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The state of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (L.A. Metro) is sound but the agency faces challenges ahead, Chief Executive Officer Phillip Washington said yesterday in an annual "State of the Agency" report.Delivered yesterday to the agency's board, the report highlighted fiscal stability with the creation of a Risk Allocation Matrix (RAM) to address future operating deficits, optimization of L.A. Metro services and fare media in the coming years, and increasing ridership, L.A. Metro officials said in a press release.Ridership was a main focus of Washington's address. Increasing ridership is a major priority for the agency, he said.Washington's speech follows a Los Angeles Times report this week that transit ridership has declined across Southern California for nearly a decade. L.A. Metro's boardings, for example, fell 10 percent from 2006 to 2015. Despite investing $9 billion to build new light-rail and subway lines, the agency now counts fewer boardings than it did 30 years ago when buses were the county's only transit option, the newspaper reported.On the ridership topic, Washington said that transit ridership is down nationally, but that is not unexpected given its cyclical nature. For its part, L.A. Metro is taking a long-term view with its planning, he said, and noted that an additional 750,000 people are forecast to relocate to L.A. County over the next 10 years."As the county grows over the next 10 years, now is the time to plan for future growth and now is the time to position ourselves to invest in transportation needs for decades to come," said Washington. "Looking back, we have seen significant growth in transit ridership along corridors that have been converted to rail."Last year, L.A. Metro created a Ridership Task Force to study the ridership decline issue in Los Angeles and nationally. The agency is now looking to speed up and optimize bus service across the system and is using technology to enhance the ridership experience to attract more riders, according to the press release.Washington said other "challenges and opportunities" for this year include on-time and on-budget program management that includes two new rail-line extensions opening: the Gold Line Extension to Azusa, Calif., in March and the Expo Extension to Santa Monica, Calif., in May; a vision for Union Station; and the implementation of Operation Shovel Ready, where staff will work to advance projects from the planning stage to be construction-ready.Furthermore, the agency's priorities for 2016 include workforce development and performance management, building career paths for Metro employees and strengthening the agency’s safety culture.