Paul Jablonski, CEO of San Diego MTS, dies unexpectedly

May 10, 2020
Deputy CEO Sharon Cooney will serve as the agency’s interim leader following shocking news of Jablonski’s passing.

Paul Jablonski, CEO of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and a leader in the global and United States transit industry for more than 40 years, passed away unexpectedly on May 10. Jablonski, who was 67, is survived by his wife, four children and grandchildren.  

“We are shocked and saddened about the passing of Paul,” said MTS Board Chair Nathan Fletcher. “He was a good man who not only ran a great agency but was a respected national transit industry leader. The entire MTS family is grieving right now, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Paul’s family. Deputy Chief Executive Officer Sharon Cooney will serve as the interim chief executive officer.”

Jablonski joined San Diego MTS shortly after many of the administrative and planning functions were transferred to the San Diego Association of Governments. While at the helm, he is credited with several accomplishments including the reorganization and consolidation of the bus and trolley divisions under the MTS umbrella; four consecutive perfect scores during MTS’ Triennial Review with the Federal Transit Administration; leading the redesign of the entire bus network; launching a new network of Rapid bus service; progressing the agency’s greener fleet goals by transitioning its bus fleet to mostly compressed natural gas and implementing a zero-emission bus pilot program, among many other accomplishments.

Jablonski’s efforts helped earn San Diego MTS the Most Outstanding Transit Agency of the year in 2009/2010 from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and Jablonski was recognized by APTA as the Outstanding Transportation Manager of the Year in 2014.

In addition to his more than 16 years in San Diego, Jablonski also served 10 years as the CEO of the Southwest Regional Transit Authority in Cincinnati, Ohio, and held leadership roles with the Merrimack Valley Regional Transportation Authority and the Saudi Arabian Public Transport Co. 

Jablonski was deeply involved in APTA, serving as an at large director on the APTA Board of Directors, vice chair for the Public Transportation CEO Coordinating Council Leadership and was a committee member on an additional 14 committees.

San Diego MTS has established a portal where industry colleagues and friends can submit their memories of Paul, which will then be shared with his family: https://www.sdmts.com/paul-jablonski-memories.

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May 15 update:

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Paul’s family and friends have set up an obituary page to honor his life, with photos, a guest book, opportunities to share memories and more.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Paul’s memory can be made to the National Park Foundation via his memorial page at http://give.nationalparks.org/goto/paul-jablonski.

Additionally, the American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF), a charitable affiliate of the American Public Transit Association, has established the Paul Jablonski Scholarship to provide opportunities to deserving students and transit professionals. To support this mission, please donate at https://secure.givelively.org/donate/american-public-transit-foundation/paul-jablonski-scholarship.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.