By OC Supervisor Shawn Nelson
The Metrolink Board of Directors today announced Art Leahy will become the agency’s next CEO effective April 20, 2015. The motion and contract was unanimously approved. “When the position became available at Metrolink, I was immediately intrigued,” Leahy said. “Having had the opportunity to work at both Metro and Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), I have witnessed first-hand the incredible diligence of the Metrolink staff, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to further grow and enhance Southern California’s six-county rail system.”
The Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA), the agency that governs Metrolink, is made up of an 11-member board representing the transportation commissions of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. In addition to those counties, Metrolink provides service into northern San Diego County.
“As a board, we could not be more excited about Art deciding to take the helm of Metrolink,” said Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, chair of the Metrolink Board of Directors. “Given Art’s leadership at Metro, along with his previous stewardship of OCTA, he brings a unique perspective of leadership at the highest levels of transportation that will be of tremendous value to Metrolink.”
One of the nation’s leading transit officials, Leahy served as chief executive officer of Metro for six years. During that time, he guided implementation of one of the largest public works programs in United States history, securing billions in federal and state dollars to help finance construction of dozens of transit and highway projects.
He led the completion of numerous projects funded by Los Angeles County’s Measure R. Metro has transit and highway projects valued at more than $14 billion, eclipsing that of any other transportation agency in the nation. This includes an unprecedented five new rail projects under construction, including phase 2 of the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica and the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa, as well as the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, the Regional Connector in downtown Los Angeles, and the first phase of the Westside Purple Line subway extension to Wilshire and La Cienega.
Leahy also launched a $1.2-billion overhaul of the Metro Blue Line and guided the purchase of a new fleet of rail cars. And he helped transform the iconic Union Station into the hub of the region’s expanding bus and rail transit network and led the agency’s acquisition of the 75-year-old iconic facility.
Though Metrolink is a separate transportation agency from Metro, the two agencies work collaboratively to provide effective and efficient public transportation options for people throughout the region. For example, Metrolink and Metro worked together closely to ensure that Metrolink riders would continue to transfer seamlessly to all Metro subway, light rail and bus lines following implementation of the Metro TAP initiative.
Metrolink offers connections to nearly 30 other public transportation providers throughout Southern California at no additional cost. Other Metrolink transportation connections include the OCTA bus system, Riverside Transit Agency (RTA), Omnitrans in San Bernardino County and Ventura Intercity Service Transit Authority (VISTA). In addition, the Rail 2 Rail® program allows Metrolink Monthly Pass holders along the Orange and Ventura County corridors to travel on Amtrak Pacific Surfliner trains within the station pairs of their pass at no additional charge.
Prior to his tenure as Metro CEO, Leahy led OCTA (2001-2009) and served as the general manager of Metro Transit (1997-2001) in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
While at OCTA, Leahy led efforts to secure reauthorization of the $12 billion Measure M sales tax proposal, which gained 70 percent approval from Orange County voters in November 2006. Measure M led to the expansion of the county’s rail and bus systems, along with numerous enhancements of streets, highways, and traffic management systems.
Growing up Highland Park, both of Leahy’s parents worked in transit and he followed in their footsteps. He started as a bus operator for the Southern California Rapid Transit District (SCRTD) in Los Angeles in 1971 and rose through the ranks to become chief operations officer before taking the position in Minneapolis. Prior to earning a Masters of Public Administration degree from the University of Southern California in 1982, Leahy completed a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Los Angeles in political science (1974) and certificate in transportation management (1973) from UCLA.
For additional details on Metrolink, please visit www.metrolinktrains.com.
Metrolink is Southern California’s regional commuter rail service in its 23rd year of operation. The Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA), a joint powers authority made up of an 11-member board representing the transportation commissions of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, governs the service. Metrolink operates over seven routes through a six-county, 512 route-mile network, which includes a portion of northern San Diego County. Metrolink is the third largest commuter rail agency in the United States based on directional route miles and the eighth largest based on annual ridership.
Art Leahy’s legacy at the MTA – excerpted from the Los Angeles Times:
But Leahy also drew sharp criticism for projects that did not come in on time or on budget — most notably the 405 Freeway widening, which took five years to complete and cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than its promised $1-billion budget.
In a resignation letter obtained by The Times, Leahy wrote that Metro has “continued to maintain a balanced budget by controlling costs.” But the agency faces a deficit of $83 million in 2018, which could worsen to $248 million by 2023 as pension costs rise and new rail lines begin operating. In the last five years, the share of operational costs covered by fares has fallen from 29% to 26%, one of the lowest rates of any major transit agency in the world.
Partly at Leahy’s urging, the Metro board increased fares twice during his tenure, raising one-way fares by 40%, from $1.25 to $1.75. That drew bitter criticism from rider advocates, who accused Leahy of neglecting low-income, minority bus passengers in favor of glitzier rail construction. More than 90% of bus and rail riders have an average household income of less than $20,000, according to Metro data.