Metrolink extends contract of CEO Darren Kettle

June 7, 2024
Kettle joined Metrolink in September 2021 with more than two decades of public transportation experience in southern California and has guided the agency through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Metrolink and CEO Darren Kettle have agreed to a five-year contract extension, which will run through September 2029. The Metrolink Board of Directors approved the extension on May 24.

“With Darren at the helm, Metrolink has transformed beyond its commuter rail roots into a more versatile and equitable service that better aligns with the needs of today’s public transportation customers,” said Metrolink Board Chair and City of Highland, Calif., Mayor Pro Tem Larry McCallon. “We are confident that Darren’s strategic vision and oversight will position the agency for continued growth and success as Metrolink and our region prepare to host a series of high-profile events, culminating with the Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games in 2028. We’re thrilled that Darren has agreed to extend his tenure and lead Metrolink into the future.”

Kettle joined Metrolink in September 2021 with more than two decades of public transportation experience in southern California. As CEO, his passion and expertise have guided Metrolink through an unprecedented industry-wide shift in ridership triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kettle has been the leading force behind Metrolink’s evolution from a commuter rail line to a robust regional connector with increased midday and evening service that have made Metrolink a better resource for leisure riders and workers with non-traditional schedules. From the beginning of his tenure, Metrolink’s ridership has grown by 88 percent while still trending toward pre-pandemic levels.

“It’s been my great privilege to serve Metrolink as CEO and I’m grateful to the Metrolink Board of Directors for their continued trust and support,” Kettle said. “The 2028 Olympic Games have created a transformative opportunity to expand and improve our region’s public transportation system and I’m thrilled that Metrolink – through the efforts of our incredible staff and in cooperation with our member agencies and transit partners – will play a critical role in LA28’s vision of a car-free event. I’m even more excited that the changes we are making to our system will benefit southern Californians in the lead up to and well beyond the Olympics. I’m honored to continue the work and look forward to seeing Metrolink through its next chapters.” 

Kettle has also overseen significant investment in Metrolink’s infrastructure, including state-of-good-repair rehabilitation and capital construction projects, the addition of five stations and the launch of the Arrow service connecting the city of Redlands to Metrolink’s vast service area. On multiple occasions, he has worked in concert with state and local officials to restore service along the coastal tracks near San Clemente after natural events obstructed the route. He also worked collaboratively with the LOSSAN Rail Corridor Agency and Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to implement a reciprocal codeshare agreement along the Ventura County Line that provides more flexibility for passengers of both services.

Along with the contract extension, the Metrolink Board of Directors also approved an annual base salary of $375,000 for Kettle, which is a 5.6 percent increase from his previous annual salary of $355,000.

Prior to joining Metrolink, Kettle worked for three of the five regional transportation agencies that comprise the joint powers authority that governs Metrolink. From 2007 until 2021, he served as executive director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission. He was previously the director of freeway construction for the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG), now known as the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority, and he held the role of director of intergovernmental and legislative affairs for SANBAG and the Riverside County Transportation Commission. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in public administration from California State University, San Bernardino.