Brian Lamb and Metro Transit Deserved Better

How incredibly stupid. The newly appointed Met Council Chair has fired the best General Manager in Metro Transit’s history and replaced him with someone who has no transit background. What?

The CEO sets the tone for the organization. I know how important a good general manager is to this transit system because I served under all of them.  At least three of them were disasters. Others were adequate, but except for Mike Christensen, none came anywhere near the excellence that was Brian Lamb’s administration.

During his tenure, the two light rail lines, the Northstar Corridor, and the first bus rapid transit lines opened. The longtime ridership decline was reversed. The bus fleet has never been in better shape. Metro Transit dramatically reduced its energy use and emissions. He placed a premium on good customer service that is reflected throughout the organization. He pushed diversity in the management ranks and oversaw the creation of the metro area’s most diverse police force. He has been a strong advocate for transit riders, whose needs are often ignored by everyone else.

Because of the positive culture he worked hard to create, Metro Transit is one of the most financially efficient, innovative, well-run transit systems anywhere. When the American Public Transit Association awarded it Best Transit System of the Year in 2016, it was deserved.

All those good things happened because of Brian Lamb. Here’s why.

  1. He knows the business inside and out. His first job was working for me in the Research Department, where he was responsible for tracking and studying the productivity of every Metro Transit department. Later he headed Service Development, which plans all the routes and schedules. In the process he learned every aspect of this business.
  2. He is totally committed to customer service. Brian was picked to upgrade the old complaint office into an essential feedback mechanism so we’d know how we were doing. He learned customer service from the ground up by dealing first hand with dissatisfied passengers. Those lessons stayed with him throughout his tenure. And he was a bus rider himself.
  3. He is truly devoted to his employees and to the success of public transit. That has led to high employee morale, a real sense of esprit de corps, and a can-do work ethic from the top of the organization to the bottom.

The new Met Council chair has cavalierly thrown all that away. Why they did it is beyond me. Maybe it’s some sort of power play? What I do know is that Metro Transit will suffer because of it.

Aaron Isaacs

About Aaron Isaacs

Aaron retired in 2006 after 33 years as a planner and manager for Metro Transit, where he worked in route and schedule planning, operations, maintenance, transit facilities, light rail and traffic advantages for buses. He's an historian of transit, as a 40+ year volunteer with the Minnesota Streetcar Museum. He's co-author of Twin Cities by Trolley, The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and author of Twin Ports by Trolley on Duluth-Superior.