Metro’s new CEO Randy Clarke takes office today

Randy Clarke, Metro’s new CEO, starts today and he has a lot of work to do.

Why is it important: Washingtonians have lost faith in Metro. Its new leader will either regain the public’s trust or damage it further.

Details: Clarke, who most recently ran the Austin Transit Agency, has also worked for a transit trade group here in DC and for the Boston Transit Agency. With a salary of $485,000 a year, he will now be the highest-paid transit leader in the country.

What they say: Former colleagues and bosses have applauded Clarke’s leadership style and called him a people person.

  • Fun fact: He’s also been known to ride the train and the bus. He met his wife on the T in Boston.
He is thorough.

When massive blizzards shut down the Boston subway in 2015, Clarke didn’t “shrink from the challenge” of overhauling the system, according to Joe Aiello, who chaired an oversight board there. It took months for some aspects of the T to get back up and running, Aiello adds.

At the American Public Transportation Association in DC, CEO Paul Skoutelas said Clarke has “a major role” in helping transit agencies across the country implement congressionally mandated safety systems for passengers. commuter rail systems.

He is honest.

Aiello credits Clarke with creating a more transparent culture at MBTA by speaking openly to the board about the agency’s shortcomings and challenges. “He dragged in other people who were under him (and made them) feel more free to speak.”

He is politically savvy and good at whipping votes.

In Austin, Clarke completed an ambitious multi-billion dollar transportation expansion project, including new light rail lines. The hard-fought two-year campaign ended with around 58% voter approval.

  • Yes, but: The project faced opposition from some residents who said the money would be better spent on things like affordable housing. Additionally, the project will cost $5 billion more (almost double) than what voters originally approved.

In Boston, Clarke called on local leaders to increase funding for the T. Aiello said that by highlighting and identifying security issues and needs, Clarke’s insight led the board to increase the annual funding request from $300 million to $1 billion.

He is pro-union.

Darrell Sorrells, vice president of ATU Local 1091 in Austin, told Axios that Clarke pioneered regular meetings with the union in an effort to foster a healthy working relationship. The meetings have continued since Clarke left town.

  • Yes, but: Austin’s CapMetro has seen a sharp drop in ridership during the pandemic. Staff shortages have led to a reduction in the frequency of bus runs.

State of play: WMATA is grappling with a number of worrying safety issues, from the ongoing debacle of 7000-series trains to the disruption of testing and training for more than 70 train operators. Additionally, the agency is preparing for a major budget shortfall due to the pandemic.

  • Background: WMATA is a much larger agency than the one Clarke previously ran. He will go from overseeing a $318 million operating budget in Austin to a $2 billion operating budget in DC.

The bottom line: While Clarke has a mountain of subway trouble to climb, colleagues across the country believe he’s equipped for the challenge.

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