Catherine Rinaldi, President, Metro-North Railroad
Grew up: Huntington, Long Island, N.Y.
Studies: I was an English major at Yale and went on to law school at the University of Virginia.
Career aspirations: I wanted to be a journalist, believe it or not.
Industry start: I worked in the counsel’s office for former Governor George Pataki and my portfolio included transportation, energy and the environment. It was my first exposure to MTA. Later, I joined MTA as its general counsel.
Early influence: I was a law clerk for many years. As a law clerk, you need to read carefully and write clearly and quickly. It has helped me in every job that I have held since.
Current role: As President of Metro-North, I lead a team of approximately 6,700 talented transportation professionals. Metro-North is the second-busiest commuter railroad in North America. We provide commuter rail service to customers in southeastern New York and Connecticut, and, under contract with NJ Transit, to customers in Orange and Rockland Counties. Our mission is to be a safe, reliable and efficient railroad providing regional mobility and excellent service to our customers.
Accomplishment: I am the first female president of Metro-North. Railroading is traditionally a very male-dominated profession, and I have heard from many women at the railroad how much my promotion to the role of president meant to them, and how much it signals that things have changed in the industry.
Rewarding: The most rewarding thing about my job is the opportunity to go out into the field and talk to Metro-North employees. It’s important to show that I care about what they do, and it’s important for them to know that senior leadership understands their work and their challenges.
Projects: Last October, Metro-North launched Way Ahead, a customer-facing initiative that sets out how Metro-North will set the standard for safety, reliability and innovation in the delivery of excellent customer service. Way Ahead, which builds on Metro-North’s earlier strategic plan, is based upon three priorities — Metro-North’s customers, our people and our infrastructure — and is guided by three principles: safety, integrity and innovation. We have developed strategies to advance the Way Ahead program and recently issued a six-month update in which we highlighted a number of new initiatives that have improved the customer experience. These include the introduction of station ambassadors at our six busiest stations, the introduction of Fordham stops on New Haven Line trains, right-of-way clean-up in the Bronx, with the removal of 47 tons of waste at a location near Woodlawn and another 3.8 tons of trash at a location near Melrose, replacement of the Grand Central Terminal “Big Board,” and replacement of bridges in Southeast and Mount Vernon.
Profound moment: I was Chief of Staff at MTA Headquarters during Superstorm Sandy. I witnessed the devastation that the storm wrought across the MTA system, and I saw first-hand the heroic efforts that were taken to restore service in the days following the storm. It was inspiring to see the entire MTA family of agencies pull together during a very difficult time for the city and state of New York, and it brought home to me how central the MTA is to the economic health and vibrancy of the entire region.
Inspiration: I am inspired by the Metro-North team every time we have an operational emergency. We pull together and get the job done. It is the greatest honor of my life to lead this group of talented and dedicated professionals.
Favorite pastimes: I have a six-year-old son. I tell myself that he keeps me young, but it sure doesn’t feel that way on some days. When I am outside of work, I am mostly chasing him around or driving him to and from activities. Because my job is so unpredictable, quality family time is particularly precious.