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Tom Nolan, Upon His Retirement From the Board of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

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

HON. JACKIE SPEIER of California in the House of Representatives
Thursday, April 27, 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 
  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 
  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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