Metro in Transition

12_2_09_metro_sign.jpgPhoto: Answers.com

It began a few months ago when rumors reached my ears that the word
circulating among Metro employees at the bus yards was that the Sectors
were about to be dissolved.

I took it all with a grain of
salt initially. Like any large organization Metro is often rife with
rumors that turn out to be baseless or garbled versions of what is
actually happening. But I didn’t dismiss the possibility out of hand.
Art Leahy has been Chief Executive Office at Metro for about half a
year now, enough time for him to get up to speed and start deciding
what changes he wants to make at the agency. Every new Metro CEO brings
to the job their own distinctive management style and usually after a
few months start a process of reshaping Metro’s administrative
structure in line with their perceptions of what needs doing and the
best way to achieve same. So I started to keep a eye out for any signs
of major changes in the status of the sectors.

Then October
23rd in remarks at the annual Sector Governance Council Meet &
Confer
, Leahy announced that service development managers (who direct
bus scheduling and planning efforts) were to be brought back downtown
to Metro Headquarters as an integrated unit to allow the coordination
of service across sector boundaries.

Leahy
in private comments to Governance Council members said subsequently
this wasn’t a precursor to the elimination of the sectors, something he
said he opposed.

Then with no fanfare the Gateway Sector’s
general manager. Alex Clifford, was shifted to a new role as
Metro’s point person on the statewide bullet train network effort.
South Bay’s general manager Dana Coffey doubled overseeing her sector
and Gateway, supposedly until a replacement was found for Clifford. In
the midst of this Metro decided to not renew the lease for the offices
of the South Bay sector (the only one that wasn’t using Metro property
for its offices) and was moved into the Metro headquarters building,
joining the Westside/Central Sector staff who have always been located
there. And recently Gateway Cities staff also were moved to the
Headquarters building.

This slow drip drip drip of sector
changes became a torrent at the November 19th Metro Board Operations
Committee meeting. Leahy stated his intention to recentralize
transportation, maintenance, service development and administrative
functions as outlined in the staff report for agenda item #48 (entitled
"operational efficiencies")
.

While
the report doesn’t make it explicit, Leahy in verbal comments stated
the position of Sector General Manager will be eliminated in favor of
having Executive Officers dedicated by function and reporting to the
Chief Operations Officer. Governance Councils will still function and
even have a more direct role regarding certain operational aspects,
like stops and zones. The two Council members attending the Committee
meeting, Kymberleigh Richards of the San Fernando Valley and Jerard
Wright of the Westside/Central, availed themselves of the opportunity
in public comments to ask pointedly how this arrangement would actually
work. Leahy offered some vague assurances but the impression left was
the overall plan was in flux and a work in progress. And one has to say
with the scant remnants that are being carried over like the Councils
essentially the Sectors are being eliminated. The rumor was essentially
correct.

Where does this leave the 4 existing Sector General
Managers? San Fernando Valley’s Richard Hunt has played an ongoing role
in bus procurement besides his sector duties as exemplified by the
recent presentation he made on his visit to Hungary to inspect the
compo buses being manufactured there for Metro by NABI. So it seems
reasonable he’ll slip back into doing that full time. Mark Maloney of
the Westside/Central formerly oversaw Metro’s contracted bus service
and I could foresee him taking a similar role again also.

With
Carolyn Flower’s recent resignation I wouldn’t be surprised if one of
the other two Sector General Managers is selected to be Leahy’s #2.
Jack Gabig of the San Gabriel Valley would bring to it his years
running the Montebello system before joining Metro, mirroring the
experience that Snoble’s first #2 John Catoe, who ran the Santa Monica
Big Blue Bus system, also had before he joined Metro. Dana Coffey of
the South Bay/Gateway much like Leahy started her career as a bus
operator, has slowly risen through the ranks and is highly regarded by
her peers.

One concern is the shift of staff to the Metro
Headquarters means a loss of phone numbers with local area codes for
the use of patrons to contact staff who oversee operations in their
area. Also Metro management has been asked to consider
providing Governance Council members local numbers that route to
voicemail. This would assist the Councils in  providing oversight of
service in their area.

Besides all this Leahy also has other
opportunities to reshape the agency with the departures of Carol Inge
(chief planning officer) and Rick Thorpe (who oversaw rail
construction). The new people filling those roles will have a large say
in how Metro deals with its myriad challenges.

All in all Metro looks to be well underway in the transition from the Snoble era to the Leahy era.

  • Let’s hope that the MTA’s Countywide Planning Office gets some top-down reform in the way it scores bike and pedestrian projects.

    The MTA has been handing out surface improvement money from Prop A. that has only increased private automobile use, and has not led to decreased headways for buses nor curbed air quality problems. It would be nice if someone in charge would re-read Prop A and C and stop the pattern of fueling 20th century automobile-only policies.

    It’s a new century, let’s plan for it properly.

  • Kymbereligh Richards brought to my attention that interstingly Leahy in comments to Transit Talent has made it sound like looking outside the organization for some of the key openings is very much something he is pursuing. Note the comment toward the end “I want to make MTA the USC of transportation.”

    http://www.transittalent.com/articles/index.cfm?story=ArtLeahy&sms_ss=email

  • MTA already has a #2. He is assistant CEO Paul Taylor.

  • Ouch. Thanks, calwatch. Taylor somehow flew under my radar. But the Chief Operating Officer position will be very important. The staff report on recentralizing has all the new Executive Officers for various functions reporting to the COO.

  • The coding creates one of these %20 anomolies for the link to the staff report–here is the correct address:

    http://www.metro.net/board/Items/2009/11_November/20091118OPItem48.pdf

  • mattlos

    make Metro the USC of transportation — cheesy, privileged, and full self-important herd-thinking yes-men?

    wait–I think they already have that down.

  • @mattlos

    Wow, mattlos!

    You’re so clever! Everyone respects you measurably more so after making that comment! How did you ever think of something so clever? Good one!

  • Spokker

    I respect him more!

  • Erik G.

    Metro the USC of transportation?

    OK, but without the Peter Gordon and/or Harry Richardson, PLEASE??

  • The anti-transit USC School of Transportaion?

    Well, maybe that’s fitting.

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