2023 40 Under 40: Jim Nee

Aug. 22, 2023
Jim Nee, Administrator and Executive Director, MetroWest Regional Transit Authority

One word to describe yourself: Verbose

Alma Mater: Undergrad – UMass Amherst; Grad School – Northeastern University

Fast fact about yourself: It is hard to understate what a nerd I am. While not the nerdiest thing about me, my love of Legos knows no bounds.

What’s your best experience on transit and what made it memorable?: Of my 20.5 years in public transit, I have used the public transit system I worked for as a primary mode of personal transportation for more than 15 of those years. The experience of being a rider everyday has made every experience in my career more fulfilling, as it makes me a better public servant.

Jim Nee began his 20-and-a-half-year career in the public transit industry as a bus driver for the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Transit agency in 2003 and worked his way up to supervisor and trainer. As he worked to build his career with UMass Transit, he attended college at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 2009, Nee was promoted to a member of the MIS Student Management Team and graduated in 2011 with a degree in Medieval History.

His first stop right out of college was the First Transit Management program, assisting on various projects throughout New England until landing a permanent assignment as the assistant general manager (AGM) of operations at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport Shuttle.

Nee left First Transit to return to the public sector in 2014 and worked as the AGM of shuttles at the University of Maryland, College Park, overseeing a student-run operation.

Nee went on to join the Longwood Collective organization in 2015 as their transportation manager, dedicating his time to enhancing Boston’s Longwood Medical and Academic area. During this time, his main focus was to make time for growing his family, obtaining a master’s degree in public policy at Northeastern and overseeing a shuttle program that moves approximately 12,000 people per day on a fleet of 37 vehicles. He was primarily responsible for the daily operational oversight of transportation contracts worth over $7.5 million dollars annually, budget developments, route design and efficiency, maintenance compliance and best communications practices to all passengers.

In his first year at the Longwood Collective organization, he overhauled the entire daily schedule after conducting a comprehensive review of ridership, timing and traffic resulting in better service at a better cost. He worked to improve reliability, maintenance and overall quality of service by focusing on process improvements across the board all along the way. Nee made time to take seminars through the Eno Center for Transportation, get promoted to senior transportation manager and ultimately take a significant professional step in becoming the administrator of the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority (MWRTA), serving 16 communities in MetroWest Massachusetts.

In his current role as administrator and executive director for MWRTA, his responsibilities towards the people of MetroWest have flourished. In July of 2022, he began to act as a representative for the needs at the local, state and federal level of the people of MetroWest. Coming out of COVID, his first year was focused on addressing the resumption of normal service levels, as well as funding equity for the MWRTA. Through the hard work and determination of the team at MWRTA, Nee feels hopeful his team will be able to transform their regional transit authority into the premier transit agency in the state.

Is there a specific experience that led you to where you are today?

There is no doubt that meeting my wife, Kyrra, and growing our family together is the single most important experience of my life. It is impossible to understate the value of family in any accomplishment or career advancement. Without her and my two beautiful daughters, I would not be where I am today.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Serving others. I grew up the son of a Naval Aviator and a stay-at-home mom turned business leader who showed me the value of hard work and service to others. In serving others, I find great satisfaction and know that if my efforts are well placed, I can make a difference in the lives of others.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Knowing that it is impossible to provide everything that everyone needs. In a perfect world, we could provide every form and frequency of public transit that everyone could ever need. No one would need a car. We don’t live in that world and doing the best we can with what we have is the constant challenge of the industry.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

I’m pretty hard on myself and I feel like I’m never done trying to improve something. It is a bit of a personal fault of mine and it manifests most clearly in that I have a hard time defining an accomplishment that I’m proud. Knowing that over the course of my 20.5 years in transportation, I have been a part of various teams that have moved about 50 million people in those years is really something.

Best advice/tip/best practice to share from your area of expertise:

Listen to others while you’re saving the world. It is easy to get wrapped up in “knowing” that your idea is the best or that it will change the world, but you have to be willing to let those ideas change, or even die on the vine if they don’t bear the right fruit. You should sow as many ideas as possible, but by listening to others, you’ll know the best ones to reap.

About the Author

Eman Abu-Khaled | Associate Editor

Eman Abu-Khaled is a recent graduate of Kent State University with a bachelors in journalism. She works through Endeavor Business Media with Mass Transit as an associate editor. Abu-Khaled brings a fresh perspective to the visual side of journalism with an interest in video and photography work.