APTA inducted Rod Diridon Sr., into its prestigious Hall of Fame at EXPO on Tuesday. Diridon is emeritus executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI), which is affiliated with the San Jose (Calif.) State University College of Business.
He is being honored for a lifetime of leadership and advocacy for public transportation in the U.S. and around the world. After two naval officer Vietnam combat tours, he began his elected career in 1971 as a 31-year-old city council member followed by 20 years and six times as chair of the Santa Clara County’s board of supervisors and transit board. He also chaired the bay area’s three regional agencies, APTA, and was UITP vice chair. Diridon is especially proud of co-founding the APTA Diversity Council supporting women and minorities.
He chaired nine successful rail projects and four regional and two statewide transportation taxes. That focus earned him the title, “father of modern transit in Silicon Valley.” In 1995, the main San Jose station was renamed the San Jose Diridon Station, hosting three commuter rail lines, light rail, and planned BART and high-speed rail links, all of which he chaired.
In 1993, he transitioned to executive director for the newly-formed MTI.
MTI became known for reliable research on tough issues and a unique California State University Master of Science in Transportation Management taught statewide by expert professors via the Caltrans videoconference network.
In 2000, Gov.’s Gray Davis, then Arnold Schwarzenegger, appointed Diridon to the California High Speed Rail Authority Board, with orders to jump-start the project. Elected chair, Diridon used his 24 years of policy board experience to comply.
Diridon also helped convert the U.S. High Speed Ground Transportation Association into APTA’s High Speed Intercity Rail Committee, which he chaired. He also chairs the U.S. High Speed Rail Association’s Board.
Diridon is a favorite worldwide conference keynoter on sustainability, stressing the interconnection among transit, land use and climate change.
“The rest of the world knows that steel wheels on rails are the most efficient and sustainable means of transport. Electrically powered light, metro, and intercity high-speed rail systems are the least expensive and surest countermeasure to combat climate change. We must win that battle to maintain the U.S. economy while protecting the future for our children,” he was often quoted as saying.
He’s chaired over 100 programs and, though retiring to half-time emeritus executive director at MTI, continues his travels. He received the lifetime achievement awards from the national Council of University Transportation Centers, U.S. High Speed Rail Association, SJSU College of Business and others.