TriMet general manager to retire after 26 years

Neil McFarlane will retire in early 2018

TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane at the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, April 17, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane at the Tilikum Crossing Bridge, April 17, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — TriMet has unexpectedly announced that General Manager Neil McFarlane will retire in early 2018.

TriMet made the announcement in a Wednesday press release that gave no reason for McFarlane’s retirement. He was not available to be interviewed.

The Oct. 18 announcement comes as TriMet is working with Metro and other partners on a $2.4 billion MAX line proposed for the Southwest Corridor between Portland and Tualatin. The agency is considering a $1.7 billion regional bond measure to help pay for the line and other transportation projects in the region to be placed on the November 2018 ballot. It must be finalized by early spring to be approved by the TriMet board of directors to meet state election deadlines.

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McFarlane has been with TriMet since February 1991 and has served as general manager since July 1, 2010. The agency and TriMet’s Board of Directors will now launch an international search for the next general manager, including holding listening sessions with community stakeholders and soliciting public feedback.

In the release, McFarlane said, “It has been an honor to serve as general manager these past seven years. I want to thank all the employees past and present, the TriMet Board of Directors and the community partners who’ve contributed to our successes, helped us overcome challenges and understood how vital transit is to keeping the region moving. My work is not yet done. TriMet has a bright and busy road ahead and I pledge to continue in high gear until my last day.”

Also in the release, TriMet board President Bruce Warner said, “On behalf of the Board of Directors, I want to thank Neil for his hard work and dedication to this agency. Neil’s leadership guided the agency out of the Great Recession, improved financial stability and built the foundation to successfully expand service and modernize the system.”

During his years at TriMet, McFarlane helped lead the expansion of the agency’s light rail system from a single 15-mile line to the five-line, 60-mile system that serves communities from Hillsboro to Gresham and north Portland to Clackamas County. He also brought the first commuter rail line to Oregon. He has also been leading an expansion of TriMet’s bus system to better serve communities outside Portland.

According to the announcement, TriMet will solicit public and rider comment on general manager search priorities at two upcoming board meetings:

• Oct. 25 Board of Directors meeting

9 a.m., Portland Building

• Nov. 8 Board of Directors meeting

8 a.m., Oregon Zoo’s Conservation Hall

Finalists are expected to be identified by January 2018. The public will have an opportunity to hear from the candidates at the January 24, 2018 Board of Director’s meeting.

You can read TriMet’s full announcement here.