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Transit-rail CEOs: New faces, new places

Is there something in the water? By my count, there were a dozen new transit-rail chiefs named this year, putting a whole lot of new faces in the top post.

Not that they’re all new new faces. John Catoe Jr. was deputy CEO at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority before taking over as general manager at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Trinity Railway Express’ Bill Farquhar previously oversaw Nashville’s Music City Star commuter-rail line. Richard Sarles was assistant executive director for capital programs and planning at NJ Transit before taking over the top post from George Warrington. Bay Area Rapid Transit’s Dorothy Dugger spent 13 years as deputy GM before she was promoted to GM in August. MARTA’s new GM Beverly Scott previously held the same title at the Sacramento Regional Transit District. And Miami-Dade Transit’s new director Harpal Kapoor began serving the agency in 1985, left in 1999 to work for WMATA, then rejoined MDT in 2006 as deputy director of operations.

Several other new chiefs are making return appearances at their respective agencies, as well. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Anthony Shorris is serving his second stint as executive director, after having left the agency in 1995. MTA New York City Transit President Howard Roberts Jr. first served the agency between 1981 and 1986, as finance and administration VP, and surface transit VP and COO, before serving stints as SEPTA’s deputy GM and COO, and later as a transportation consultant. MTA Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams also was no stranger to MTA, having first joined the agency in 1985 as labor counsel before going on to serve as deputy Nassau County director and senior counsel for Cablevision.

In other 2007 appointment news: Paul Wiedefeld was named administrator of the Maryland Transit Administration after serving as SVP of Parsons Brinckerhoff; Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s former chief of staff Ron Huberman was appointed president of the Chicago Transit Authority; and Diane Thorne, who most recently helmed Nashville’s Transportation Management Association Group Inc., took over as executive director of Nashville RTA.

As the new year unfolds, it’ll be interesting to see how these new transit leaders adjust in their new roles. What will their management skills bring to their new agency? How will their past experiences carry over? And how will their leadership help shape the industry?

We’re already seeing signs of change at a couple of the agencies. WMATA’s Catoe has hired a handful of new managers, most of whom transferred to D.C. from LA MTA. And earlier this week, NYCT’s Roberts named subway line general managers in the “initial move of what is expected to be a sweeping reorganization of MTA New York City Transit’s subway operations,” according to a press release. In most cases, it’s too early to say what, if anything, will be different. But as these new execs get settled in, 2008 could be yet another year of change.

Posted by: Angela Cotey | Date posted: 12/12/2007

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Posted by Adron on 12/13/2007 12:13:18 PM

It really makes me wonder. Why all the shifting?

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Posted by Richard on 12/18/2007 10:30:10 AM

I think what we are starting to see is the effects of Baby Boomers retiring. I've heard accounts of as much as 40% of all managers at NJ TRANSIT will or have reached their magic numbers, making them eligible to retire this year. It would be an interesting poll to take for all those that get this publication as to whether they are eligible to retire and what that percentage is against the current workforce.

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Posted by James Swidergal on 12/28/2007 10:02:30 AM

New faces, new places, ohhhh! But the same ol' political hacks being hired. Take Chicago's Huberman: Typical Chicago hack, great paying job to say what Daley wants him to say. Downside: no imagination, no rail experience, not even an attempted new program on Huberman's part. Perhaps it might be worth retaining some of the soon-to-be-retiring old heads, and break these kids in a little at a time.

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Posted by Saul on 1/2/2008 4:54:03 PM

When in doubt, reorganize. One of the oldest adages in business. Agree with the comment about political appointees; they're just executing someone else's agenda.

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Short-line tax credits. One, two or three more years? How about forever

Dec. 31 is fast approaching and short liners have more at stake that day than their New Year’s Eve plans. The federal tax credit law expires when the clock strikes midnight.

Since the law was enacted in 2005, short lines have used tax credits to help offset the cost of infrastructure improvements. And from what I’ve heard over the years, they’re putting them to good use.

The short-line industry has spent months lobbying Congress to extend the law another three years so more Class IIs and IIIs can reap the credits’ benefits. The Short Line Railroad Investment Act of 2007 (H.R. 1584/S. 881), introduced earlier this year, proposes to extend the deadline as well as minimize the Alternative Minimum Tax's (AMT) impact on credits, provide eligibility for short lines formed in 2005 and 2006, and increase the mileage-based credit limitation from $3,500 to $4,500.

But for now, congressmen aren’t debating the pros or cons of H.R. 1584/S. 881. They’re focusing on the credits’ impending expiration date and including language on Section 45G in an “extenders package” — a bill that seeks to extend a number of soon-to-expire laws beyond Dec. 31, says Adam Nordstrom, a partner with short-line industry lobbying firm Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell L.L.C.

Instead of three years, the House has proposed a one-year extension and the Senate is considering two years.  A conference committee likely will hammer out an agreed-upon extension. Stay tuned, Nordstrom tells me, because an extension could be forthcoming by Christmastime.

“If it’s one year, it gets harder for short lines to plan track materials,” says Nordstrom. “But each year means $115 million in credits.”

If short liners only get one more year, lobbyists will return to Capitol Hill next year seeking a longer extension or a law that makes the credits permanent. The short-line industry also will continue to pursue a resolution to the AMT issue and other proposals included in H.R. 1584/S. 881, says Nordstrom.

In other words, put out the fire now and build a new house with a stronger foundation later. Isn’t that how Congress typically operates? And isn’t that the approach short lines long have been left with to bolster their infrastructure? It’s time for a change. Here’s one vote for making the tax credits permanent.

Posted by: Jeff Stagl | Date posted: 12/6/2007

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Posted by Adron on 12/12/2007 11:09:22 AM

Those mooches in Congress should pass it forever. The freight rail industry gets "railed" enough as it is. Give em' a break and let the freight industry do its business, without the intrusive taxation. As has been pointed out recently, infrastructure costs are going up, and a lot of investment needs to be made. The last thing the freight railroad needs is the damnable hand of taxation wrangled around their respective necks!

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Posted by James Swidergal on 1/25/2008 2:56:52 PM

A question instead of a comment. If the EJE/CN deal materializes does the CN get to continue to take thetax credits assessed for the EJE. And does that apply to the DM&E/CPR deal as well?

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