Kath arine Eagan was born at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. And, like most military kids, her childhood was spent moving around a lot. Her family eventually moved back, so when it was time to attend college, she went to the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. After earning her bachelor’s degree in history, Eagan went to graduate school via a scholarship at Angelo State University in Angelo, Texas for her master’s in public administration.
She was first intrigued by public administration as an undergrad when she took a political science class. Eagan saw it as making an investment in the common good. “[I wanted to] do something to make our communities better. I felt really strongly about that,” she says.
After college, she worked for the City of San Angelo as a transit planner where she was charged with planning fixed-route services and administering all aspects of ADA compliance for the city’s paratransit service. During this time, she attended a training class in Dallas, which opened her eyes to the vastness of its public transit agency — Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). “It was a little intimidating, but then I listened to the people in the class and [realized] they have the same issues we do,” Eagan says.
The class proved advantageous, as it led her to take a position at DART as manager of service planning, where she directed service changes and route elevation for 130 routes and managed planning projects for the paratransit service. “It was gratifying to figure out how to get people around in a land of sprawl and make their lives a little bit better,” she says.
After DART, Eagan joined the Maryland Transit Administration as director of service development for two years. In 2009, she came onboard at HART as chief of service development where she directed service planning and scheduling, as well as marketing and community relations. During those years she helped build ridership, implement unique and targeted marketing promotions, and promote strategic route planning.
She worked her way up to COO in 2011 to interim CEO in May 2014 and was made permanent CEO in November of that year. Eagan says the transition from COO to CEO has been good because in the six years she’s been in Tampa she’s been able to build relationships with many people in various capacities in the community. Her background in planning and scheduling has also been invaluable in her new role.
Discussing her accomplishments, Eagan says she is most proud of HART’s improved ridership. “We’ve seen a 20% expansion in ridership in the past five years, with about five percent expansion in revenue miles covered,” she explains.
Additionally, HART is the first agency in Florida to operate CNG buses. “It took the entire agency coming together,” she says of the undertaking. The agency is also in the midst of pursuing an ISO-14001 certification via the FTA’s Environmental & Sustainability Management System (ESMS) program. Other federal merits include being awarded the Transportation Safety Administration’s Gold Safety Award two cycles in a row. And, to top it all off, Eagan was recently nominated as a White House Champion of Change. “It’s been great for us as an agency, because we’ve been getting all this attention,” she says of the honor.
Some of the numerous projects currently in the works include a solicitation to hire cab companies that will use vouchers for paratransit service and soliciting a ride-sharing-type service to serve as a first-mile/last-mile solution. The agency is also working on a regional farebox initiative and has partnered with Megabus to allow customers to tap the service’s excess capacity.
Adding to her already lofty resume, Eagan is also the mother of two boys aged three and 21 months. She tries to make time to “unplug” her brain by reading fiction and spending time outdoors doing family activities, and says laughingly, that someday she’ll get back to cooking.