Tom Nolan, Upon His Retirement From the Board of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
Congresswoman Jackie Speier
Congressional Record: 115th Congress
Extensions of Remarks
27 April 2017
Ms. SPEIER. Mr. Speaker, it has come to my attention that long-time board member Tom Nolan is leaving after having served on the board of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency since 2006 and as Chairman since 2010. I want to add my congratulations to those of countless others for the contributions that Tom made during his decades of public service. Tom has been a longtime friend and colleague and I have always admired his ability to bring peace to the negotiating table and to get to yes. He is truly a regional thinker and a transportation visionary. He was my colleague on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors during the 1980's, and it was from this position that he first became immersed in the subject of public transportation. While San Francisco has long had a well-developed public transit system, San Mateo County lagged far behind. Tom was instrumental in creating the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, the operator of Caltrain. He successfully fought for extension of BART to San Francisco airport and served the entire region as a member of the MTC. Even Santa Clara County owes a debt of gratitude for its transit system to Tom Nolan, as the light rail system relies upon a segment brought into the system by Tom's advocacy. He could have rested on his laurels when he left San Mateo County to become a resident of San Francisco, but instead he decided to once again become a leader in transportation issues. It takes the genius of a heart surgeon and the patience of a saint to serve on the MTA board. Tom met these standards with his tireless advocacy for service improvements, sound labor relations, a vast bicycle network to reduce reliance upon cars, bike sharing, replacement of the bus fleet, and support of the staff and transit system when the economic downturn brought painful adjustments. Every board member deserves our thanks for his or her dedication to the public, but the enormity of these responsibilities is often apparent only in hindsight. Few cities in America have tried to do what the MTA is doing over time: Create a transportation system that relies upon multiple modes of movement to create a modern city and to extend economic opportunity to all neighborhoods of San Francisco, all the while integrating this system with the region's needs. The new Central Subway and the T Third Line are just two of the latest examples. Tom's advocacy was essential to creating these options, just as his persistent advocacy led in the creation of Caltrain and the airport extension. When a pedestrian is not hit while crossing a busy intersection, Tom Nolan's advocacy is in part responsible for this wonderful outcome. When a father is on time picking up his child from daycare, he probably never stops to thank Tom Nolan for the bus ride that brought him to the center, but he should. When a housing advocate rises to support the creation of workforce housing along a transit corridor, I doubt that Tom's name ever comes up as one of the reasons that robust service exists along that particular public right of way. As the Giants fans pull into the 4th and King station, I'll bet that exactly zero riders pause to wonder who made that trip possible. In part, it was countless professionals and advocates over decades, but in large part it was Tom Nolan. As Tom leaves his position on the MTA board, his legacy is evident in concrete and steel, as well as painted bike paths and floral dividers between bikes and vehicles. It is evident in the quality of life that is led by San Franciscans and those in the Bay Area who quietly go about their business each day. Long before San Francisco had Uber, our region had Tom Nolan. One trades on a public stock exchange and is highly valued by financial analysts while the other quietly serves in modest but influential public service. There is no doubt in my own mind which is more valuable. Let us all give thanks for Tom Nolan, the ultimate transportation app because he doesn't require a smartphone, a charged battery or a good cell phone connection to get the job done. He's just a guy with a big heart and a mighty vision who delivers value to the public the old fashioned way: He earns it.
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