Previously, Clifford handled high-speed rail initiatives for the Los Angeles transportation authority. When it comes to megaprojects here, he wouldn't commit to a particular priority, instead saying the agency needs a strategic plan that spells out what's needed in order of importance.
The STAR line, a proposed suburb-to-suburb rail service; expansions on the SouthEast and Union Pacific Northwest lines; and upgrades on the Union Pacific West Line will be included in the plan, he said. Clifford also promised to hold hearings across the six-county area to see what riders think about Metra's future.
In the short term, Clifford said the agency has beefed up security after revelations following Osama bin Laden's death that commuter rail lines could be a terrorist target.
The agency also is evaluating bids to install Wi-Fi on cars, working to reduce pollution from diesel engines, and looking at a universal fare card with the CTA and Pace.
Metra, unlike the other agencies, is an open system where passengers can walk on trains without paying first and it has a distance-based fee system. But despite those differences, the universal fare card is a high priority, Clifford said.
He also promised an announcement soon on quiet cars where riders cannot use cellphones. A test program on the Rock Island line has been popular.
Since starting at Metra, Clifford's met with numerous community and transit leaders and employees.
"I'm a CEO who likes to be seen out on the lines," he said. "I'm trying to give folks an assurance I'm different from the previous administration and it's a new day.
"The overwhelming majority of people in this company are good people. They lived in a suppressed environment where an autocratic leader had to have everything run through him and control the flow of knowledge."