Metro GM Rob Gannon (LinkedIn Photo)
Metro GM Rob Gannon (LinkedIn Photo)

Eight months after Kevin Desmond’s abrupt departure for Vancouver, BC, Metro again has a General Manager. Later this morning, County Executive Dow Constantine will name Interim GM Rob Gannon as the permanent General Manager.

By deciding against a wider candidate search and going with an internal hire, Gannon represents a choice for continuity. Metro appears content with its progress and trajectory and has chosen the least disruptive path. The politically complex nature of the GM position may also have dissuaded many from a larger candidate pool and made an internal hiring process more attractive. Whereas Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff reports directly to the ST board, the Metro GM has two layers of interim management – County Executive Dow Constantine andd KCDOT Director Taniguchi – between himself and the King County Council.

Speaking briefly with Gannon yesterday, he charted a safe and steady course for Metro, unwilling to elaborate on specific changes or directions other than those already contained in the Metro Connects Long Range Plan. He emphasized safety, customer service, and interagency partnerships, but understandably held his more detailed cards close to his chest.

Not a transit wonk by training, Gannon’s background includes a decade of upper level Human Resources Management, first at the University of Montana and then at Metro. Though having someone with more explicit transit chops would be desirable, executive HR skills will serve Gannon very well as he manages relationships between Metro’s 4,500 employees, ATU 587, intergovernmental partners, and the general public. And with smart minds like Ted Harris newly at the helm as Operations Manager, Gannon’s skill set and experience may provide well-rounded leadership.

STB congratulates Gannon and wishes him the best.

11 Replies to “Interim No More, Rob Gannon Selected to Lead Metro”

  1. Rob, you deserve highest gratitude for taking your new job, And Zach thanks for your kind introduction. But please understand that for me, any public transit official has top-quality US-made construction-worker’s boots to fill. On a work site with deep mud and much falling rock.

    Transit manager Ron Tober inaugurated the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel from the driver’s seat of a Metro bus. Pretty sure Safety wrote him up for the big flag he tore down, but his shop steward convinced his Base Chief to keep him.

    Ron’s opening words to the Employee Advisory Committee on the Downtown Seattle Transit, that he helped found: “You will be advisors to me, personally. You will give me your best advice. I will make the decision.”

    Last sentence belongs on a plaque on a pedestal on the mezzanine across the railing from the big clock at Westlake Station. And should end the oath of every single public office in the land. Starting in Seattle.

    We’re lucky we don’t have two 30 year old boring machines buried in the way of Tunnel One of ST-3. Because the inter-agency politics of the Project’s most critical years were harder on some fine careers than that steel pipe ahead of Bertha’s cutter. So good chance we can overcome all obstacles now ahead of our machinery .

    King County Metro has an excellent safety record. How close are we to the 24-7-365 phone information system a major city needs? And for cost of an Amtrak ticket and a TriMet day pass, one personal visit each to customer service desks at Sea-Tac and Portland Airports will give you some powerful examples and incentives.

    But most of all, underneath Metro Transit’s whole condition, what really is the present working relationship between the Agency and Local 587? And the Local’s own members and each other?

    Because from very long observation, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, the very heart of our system, suffers a fortune in lost operating time for one main reason. Its operating personnel have never been either trained or motivated to work as the team the design itself intended.

    So Rob, my main point is that I think this morning you’re sitting at Ron Tober’s desk, at the controls of a system at the same point of development as when Ron last drove it through a flag. Which somebody always needs to sometimes do. So next meeting with Local 587, make them give you a good shop steward.

    Mark Dublin

  2. How’d those public service warnings go? “This has been a test. If this had been an actual emergency, you would have been directed to tune your radios to…” Anybody remember where? Or what a radio was?

    Mark

  3. Seattle Metro is among the least effective transit agencies in the nation, seemingly learning nothing from peers. Metro’s closest peer Sound Transit also has little to brag about after producing the nation’s worst new rail starts – light rail, streetcar and commuter-rail. Trolleybus could be arranged to meet downtown Seattle transit needs, but the new model ETBs are built on a standard diesel chassis designed for high speed and little stop-n-go operation, not hillclimbs which trolleybuses handle most capably. It’s not surprising that an agency this incompetent would appoint a new manager from within.

    1. Wells, since nobody reads any posting or comment this far down the line, I think a paragraph of proof behind every one of your assessments will make an excellent posting for you. Looking forward to it.

      However from some personal involvement in the procurement of the Breda fleet, and five years driving its vehicles for punishment, every defect you can name in that connection, I’ll give you at least three more.

