CA: North County Transit District expected to approve hiring of new CEO

Dec. 18, 2023
The North County Transit District board of directors is expected to approve the hiring of a new chief executive officer, Shawn M. Donaghy, when it meets Thursday.

The North County Transit District board of directors is expected to approve the hiring of a new chief executive officer, Shawn M. Donaghy, when it meets Thursday.

Donaghy is CEO of C-Tran, the transit district in Clark County, Wash., just north of Portland, Oregon, where he has worked since 2017, according to the agency's website.

He has been employed more than 25 years in transportation, including time at Trinity Metro in Fort Worth, Texas, and at the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) in Cincinnati, Ohio, the website states. He is a third-generation transportation executive.

During Donaghy's tenure at C-Tran, the agency completed a new rapid-transit bus line with 37 stops on a 10-mile corridor between downtown Vancouver, Wash., and the Clark College Columbia Tech Center campus in east Vancouver. The route's opening on Oct. 1, 2023, culminated five years of planning and two years of construction.

An NCTD official said Thursday that Donaghy would prefer to wait until he's approved by the board to discuss his new job.

Former NCTD Chief Executive Officer Matt Tucker announced in August that he would retire Sept. 1.

Since his retirement, the agency has been led by interim director Paul Ballard. Ballard took the interim job after serving in similar roles at Trinity Metro-Fort Worth Transportation Agency in Fort Worth, Texas, and at the Regional Transportation District in Denver, Colo.

Donaghy's proposed contract with NCTD states that, if hired, he will receive a starting base salary of $377,500 with an annual increase of 2.5 percent pending his satisfactory performance, along with the district's standard health and retirement benefits and an annual contribution of $22,500 to his 401(k). He also will get $25,000 to relocate and a $15,000 short-term housing allowance.

Tucker, NCTD's former top executive, retired after nearly 15 years with the agency and 30 years in public transit. He earned $427,229 in total pay and benefits in 2022, according to Transparent California, a website that reports public employees' salaries. His earnings peaked at $474,613 in 2017, according to the website.

NCTD owns 62 miles of railroad from the Orange County line to the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.

It operates the Coaster commuter rail line between Oceanside and the Santa Fe Depot, the Sprinter hybrid rail line between Oceanside and Escondido, and bus service on more than 32 routes in North County.

The rail corridor also is served by Amtrak passenger trains and BNSF freight.

Ridership on all forms of public transit dropped precipitously as the result of stay-home policies at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. Since then, riders have been slow to return, particularly to trains, and the numbers remain below pre-pandemic levels.

However, planners at agencies like NCTD and the San Diego Association of Governments expect public transit, including rail, to continue to grow as San Diego County freeways become more congested.

A number of capital improvement projects are planned or underway in anticipation of growth, including investments in new, more efficient locomotives, more frequent trains, additional double-tracking, and new stops to serve the Del Mar Fairgrounds and the downtown San Diego Convention Center.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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