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Late MTS Chief Jablonski Remembered For Dedication, Competence
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Paul Jablonski, the late CEO of the Metropolitan Transit System, is being remembered by colleagues as a dedicated and capable public servant who beat the odds to improve San Diego's bus and trolley system.
Jablonski, who died suddenly on Sunday at the age of 67, led MTS for 16 years. Under his leadership, the agency won national awards for running a clean, safe and reliable transit service despite limited funding and having to contend with San Diego's historically car-centric culture. In 2014, Jablonski was named Manager of the Year by the American Public Transit Association.
Retired County Supervisor Ron Roberts worked with Jablonski for many years while serving on the board of both MTS and the San Diego Association of Governments, which plans and funds transit projects across the county. Roberts credited Jablonski with helping secure a billion dollar federal grant to help fund the upcoming Blue Line trolley extension to University City.
"That was a herculean effort," Roberts said. "The federal government had to know that we had a transit system here that was one of the very top in the country, they didn't just hand out these huge checks."
Colin Parent, executive director of the transit advocacy nonprofit Circulate San Diego, said Jablonski was receptive to criticism and showed leadership during the coronavirus pandemic by quickly implementing new cleaning and social distancing protocols to protect employees and passengers — things Parent said other transit agencies resisted.
"MTS took it upon themselves to implement those best practices on their own initiative, which I think they should be recognized for," he said. "And Paul certainly deserves a great deal of credit for instilling that kind of culture in the agency."
No cause of death has been announced, though colleagues said Jablonski appeared healthy as recently as last Friday. He's survived by his wife, four children and two grandchildren.
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