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Metrolink hires New York rail director as new chief

September 14, 2012 |  5:27 pm

Metrolink

The Metrolink commuter railroad Friday hired a veteran transit leader with more than three decades of experience as its new chief executive, replacing John Fenton, who left the agency in May to head a Florida-based rail company.

Members of the Metrolink board unaimously approved the appointment of Michael P. DePallo, 58, the current director and general manager of a rail subsidiary operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. That line carries more than 250,000 passengers a day between Manhattan and New Jersy.

DePallo will head a railroad that has been trying to build ridership, better its operations and improve safety in the aftermath of the deadly Chatsworth crash that killed 25 people and injured 135 on Sept. 12, 2008.

Among the initiatives is a program to purchase safer rail cars and a $200-million project to install a sophisticated collision avoidance system.

“Michael is the right person to lead Metrolink as it continues to build on progress made in recent years,” said  Richard Katz, chairman of the Metrolink board.

Metrolink, which has 512 miles of track, serves Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino,  San Diego and Ventura counties. Based on its ridership of more than 42,000 boardings a day, the line is the seventh largest commuter railroad in the United States.

“Metrolink is clearly one of the premier commuter railroads in the country and leads the nation in technological innovations such as positive train control,” DePallo said.

The new chief executive is scheduled to start work Oct. 15 and will earn $300,000 a year.

DePallo, who has a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in transportation and land use planning, is  credited with leading the Port Authority Trans Hudson Corp. to record ridership in 2011 after it plummeted in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He also chairs the security affairs steering committee for the American Public Transportation Assn.

Before working for the port authority’s rail operation,  DePallo held management positions at some of the largest passenger rail systems, in the nation, such as Bay Area Rapid Transit system,  the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston.

 “Mike DePallo is one of the best public servants I have ever worked with. Not since California took the Dodgers has New York and New Jersey suffered such a loss,” said Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

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 --Dan Weikel

 Photo: Metrolink rolls through Buena Park. Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times.

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