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FROM BUS DRIVER TO MARTA GENERAL MANAGER & CEO
20 Questions with Collie Greenwood
Collie Greenwood is no stranger to mass transit in a large, urban city. The new MARTA General Manager and CEO began his career 35 years ago as a bus driver with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), North America’s third-largest transit system. Greenwood rose through the ranks of the TTC over the next three decades to eventually serve as Chief Service Officer. In 2019, after 30 years with TTC, he and his family moved to Atlanta, where he joined MARTA as Chief of Bus Operations and Urban Planning. Less than two years later, Greenwood was named Deputy General Manager of Operations. And in January 2022, the MARTA Board of Directors named him Interim General Manager and CEO following the death of then-CEO and General Manager Jeffrey Parker.
This past October, the MARTA Board of Directors made it official and named Greenwood MARTA General Manager and CEO.
“I am honored and humbled by this opportunity,” Greenwood said. “I love transit and have known since my days of driving a bus how vital it is to people and their communities. I am eager to get to work enhancing and expanding service in the metro Atlanta region.”
As General Manager and CEO, Greenwood will lead MARTA’s largest and most ambitious expansion and modernization program since its founding over 40 years ago. He will work closely with his senior leadership team to develop and deliver major capital projects to enhance the customer experience, including adding new railcars and electric buses to the MARTA fleet.
Already off to a running start, Greenwood announced the Georgia Partnership for Transit Excellence (GPTE) with ACEC Georgia during the 2022 Georgia Transportation Summit.
“MARTA is pleased to solidify our commitment to partnering with our community,” Greenwood said at the Summit. “We have been the beneficiary of many years of consultant commitment to provide professional services to support our existing transit systems. As we embark on this unprecedented investment in expansion and growth, it is important for us to have a venue to share best practices, provide feedback, and solve challenges together. MARTA is confident that partnering with ACEC Georgia will provide better education, advocacy, and focus on the role that transit plays in the overall transportation network in the state of Georgia.”
Engineering Georgia was able to catch up with Greenwood following the Georgia Transportation Summit to get to know the new MARTA leader better.
20 QUESTIONS WITH COLLIE GREENWOOD
YOU WORKED FOR OVER 30 YEARS IN TORONTO, CANADA; WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO ATLANTA?
I retired from the TTC, and my wife and I decided that Atlanta posed an incredible opportunity, and we were ready for our next adventure. MARTA’s transit philosophy was consistent with my own, and there was a lot of support for progressive transit initiatives in a city that deserves excellent service.
WHAT APPEALED TO YOU MOST ABOUT RELOCATING TO ATLANTA?
I was excited to move to a world-class city with an established transit system ripe for expansion. I’d heard of southern hospitality before we moved, and to experience the warmth and kindness from people all over the region has made my wife, and I feel so welcome and grateful that we chose to come to Atlanta.
WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENT HIGHLIGHTS YOUR TIME AT THE TORONTO TRANSIT COMMISSION (TTC)?
Developing a workforce of talented, profes sional people who have gone on to make significant contributions in transit at the TTC and elsewhere. Initiating a station management program that signaled a quali tative change in how service was delivered.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE IN THE INDUSTRY BETWEEN THE TIME YOU JOINED IT AND TODAY?
A broader sense of civic awareness and integration, best practices adoption, and adherence to expectations that traditionally were outside of the considerations of a transit provider.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF SO FAR DURING YOUR TIME AT MARTA?
The relationships I’ve built with the employees during a difficult, unprecedented couple of years. MARTA is its PEOPLE, and I am so proud of the dedication of everyone here. It is a privilege to lead such a sincere and loyal group of people.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS YOUR MISSION AT MARTA?
To advocate for and provide safe, multimodal transit services that advance prosperity, connectivity, and equity for a more livable region.
WHAT IS MARTA’S MOST SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGE AT THIS MOMENT IN TIME?
Consistency of service excellence. We know how to do it well, but we MUST do it well all day, every day, as a service to our existing customers and as a compelling case for our future customers.
HOW HAS MARTA NAVIGATED THROUGH THE PANDEMIC?
MARTA did an excellent job through the pandemic by remaining abreast of rapidly changing data and directives, adapting our service for the most effective use of limited resources, focusing on customer and employee safety, and remaining open throughout the pandemic. Our MARTA Heroes employee showcase series received critical acclaim from the rest of the transit industry.
HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCES WILL HELP YOU IN YOUR ROLE AT MARTA?
Decades of exposure and engagement at a large, multi-modal transit agency with similar issues means that my experience is relevant on a consistent basis.
WHAT MOST EXCITES YOU ABOUT THE FUTURE OF MARTA?
A robust Capital expansion program designed to elevate the transit experience and MOVE PEOPLE in our region for generations to come.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
Friends, family, fitness, and food – still working on the right balance.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE PLACES IN ATL?
Chattahoochee greenspace, Beltline, amazing restaurants, midtown
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE BOOK OR PODCAST ON LEADERSHIP?
In Search of Excellence – Tom Peters
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF YOUR CAREER?
The biggest challenge in this line of work is always the next one. We often say, "you’re only as good as your last rush-hour service.” That said, I anticipate challenges with the responsibility to deliver so many capital projects in a landscape fraught with inflation, resource shortfalls, and unyielding expectations. As always, we welcome the challenge and the chance to build ourselves ready for the “next one.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MANAGEMENT STYLE, AND HOW WAS IT FORMED?
Transitional – a different approach for different circumstances. Formed via years of working at varying levels of an organization with access to many different leaders – and the ability to observe the impact (or lack thereof) of their styles.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A POTENTIAL NEW HIRE?
Engagement. The energy and intelligence to make a compelling case for their own candidacy and the ability to help me envision the difference they will make.
YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER IN TRANSPORTATION AS A BUS DRIVER. WHAT DID MOVING UP THROUGH THE RANKS TEACH YOU ABOUT LEADERSHIP?
The best Leaders are NOT those who cling to “NO.” The best leaders create a responsible and repeatable way to get to “YES.” They maintain an immovable set of values and adapt to the scenarios and the people in front of them. They inspire and build respectful, capable teams in their wake.
WHO DO YOU LOOK UP TO FOR INSPIRATION OR MENTORSHIP?
It truly takes a village. I’ve always sought those gifts from a very large cohort of people. Different bosses, peers, and subordinates depending on the challenge at hand.
WHAT’S THE MOST SIGNIFICANT FACTOR THAT’S HELPED YOU SUCCEED IN YOUR CAREER?
Connecting with good and authentic people and forging mutually beneficial successes.
WHAT’S ONE PIECE OF LEADERSHIP ADVICE YOU’D GIVE TO OTHERS LOOKING TO ADVANCE IN THEIR CAREER?
Take care of your people – they are all you have. Take advantage of the opportunities for broad exposure when you can. Your NEXT job will depend on your level of comfort with challenges outside of your core duties.