2014 Women In Transportation: Lynne Griffith

Posted on October 16, 2014 by Brittni Rubin

As Pierce Transit CEO, Griffith oversees all functions of the agency, including fixed-route buses, paratransit, vanpool and an express bus service contract with Sound Transit.
As Pierce Transit CEO, Griffith oversees all functions of the agency, including fixed-route buses, paratransit, vanpool and an express bus service contract with Sound Transit.
As Lynne Griffith, CEO of Pierce Transit in Lakewood, Wash., would say, transportation is in her blood. She comes from a family with three generations of railroad workers, including her father, who worked for the Northern Pacific Transport. Griffith recalls thinking she wanted to be “just like daddy” when she grew up.

Since the age of 18, Griffith has been refining an extensive resume for the transportation industry. She worked for two airlines, managed a travel agency reservation office, and served as the director of marketing and sales for another travel agency. She and her husband eventually co-owned a travel business.

Griffith shifted her professional focus, however, after serving as planning commissioner in her community.
“This position introduced me to land-use planning, site planning and community development,” she says.

The public service and community development aspects of Griffith’s work became a significant motivator for her future career choices.

“I like the idea of what impact transit has on community — it’s about gaining access to your area,” she says. “It’s pretty compelling when you see the difference it makes in people’s lives.”

Prior to joining Pierce Transit, she also worked with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, and served as CEO of C-TRAN, a public transit agency serving Clark County, Wash.
Griffith’s passion for transportation is unmistakable. But, according to Griffith, it wasn’t until later in life that she developed a newfound appreciation for public transit service when her mother became disabled and was dependent on her for care.

“I didn’t mind being my mother’s transportation resource, but over time I realized that her dependence on me for basic activities was slowly stripping away her dignity,” Griffith says. “I understood for the first time the true importance of public transportation, particularly paratransit services.”

When Griffith’s community put forth a ballot measure to its citizens to fund transit service growth, she volunteered as co-chair of the campaign.

“From that point forward, I was totally committed to public transportation both emotionally and politically,” Griffith says. “Whether it’s a young person trying to get to school, an elderly person who knows they shouldn’t drive anymore, or an individual who depends on transit for their mobility like my mother, transit helps people remain a productive part of their community — and that’s good for everyone.”

One of Pierce Transit’s newest developments, which Griffith is leading, is the implementation of a new work group, the Business Development Office. Its sole purpose is to engage in the community in the process of designing, testing and funding innovative ways to deliver service where traditional fixed route has not performed well.

In her current position as CEO of Pierce Transit, Griffith oversees all functions of the agency, including fixed-route buses, paratransit, vanpool and an express bus service contract with Seattle’s Sound Transit. Griffith launched Pierce Transit’s Public Safety function shortly after her arrival. The division now has about 14 full-time public safety officers and contracts for additional commissioned law enforcement services with local county and city police departments. As well, she’s managed the challenges of several service and staff reductions as a result of the economic recession. Griffith sites the latter as a key part of her job.

“While it’s difficult, helping an organization navigate change is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a CEO,” she says. “When you’re the leader, you have to be willing to take the blows during the difficult times, while still maintaining a long-range view for the agency. You have to guide it forward to better times.”

When Griffith isn’t working, she enjoys traveling with her childhood friend who lives in the area and visiting Boston and Atlanta, where she has family. She’s says she’s also drawn to her home state Montana to regularly enjoy the beautiful Rocky Mountains. Additionally, she’s an avid gardener and singer.

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