Metro CEO Art Leahy to leave agency in April; oversaw nation’s largest transit and highway public works program

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Here is the news release from Metro:

Art Leahy, CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), today announced his last day of service will be April 5, 2015, when his current contract expires. Leahy, 65, who started his transportation career as a bus operator and became one of the nation’s leading transit officials, has headed Metro for six years. During that time he guided implementation of one of the largest public works programs in United States history and helped secure billions of dollars in federal and state funding to match local transit sales taxes to finance construction of dozens of transit and highway projects.

“It has a been a privilege, honor and pleasure to serve as Metro’s chief executive officer the past six years,” Leahy said. “My time at Metro has been filled with enormous successes, intense challenges and opportunities that have and continue to shape mobility for Los Angeles County’s 10 million residents.”

Against a backdrop of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, Leahy kept Metro solvent while he focused on fulfilling the mandate of Los Angeles County voters in carrying out the Measure R building program and ensuring quality service on the Metro system that has nearly 500 million annual boardings.

Today Metro has transit and highway projects and programs 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 the Expo line extension to Santa Monica and the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa, both scheduled to open next year, plus the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, the Regional Connector that will connect the Expo, Blue and Gold Lines in downtown Los Angeles, and the first phase of the Westside Purple Line subway extension to Wilshire and La Cienega. Just last week, Metro also received federal approval to start the engineering phase for extending the Purple Line to Century City.

Minorities and disadvantaged workers are enjoying opportunities for construction jobs and apprenticeships for these projects thanks to the nation’s first federally-approved Project Labor Agreement and Construction Careers Program that begun under Leahy’s tenure.   

Having started his transit career as a bus operator 44 years ago, at Metro Leahy focused on improving bus on time performance, cleanliness and ADA compliance. The agency is taking delivery of 550 new buses and a new state-of-the-art bus maintenance facility will open later this year. The popular Silver Line express bus service from El Monte to Artesia was one of Leahy’s projects along with the Orange Line extension to Chatsworth.

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 turn 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.

Major highway projects such as the I-5 widening to Orange County have broken ground under Leahy’s watch and the new 10-mile northbound carpool lane on the I-405 freeway through the Sepulveda Pass has opened. Leahy led the successful Carmageddon I & II weekend closures for bridge work as part of that effort.

Prior to his tenure as Metro CEO, Leahy served as the Chief Executive Officer at the Orange County Transportation Authority and General Manager of the transit agency in Minneapolis-St. Paul. During his leadership, both agencies garnered national transit industry honors as did Leahy.

Leahy grew up in Highland Park. Both his 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 leadership positions at other transit agencies.

Metro is the lead transportation planning and programming agency for Los Angeles County, a major builder of transit and highway projects and is one of the largest transit operators in the United States. Metro employs more than 9,000 workers and has an annual $5-billion budget.   

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Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti released the following statement:

“Millions of people will get to work and home to their loved ones faster because of his stewardship of the nation’s largest public works project, the implementation of Measure R transportation program. Art Leahy especially distinguished himself through his ability to secure and leverage federal funding with local funding sources to get projects off the ground. In addition he was committed to maintenance and refurbishment of existing bus and rail lines. On his watch Metro buses are more accessible, more punctual, and cleaner. Art Leahy’s impact on Southern California will be felt forever more.”

Categories: Policy & Funding

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19 replies

  1. It was a pleasure to serve under you while I was an operator for RTD and then MTA. Wishing you a wonderful retirement. I know I am enjoying mine. God Bless.

  2. The MTA will be loosing a great leader, the best since MTA’s creation. He and his wife were a great asset to the RTD and I knew them well. I wish him a happy retirement. Hopefully the MTA can find another CEO with Art’s vast experience that understands transportation not just in theory but from experience

  3. Art was the first bus guy to run the agency in a long time, rather than a planner or a bean counter. Sure he had planning and bean counting skills but fundamentally he got MTA back from building things and focusing equally on running them properly. It will be interesting to see who Garcetti picks.

