Jim Hartnett announced today that he will leave his position as CEO/GM of the San Mateo County Transit District in April 2021. At that time, Deputy CEO/GM Carter Mau will become Acting CEO/GM and Caltrain’s Chief Officer of Rail Michelle Bouchard will serve as Acting Caltrain Executive Director.
Jim joined the District six years ago. Though his initial commitment was for only five years, the District is fortunate that he stayed on to help guide it through the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Jim was hired in 2015, he said his top two goals were to obtain a dedicated source of funds for Caltrain and to solve the SamTrans structural deficit. These lofty goals have challenged the District for decades, but Jim was finally able to reach them. Thanks to his leadership, the transit services that our communities depend on are well-prepared to survive the pandemic, and will emerge equipped with the resources needed to expand service and address the congestion issues that we all know will return.
The passage of Measure RR last month in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties was nothing short of remarkable. Measure RR saved Caltrain from a potential pandemic shutdown in the short term, but it is important to acknowledge that the measure was in the works for years prior to the pandemic. The outcome is the result of a long-term strategy and vision that included collaborating with the business community and Caltrain’s state delegation to pass legislation, developing a groundbreaking Business Plan with a long-term Service Vision that provides a road map for Caltrain’s future, and building a strong coalition of support for investing in Caltrain’s future. Jim’s leadership was key to that realization of that strategy and vision.
Similarly, when Measure W was approved by San Mateo County voters in 2018, it was an outcome directly related to Jim’s leadership in developing a year-long Get Us Moving public engagement effort to collect and understand stakeholder perspectives and feedback and to use them to build a strong consensus around an investment plan that addressed the county’s most pressing transportation priorities.
Either of these accomplishments alone would be enough to cement Jim’s legacy for advancing the next generation of transportation improvements on the Peninsula, but he has done much more.
Prior to the pandemic, SamTrans was steadily increasing its bus ridership, bucking a national trend of declining ridership at other agencies. Caltrain, despite being the only system in the region without dedicated funding, became the seventh largest commuter rail service in the United States, and the most efficiently run. And when the future of Caltrain was on the line, Jim led a national advocacy effort that saved the Caltrain Electrification Project’s $647 million Federal Full Funding Grant Agreement at the 11th hour, after many assumed the funding would be eliminated.
Though not a move that garnered much attention or headlines, Jim’s reorganization of the executive functions of the organization and building of an outstanding executive team were incredibly important to the organization. He also led efforts to refresh the culture of the organization and presided over the development of plans and programs that will continue to make our transportation systems more effective, more reliable, cleaner, faster, and, very importantly, more equitable.
Regionally, Jim has been instrumental in fostering critical cooperation and coordination among Bay Area transit agencies both during and before the pandemic. He is a member of the Blue Ribbon Recovery Task Force established by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), Chair of the region’s Fare Integration and Coordination Task Force, and a member of the Executive Committee of the California Transit Association. According to BART General Manager Bob Powers, “Jim is an outstanding and trusted regional transit leader who has contributed greatly not just to the success of his organization, but to the region as a whole.” Jeff Gee, past Chair of the SamTrans and Caltrain Boards of Directors, and leader of the committee that hired Jim in 2015, said “Our hiring committee, which had representatives from San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, unanimously recommended Jim’s hiring. He was the right person at the right time. His leadership will be sorely missed but his contributions will endure.”
Recognizing his leadership, Jim was named one of the Most Admired CEO’s in 2019 by the San Francisco Business Times. A long time civic and transit leader, past Vice-Chair of the High Speed Rail Authority Board, and former Chair of the SamTrans and Caltrain Boards, attorney and Navy veteran, with extensive international experience, Jim brought to the District an open style of leadership and a never give up attitude.
Charles Stone is the Mayor of Belmont, CA and serves as the Chair of the San Mateo County Transit District Board of Directors. He also represents the District on the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers (Caltrain) Board of Directors
About the San Mateo County Transit District: The San Mateo County Transit District operates 70 SamTrans routes throughout San Mateo County. Funded in part by a half-cent sales tax, the San Mateo County Transit District also serves as Caltrain’s managing agency and provides administrative support for the San Mateo County Transportation Authority. The San Mateo County Transit District has provided bus service to San Mateo County customers since 1976.
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