Santa Cruz Metro appoints new CEO

Santa Cruz Metro appoints new CEO

After a nationwide search attracting dozens of applicants, Santa Cruz Metro has selected its new CEO.

The new CEO, announced at the agency’s board of directors meeting Friday, is Corey Aldridge, a transit professional with more than 10 years of experience as a general manager of a public agency.

Aldridge’s appointment comes almost two months after former Metro CEO/General Manager Michael Tree announced he would retire from the agency Feb. 16, less than two years after he assumed the role.

Aldridge’s tentative start date in Santa Cruz is April 29, according to a Metro release.

“At the heart of every successful transit system is its people — both our employees and the community we serve. As the new CEO of Santa Cruz METRO, I am committed to fostering a work environment where every employee feels valued, supported, and empowered to excel,” said Aldridge in the release. “Moreover, I look forward to being an active part of the Santa Cruz community and continuing the great work already underway at METRO and beyond. Our collective success hinges on our ability to work as a unified team dedicated to serving our community’s mobility needs, ensuring we not only meet but exceed the expectations placed upon us. Together, we will drive forward to a future where public transportation is not just a service but a pillar of community strength and environmental stewardship.”

According to the release, the Santa Cruz Metro Board collaborated with various stakeholders, union leaders and a Metro advisory committee throughout the hiring process and landed on Aldridge, in large part, because of the way his experience aligns with the agency’s three primary goals: increasing ridership, implementing a zero-emission master plan and incorporating affordable housing into Metro-owned transit centers.

Metro’s downtown transit hub closed in February so crews could demolish the aging facility as part of a two-year effort to remake it into a mixed-use transportation and housing center. The agency, in collaboration with the city of Santa Cruz, simultaneously launched an interim operations plan in the downtown region that re-established bus stops and customer service on nearby streets.

Aldridge is currently serving as CEO of Mountain Line Transit in Missoula, Montana, where he has been since 2015, according to his LinkedIn profile.

In the Metro release, Board Chair Kristen Brown called Aldridge the “ideal candidate” because of how well his background aligned with the numerous and varied efforts, including a comprehensive service transformation known as “Reimagine Metro” that the agency is currently involved in.

“Corey’s experience aligns perfectly with our ongoing initiatives like Reimagine METRO, and his track record in overseeing ballot initiatives, implementing green projects, and fostering ridership growth will be invaluable. We look forward to having Corey’s leadership at METRO,” said Brown in the release.

As CEO of Mountain Line Transit, Aldridge steered a 30% increase in service after a successful ballot initiative and helped secure $40 million in federal funds that went to new maintenance, administration and operations base improvements, according to the release. The Montana-based agency went on to receive the American Public Transit Association’s System of the Year Award for North America in 2021.

Aldridge will take the wheel from Daniel Zaragoza, Metro’s operations deputy director who has served as its interim CEO since Tree’s departure.

“I’m pleased to hear that Corey Aldridge will be joining METRO as the new CEO,” said Zaragoza. “Aldridge’s vast experience as a General Manager in public transit will be an asset in furthering METRO’s key goals and vision. Additionally, Aldridge’s experience in service expansion will be vital in the rollout of Reimagine METRO Phase 2 service improvements slated to begin this summer.”

The second phase of improvements includes an estimated 43% increase in overall service and expanded 15-minute, day service across the county.