SacRT has become a national model with new leadership of Henry Li

If you had told me three years ago that the General Manager of Sacramento Regional Transit would be nationally recognized by the American Public Transit Association for his leadership, I would have laughed. Despite the best efforts of many good people, the organization was in a death spiral.

At the National Awards ceremony in NYC Oct. 15, 2019, SacRT GM/CEO Henry Li, received Outstanding Public Transportation Manager of the Year Award. Left to right. Sacramento County Supervisor and SacRT Board Chair Patrick Kennedy, Sacramento City Councilmember and SacRT Board Director Jay Schenirer, Henry Li, Elk Grove City Councilmember and Executive Director for Asian Resources, Inc. Stephanie Nguyen show their pride in receiving this national recognition.

Reserves were being depleted, service was not customer friendly, and most importantly, people did not believe – for good reason – that public transit in Sacramento was clean or safe. As a result, ridership was in a constant decline.

Major progress in three years

The turning point for SacRT was hiring Henry Li as its new General Manager/CEO in 2016. The SacRT Board, knowing it needed a vibrant leader with a vision, took a chance on hiring Mr. Li, despite his not having previously run a transit organization.

From day one, Henry took the reins and worked collaboratively with the RT Board, employee groups, the business community, other government agencies, and the community to turn RT into what is now a highly regarded, efficiently run organization.

RT’s achievements over the past three years are remarkable. Henry has been credited for the solid, rapid and comprehensive transformation of RT, improving operational performance, including safety, security, fiscal health, service delivery, state of good repair, customer satisfaction and on-time performance. He has:

  • Developed industry “best in class” safety and security practices, which resulted in the Transportation Security Administration’s Gold Standard Award for safety and security;
  • Served as a champion of innovative mobility and integrated transit solutions – from on-demand SmaRTride microtransit to partnering with rideshare and micro-mobility providers;
  • Led a comprehensive rail system modernization and expansion, decreased fares, improved service reliability, increased light rail service and re-imagined SacRT’s transit network.

Henry’s strong financial background and business acumen have resulted in these efforts and a transformational turnaround achieving a cost avoidance of $75 million and building a $20 million and growing reserve fund.

Most recently, Henry has worked with me to forge an unprecedented partnership with all member jurisdictions and school districts to offer K-12 grade students free rides beginning Oct. 2019, which is the largest program of its kind in the nation. Since Oct. 1, student ridership is up over 40 percent.

Finally, SacRT is one of the only major city public transit agencies with increased ridership.

For these actions and more, Henry recently received APTA’s 2019 Outstanding Public Transportation Manager Award, the highest honor given to only one transportation CEO throughout North America.

Where three years ago it would have been difficult to find someone to say something nice about SacRT, today the organization is a national model. Routes have increased, fares have decreased, public trust is returning and RT’s motto says it all: “Customers First.” Congratulations to Henry and SacRT.

Let’s keep moving forward!

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