LA Now: OCTA’s Art Leahy to Be Next Metro CEO

3_3_09_leahy.jpgIn a sign that the death of the Bottleneck Blog has been prematurely announced, Steve Hymon breaks the news that the Metro Board is poised to select the Orange County Transportation Authority current CEO, Art T. Leahy as the successor to current Metro CEO Roger Snoble.  As you may remember, Snoble announced his retirement shortly after Measure R was passed by voters last fall.

Leahy appears to be a solid choice.  As CEO of a neighboring transit authority, he is already experienced in dealing with a state government that cuts transit funding before breakfast and knows how to steer a transit agency in an area dominated by a car culture.  Leahy also has a history with Metro, running bus bases during the 1984 Olympics and during the riots following the Rodney King verdict.

As CEO of OCTA, Leahy has some specific experience that will also doubtless be useful; overseeing the I-91 HOT Lanes and a budget that includes traditional transit projects as well as highway and other road projects.

It's hard to judge Leahy based soley on ridership, as transit ridership grew so dramatically in the last year that nearly every agency saw new ridership highs.  Encouragingly, OCTA was not the exception to the rule

In researching this story, I found a great interview with Leahy from a July 2008 printing of Mass Transit Magazine.  In it, Leahy discusses a wide-range of topics including the effect that a fare hike had on ridership in 2008 which shows that hikes aren't something he would shy away from if he and his staff felt it was needed.

“And so we wanted to see what would happen to ridership. It dipped a bit. We exceeded our revenue projections, ridership dipped a bit the first half of the calendar year. By the fourth quarter it had recovered and began to exceed what it had the previous [year.]

“That’s another indication we are becoming a mature transit system — it’s not so much of a shock to the system.”

However, the interview also shows how Leahy cares about promoting late-night bus service, which is often first to the chopping block because it has low ridership compared to rush hour service and bicycles as part of a transportation network.

Admitedly, I haven't spent a lot of time reviewing OCTA or its programs.  If anyone out there wants to chime in with their thoughts on Leahy or the OCTA, please feel free to fill-up the comments section.