After nearly 50 years in public transportation, including 15 years leading the California-based San Mateo County Transit District, Michael J. Scanlon on Wednesday informed the District Board of Directors he is retiring.
In 1999, following a nationwide recruitment, Scanlon, 67, was named GM/CEO of SamTrans, executive director of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Authority and executive director of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority.
During his 15 years and at the direction of the District’s three boards, Scanlon has transformed SamTrans into a modern mobility manager, led the dynamic growth of Caltrain into a regional and record-setting rail system, presided over the reauthorization of the Transportation Authority sales tax by 75% of the voters and undertook the Caltrain Modernization program to electrify and modernize Caltrain.
Scanlon shepherded SamTrans and Caltrain through two economic downturns and played a central role in achieving the financial stability both agencies currently enjoy. During his time with the District, Caltrain’s ridership and farebox revenue have nearly tripled, SamTrans has added innovative new bus services like the FLX Pacifica and San Carlos and the agency has implemented important efficiency measures that stabilized the District during the recession.
“Mike saw all of the possibilities and challenges facing SamTrans as it made the leap from a smaller operator to an important component of the Peninsula commute,” said State Senator Jerry Hill, a former member of the SamTrans and Caltrain boards.
When Scanlon started with SamTrans the “dot com” bubble was just exploding in the Bay Area, carrying job growth and traffic congestion to new heights. As demand for public transit soared, plans got underway to develop an express service that would transform Caltrain into a competitive alternative to commuting on the region’s highways. The service would eventually be named the “Baby Bullet” by U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Speier, then a State Senator. Speier was instrumental in securing $127 million for the new express service.
Since the introduction of the Baby Bullet, ridership demand on Caltrain has continued to grow, rising to record-setting levels over the last four years.
As Caltrain has experienced such growth — and the challenges that have come with it — Scanlon began leading the effort to make a reality the next generation of Caltrain through the Caltrain Modernization (CalMod) program. CalMod includes the introduction of new electric trains that will be quieter, cleaner and will allow for more frequent train service to help meet growing ridership demand, reduce regional traffic congestion and dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by the rail system’s current diesel equipment. The program also helps reduce the taxpayer subsidy required to operate the system and creates over $2 billion in economic value.
Additionally, Scanlon has been deeply involved with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) since 1974, and before that with APTA’s earlier iterations.
“Mike has not only helped modernize transit in the Bay Area with his innovative approaches at Caltrain and SamTrans, but he’s also been an outspoken advocate for public this country’s transportation programs,” said Michael Melaniphy, president/CEO of the American Public Transportation Association.