Jul 25, 2022 - News

New Metro CEO Randy Clarke starts today

Headshot of Randy Clarke.
Metro's incoming CEO, Randy Clarke. Photo: WMATA

Randy Clarke, Metro’s new CEO, starts today and he’s got a big job on his hands.

Why it matters: Washingtonians have lost faith in Metro. Its new leader will either regain the public’s trust or damage it further.

Details: Clarke, who most recently headed Austin’s transit agency, has also worked for a transit trade group here in D.C. and for Boston’s public transit agency. With a salary of $485,000 a year, he’ll now be the highest-paid transit leader in the country.

What they say: Former colleagues and bosses applauded Clarke’s leadership style and call him a people person. 

  • Fun fact: He’s also known to ride the train and the bus. He met his wife on the T in Boston.
He’s detail-oriented.

When massive snowstorms shut down Boston’s subway in 2015, Clarke didn’t “shrink from the challenge” of overhauling the system, according to Joe Aiello, who chaired an oversight board there. It took months for certain aspects of the T to get back up and running, Aiello adds.

At the American Public Transportation Association in D.C., CEO Paul Skoutelas says Clarke had a “major hand” in helping transit agencies across the country implement congressionally mandated safety systems for commuter rail systems.

He’s candid.

Aiello credits Clarke for creating a more transparent culture at MBTA by speaking openly to the board about the agency’s shortfalls and challenges. “He dragged along others who were underneath him, (and made them) feel more free to speak.”

He’s politically savvy and good at whipping votes. 

In Austin, Clarke pushed through an ambitious, multi-billion-dollar transportation expansion project — including new light rail lines. The hard-fought two-year campaign ended with roughly 58% voter approval. 

  • Yes, but: The project was opposed by some residents who said the money would be better spent on things such as affordable housing. Additionally, the project will cost $5 billion more (almost double) than what voters initially approved.

In Boston, Clarke got local leaders to boost the T’s funding. Aiello said that by highlighting and identifying safety issues and needs, Clarke's insight led the board to boost the $300 million annual funding request to $1 billion. 

He’s union-friendly.

Darrell Sorrells, vice president of ATU Local 1091 in Austin, told Axios that Clarke pioneered regular meetings with the union in an effort to foster a healthy working relationship. The meetings have continued since Clarke left town.

  • Yes, but: Austin’s CapMetro saw a steep drop in ridership during the pandemic. Staffing shortages led to reduced frequency on bus routes.

State of play: WMATA is grappling with a number of worrisome safety issues from the ongoing 7000-series train debacle to the lapse in testing and training of over 70 train operators. Plus, the agency is bracing for a major budget shortfall due to the pandemic.

  • Context: WMATA is a much larger agency than Clarke has previously helmed. He’ll go from overseeing a $318 million operating budget in Austin to a $2 billion operating budget in D.C.

The bottom line: While Clarke’s got a mountain of Metro problems to climb, colleagues from around the country believe he’s equipped for the challenge.

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