March 18, 2022 No. 26

Meet Sanjay Ramabhadran, METRO’s New Board Chair

New METRO Board Chair Sanjay Ramabhadran says serving the region's largest public transportation provider is the honor of a lifetime. The registered professional engineer and long-time community leader is passionate about cities and the quality of life they offer. He also knows the critical role transportation plays in that quality of life.

A familiar face, Ramabhadran has served on METRO's Board since May 2015. During his tenure, he led the Authority's Capital & Strategic Planning Committee and was a Finance & Audit Committee member. He's played an instrumental role in planning, designing, constructing, and launching several major projects and initiatives, including the METRONext Moving Forward Plan, METRO's Universal Accessibility program and the METRORapid Silver Line.

His appointment is historic. He is the first Indian-American to serve in the role and his leadership positions with Houston's influential civic and business organizations have uniquely positioned him to help steer METRO's future. We had the chance to ask him more about that future.

What inspired you to serve on METRO's Board of Directors?

My inspiration came directly from my parents. Civic engagement has been an essential ingredient of my life. I grew up in a small mining town of 200,000 people in southern India. My parents literally built the town—both the infrastructure and the civic life of the organizations. They taught me the importance of community involvement and volunteering.

Houston is my home, and it's an honor of a lifetime to serve and give back to the city that has given me so much. It is very meaningful for me to do my small part to further constructive dialogue on critical issues that face the region's future. I truly appreciate the trust and confidence placed in me to help build the future of METRO.

What are your goals for METRO over the coming years, and how will the Authority meet them?

Our focus will be on delivering on the promises of METRONext—accelerating delivery where possible. We want to improve mobility for all Houston region residents, giving people more transportation options. To allow this region to grow, we must connect its job centers, hospitals, schools, universities, shopping centers, and parks through safe, reliable, frequent, accessible, and equitable multimodal public transportation options.

We've reimagined our bus network. Now, it's time to reimagine our Park & Rides, transforming them from concrete parking lots to destinations and mixed-use developments—places where you have affordable housing, shopping centers and other destinations right next to transit.

We'll do this through light rail extensions, new METRORapid corridors, BOOST corridors on 17 of our high-frequency bus routes and universal accessibility. We'll also continue to work with our congressional delegation to secure funding from our federal partners and forge public-private partnerships.

Why is an investment in transit so crucial to Houston and the surrounding region?

The Houston region has experienced tremendous economic growth. I think you can trace a lot of that back to previous investments we made, be it the Houston Ship Channel, two international airports, or securing water rights for a growing population. However, the continued economic growth of our region is inextricably tied to the investments we make in improving quality of life and our ability to attract and retain businesses, talent, and the next generation of Houstonians. Public transportation plays a huge role in that.

We often talk about education as the escalator to social and economic mobility. I argue that public transportation is nearly as important as education because it allows you to get to those opportunities. How can you access jobs and education if you don't have a safe and affordable means of transportation to get to those destinations?

Providing accessible transportation options ensures that all people can affordably and reliably get to school, work, health care and other services offered by local businesses and community organizations. When there are more opportunities for people to participate and contribute to society, everyone benefits.

When you imagine Houston's transportation future, what do you see?

The future I see is a more sustainable and inclusive one. One where every Houstonian, no matter their age, ability, or socioeconomic status, will have the freedom and ability to choose to walk, bike, roll, drive or be driven by METRO to their destinations. Instead of being forced to use just one mode of transportation, they'll have access to several safe and affordable options.

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