Gonot expected to return to Santa Clara VTA as GM

May 20, 2021
Santa Clara VTA is anticipating board approval of a contract on May 21 that would see Carolyn Gonot return to the authority where she previously spent 23 years of her career

Carolyn Gonot is expected to be named Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s new general manager following a special meeting of the authority’s board on May 21 where her employment agreement will be considered. If the agreement is approved, Gonot’s five-year contract would begin July 12.

Gonot spent 23 years of her transit career with Santa Clara VTA before becoming Utah Transit Authority’s (UTA) first woman executive director in August 2019.

“I’m thrilled with this outcome after a thorough and thoughtful process to find the next and best leader for the VTA organization,” said Santa Clara VTA Board Chair Glenn Hendricks. “Carolyn has a proven track record in delivering major capital projects and programs and establishing critical funding mechanisms to build and sustain them. Her leadership will be critical to improve the overall transit experience for current and future riders as public transit recovers from unprecedented challenges.”

UTA’s 2,500-employee workforce operates service over a 1,400-square-mile region that stretches across six counties. Gonot oversees an operating budget of $336 million and a capital budget of $225 million covering many modes, including three light-rail lines, Frontrunner commuter rail, a streetcar line, more than 120 bus routes, two bus rapid transit routes, ski buses, paratransit, Flex service and vanpools.

At the time she was named UTA executive director, Gonot noted there were many lessons learned from transit in Silicon Valley that could be applied to the Wasatch Front where significant population growth, rapid economic development and diversifying demographics were expected to influence transit decisions.

During her time with Santa Clara VTA, Gonot’s job titles included chief engineering and program delivery officer, chief BART program officer, chief development officer and deputy director of the congestion management program.

Gonot was credited with managing a series of light-rail and systems engineering projects, implementing a series of condition assessments. She was a key figure in the 10-mile BART Silicon Valley Berryessa Extension, which was turned over to BART before Gonot left Santa Clara VTA and opened the summer after she joined UTA.

If her employee agreement is approved, Gonot would succeed interim General Manager/CEO Evelynn Tran who was appointed to the role in January after Nuria Fernandez stepped down to serve as deputy secretary of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in the Biden-Harris Administration. Deputy Secretary Fernandez has since been nominated to be administrator of the FTA. Krauthamer & Associates, Inc., performed a nationwide search in tandem with the Santa Clara Board’s search committee.

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.