  4. Thank you for implementing the Silver Line; it is reliable and is a great way to get to Downtown Los Angeles. Also, I am sure you will have the same success on the new express bus service between the SF Valley and the Westside. Finally, we are getting good transit in Los Angeles like other big cities in the nation. I look forward to the building and operation of the people mover at LAX. Enjoy your retirement. I have enjoyed every minute of mine.

  5. I always had soft spot for bus drivers, ever since I first took a bus to school, May Art enjoy his pension in “Blue Heaven” and may he take the idiotic 710 Toll Truck Tunnel with him! I nominate Councilman Tom LaBonge as his successor, a tireless servant of the people!

  6. He Walked the Walk, too– er, Rode the Wheels? Art took transit almost all the time, except for long out of LA trips he could not reach via Metrolink. We will all miss his institutional memory and forward visionary talents.

  7. Farewell Art Leahy. He has done a lot of good things, but have also left questionable decisions like funding both road and freeway programs alongside Metro services, as well as the poor execution of TAP and the still not updated TAP website in an era of tech-savvy Millennials are increasingly using public transit over cars.

    Next, can we get someone who actually knows about running a mass transit agency like a business instead of a person who worked through the ranks from a bus driver?

    Preferably with someone who has prior experience running mass transit in other successful mass transit friendly cities? May I suggest bringing in an outsider like one who worked the transit system in London, Hong Kong, Seoul or Tokyo?

    I suggest ex-NYMTA chairman Jay Walder who went to head excellent Hong Kong MTR, who’s now in charge of NY’s bicycle share program:

    http://gothamist.com/2014/07/17/ex-mta_ceo_jay_walder_leaves_hong_k.php

    Surely a person who ran mass transit in NYC and Hong Kong can bring in much needed expertise than anyone of the establishments at Metro today.

    • The Metro council members who forced out Mr. Leahy should hang their heads in shame. Mr. Leahy did one heck of a job under the circumstances.I feel the council threw him under the bus. The community needs to start holding these council members accountable for their actions. This is a dark day for LA Metro.Mr. Leahy deserved better then this!

  8. Just commenting to bid CEO Art Leahy a great farewell. His leadership at Metro helped to hold things together and drive the progress Metro has made even when the bureaucracy and nay-sayers tried to have their way.

  9. I second the motion that the next CEO should be a person who can run things from a business perspective instead of the same old tax-me-more or cut-back-services solutions that has been the norm for ages.

    Hint to Metro and the Metro Board politicians: Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore has a lot of English speakers and they all run mass transit better and at a profit than any US transit agency can ever try to accomplish. We have a lot of Asian-Americans residing here who all know transit sucks here compared to what we have back in China, Korea and Japan. Try looking to headhunt from capable transit managers from Asian transit agencies for your next CEO.

    Surely fixing your low farebox recovery ratios is a top priority and what better is there to look at cities that accomplish over 100% farebox recovery ratios?

    This is one of your own findings, Metro:
    http://i.imgur.com/ViS3kvj.jpg

    Surely that it shows Singapore knows what it’s doing to keep fares low (hmm, maybe it has to do with their logical distance based fare system utilizing a tap-in and tap-out system) and a high farebox recovery ratio???

    • K-Towner,

      Singapore has enormous road and car taxes. A BMW 328 costs $238,000 in Singapore once all the duties, taxes and fees are added in. Add to that, super high gas taxes and sometimes non-existent or extremely expensive parking and you have a completely different environment to that of the US where people virtually must use transit to get around. The government strongly discourages private auto use in Singapore.

      It is laughable you think this is all because their transit agencies have a secret formula or that because distance based fares are used. Distance based fares are used here in the US too and right here in Los Angeles with the Metrolink system. There are positive attributes to such a system, but it would cost a lot of money to implement and certainly is no magic solution to every funding issue as the Metrolink system clearly shows.

  10. Oh, by the way, Arthur Leahy will be remembered by us all. His efforts and successes will continue to provide us with benefits upon which the next CEO can build his/her foundation for the positive guidance toward an improved transit agency.

  11. Hopefully now a lot of ppl who got fired will get their jobs back. I don’t know why ppl are talking so nice about Art. He came to Metro and screw up everything now whoever replace him will have to cleanup his mess.