Posted on July 21, 2017 in News


Jarod Varner Joins First Transit Next Month as Regional Vice President

NORTH LITTLE ROCK (July 21, 2017) — METRO Executive Director Jarod Varner announced his pending departure from METRO today. Varner’s last day will be Aug. 18, more than four years after accepting the role of executive director and assuming responsibility for successfully implementing the vision of the METRO board of directors. He will be stepping down to take a regional leadership role within First Transit, an international transit operations, management and consulting firm.

METRO Board Chairman Allie Freeman noted, “Jarod has provided tremendous service to central Arkansas during his tenure at METRO. With his leadership we have accomplished impressive progress, and the organization is well-positioned to continue improving the services we offer our communities. While Jarod will certainly be missed, we wish he and his family well in his new endeavors, and the board will ensure the necessary plans are put in place to ensure a smooth transition.”

“I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with such a talented staff, and I am proud of what we achieved together,” Varner said. “Over the past four years we have made great strides in modernizing central Arkansas’ transit system with a focus on the customer experience and bringing more visibility to the great work of the METRO board of directors and staff. I am thrilled this new professional opportunity will allow me to stay in central Arkansas, where I plan to be a resource for METRO and continue to advocate for much needed transit investment.”

During Varner’s tenure, METRO engaged in the first major strategic transit service plan in several years, leading to the adoption of a new, modern brand and the first funding ballot initiative for the agency in more than a decade. He was instrumental in working with the board of directors and staff to begin an agency transition to a natural gas fleet, which included the construction of a CNG fueling facility made possible by a public-private partnership. Under his leadership, METRO launched a new website and real-time arrival information system, METROtrack, as well as free WiFi service on all buses and streetcars and a plan to expand and improve agency transit shelters. He saw the establishment of a comprehensive fare policy and related innovations such as the UA – Pulaski Technical College universal pass pilot program; increased community engagement through initiatives such as a bus donation to the City of Little Rock for use as the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance mobile farmers’ market, hosting the annual PopUp in the Rock event at the River Cities Travel Center and the creation of the agency’s first marketing and communications position, and he engaged board, staff and stakeholders in long-range planning, including the creation of a board strategic planning committee, a rigorous annual budget planning process, an ADA service improvement study and an agency master plan. He encouraged staff development through a major focus on training.

The agency’s achievements under his tenure include the securement of METRO’s first-ever Federal Transit Administration Bus and Bus Facilities discretionary grant award, two consecutive GFOA budget awards and a Southwest Transit Association First Place Spotlight Award for the website.

Varner serves on several national, state and local boards and commissions, including serving on the board of directors for the Downtown Little Rock Partnership, North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, Sherwood Chamber of Commerce, Metroplan and Governor’s Commission on People with Disabilities, as well as serving on the National Transit Advisory Board, American Public Transit Association Board of Directors (including the association’s small operations, streetcar, bus, paratransit and CEOs committees) and Arkansas Public Transportation Coordinating Council.

“Jarod’s legacy of exemplary leadership at METRO will be remembered by our board, staff, riders and community leaders for years to come. He will be greatly missed, but we are grateful for the time and talents he lent our agency during his time here and look forward to working alongside him to advocate for the expansion, improvement and innovation of public transit service throughout our region,” Freeman said.

About Rock Region METRO
Rock Region METRO is the public transit system serving almost 3 million passengers per year in the cities of Little Rock, North Little Rock, Maumelle, Jacksonville and Sherwood and Pulaski County. It comprises the METRO Local fixed-route bus system, including 21 fixed routes and four express routes and covering 51,000 miles weekly; the METRO Links custom-route paratransit service system, covering 12,500 miles weekly; and the METRO Streetcar, a 3.4-mile streetcar system covering 1,080 miles weekly. Created in 1986 with an interlocal agreement among the partner jurisdictions, Rock Region METRO is governed by a 12-member board of directors who are appointed by its service cities and county.

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