Greater Richmond Transit Company CEO Julie Timm has been nominated to run the transit system in the Seattle region.
The Sound Transit Board of Directors on Thursday recommended that Timm serve as the next CEO. A board vote is expected June 23.
“Julie Timm’s deep experience, leadership skills and passion for public transportation will make her a great leader for Sound Transit as we work to deliver the largest transit expansion program in the nation and dramatically expand our operations in the years ahead,” said Board Chairman Kent Keel in a statement.
The agency said more than 90 applications were received for the position. The authority runs light rail and bus transportation. The previous chief executive retired.
In a phone interview Friday evening, Timm said she and the Seattle transit agency are still negotiating a contract, and that she expects to remain with GRTC for a few more months.
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Timm said she is sad to leave her home state, but said the Seattle area has a “transformative” transit system and that recent investments to it will be “pivotal” for the entire mass transit industry.=
“This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” she said.
According to a recent report in the Seattle Times, the new head of the regional transit system there will be in charge of overseeing a voter-approved transit expansion plan that would serve 750,000 daily passengers across three counties. The report says the new CEO is also likely to face challenges related to construction delays, bureaucratic hurdles and fare enforcement.
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Timm has been CEO of the Richmond system since 2019. She arrived just one year after the launch of the $65 million GRTC Pulse bus rapid-transit line.
Throughout her term as CEO of GRTC, Timm has been an advocate of a zero-fare policy for the system that began at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Virginia’s state transportation agency has offered a matching grant to help subsidize zero-fares for passengers over the next three years, but it remains unclear whether the GRTC governing board will maintain that policy past June 30, 2023.
The system’s also seen millions in new investment through the creation of the Central Virginia Transportation Authority in 2020. Timm and other officials have been hopeful that new funding could help expand and improve bus service through the region, but a shrinking pool of drivers and mechanics has led to service cuts over the past year.
Ben Campbell, the chairman of GRTC’s board of directors, said Timm has been instrumental in improving the executive management of the transit system.
“I hate to lose her, but we’ve got a strong operation and a good executive staff,” he said. “I think we’ll move forward well. She’s left a good foundation for the next person.”
Campbell also noted that the next chief executive will come following a shift in how the transit system is governed. Earlier this year, the board approved changes to its bylaws to add three Henrico County representatives.
While the system is owned equally by Richmond and Chesterfield County — each of which still hold three seats on the board — Henrico officials last year had requested seats at the table as new funding mechanisms through the regional transportation authority meant the county would become GRTC’s primary source of local money. The changes also allowed for the three localities to appoint elected officials to the GRTC board, giving them more direct oversight and say in the system’s operations, Campbell said.
Prior to coming to GRTC, Timm was chief development officer for WeGo Public Transit in Nashville, Tenn., from 2016 to 2019 and previously held positions with Hampton Roads Transit and in the private sector. She also managed projects for the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command Headquarters in Virginia.
“I am thrilled and humbled to be considered for the opportunity to support the Sound Transit Board and staff in delivering investments that are truly transformative and historic in their scale and impact,” Timm said in a statement released by the Seattle agency.
“Public transportation is about serving people and improving lives, and I am eager to work alongside the region’s communities to continue making the region’s vision for its future into reality.”
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