Metro CEO Art Leahy Steps Down, Effective April 2015

Art Leahy riding the Metro Red Line in December 2014. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Art Leahy riding the Metro Red Line in December 2014. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

CEO Art Leahy is leaving Metro as of April 2015.

The news broke late yesterday, via a press statement at Metro’s the Source:

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.

Laura Nelson’s subsequent Los Angeles Times article passes along some insider contentions that Leahy had lost the backing of the Metro Board of Directors. From the Times:

Arthur T. Leahy’s performance as chief executive has been under confidential review by the Metro board of directors for more than six months, and a majority of members were ready to let his contract expire in April, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

After managing transit agencies in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Orange County, Leahy became head of Metro in 2009.

With his experience as a former Los Angeles bus driver (for RTD, the Southern California Rapid Transit District which later became Metro), Leahy has a reputation for focusing on the rider experience. He made sure Metro buses and trains were in good repair, running on time to the greatest extent possible, and had working wheelchair lifts.

His legacy, though, will likely be the unprecedented transportation construction boom Metro has spearheaded in recent years. Leahy became head of Metro less than a year after the 2008 passage of Measure R, a countywide transportation sales tax. Measure R kept Metro relatively flush through lean economic times that caused austerity measures elsewhere.

Measure R funding enabled Leahy’s Metro to embark on an ambitious expansion of rail lines, with five new major rail projects under construction today. There is a lot more to Measure R, too: billions in freeway projects, Bus Rapid Transit, transit capital, and much more. All this capital construction squeezed Metro operations budgets, meaning Leahy also oversaw fare increases and oversaw the passage of a Long Range Plan that promises more, regularly scheduled, fare hikes.

There are a number of transportation leaders rumored as possible successors (SBLA will run a follow-up with successor profiles and a reader poll later this week), including:

The Metro Board, chaired by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, will select Metro’s next CEO. The challenge will be to find a CEO that builds on Leahy’s legacy of keeping transit rider experience a priority while managing a massive construction portfolio, and, hopefully, embracing multi-modalism beyond the transit stop.

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