Alex Wiggins to retire from New Orleans RTA at end of December

Dec. 8, 2022
Wiggins 38-year transit career includes leadership roles in Chicago, Seattle, Southern California before he became RTA’s first publicly appointed CEO.

Alex Z. Wiggins, who has served as New Orleans Regional Transit Authority’s CEO since July 2019, will retire as of Dec. 31, 2022, after a 38-year career in the transit industry. Wiggins was New Orleans RTA’s first publicly appointed CEO since it was formed in 1979 and helped guide the authority through its move to bring management of its rail and bus operations in house.

In a March 2021 feature in Mass Transit, RTA described its renewed focus “on putting New Orleans residents first” and building “a world class transit system that met the needs of all riders.” Wiggins, who includes “leveler of playing fields” in his LinkedIn position description, urged the development of the authority’s Race and Social Justice Toolkit, which encourages decision makers to consider critical demographic data on race, income, access to vehicles and other pertinent indicators that could influence transit outcomes.

The authority exceeded its agency goal and contracted more than $7.3 million with DBE and businesses in 2021 and it has entered the second phase of its partnership with JOB1 Career Solutions to recruit bus mechanics and technicians from the Louisiana State Penitentiary’s Automotive Service Excellence and I-CAR Automobile Industry-Based Certification programs.

Under Wiggins’ leadership, New Orleans RTA has implemented a simplified fare structure, launched a pilot on-demand program for its FLEX service, won grants to begin its transition to zero-emission buses and implemented a network redesign to improve connectivity to neighboring parishes.

"Thank you to the RTA Board, staff and riders for trusting me to lead our incredible staff to help build the world-class transit system New Orleanians deserve,” Wiggins said. "I am proud of our team's many accomplishments, including our response to Hurricane Ida, stabilization of the passenger ferry service, breaking ground on the Canal Street Ferry Terminal and initiating the Bus Rapid Transit Study, which will significantly enhance regional connections in the region."

Wiggins is a veteran of the United States Army, Air Force Reserve and the Seattle Police Department. He served as the city of Seattle’s strategic advisor for light rail and chief of staff at the Seattle Department of Transportation before moving to North County Transit District to serve as chief administrative officer. He has also served as deputy executive director of the Chicago region’s Metra, vice president at Transit Safety and Security Solutions and chief, system security and law enforcement division of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"The RTA Board of Commissioners would like to thank Alex Z. Wiggins, who joined the RTA at a pivotal time in the agency's history," said Mark Raymond, Jr., New Orleans RTA Board chairman. "His New Orleans roots and vast transit experience gleaned from transit properties in Seattle, Chicago and Southern California uniquely positioned him to lead the agency through its transition to bring agency administration, operations and maintenance functions in-house, as well as the agency's first major route overhaul since interim service was introduced following Hurricane Katrina. Together, these achievements allowed the agency to better prioritize local rider needs, regional connections and transit equity."

"I would like to wish Alex Wiggins great success in his future endeavors, said Kory Dupree, Local ATU president. It was a pleasure working with him".

Lona Edward Hankins will serve as interim CEO until the RTA Board of Commissioners permanently fills the role. Hankins has served as the deputy CEO of planning and infrastructure since December 2019. In this role, she oversaw the development and execution of capital assets and the implementation of infrastructure improvement projects.

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.