      Only thing in their defense was an excellent electric propulsion package. Engineers’ reasons for not wiring the express lanes on I-90 never quite “washed” with me. Might have saved us the need for a diesel that couldn’t power a lawn blower. And let us make Bellevue at 50mph, instead of 35 with a tailwind.

      Engineers told me that reason we had to buy them was that, out of a world industry of at least dozens of potential bidders, we had three bids. Best, and least expensive vehicle came from Neoplan. Which pointedly refused to give us the performance bond the bid stipulated.

      But worst thing of all was to visit Oslo, Norway, whose excellent streetcar system had over a hundred years of experience, and finding a whole fleet of streetcars that made or buses look like Rolls Royce if they made buses.

      And even worse, in 2013, Gothenburg, Sweden buying updated but probably mechanically worse cars from the same company. SF MUNI, same, from ten or fifteen years back. Meaning that we need a posting on why “The Low Bid” is allowed to shower the entire transit world with universally acknowledged metal garbage.

      I yield my time this session. Make sure STB gives your posting an Oslo Breda. I’ve got some great up-close pics of the dented rust.

      Mark

  4. Does anyone else have any comments about the competence or incompetence of Metro? I sometimes have complaints about things Metro has done or not done, but have no way to tell whether they’re more or less incompetent than transit agencies in other cities. I’m not even sure what criteria to use.

    1. On second thought, I should have saved this question for an open comment post, so please feel free to remove it.

    2. The buses are running. Metro executed a complex restructure in April. It has a good Long Range Plan draft. That’s competence. I haven’t seen the maintenance shop or admin offices so I can’t evaluate them. Metro is at least average among its American peers, and I would guess in the top 65% to 80%. It’s one of the largest bus networks in the country, and more buses means that more have the potential to break down. Many of the complaints about Metro come down to constraints by the county council and public will (not enough restructuring), crowded streets (cities’ responsibility), external factors (can’t find enough drivers in this rapidly growing economy and population), etc. Maybe Metro could handle some of these better (recruit drivers better, be more militantly pro-grid, not slash basic circulation in the U-District during Husky games), but these are matters of degree, not competent/incompetent.

      Mark’s comparison with other countries is spot on of course. Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, the UK, a few Canadian cities, East Asia, some Central and South American cities have much better bus networks. But they exist in societies that have a stronger commitment to public transit and don’t put as many barriers in the way of it (parking lanes, car throughput, limited budgets, “Buy America” policies when American companies don’t make the equipment the rest of the world has and they say the market is not big enough for them to do so, etc).

  5. The politically complex nature of the GM position may also have dissuaded many from a larger candidate pool and made an internal hiring process more attractive

    What you’re saying is that nobody that’s good would have wanted the job. I don’t believe that to be true but I’m sure our political elites find it more expedient to install someone they can control in gaining unfettered access to Metro’s piggy bank. What it ensures is that political favor will trump transit efficiency. Shouldn’t be a surprise Kevin Desmond boogied north.

    1. What’s Metro’s piggy bank? Who are the elites? The county council elites own Metro and could dissolve it at any time or tap its budget for something else, although the pesky state restrictions on “transit tax” may limit what they can spend it on. But who’s trying to dip into Metro’s piggy bank and for what? Or is this a false allegation? Metro obviously needs every penny it has to keep the buses running and plan for the future, so any raiding would require cuts to bus service. What raiding is that?

      1. Paratransit is probably the biggest dip the County takes out of Metro’s piggy bank. Most (all?) of the Access routes are paid for out of Metros budget but they money is handed out to non-profits of choice who pay drivers far less than Metro with few/no benefits even though Metro reimburses at a more than generous rate.

        The other obvious give away to special interests is when the council bows to special interests that squak at meetings (contribute to campaigns?) and continue special services that fail miserably by the metrics used to evaluate routes.

  6. STB could check some numbers to approach an answer to the question that arose in the responses to the post. How about the census journey to work percentage in King County v. that in the counties of comparable agencies. What is the rate of change? A similar one: annual transit trips per population. What is ridership, rides attracted per platform hour, and what are their rates of change? What is ratio of platform and revenue hours and compare with comparable agencies. What would Jarrett Walker do or say? What is a measure of transit mobility? What portion of the population is close to frequent service and compare with comparable agencies. What is the transit mode split in the urban centers? I sense there has been positive change, but there is room for improvement.

    Yogi Berraism: no one rides the C Line (or D or E lines or routes 40, 44, 62, 255, 271, 545, 550) any more, it is too crowded.

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