AUSTIN, TEXAS – Linda Watson, Capital Metro president and CEO, announced she will retire at the end of year after seven years as head of the region’s transportation agency.
“It has been my honor and privilege to serve this community and Capital Metro as the president and CEO,” said Watson. “I’m incredibly proud of our team and what we have accomplished together, and am confident that this organization and its employees are well-positioned to tackle the challenging transportation issues facing Central Texas.”
Watson joined Capital Metro in August 2010. She has nearly 35 years of experience in the transit industry, with more than 20 years as a CEO. She came to Austin from Orlando, Fla., where she held the same position at LYNX, the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority. Prior to that, she held the positions of CEO of the Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority and Deputy CEO at the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
Watson is credited with turning the organization around after a 73-page Texas Sunset Advisory Commission audit completed in 2010 identified multiple areas of the agency that needed improvement. These criticisms included failure to responsibly manage finances, excessive and unsustainable in-house costs, the need to enhance the safety of commuter rail and failure to effectively engage stakeholders. Watson brought discipline, accountability and transparency to the organization and successfully addressed all of the issues reported in the audit.
Wade Cooper, chair of Capital Metro’s board of directors, praised Watson for her ability to provide strong leadership both internally and externally.
“Under Ms. Watson’s leadership, every aspect of Capital Metro has dramatically improved,” he said. “She has been very successful in putting together a great team dedicated to quality service, and she has been a good steward of public resources. She’s also effectively positioned the agency through solid partnerships to help resolve the increasing complex mobility issues affecting the region.”
Some key accomplishments during Watson’s tenure include stabilizing the labor structure by transitioning bus operators and maintenance staff to private contractors, overseeing the planning and implementation of improvements to MetroRail, launching MetroRapid bus rapid transit service and breaking ground on the 10-acre Plaza Saltillo redevelopment project in East Austin.
Watson has also overseen the planning of a new and larger Downtown Station and the purchase of four new trains to increase frequency and capacity on the line, funded by a $50M TxDOT grant. In addition, she recently directed the complete overhaul of the agency’s extensive bus system to increase frequency and reliability through a strategic long-range plan called Connections 2025. The agency also introduced one of the country’s first mobile ticketing apps in 2014, which has already sold more than $8 million in tickets and won multiple national awards for innovation.
During Watson’s time at the agency, great gains were also made in relation to the agency’s financial health, with Capital Metro becoming the first transit system in Texas to earn the state comptroller’s highest level of recognition for online financial transparency. The award has been won an additional four times since.
Together with other agencies and stakeholders, Watson has been instrumental in leading the regional planning effort, called Project Connect. Its goal is to develop a system of high-capacity transit designed to address the explosive growth in Central Texas by offering more transportation choices and better connectivity into, out of and around Central Austin.
Watson’s retiremert will be effective Dec. 31. Cooper says the board plans to launch a national search for the agency’s next leader, and will appoint an interim CEO if a successor is not found by the end of the year.