Metro Magazine

SEP-OCT 2014

Magazine serving the bus and rail transit & motorcoach operations since 1904

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64 < m ETRO m AGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014 Veronique Hakim ers can not only depend on their bus or train arriving on time, but providing them with technologies, such as its "My Bus Now" program, that inform them when that vehicle will arrive. Most importantly, Hakim says she and her executive management team are fo- cusing on how to create a sense of own- ership for all of NJ TRANSIT's employees. "It requires leadership to go into their home department and challenge the en- tire structure in the department to take a sense of ownership and pride in the work that they do," says Hakim of the initiative. "As I've been traveling through the sys- tem, the one constant observation I have is that everybody truly does take a sense of pride in being a part of NJ TRANSIT." Hakim's objectives for the agency may go back to two things she learned through very good, smart mentoring relationships — to communicate clearly so there is no confusion and to build consensus. "Tis is a very large organization," she says. "One person can have the senior leadership role, but the entire organiza- tion is the way to success. So, we all suc- ceed or fail together here." — Alex Roman Like many in the public transportation industry, Veronique "Ronnie" Hakim didn't have much of an inkling she would end up where she is now. In fact, the op- portunity to work for the New York Met- ropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) New York City Transit (NYCT) came about after working in Paris, gradu- ating law school and embarking on a ca- reer as a lawyer in New York City. "What ends up happening for, some of us, I think, is we fall into a position. In my case, I fell into a transit position and then realized how exciting it was," she says. "[If you] think about it from a young lawyer's perspective, you're working on some- thing that absolutely has meaning. Pro- viding transit service is truly the one re- source millions of people rely on." Hakim began her career as an attor- ney at NYCT, where she was progres- sively promoted, with an emphasis on construction and technology contracts, eventually landing the position of gener- al counsel and executive VP of the MTA's Capital Construction Division. During her time at NYCT, she worked on the agency's MetroCard fare pay- ment pilot program, a $100 million un- derground storage tank replacement p ro g r a m a n d h o w t o re g u l a t e Fi r s t Amendment activity on the subway sys- tem, as well the extension of the MTA's subway and railroad systems. In 2010, Hakim was recruited by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to serve as its executive director, where she fo- cused on introducing cost efciencies. " That was a different kind of chal- lenge, because it required bringing to- gether senior leadership at the New Jer- sey Turnpike Authority and introducing to them zero-based budgeting and how to go through their departments and re- ally look for opportunities for efciency," she explains. "Over the almost four years that I was there, we were able to identify over $100 million of operational savings." Since March, Hakim has served as the executive director of New Jersey Transit (NJ TRANSIT), which boasts 11,000 em- ployees; capital and operating budgets to- taling more than $3 billion annually; 260 bus routes; 12 commuter rail lines; three light rail lines; and Access Link paratran- sit services linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia. Upon taking the job, Hakim says she gave herself 90 days — 30 to quietly ob- serve and 30 to start asking questions be- fore taking the last 30 days to develop a charter of how she wanted to advance. One of the first things she did at NJ TRANSIT was identify the need for a con- solidated Ofce of System Safety. "We are in the process of consolidat- ing all of our safety-related resources that deal with both our external custom- er safety and internal employee safety, and introducing a series of rail safety pro- grams really intended to promote a cul- ture of safety, as well as safety across all [of our] operating lines," she explains. Hakim adds another key initiative has been to stress the importance of customer service, especially ensuring that custom- WOMEN IN TRANSPORTATION A key initiative at NJ TRANSIT for Hakim has been a focus on customer service at all levels as well as creating a sense of ownership for every employee at the agency. Executive Director TITLE New Jersey Transit ORGANIZATION Newark, N.J. CITY

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