METRA CEO to retire

Trains Industry Newsletter
Get a weekly roundup of the industry news you need.
By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine. View our privacy policy.
METRA CEO Don Orseno
CHICAGO — Chicago’s Metra, the country’s second-largest commuter rail system, is launching a search for a new executive director after Friday’s announcement by CEO Don Orseno that he will be retiring at the end of 2017.

A lifelong railroader, Orseno, 62, has headed Metra since August 2013 and has been credited with stabilizing the agency and rebuilding morale in the wake of the controversial ouster of former executive director Alex Clifford and a political patronage scandal.

Metra’s board of directors has formed a committee to immediately begin a nationwide search for a new executive director/CEO and hopes to have a selection by this fall, the agency said. That search is also expected to consider several candidates within Metra itself.

Metra runs 700 trains and provides 300,000 passenger trips a day throughout Chicago and northeast Illinois.
Orseno’s salary is $317,500. Metra’s board gave him a $28,000-raise in December, just as the agency raised fares for the third year in a row.

Orseno tells Trains News Wire that he plans to retire and spend time with family. He said his toughest job was restoring Metra’s reputation after Metra was rocked by the 2010 vacation-pay scheme and suicide of one former chief executive, Phil Pagano, and a bitter battle between his immediate predecessor, Clifford and some members of Metra’s board.

Clifford, who had been brought from California to clean up the agency, was ousted in 2013 with a severance deal worth as much as $871,000 after raising complaints of political interference at Metra, among other allegations.

“There was lots of turmoil at the agency and the public had lost trust and the (Illinois) legislators had lost trust,” Orseno tells News Wire. “We had to work very hard to rebuild that trust, and show we were doing the right thing for the right reasons.”

 Metra Board Chairman Norman Carlson said Orseno will be “sorely missed” and expressed gratitude that Orseno would stay on to help the transition to new leadership.

“Don’s retirement is a major loss to Metra,” Carlson said in a statement. “He has a nationwide reputation as an outstanding commuter railroad executive who is very well-respected within the railroad industry and by (Illinois) state legislators and members of Congress.”

After serving as acting executive director for five months, Orseno was named CEO in January 2014. In the announcement Friday, the agency credited Orseno with expanding the agency’s railcar and locomotive rehabilitation program; implementing enhanced safety programs; and overseeing new leadership and the overhaul of Metra’s Police Department, which had been criticized for training shortcomings and excessive overtime.

In recent years, Metra has initiated a revamp of its accounting and office systems. Metra has also launched mobile ticketing, in partnership with the CTA, and installed Wi-Fi at downtown stations and on some commuter cars.

Orseno began his career in 1974 as a ticket collector on Chicago Rock Island & Pacific Railroad commuter trains. Orseno joined Metra in 1984, working up through the ranks into senior leadership positions. He previously served as Metra’s deputy executive director and chief operating officer.

Orseno is a member of the American Public Transportation Association’s Board of Directors, and has served as chairman of APTA’s Commuter Rail Committee and its Commuter Rail CEO Subcommittee. He is a member of the Safety Operations and Management Committee of the Association of American Railroads, a member of the Transportation Technology Center board of directors, and a past member of the Eno Center of Transportation board of advisors executive leader subcommittee. He is also the past president of the Association of American Railroad Superintendents and the Chicago Railroad Superintendents Association, where he currently serves on the board of directors.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

  • Previous Day
  • February 24, 2017
  • Next Day
Leave a Comment
Want to leave a comment?
Only registered members of are allowed to leave comments. Registration is FREE and only takes a couple minutes.

Login or Register now.
Please keep your feedback on-topic and respectful. Trains staffers reserve the right to edit or delete any comments.
Big Boy

Big Boy

All about the world's biggest locomotive


Learn more about the stories and photos in this months issue

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy
Subscribe Up To 54% off the newsstand price!
Subscribe To Trains Mag Today