North County Transit District’s executive director to retire Sept. 1

Matt Tucker, North County Transit District’s executive director, will retire Sept. 1.
Matt Tucker, North County Transit District’s executive director, will retire Sept. 1.
(Courtesy NCTD)

Matt Tucker, who led the agency for 15 years, to end 30-year career of public service; interim to be announced next week

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North County Transit District Executive Director Matthew O. Tucker announced Monday he will retire Sept. 1 after nearly 15 years with the agency and 30 years in public transit.

“Matt has been a strong and steady hand at NCTD, a remarkable steward of our region’s transportation assets,” board Chair Jewel Edson said in a news release. “He has served the San Diego region as a reliable champion for public transit and for the customers who rely on NCTD’s services every day.”

The NCTD board’s executive committee will meet Thursday to develop recommendations for an interim executive director and a process for selecting a permanent replacement. The full board is scheduled to meet Aug. 14 to consider the recommendations.

The agency faced a projected $80 million five-year deficit when Tucker joined the board in 2008. He implemented plans to eliminate long-term debt, including pension obligations, within the next 15 years.

Milestones achieved during his tenure include replacing 100 percent of the district’s train locomotive fleet with new locomotives to meet stringent emissions guidelines and advancing the transition to zero-emission buses. The district expects to have 41 zero-emission buses in operation by 2025.

Tucker established a real estate development program intended to generate new sources of revenue for the district, increase ridership, create jobs and provide affordable housing opportunities. The district has 11 transit-oriented projects in various stages of development.

Largest of those projects is a mixed-use development with 547 apartments, 165 hotel rooms, retail stores, park structures and a multi-story office building to include the NCTD headquarters proposed for the Oceanside Transit Center.

During Tucker’s tenure the district also developed plans and obtained funding to add another downtown Coaster station by early 2026 that will serve the San Diego Convention Center and Petco Park.

“I want to thank the board of directors for their strong support in leading what is one of the most unique and multifaceted public transit agencies in the country,” Tucker said in the news release.

“I would also like to recognize and celebrate the employees of NCTD and its contractors who show up every day to serve the public,” he said. “Their hard work and their commitment to public service is so important to this region and to the people who rely on NCTD’s transit services. It has been an honor to work with you.”

His NCTD career was not without controversy.

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association named the district as a finalist for its Golden Fleece Award in 2014 because of problems with the brakes on Sprinter trains over the previous year. The trains were shut down for two-and-a-half months for repairs that went $3 million over budget.

In 2017 a workplace lawsuit alleged that male security officers at the Oceanside rail station routinely used security cameras’ zoom functions to ogle unsuspecting female passengers’ bodies and to read peoples’ text messages over their shoulders. The district settled for $96,000 in 2017.

Before NCTD, Tucker was executive director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, chief operating officer of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, deputy public transit director for the city of Phoenix, and deputy general manager for the Greater Richmond Transit Company.

He’s also held multiple leadership positions in the American Public Transit Association.

Tucker, 55, earned $427,229 in total pay and benefits in 2022, according to Transparent California, a website that reports public employees’ salaries. His earnings peaked at $474,613 in 2017, according to the website.

NCTD owns 62 miles of railroad from the Orange County line to the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.

It operates the Coaster commuter rail line between Oceanside and the Santa Fe Depot, the Sprinter hybrid rail line between Oceanside and Escondido, and bus service on more than 32 routes in North County.

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