After weathering nearly two years of intense public criticism, RTD General Manager John Dyer announced his resignation Friday, conceding that it was time for new management at the top of the huge transit agency.
At a crowded news conference in the RTD's high-tech, studio-like board room--where he has repeatedly stood to defend himself and his agency from a litany of waste and mismanagement charges--Dyer said, "It is often said that timing is everything and everything has its time . . . This is an opportune time for me to announce my resignation."
Pressure by Board Denied
Although he acknowledged giving in to pressure from City Hall, he denied that he was pressured to step aside by RTD board members, who conducted a closed-door evaluation of his performance Thursday afternoon.
Displaying his trademark Tennessee-gentleman poise, the 51-year-old Dyer confidently insisted that he had put the Southern California Rapid Transit District on the path to improvement after a series of highly publicized problems came to light. Among them were bus driver drug use, high absenteeism and loose controls on spending.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday October 13, 1987 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 6 Metro Desk 2 inches; 51 words Type of Material: Correction
Due to an editing error, an article Saturday reported incorrectly that resigning RTD General Manager John Dyer acknowledged that he was giving in to pressure from City Hall. Suggestions that he quit came from a variety of sources, including state, county and city officials. However, Dyer himself did not say such pressures contributed to his decision to step down.
But he implicitly acknowledged that he had become a political liability and said his departure from the $119,000-a-year job will give county officials an opportunity for a fresh start in solving transportation problems and rebuilding public confidence in the nation's largest all-bus transit system.
Citing the recent, unsuccessful legislative battle to abolish the RTD, Dyer said: "The events of the last few days and weeks have led me to the conclusion that the RTD needs to make a new start, a new start in terms of new opportunity, new programs, new initiatives and new management. . . .
"This job has been awfully exciting in the last six years. Many times it's been frustrating." He added with a smile, "I look forward to turning over those frustrations to my successor."
Reaction to the resignation, which is effective Jan. 31, was generally relief that the man who had become a focal symbol of Los Angeles transit problems would be out of the way. It is "in everyone's best interest," said county Supervisor Deane Dana, who has pushed for an overhaul of transit management but had been reserved in his criticism of Dyer.
'Relieving the Pressure'
By volunteering to step down, Dyer "has contributed to relieving the pressure," said RTD board member Nikolas Patsaouras.
Patsaouras and several other RTD board members said the decision to leave was Dyer's own. He "decided that the time had come to move on. Both for the district and himself," Patsaouras said.
"It's a start toward reform in Los Angeles," said Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sepulveda), one of Dyer's harshest critics and co-author of the legislation to abolish the RTD.
Some of Dyer's allies expressed regret, saying they felt his accomplishments went unnoticed--notably obtaining hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds for the Metro Rail subway project despite the strong, personal opposition of President Reagan.
"It's unfortunate," said county Supervisor Ed Edelman. "I think history will show that Mr. Dyer made a significant contribution to transportation improvements in Los Angeles County."
RTD President Jan Hall said an interim RTD executive will be named and a search begun for a new transportation chief.
Dyer has been a controversial figure since he arrived in Los Angeles in 1981, shortly before news surfaced of $100 million in cost overruns on the Metro Rail project he delivered in Miami.
Dyer had predicted rough going for himself in Los Angeles--and that he would probably be forced out.
"I'm going to frankly take a beating over the next three years," he told The Times in 1984. "This job is going to require pushing and pressuring like this community has never known before. One day I'm going to get some board members mad . . . (they are) going to fire me."
His problems in Los Angeles were less with the $4-billion Metro Rail project he began here--a project Dyer says is $60 million under budget on the first phase of construction.
Rather, his troubles stemmed from the unglorious, day-to-day stuff of keeping well-maintained buses on the streets, getting bus drivers to come to work, keeping track of bus parts and monitoring consultants.
Spate of Accidents
Criticism centering on Dyer began with a spate of accidents in the spring of 1986 involving drivers who had used drugs, topped off by the spectacular flip of a loaded RTD bus on the Hollywood Freeway, injuring 27 people.
Media attention next focused on drivers without proper licenses, soaring administrative costs, insurance fraud, high employee absenteeism, rising complaints of poor bus service, large expenditures and loose controls on a small army of lobbyists and large amounts of missing inventory.
Responding to the revelations, which continued to make headlines through much of this year, state legislators moved to abolish the agency and specifically prohibit Dyer from getting the top job in a replacement super-agency.