Metro’s Board of Directors Thursday expressed their gratitude toward Chair Ara Najarian for his leadership amid a year of challenges, recovery and expansion.
Najarian presided over his last BOD meeting Thursday as he rotated out of the position and passed along the gavel to Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.
“So what a year it’s been — and with apologies to Charles Dickens — it was the shortest of years and the longest of years,” Najarian said. “All of you have made it incredible for me. I really want to express my heartfelt appreciation to each and everyone of you.”
Najarian became chair in 2022 after L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis’ term ended. During his term as chair, Najarian led the board as it faced numerous challenges from budget constraints, security, safety, homelessness, COVID-19 recovery, infrastructure improvements and changing travel patterns.
“But through it all, we have all maintained an unyielding determination to meet these challenges head on,” Najarian said.
Under his leadership, Metro opened its K Line and, just recently, the Regional Connector.
“We’ve seen growth in our agency in the past year and we’re on an upward trend. We’ve got new service routes, state-of-the-art technologies, sustainability initiatives to maintain our ecological footprint — to minimize it and keep it even lower,” he added.
Stephanie Wiggins, Metro CEO, said ridership continues to make gains. In May, Metro averaged almost 900,000 rides per day on combined bus and rail systems — the “highest level” since before the pandemic.
“Ridership recovery on the weekends continues to outpace recovery on the weekdays,” Wiggins added. “We’re now recovered 88% of our pre-pandemic ridership on the weekends for both bus and rail to 74% on the weekdays.”
During Najarian’s term, Metro’s board led efforts to increase ridership, such as introducing nearly 300 Metro Ambassadors and implementing Metro’s GoPass Program.
Director Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, first vice chair, said Najarian distinguished himself as a person with “the longest history of Metro.” She also noted that Najarian had to lead the board virtually during the first part of the year and kept everyone together.
The BOD, after congratulating Najarian, elected Bass as the new chair for 2023-24, L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn as the first vice chair and Director Fernando Dutra as second vice chair.
“I’ll be passing my torch soon to my successor, Mayor Bass, and I have full confidence that this agency will continue to thrive under her leadership,” Najarian said.
Bass said she is excited to lead Metro, and will focus on taking further steps to address public safety and homelessness.