[Carfreeliving] It's official: Nat Ford is SF bound
nelson.jeremy at comcast.net
Sat Nov 19 15:48:48 MST 2005
Hot off BATN, from Saturday's Atlanta Journal Constitution...
Date: Sat, 19 Nov 2005 13:29:55 -0800
From: "11/19 Atlanta Journal" <batn at yahoogroups.com>
Subject: SFMTA-bound Nat Ford resigns MARTA GM position
Published Saturday, November 19, 2005, in the Atlanta Journal Constitution
MARTA's manager resigns
Departure comes at critical time for agency
By Paul Donsky
MARTA General Manager Nathaniel Ford resigned Friday night to take the
top job at San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency.
Ford, 44, the first African-American to run MARTA, will leave his post
on Jan. 18 after a five-year tenure marked by fiscal crises and a push
to overhaul the system's deteriorating infrastructure.
"I'd like to thank MARTA's board, its employees, customers and
supporters for this wonderful transit ride," Ford said in a statement.
"We've built a leaner, more efficient transit authority, and I'm proud
of the achievements we have made together over the past five years."
Ford was in San Francisco on Friday and could not be reached for
As executive director of the Municipal Transportation Agency, Ford
would be in charge of San Francisco's transportation and parking
department as well as the Muni system, the city's network of buses and
trains. Muni is the eighth-largest transit system in the country, one
spot ahead of MARTA.
The departure of Ford comes at a critical time for MARTA. The agency
is facing a funding crisis that has already forced layoffs and major
And momentum is building for the creation of a regional transit agency
that could ultimately control transit expansion and funding for all of
Ford's successor will face the challenge of establishing MARTA's role
and fighting for funding in a vastly expanding transportation
landscape that now includes suburban express buses, a growing number
of private shuttle bus systems like the Georgia Tech trolley and,
possibly looming on the horizon, a regional transit board, commuter
rail, the Beltline and streetcars on Peachtree Street.
"It leaves a hole in the leadership that needs to be filled by someone
who is visionary and is capable of working with everyone from the
governor's office on down to help establish a vision for the future of
MARTA," said Michael Meyer, a Georgia Tech professor and
Ford came to Atlanta in 1997 as head of operations and was promoted to
general manager three years later. He is widely described as charming
and likable and has developed a high profile among transit officials
nationwide through his leadership roles in the American Public
But Ford inherited a system in chaos.
MARTA's once-gleaming rail system had aged and fallen into disrepair.
Less than a year after Ford took over, the Sept. 11 terror attacks
sent the Atlanta economy into a tailspin. Ridership fell, and sales
tax revenues plunged -- a huge blow to an agency with an operating
budget largely dependent on the fare box and the 1 percent sales tax
collected in Atlanta and DeKalb and Fulton counties.
To reduce a mounting operating deficit, Ford scaled back bus and rail
service, eliminated jobs and secured new sources of revenue by
wrapping buses in advertising and installing televisions in buses,
train cars and rail stations. But MARTA, the nation's largest transit
agency that gets no operating money from the state, is still losing
$3.8 million a year and could exhaust its reserve fund by 2009.
Ford is credited with launching a massive overhaul of MARTA's
infrastructure that featured construction of a new rail maintenance
yard and the purchase of 100 new train cars.
Efforts are now under way to rebuild all 48 miles of track, refurbish
the remaining old rail cars and replace rickety turnstiles with a
state-of-the art fare collection system.
Riders like Kathleen Lindley say the upgrades can't happen soon
enough. Lindley, a paralegal who's ridden MARTA to and from work for
10 years, said trains are often late and in deplorable condition.
"The old cars are disgusting -- the carpets are horrible, they smell,
the air conditioning doesn't work," said Lindley.
"I've always been proud to ride MARTA. I love MARTA. It allows me to
read one book a month, riding that train for 22 minutes. But there
are so many problems that they need to work on. The rates keep going
up and the service just keeps getting worse."
