Metro CEO Roger Snoble Announces Retirement

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Metro Boss Roger Snoble announced that he would head off into retirement as soon as a proper successor could be found.  Snoble headed Metro for seven years while the agency won multiple APTA awards for transit excellence and he played a crucial role in the passage of Measure R last month.

While the press release announcing the retirement is peppered with quotes from politicians such as Mayor Villaraigosa and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky praising Snoble’s leadership, some activists have given him a lower grade.  Snoble is a frequent target of the Bus Rider’s Union and when Snoble got into an argument with then-Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez the Bus Bench held a "Pink Slip Party" for the Metro Boss.

So what do you think Streetsbloggers?  What do you think of the Snoble era…and who do you think should replace him.

  • After predecessor Julian Burke stabilized Metro’s finances Snoble came in to revive the capital project program, as represented by the Orange Line and impending new Metro Rail extensions. He guided the process by which Measure R was passed, which will shape transportation in our region for decades. And he was the first MTA CEO to come from a transit background. He co-founded Mobility 21 and built alliances while resisting the micromanagement of the Board to a heartening extent. By having Nunez’s call for his resignation fizzle (the Board quickly gave him a one year renewal of his contract) he has given future CEO’s some independence from the day to day of politics. Service hasn’t always been what one would hope for, but I think overall he has done a good job.

    As to a successor–you have to think the rought dozen or so top executives in the transit industry are the likely persons to take it. We’ll still have to pay a top salary given the continued poor reputation of the Board.

    John Catoe at WAMATA might have been a frontrunner (he used to be Snoble’s #2) but when he went to D.C. he had to promise its Board that he would stay a certain number of years. Art Leahy who runs OCTA started his career at RTD, ran transit operations for MTA at one point and has rail experience from his time in Minnesota. I’m sure he’d be interested.

  • The Orange Line and Mobility 21 were well done (even though they both have their critics).

    It would be nice to have an MTA CEO who has a vision for L.A. County beyond keeping us all happily motoring into oblivion.

    Maybe someone less interested in humongous road building projects and freeway widenings – and instead focused on making transit a more viable option for larger swaths of L.A.

    Our suburbs will be emptying in the near future, but we’ll still need to haul poor people to places of work, and keep middle class people from slipping too far into the oblivion that life can become without a car in L.A. (as the area is currently laid out).

  • Maybe Josef will pass on the LADOT gig and give the metro a run for the money. (Did i mention the perks? A house in the hills and a chauffeur driven pedi-cab!)

  • Wad

    I am going to miss Snoble. He has been one of the most skilled administrators L.A. had in a long time, and arguably ever.

    Sure, we can trash Snoble for all of Metro’s many faults, but Snoble either had a hand in or was at the right place at the right time for a time when Metro really turned around.

    A lot of us don’t remember how ugly things were during the 1990s. We had a string of inept and downright awful Metro heads. Most people started to observe transit because the 1990s MTA was a towering inferno.

    Even before that, the culture of the RTD had been to find a good-enough bureaucrat (John Dyer, Nick Patsaouras, et al) just to keep things running and meet payroll but not make any waves, lest people notice that transit ridership resembled a spiral identical to today’s newspaper circulation. The only genius these heads brought to the RTD was not to cut service in proportion to the year-over-year ridership drops.

    Dana is right. Julian Burke helped steady the hand of Metro for Snoble to come in for what has been a renaissance for transit in L.A. Art Leahy could be a good choice, but I think he may have left the Twin Cities before the Hiawatha light rail line opened.

    I could also see Metro going in to bring another up-and-coming GM like Snoble was. Dallas is also multimodal, but is a much smaller operation than Metro. Maybe Metro will try for someone from Charlotte or Atlanta. Or, it could go with experience from a legacy system, like Boston, Chicago or Philadelphia — but not New York, which went bad the last time we tried it.

  • Or they could try for someone from the service sector level. I like Dana Coffey, who has some of the same traits as Art Leahy (started as a bus driver). The board may think it is too much of a jump in pay grade, but by and large, Coffey and Jack Gabig at San Gabriel have done the best job out of all of the sectors in managing local politics and providing competent service.

  • Wad

    Was Gabig was the former Montebello Bus Lines general manager?

  • I think whoever replaces him should have actually taken public transit on a regular basis at some point in their life preferably in the last ten years. They should also be from a city that is diverse ethnically and socio-economically as Los Angeles, preferably they should be a Los Angeles resident and of course you have to take into account the entire city when you are running something as large as Metro, but I think the person whoever is hired should truly care about the demographic that depends on the bus to get to and from work, trying to get new people to take public transit is fine, but if you make your current customers happy then new people will take it.

    As a regular public transit user I have to say Metro isn’t going to win many new riders in the prized middle class demographic beyond people who care about the environment or are from NY or some other place where taking public transit is common.

    Public transit in LA not looking at how it is in some place that is more horrible, but from my experience public transit is not pleasant and that needs to be changed and people need who take public transit shouldn’t always try to put this happy positive face on it, because nothing is going to get fixed with that attitude.

    Busses should be on time, they should be clean, the rails need to be running all night and that should be the priorities.

  • I am going to eschew speculation about who might be next, owing to the suddenness of Roger’s pulling out, but I will state that I think Roger knows something about the impending failure of Measure R’s golden promises. The statements of late from Metro and the board have indicated that something is soon to go wrong with the way the funds are to be allocated, and I have yet to hear about the study that Roger and mayor Tony promised would be presented by the end of this month.

