Management & Operations

Metrolink’s Leahy ‘navigates complex relationships’

Posted on October 11, 2017

Leahy (far right) is CEO of one of the largest commuter rail agencies in the nation.
Leahy (far right) is CEO of one of the largest commuter rail agencies in the nation.

Art Leahy was appointed as Metrolink’s CEO in April 2015. He brings more than 40 years of public transportation leadership and experience to Metrolink.

One of the nation’s leading transit officials, Leahy served as CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) for six years. During that time, he guided implementation of one of the largest public works programs in U.S. history, securing billions in federal and state dollars to help finance construction of dozens of transit and highway projects.

He led the completion of numerous projects funded by Los Angeles County’s Measure R. Metro has transit and highway projects valued at more than $14 billion, eclipsing that of any other transportation agency in the nation.

This includes an unprecedented five new rail projects under construction, including phase 2 of the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica and the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa, as well as the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project, the Regional Connector in downtown Los Angeles, and the first phase of the Westside Purple Line subway extension to Wilshire and La Cienega. Leahy also launched a $1.2-billion overhaul of the Metro Blue Line and guided the purchase of a new fleet of railcars. And, he helped transform the iconic Union Station into the hub of the region’s expanding bus and rail transit network and led the agency’s acquisition of the 75-year-old iconic facility.

Prior to his tenure as Metro CEO, Leahy led OCTA (2001-2009) and served as the GM of Metro Transit (1997-2001) in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Outstanding Public Transportation Manager

Growing up in the Highland Park community in Los Angeles, both of Leahy’s parents worked in transit and he followed in their footsteps. He started as a bus operator for the Southern California Rapid Transit District in Los Angeles in 1971 and rose through the ranks to become chief operations officer before taking the position in Minneapolis.

Growing up,what career path did you see yourself following?

Being either a teacher or a pilot.

How did you first become involved in the transportation industry?

I was in college and needed a temporary job. Transportation was a good fit since both of my parents were in the transportation industry. My mom was a streetcar operator and my dad was a bus operator. I had no intention of staying in the transportation industry, but here I am almost 50 years later.

What are some of your accomplishments during your career you’re most proud of?

  • Led operations during the Olympics.
  • Recovered bus and rail service after the Northridge, Calif. earthquake of 1994.
  • Restoration of subway and light rail service in Los Angeles.
  • Worked on the only design/build improvements of an operating freeway (SR 22).

What current project are you excited about?

Deploying Tier 4 clean locomotives across the fleet.

What pivotal moment helped you get to where you are today?

Early in my career, I was in a meeting with my GM. We were discussing a difficult issue and out of nowhere, he turned to me and said, ‘What do you think we should do, Art?’ It put me on the spot, but more importantly it taught me to listen and always be prepared in meetings.

What skills do you possess that have helped you succeed?

  • Being a functional integrator —understands how all departments work together.
  • Able to navigate complex relationships between board members, elected officials and employees of all levels.
  • Good manager — able to motivate and develop team members.

Who has inspired you during your career?

Bob Korach and Jack Gilstrap — two influential supervisors who prepared me to be an executive.

What do you like to do outside of work (hobbies/favorite pastimes)?

Reading and traveling.

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