Ford has had some rocky times in Atlanta. Early in his tenure, at a
time when MARTA was laying off employees and cutting bus routes, Ford
came under criticism for spending on meals for himself and others at
some of the city's toniest restaurants and redecorating his executive
The expense that drew the most fire was an $84,000 employee holiday
party at Turner Field in 2002 that included a band and an ice
Still, Ford was able to win many people over, from union leaders
looking for higher wages to transit advocates in search of better
"Overall, he's done a decent job given the political pressure and
severe financial constraints" he was under, said Rebecca Serna,
spokeswoman for Citizens for Progressive Transit.
MARTA board Chairman Michael Walls said Ford would be sorely missed.
"I hate to see him go," said Walls, a labor attorney and Atlanta
resident. "Other transit agencies around the country are well aware
of what an extraordinary job he's done under difficult circumstances."
Staff writer Julie B. Hairston contributed to this article.
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1. Nat Ford (Tom Radulovich)
2. Re: Nat Ford (Jason Henderson)
Date: Fri, 18 Nov 2005 12:10:22 -0800
From: Tom Radulovich <tom at livablecity.org>
Subject: [Carfreeliving] Nat Ford
To: Carfree Living <Carfreeliving at livablecity.org>
Message-ID: <0766E3B5-EF9A-486C-ADAD-43FBE86A11DA at livablecity.org>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII; delsp=yes; format=flowed
Attached is a link a profile of Nat Ford that appeared in Mass
Transit Magazine ("Better Transit through Better Management"):
Transportation for a Livable City
995 Market Street Suite 1550
San Francisco CA 94103
tom at livablecity.org
Date: Fri, 18 Nov 2005 13:49:07 -0800
From: Jason Henderson <jhenders at sbcglobal.net>
Subject: Re: [Carfreeliving] Nat Ford
To: Tom Radulovich <tom at livablecity.org>
Cc: Carfree Living <Carfreeliving at livablecity.org>
Message-ID: <437E4C53.1090306 at sbcglobal.net>
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MARTA is more fiscally constrained than MUNI. MARTA gets no state aid,
and is operating in an extremely anti-transit climate. When Ford became
general manager of MARTA there was a lot of controversy about rail
expansion versus bus (similar to Los Angeles). In 2001 the MARTA board
raised the fare to $1.75 from $1.50, making MARTA the most expensive
transit system in the US at the time (it might still be for flat fares?).
The fare increase came just as the north line extension was completed,
and the transit agency had a deficit. For many transit-dependent African
Americans, the fare increase was seen as inequitable because the
deficits stemmed mostly from a new rail extension to the affluent, white
north side of Fulton County, while service in black areas had remained
stagnant. This issue goes back to the one Kain (1996) raised in an
article in /Journal of Transport Economics/. Kain argues it was a
mistake to build rail in Atlanta, and that it sucked bus ridership to
rail, and led to all of the things you are probably familiar with
regarding Los Angeles rail versus bus.
Of course Ford had little to do with building rail, he inherited it. So
he was hired to sort out a mess (he came from within MARTA management,
so was already known). I think he was chosen to lead because he focused
on "cleaning up" crime, trash, and focusing on simply operating the
system, rather than expansion, etc. He had similar ideas to Guliani's
quality of life pogrom in NYC.
To be fair, Ford did take 2-weeks unpaid leave. But he was also
enthusiastic about ugly wrapped ads that lower the dignity of transit
(IMO) and he put nasty ads in the train tunnels. The MARTA board raised
some parking fees for airport parkers at MARTA stations, but did not
want to raise parking fees for daily commuters (they park free).
In Atlanta the MARTA board tends to get more media attention than its
general manager when it comes to cuts, fare increases, etc (Unlike here,
where it seemed that Burns got singled-out). So the problem in Atlanta
was seen as more structural than just one general manager. To my
knowledge there was never an anti-Ford rhetoric as there was an
anti-Burns rhetoric last spring. However, Ford did get a lot of scrutiny
over lavish spending on office remodeling, trips for management to
conferences, etc, while the system was flailing and people got laid off,
routes cut. He had to write an embarrassing defense in an op ed in the
/Atlanta Constitution/ in 2003. (I pasted it below)
I get the sense that a MUNI director has a lot more power and influence
than a MARTA director. But the question I have is how respected and
popular is Ford among transit advocates in Atlanta? My biggest question
is ? why does he want to leave Atlanta? Is he in trouble? Is he
unpopular? Or is he giving up on Georgia's backwards transportation
policies (especially funding) and just trying to work in an environment
that is more transit-friendly, despite all the problems?
[ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 02/07/03]
*MARTA seeking to use public money efficiently*
By NATHANIEL P. FORD
Recently, there have been questions in the media about MARTA's spending.
Clearly, the public deserves to know the facts.
We have been good stewards of the public's investment in this $4 billion
transportation system. We have made decisions based on the best
information we had at the time and in the best interests of the
authority and the riding public.
I am keenly aware of the sensitivity of the issues raised in these
reports. Rest assured that we continue to look at ways to minimize
expenses while striving to provide the most cost-efficient, reliable
There have been suggestions that the authority be audited. The federal
government conducts audits of MARTA on a regular basis. We have
consistently passed these audits and set the standard for transit
We recently went through a comprehensive management audit conducted by
the firm Booz-Allen-Hamilton. This audit was required by the Georgia
The report identified MARTA as a leader in the transit industry and
highlighted areas where we provide better service, more efficiently,
than our peers. It also indicated areas that need improvement. We
recognize and accept these challenges and have begun to address many of
In the current economic climate, MARTA, like many other business and
government entities has done some tough belt-tightening. Just recently,
we were able to rein in a nearly $30 million deficit by implementing
cost-containment measures that included furloughs, early retirement and
other spending restrictions. Some of our decisions were difficult and
unpopular. Nonunion employees, including myself, took two weeks nonpaid
furloughs last year for savings of some $1.3 million.
Our health and wellness program has been scrutinized in these news
reports. For a total cost of under $100,000, we have reinvested in the
health and well-being of staff by hiring a company that is conducting
nutrition, weight management, physical training and stress reduction
exercises for senior staff, rail and bus operators.
This physical training helps to reduce stress, curtail absenteeism and
drive down skyrocketing insurance rates. This is money well spent.
Questions have also been raised as to the number of employees who
attended the American Public Transportation Association Conference and
Expo last fall. This is held only once every three years. Attendance is
important to view new equipment and technologies and exchange ideas with
other transit professionals.
Aside from staff attendance, it is our long-standing practice to send
our bus "roadeo" winners and their spouses to this national competition.
Despite our difficult economic climate, the decision was made to
continue this practice for staff morale. Several staff members were
presenters and or speakers at the conference and their attendance was
Certain expenses are part of doing the business of this organization. It
is important to maintain perspective. We are entrusted with more than $4
billion of public assets and a yearly budget approaching $1 billion. I
am sensitive to the issues raised regarding my business expenses and
understand the public's concern. Rest assured staff and I are committed
to be vigilant and prudent stewards of the taxpayers' considerable
We must maintain focus. This organization has had a number of
well-documented successes the past year, including: new clean air buses,
completion of our enhanced bus service, a program of rail car
rehabilitation, opening of phase one of the Lindbergh City Center
transit-oriented development, installation of bike racks on buses and
the opening of the Windward Parkway Park and Ride lot, to mention a few.
We are proud of our achievements. We will continue to look at ways to
streamline our operating expenses. We are proud of the men and women of
We have some tough days ahead as we grapple with the economic challenges
faced by us all. We embrace these challenges and assure the public that
at every level of this authority we will be pulling together to continue
to serve this region's transit needs.
Tom Radulovich wrote:
>Attached is a link a profile of Nat Ford that appeared in Mass
>Transit Magazine ("Better Transit through Better Management"): http://
>Transportation for a Livable City
>995 Market Street Suite 1550
>San Francisco CA 94103
>tom at livablecity.org
>Carfreeliving at livablecity.org mailing list
>to facilitate and promote car-free living in SF
mailto:Carfreeliving-request at livablecity.org?subject=unsubscribe
>or, for all options, go to:
San Francisco CA
jhenders at sbcglobal.net
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