    “We are going to put together a Measure R project delivery committee before the end of the year, uh, to focus exclusively on making sure we keep the promises we made with the voters, uh, and that Measure R is delivered, and delivered, uh, on time, uh, on budget and, um. . . and we need to focus on what can be accomplished now.”
    -Mayor Tony, 20 November 2008, Metro Executive Management and Audit Committee meeting

    “Despite the cash crunch, the Metro board plans—’if possible’—to avoid using Measure R funds to plug the agency’s structural deficit, [Metro’s Director of PR Marc] Littman said.” (The Daily Breeze, 04 Dec 2008 and The Sentinel, 11 December 2008; p. A-3)

    It does not look good, and I believe Roger’s unexpected retirement announcement only adds to the expectation of a bigger problem.

  • Stephen

    I just posted this on MRLA’s forum…
    I’ve been hearing that Catoe hasn’t actually sold his home here in LA yet… it might be a homecoming for him to come back to LACMTA from WMATA. Maybe he is just waiting for the opportunity for Snoble to retire (and to get GM experience in DC). Whatever the case, I think he’s done a great job since coming in at WMATA.

    As far as Dana’s point that Catoe needs to spend x number of years in DC, that could definitely play a factor in who takes the position. IMO, Catoe has brought a lot of transparency to WMATA, being more open when there are delays (which there were several service meltdowns this past summer) and in turn this has led to better customer satisfaction, or at least less complaining. He has often been quoted that WMATA’s ridership is much different than LACMTA’s. But a lot of that may change in the next decade or so with the many proposed and under construction rail projects in LACMTA’s pipeline. And Catoe would be prepared for that. I would be excited to have him come back.

  • Fallopia Simms

    Oh BusTard and you were absolutely sure that Measure R would fail now weren’t you? BusTard you really are a ‘tard’ and so exhausting. Your rants about PT in Los Angeles is outdated and you have begun to sound as irrelevant as the BRU as every blog you type sounds like someone who still sees LA as though you’re sitting at the corner of Florence and Normande when typing….even your site looks like it’s from the ’90s all outdated and old. Do you ever have anything + to say? I guess not so long as you and the BRU keep gettin’ those kickbacks from the oil and auto industries and you get to sit on Eric Mann’s lap in the back of his limo every now and again. The jig is up! You’re a fraud BusTard!

  • “kickbacks from the oil and auto industries”

    I am about as bitter a critic of the BRU as can be imagined. But despite rumors they get money from Detroit and/or the labor Unions, I have never seen any evidence of this (and I have studied their tax returns). They seem to mostly be funded via grants from liberal non-profits and donations from westside liberals. It is marketed as empowering working class/etnically diverse groups. Mann if nothing else is a clever salesman and tight on keeping control. Dissent is ruthlessly squelched.

    I will agree implementing Measure R will be a challenge. Probably every project proponent for the various MetroRail lines being studies expect construction to start three days after the first cent is collected. It will indeed at times be a bumpy ride…

  • As much as I respect John Catoe, he does not have the experience that will be required for Metro’s next CEO. Measure R contained a laundry list of projects, both transit- and auto-related (sorry, ubrayj, but there are going to be more freeway projects … that was cast in stone by the voters), and Metro will need someone who has experience in project starting, oversight, and completion. And that is a short list.

    For that same reason, I disagree with calwatch that upgrading a sector general manager is the answer. I like Dana and Jack, as well as Richard Hunt, Alex Clifford and Mark Maloney (the other three sector GMs), but again the lack of experience in managing projects makes them unlikely candidates with the Measure R list pending.

    I don’t discount Art Leahy of OCTA as a possibility, because even though he did leave Minneapolis before the project Wad mentioned completed, he did the heavy lifting there to get it underway and kept on schedule. Of all the credible candidates, he is also the most familiar with Metro, having been there before as their operations chief.

  • Jerard

    “Despite the cash crunch, the Metro board plans—’if possible’—to avoid using Measure R funds to plug the agency’s structural deficit, [Metro’s Director of PR Marc] Littman said.” (The Daily Breeze, 04 Dec 2008 and The Sentinel, 11 December 2008; p. A-3)

    It does not look good, and I believe Roger’s unexpected retirement announcement only adds to the expectation of a bigger problem.”

    Doesn’t that have more to do with the transit funding Sacramento has been consistently raiding every year and even when we adjust service to balance the budget. Now they are considering taking the last remaining large funding sources for Public transit operations to balance their yearly budget, instead of just biting the bullet and raise the state tax .5 %

  • “who still sees LA as though you’re sitting at the corner of Florence and Normande when typing…”Fallopia

    What is that supposed to mean? Most people taking on public transit are sitting on a corner similar to what they have on Florence and Normandie. and stops like Florence and Normandie aren’t very livable streets oriented correct? What is the exclusive only care about the 2% who take the public transit as a hobby conversation? Are the kind of people who aren’t middle class not allowed to have a conversation on this thread. No one should make critical commentary on Metro or Roger?

    Public transit in LA sucks because of people like you. If the kind of people who mostly take the pt were listened to instead of mocked it would be better. Half of the people who comment on this site and give their opinions on this and that don’t even use pt on a regular basis so they are just going by a few experiences they have on the weekends, so why should the few people who use pt in a real way be silenced.

    And The Bus Bench is my site and my design so any comments about it’s appearance should be directed to me. I’m usually at the Coffee Bean by the 7th and Metro Blue Line station at around 8am on my laptop if you have something you need to tell me about myself or you’d like to assist in the redesign.

    Browne Molyneux

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