After months of speculation that the head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was looking to leave, executive director Nathaniel Ford tonight confirmed that he will depart the agency by month’s end, two and a half years before his contract’s end.
The decision was apparently mutual, according to the agency’s Board of Director’s Chairman Tom Nolan. “A series of things came together. The bottom line is it’s a good time for him and a good time for us,” Nolan said.
“Did I accomplish everything I set out to do? No, but I think that I’m leaving the agency in much better shape than I found it,” Ford said outside an awards event tonight.
Recent developments at the agency include a new, binding three-year contract between the SFMTA and its transit operators’ union and progress with planning and securing funding for the Central Subway project.
“A great deal of action has been taken care of, or are on task,” Ford said.
Agency executives, including Ford, were attending tonight’s Golden Wheel Awards, sponsored by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, where the agency’s Livable Streets team was being recognized for its work in creating green separated bikeways, which Ford cited as further progress.
Ford said that he does not yet have another job lined up, but that he plans to spend time with friends and family while evaluating his options.
His departure will be certified at the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday. Ford, who joined the SFMTA as its CEO in 2006, will receive a separation package of $380,000 that includes a year’s salary, deferred compensation and unused vacation time.
Mayor Ed Lee, who in a statement issued tonight thanked Ford for his leadership and service to the city and the SFMTA, stressed the need to honor the city’s transit-first policy.
Future improvements, Lee said, must consider the needs of all San Franciscans–pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, and transit riders.
“Now is the time to focus on the future of the SFMTA and continue to make good on our promise to San Francisco transit riders and taxpayers,” he said.
Fulfillment of that promise, according to Lee, would involve streamlining the transit system and improving on-time performance–a voter-mandated target that the San Francisco Municipal Railway consistently misses.
The agency’s Board of Directors will be charged with selecting Ford’s successor, and Lee said he expects the board will scrutinize candidates to ensure that the agency continues the city’s “efforts to build the best public transit system for all San Franciscans.”
Should the board not have Ford’s replacement lined up before June 30, the agency’s first deputy executive director, Carter Rohan, will become the interim executive director.
As for the qualifications the candidate should possess, Nolan said the board is searching for someone who is familiar with both the city and the agency.
“We all want as seamless a transition as possible,” Nolan said. “I think we have plenty of local talent to look at.”
JannaBrancolini/PatriciaDecker, Bay City News