9 Applicants contend to lead central arkansas transit agency nwadg moto x data recovery

The rock region metro board is reviewing the backgrounds and qualifications of nine candidates a research firm has recommended to lead the transit agency beset by declining ridership, funding dependent upon local governments and an expiring union contract.

The search firm, springfield/waters, culled the list to eight men and one woman from a total of 20 applicants from 17 states. The board will hold a special meeting april 9 to narrow the list further for in-person interviews.

The board is looking to replace jarod varner at a time when ridership in transit is declining nationwide, thanks to lower fuel costs, increased teleworking, high car ownership and the rise of ride-hailing alternatives such as uber, according to researchers.Public transit

Transit ridership fell in 31 of 35 major metropolitan areas in the U.S.

Last year, including each of the seven cities that serve the majority of riders, with losses largely stemming from buses, but punctuated by reliability issues on systems like the washington area’s metro system, according to an annual overview of public transit usage.

The analysis by the new york-based transitcenter advocacy group, using data from the U.S. Department of transportation’s national transit database, raises alarm about the state of "legacy" public transit systems in the northeast and midwest and rising vehicle ownership and car-based commuting in cities nationwide.Department transportation

Ridership on rock region’s regular bus routes fell 5.37 percent from 2016 to 2017, to 2.4 million riders. In the past three years, the decline is even more dramatic — nearly 13.6 percent from the more than 2.7 million riders in 2014.

In the first two months of 2018, ridership is off 9.61 percent, a decline transit officials blame on the unusually high amount of rainfall, especially last month.

Varner left in august after four years to take a job as regional vice president at first transit, a cincinnati-based company that primarily contracts with municipalities to run their transit systems. He was drawing an annual salary of $140,000. His successor could receive up to $165,000 annually.Annual salary

"These are the nine candidates who we believe are the most qualified," art davis, senior vice president at springsted/waters, told board members at a meeting monday.

Steve strauss of washington, D.C., who is deputy associate director for the transit delivery division of the district of columbia department of transportation, is a little rock native and graduate of hall high school. He also has experience in the new york city transit world.

"I believe I am a unique candidate for the executive director position having grown up in little rock where I developed my interest in transit and transportation during the earth day movement of the 1970s."

Annual salary

In response to a question about whether an online search of his name would turn up anything that could be "construed as negative," strauss described himself as a "mainstream partisan democrat" who has contributed to political candidates for federal and local office in little rock. If selected, strauss said he "would need to be more neutral or non-involved in local politics."

He said he also provided free professional advice to opponents of the interstate 30 corridor project through downtown little rock and north little rock.

"This is not inconsistent with the position of the last executive director of rock region metro who voted against the freeway widening at metroplan, however, my position may be a bit more vocal than his," strauss said. "I am a member of the opposition group’s facebook page and comment on matters from time to time.Department transportation I think my comments have been opinionated, but professional."

The other applicant with arkansas ties is philip pumphrey of middletown, conn., who is acting general manager for first transit/connecticut transit. First transit, the same firm for which varner works, has a contract with the connecticut department of transportation to run connecticut transit.

Pumphrey’s 24-year career in transit leadership positions includes nearly 11 years in northwest arkansas, where he said he helped build a fixed-route transit system.

In that time, pumphrey said he built an advocacy group for public transit, helped guide a sales tax for public transit on the ballot, implemented 11 new fixed routes, and increased ridership and revenue by more than 50 percent.Annual salary

He also has served in executive posts at transit systems in pasco county, fla.; elkridge, md.; and san bernardino, calif. Pumphrey’s annual salary is $102,000.

• D. Eddy cumins of syracuse, utah; regional general manager of the utah transit authority. He is a retired air force senior enlisted man whose responsibilities included managing a military fleet of 2,100 vehicles at kadena air base, okinawa. His annual salary is $140,000.

• charles frazier of lake worth, fla.; assistant director and support services director for palm tran inc., which is the county-operated transit service palm beach county, fla. He has an annual salary of $131,135.

• abul hassan of eagle river, alaska; director of the anchorage department of transportation.Department transportation he also has worked at transit agencies in maryland. Hassan declined to disclose his annual salary other than to say it was six figures.

• brian marshall of champaign, ill.; most recently director and general manager of fresno area express in fresno, calif. The system has nearly 500 employees and a $100 million annual budget. His previous experience included heading the transit agency in baton rouge, where he helped pass the first dedicated tax for transit. Marshall said he left the fresno post in june 2017 after three years to care for his parents. He said in a cover letter that his parents are stabilized to the point he can seek a job. He has not yet submitted answers to a questionnaire.Annual salary

• robert nugent of lawrence, kan.; transit administrator for lawrence since 2009. He also has worked at transit agencies in tennessee and kentucky. His annual salary is $105,000.

• gaylord salisbury of raytown, mo.; budgets and grants director for the kansas city area transportation authority. He began his career at the agency nearly 20 years ago as a bus driver. His annual salary is $113,883.

This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of northwest arkansas newspapers LLC. Please read our terms of use or contact us.

Material from the associated press is copyright © 2018, associated press and may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.Annual salary associated press text, photo, graphic, audio and/or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium. Neither these AP materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer except for personal and noncommercial use. The AP will not be held liable for any delays, inaccuracies, errors or omissions therefrom or in the transmission or delivery of all or any part thereof or for any damages arising from any of the foregoing. All rights reserved.