year before Page took over, Seattle Metro acquired two moribund bus companies, one from the city of Seattle, the other from suburban King County. Ridership on the two systems had been declining steadily and had dropped to 30.9 million passengers annually.
for the same period of time nationally, transit ridership increased 9 percent. During a comparable period in Washington, ridership on the combined bus and fledgling subway system increased 14 percent.
Seattle Metro runs at a loss, just like every other major public transit system in the free world. Fares cover only about one-third of the operating costs and the annual deficit in Seattle is about $5 million.
Seattle Metro's deficit is covered by a regionwide sales tax and motor vehicle excise tax levied only for Metro.
Fares in Seattle are understandable and do not require somebody with years of experience in riding the system to explain. It costs 40 cents to ride the bus within Seattle or King County; there is a 20-cent zone charge if the bus crosses the city-county line.Downtown, during mid day, the bus is free. That's it, the entire fare structure.
Those are the things that people who use Seattle Metro can see, and Page - or the peoplr he put in key positions - is responsible for them.
At the same time that Seattle Metro was putting better service on the streets, Page was consolidating and improving Metro management. He installed one of public transit's first "management by objectives" programs, a process used extensively by corporate managers and one that is beginning to take hold at Washington Metro. The manager decides what his goals are, then determines how he can manage to achieve them. Under Page's plan, key executives at Seattle Metro received pay raises if they met or exceeded their goals and pay cuts if they did not.
But the time he left for UMTA in 1977, Page had replaced five key managers, including his transit and financial directors.
Charles T. Collins, whom Page recruited to direct the transit operation, said that "Dick inherited a lot of unresolved problems when he took over Metro. I don't think he left many unresolved problems. There weren't 17 smiling faces on that board when he resigned."
The charge of indecisiveness was leveled in Seattle and by a middle-management type at UMTA, an agency where Page was frustrated, according to his friends, because he could not get a firm handle on the bureaucracy and where he could make almost no personnel changes on his own.
On the other hand, another top UMTA official said, "I think there was a tendency to carry decisions into Page's office that didn't belong there, and he threw them out. Dick liked to see consensus and is not a military-type manager. That style works better at the local level than it does in the federal government."
Page, 41, has heard all this before. "I'd rather be deliberative than impetuous," he said."I don't think quick decisions not based on a consensus last very long in an urban context . . ."
Page, a Democrat, managed very quickly after taking over Seattle Metro on that close vote to overcome most of the suburban bias against him, according to officials there. That bias sprang, he feels, from the fact that he previously had been the appointed deputy to Mayor Wes Uhlman. "Dick was seen as Wes's man," one friend said.
Democrat Uhlman and Republican John Spellman, the elected King County executive, were major political rivals in the Seattle area. They both ran for governor in 1976 - and both lost to Dixy Lee Ray. They both sat on the Seattle Metro Council, Page's governing board.
"It's hard for an administrator to come into a situation where the two principal executives he has to worry about hate each other, said James Ellis, a Seattle lawyer who is a friend of Page.
Both Spellman and Uhlman, in separate interviews, praised Page's ability to walk through the landmine of regional politics.That reputation was one of the central attractions Page offered to the Washington Metro board.
It was not all success. Seattle Metro took a 15-day bus drivers' strike in 1974-Page's first year-and Page entered the negotiations.
Metro finally granted the drivers their key demand-a guaranteed eight-hour day-based on financial projections that the costs could be handled. "That eight-hour day cost management quite a lot," Page said. "That was my first labor negotiation and I thought at the time that it was a good contract."
Three years later Seattle Metro made transit history by negotiating the first contract with a major transit drivers' union that permitted the hiring of part-time drivers. Page had left for UMTA when the pact was negotiated, but Collins credits him with letting Seattle Metro management take a hard line on the part-time issue.
Then there was the time, in January 1975, when Seattle decided to buy 605 new buses and trolleys.One by one, five envelopes supposedly containing the bids of manufacturers, were opened. No bids, just regrets.
It was a devastating blow to Seattle Metro's promises to the public and it motivated Page to involve himself deeply in the bus purchasing process.
"Bus procurement got away from a lot of people at Metro, including me," Page said. "We were seeking a newstyle bus. Little old Seattle was out there to change the industry. There was a lot of home-town pride that we would do it better."
One result of all this was the development and use in Seattle, for the first time anywhere in the United States, of the "articulated bus," a long bus that bends in the middle. It will be introduced on Washington streets in June.
Page, his wife Edith and their three children have lived in North Arlington since he returned to the Washington area in 1977. They had lived there twice before when Page held various congressional staff jobs for Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.), including that of Legislative assistant. Page grew up in the St. Louis area and was educated at Oberlin College in Ohio and at Princeton, where he earned a PhD in politics in 1967.
Page is familiar with Washington Metro as a rider and with its political problems as the federal official in charge of a task force overseeing the regional restudy of the unfinished Metro lines.
He has a lot of learning to do about Metro's day-to-day operations, he said. "I do think it's hard to use the bus system. Several people have written to me since I was appointed to tell me so.
"I want to make sure that Washington has not only the best rail system but also the best bus system. The people (at Metro) really haven't had time to concentrate on it."
Page said he has made a long-term commitment to Washington. "I'll stay as long as the board wants me," he said the day he was appointed.
"You won't keep him forever," his friend Ellis said, "because sooner or later intransigent jobs wear down good people."