In memoriam: Paul Jablonski

June 8, 2020
Measuring a career by magazine covers is an unusual benchmarking method, but one that fits a unique professional, such as Paul Jablonski.

The loss of Paul Jablonski, CEO of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS), on May 10 left the transit industry reeling.   

His professional accomplishments were accounted for in various write ups that followed his death, including his global impact on the transit industry having served as the general manager of the Saudi Arabian Public Transport Company early in his career before returning to Massachusetts to become the general manager of Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority. He then served for 10 years as the CEO of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) before arriving in San Diego in 2004.

For those who were well acquainted with his professional achievements, but not as familiar with his personal life, a borrowed passage from his family-written obituary states, “He was an adoring husband, doting father, devoted grandfather (‘Baba’), loving son, caring brother, fun-loving uncle, great cousin and the best of comrades.”

A description that is comforting but also serves as a reminder at how great a single loss can be, to both a family and an industry.

In addition to the enduring legacy he left at each of the agencies where he served, his accolades include being named the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Outstanding Transportation Manager of the Year in 2014 and one that is unique to Mass Transit: the number of times he appeared on the cover.

Jablonski graced the front of this magazine a total of three times in his career; a feat shared by Gary Thomas of Dallas Area Rapid Transit and Nathaniel Ford, who appeared on the cover while leading three different agencies. Jablonski’s first cover story came in April 2002 while serving as the CEO at SORTA and discussed how he led agency operations through tense city riots in April 2001 and what his plans were for the future of SORTA. The next cover was the December 2004/January 2005 issue, shortly after he joined San Diego’s transit agency and the third cover came in September/October 2008 just prior to San Diego MTS being named Most Outstanding Transit Agency of the year in 2009/2010 by APTA.

Jablonski – in a sometimes jesting, sometimes serious, but always charming way – let many of us know over the years that he wanted one more. While it is bittersweet, his photo is included on the front of the June 2020 issue, making Paul Jablonski the transit professional who has appeared the most on Mass Transit’s covers.

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.