May 29, 2024 - News

Meet IndyGo's new president and CEO

IndyGo president and CEO Jennifer Pyrz

Photo: Arika Herron/Axios

Jennifer Pyrz, the new president and CEO of IndyGo, wants people to realize taking public transit isn't as hard as they might think.

Why it matters: Pyrz, whom the IndyGo Board of Directors officially hired last week after she served in the role on an interim basis for five months, is tasked with finding ways to increase ridership β€” which is still in recovery post-pandemic β€” and solve an ongoing staffing shortage at the agency.

Zoom in: Pyrz, 51, began working with IndyGo 20 years ago as a consultant before joining full-time four years ago.

  • She took questions after the announcement to talk about dealing with the legislature, taking public transit with her family from their Midtown home and what's up with the Blue Line.

Questions and answers have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

🌏 What will be your biggest challenge in the role?

  • "Bringing the team together to look forward long-term. We've had so many big projects that we've been focused on. I want to start thinking more globally across the entire enterprise."

πŸ—“οΈ Are the Purple and Blue lines on schedule?

  • "Yes. We are expecting to open the Purple Line in October β€” that project is on schedule and on budget."
  • "On the Blue Line, we're hoping to put that out to bid this fall. We're working with the Federal Transit Administration to get an early approval to put that out for construction while we finalize our grant."

🚧 Any change to the Blue Line after the legislative session?

  • "Very minor. The reliability, the speed and the rapidness of the bus rapid transit is all still there. We're going to make a couple of really minor tweaks in response to the conversations that happened at the Statehouse this year."

πŸ›οΈ You saw what it can be like with legislators at the General Assembly (as interim CEO during the past legislative session). How will you manage those relationships?

  • "It was quite a learning experience. It really restored my faith in local government … people work so hard there and … I think it turned out the way it was supposed to. We put in the hard work and we were able to have the hard conversations."
  • "To me, it's about continuing the conversation, not necessarily waiting until something comes up … and just being transparent and forthcoming with the challenges that we have and opportunities that we see."

🚌 How are you thinking about ridership numbers as we recover from the pandemic?

  • "The two [bus rapid transit lines] we still have remaining are a huge part of that, but we also have a lot of improvements to our local system that are continuing to roll out … bringing the kind of service improvements that will get people riding the bus."
  • "We see positive trends on all of our routes."

πŸ‘₯ What are the biggest barriers to increasing ridership?

  • "We need to adapt to the changing travel patterns."
  • "We want to focus on customer service, making sure that we are delivering what we've promised and we need to focus on our employees β€” their safety and well-being β€” so that we can bring great drivers on board and retain them."

πŸ§‘β€πŸ­ What's the status of the staffing shortage?

  • "It's still a challenge. Right now, our mechanic shortage is a little more dire than our operator shortage."
  • "We've looked at a second chance program where, for select individuals who are working on reentry, we will bring them into certain jobs in the agency."

πŸ—ΊοΈ What's something you'd like someone to know if they haven't used IndyGo?

  • "I think it feels harder than it really is. If people haven't ridden, it sometimes feels uncomfortable. Not knowing how to pay or how to get off or on the bus can feel overwhelming."
  • "It's a great way to travel. It's so much more relaxing than driving in traffic."

🚍 How do you use it?

  • "I use it mostly [for] work commutes. I live in an area that's very transit-rich, so I've found that route that gets me there the fastest and on the way home, it depends on what time I leave. Sometimes I'll take the Red Line home; sometimes I'll take Route 19."

πŸ‘ͺ Does your family like taking IndyGo, too?

  • Pyrz has two children in college and a daughter about to start high school who lives at home with Pyrz and her husband, Alan.
  • "I haven't gotten my husband on as often as I'd like but my daughter, Ellie, does ride with me sometimes. And she's taken a couple of school trips with it as well."
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