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Meet Art Leahy!

Art Leahy
Chief Executive Officer
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)
APTA Board of Directors
Member, Authorization Task Force
Chair, Bus Standards Policy and Planning Committee

How many people do you employ?
Los Angeles Metro employs 9,291 full-time staff, including 4,449 operators, 2,211 mechanics and maintenance people, 753 clerks, 652 transportation and maintenance supervisors, and 79 security guards, as well as 1,147 non-contract employees and 437 L.A. County sheriffs, who oversee security on our system.

How long have you worked in public transportation?
I’ve been in public transit for my entire career, spanning 42 years. I began working at Metro as a bus operator in my early 20s. I eventually was hired to study the efficiency of bus routes for the Southern California Rapid Transit District, which evolved into Metro. Later I was in charge of operating the Metro bus and rail system. Still later I was CEO of the Minneapolis-St. Paul transit agency before returning to California to become CEO of the Orange County Transportation Authority in 2001. In 2009, I joined Metro as CEO.

How long have you been an APTA member?
Metro has been an APTA member forever—even before it became APTA!

What drew you to a career in public transportation?
I needed a job. My father was a bus operator and Metro was hiring, so I signed on. After finishing college, I did community relations, operational analysis, and budgets and gradually got hooked by the work’s complexity and importance. I realized that Metro was a great place to work—one where I could have an impact on the organization and the area.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA resource?
In these days of limited funds and increased need, agencies across the nation must coordinate efforts to keep transit in front of the public and legislatures. APTA provides that opportunity. Through APTA, we can keep the lines of communication open, exchange ideas, make plans, and create a consensus-based message for federal advocacy. I’ve also developed friendships over the years that I treasure. And frankly, when it comes time to push a transit agenda, who better to turn to for unvarnished feedback than a friend?

What do you like most about your job?
I love everything about it—even the long hours! The work we’re doing is essential to our region’s future, largely due to something I can’t take credit for because I wasn’t here, but I’m grateful to have. Voters passed Measure R, the half-cent sales tax for transportation, in 2008 during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It’s an exciting time to be in transit. We’re building a 21st-century system for a city we hope our children and their kids will find workable and comfortable, with clear skies and moving freeways, trains, and buses. I find this very exciting and I’m proud to be part of it.

What is unique about your agency?
L.A. is unique in that we serve as transportation planner and coordinator, designer, builder, and operator for the entire county. Not only are we in the business of buses and trains, we fund highway projects, pedestrian amenities, and paratransit operators throughout the county.

We’re building a seamless network of travel through alliances with our transit partners, including Metrolink (the suburban rail carrier that covers Los Angeles County and four other counties) and 16 municipal operators. In the last 20 years, ridership on Metro and our partners has grown by more than 10 percent to two million-plus boardings daily.

We’ve funded hundreds of miles of bikeways, all of our buses have bike racks, and we provide bike racks and lockers at many rail stations. We’re collaborating with the California High-Speed Rail Authority to advance the statewide HSR system, with facilities at Union Station. With highway and other projects we’re helping goods move freely through our region, especially from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the busiest in the nation. We run the most successful vanpool network in the country—1,200 vans and growing. And did I mention that to complement our fleet of 2,200 buses, we built 88 miles of rail in just over 20 years? That’s pretty good for a region that until 1990 had no rail at all.

Make sure you see Art Leahy’s video, now that you've read this!

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