Michael Tree, executive director of the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority (Wheels) since November 2014, has announced he will be leaving the agency effective April 22.
On March 25, the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District approved the hiring of Tree as their new chief executive officer/GM with a start date of April 25.
Tree is credited with inheriting a transit system that had experienced five consecutive years of ridership declines and turning it into an organization that was named North America's Transit Agency of the Year by the American Public Transportation Association in 2020, according to the news release.
As executive director at Wheels, Tree's accomplishments include:
- A major service restructuring in 2016 that improved productivity and increased ridership. The changes included: a new high frequency Rapid bus route, and greatly improved access to BART and ACE rail stations, Las Posits College, and other key destinations in the Tri-Valley. Systemwide ridership increased by over 8% over the next two years.
- The introduction of Shared Autonomous Vehicle (SAV) technology to the Tri-Valley. LAVTA's SAV project kicked off in 2018 with a testing phase in an area adjacent to the Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station. LAVTA later became the first agency in California to operate an SAV in transit operation on public roads.
- Serving as the first Executive Director of the Tri-Valley - San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority (Valley Link) for four years beginning in 2018 while continuing to serve as Executive Director of LAVTA. At Valley Link, Tree oversaw the completion of the Valley Link Project Feasibility Report, environmental work, and preliminary design, which identified alignment, stations and the system's operating characteristics.
"On behalf of the LAVTA Board, I would like to thank Michael for having a vision that improved mobility options for the residents of the Tri-Valley," said Pleasanton Mayor Karla Brown. "He came to a transit system that was in a state of decline and in just a few short years, he was able to reverse that trend and implement innovative programs that resulted in LAVTA being recognized as one of the premier transit agencies not just in California, but in all of North America.”
Tree reflected on his time at LAVTA.
"It's been wonderful to be with LAVTA the past seven years," Tree said. "The agency has worked diligently to improve connectivity within the Tri-Valley, especially mobility for seniors and disabled passengers. The talented team at LAVTA has also worked to improve innovation in public transit with our Uber and Lyft partnerships and the agency's shared autonomous vehicle project. As I leave my post with LAVA and contemplate the board of directors, employees — including our great operators and support staff — and passengers, I'm confident in LAVTA's bright future."