Top 40 Under 40 2013: Benjamin Limmer, AICP

Benjamin Limmer is the corridor and facility development, manager for Valley Metro, the regional public transportation authority in Phoenix, Ariz. Limmer leads the team responsible for developing Valley Metro’s capital program including light rail extensions, bus improvement projects, transit centers, park-and-rides and other facilities. Limmer has more than 10 years of experience in the transit industry and has had a significant role in light rail extension projects in the metro Phoenix area.

Limmer has quickly accelerated his career beginning as a senior planner at University Circle Inc. providing design alternatives for the Healthline bus rapid transit system through the University Circle district in Cleveland, Ohio. He led the outreach in surrounding neighborhoods of various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds to develop a preferred option for the center versus side-running operations.

In 2005, Limmer was hired by Valley Metro Rail as a planner to develop the region’s high-capacity transit program. He worked in a unique environment with both public agency staff and private consultants allowing him to quickly learn and excel in his field. In 2010, Limmer was promoted to a management-level position to oversee both agency and consultant staff. Challenges included management of department and agency budget constraints, building an effective team that included former peers, and providing leadership for his area of responsibility. He was able to trim the department budget by 30 percent while continuing the agency’s advancement of expanding the capital development program. In 2012, he was promoted to a new level of management responsibility as the bus and light rail agencies integrated.

Notable projects include his role as the project manager for the Central Mesa Light Rail Extension Alternatives Analysis and Environmental Assessment for the 3.1-mile line. This included compiling technical data, cost estimates, conceptual designs, project plans and reports that were part of the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts program requirements. He successfully secured a “medium” overall rating with Small Starts and ultimately a Project Construction Grant Agreement for the maximum of $75 million. The project is now in construction and expected to be in service in late 2015. Limmer is also leading the advancement of the Tempe Streetcar, the region’s first modern streetcar project.

Commitment to his job is exemplified through his leadership as a manager and a mentor for college intern students. He continually engages the community by speaking to residents at public meetings, local organizations and community groups about public transportation projects. He has an expansive knowledge of national transit policy and programs and serves as an agency expert to help define funding strategies for new capital projects.

Industry involvement includes being a member of the American Planning Association, American Public Transportation Association, Transportation Research Board, Urban Land Institute and he participates in national transportation industry conferences as a panelist, speaker and a moderator.

Limmer received his Bachelors in public administration from the University of Northern Iowa and a Masters in urban planning, design & development from Cleveland State University.

“Contributing to the development of the Phoenix region’s growing transit system. Since the opening of the light rail system in 2008, I have seen a historically auto-centric community embrace transit. Former naysayers are now transit allies, vacant lots are now sustainable developments and auto-commuters are now transit riders. Managing the capital planning program gives me a front row seat to implement similar success stories in the future.

“My life’s journey into transit is personal. The majority of my elder family members were assembly line workers in the automobile industry in Michigan. I saw transportation through a different lens. During my youth, I watched the automobile industry and the built environment change rapidly. I thought to myself, ‘There has to be a better way.’ My passion to enter the transit industry was fueled by these thoughts. I chose transit as much as transit chose me.

“To deliver transit services that respond to increasing public interest in a fiscally responsible manner: delivering services under these circumstances will be a challenge, one that I look forward to tackling with support from industry professionals. In the new economy, transit professionals will need to recognize trends, capitalize on new technology, identify resources, and more fully understand and meet the needs of transit users and their communities.

“Leading by example is not easy. Always justify what you do and focus on making progress. Do your job well, even in times of uncertainty.”

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