CATS interim CEO: 'Perception is reality... I have to change that'

Photo provided by staff

POSTED: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - 10:30am

UPDATED: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 - 1:00pm

In his first public comments, the new leader of CATS said he wants to make people proud to ride the bus. And he knows he has a lot of work to do to achieve that goal.

"We want to be the carrier of choice," Robert Mirabito said Monday. "We want people to ride CATS because they want to, not because they have to."

Robert Mirabito earned himself a six month audition as CATS' CEO. Those will be his first six months in the transit industry. But he believes his inexperience will not stop him from being a good leader.

"I think I have the strong business skills to advance an organization," Mirabito stated. "I will surround myself with knowledgeable people. My dad said, 'you're only as good as the people who work for you anyway.'"

Mirabito said customer service will be the quickest way for CATS to earn the trust of its ridership. So to some degree, what he does as CEO will not matter.

"I may be the leader, but in reality, the most important person is the operator," he noted. "They're the face of CATS."

CATS is implementing the strategic redesign that was attached to 2012's tax vote. Included in the changes, which were scheduled to take effect by 2014, are new buses; a switch from a hub-and-spoke route structure to a grid system; and a mobile app to help people plan their trips.

Many riders have spoken negatively about the changes, saying more should have been accomplished in the time since the tax was approved.

"CATS has gone ahead and ordered new buses that will be delivered some time first quarter of 2014," Mirabito stated. "So the money is being spent. It may be that the public's not seeing it and we have to have to do a better job of communicating what's going on."

CATS will hire an outside company as a program manager to implement route change. The mobile app has received mixed reviews since it was launched, leading some people to wonder if there will be proper oversight of the program manager and the other changes. Mirabito claimed he will keep close watch over everything.

"I'm introducing accountability inside the organization, and we definitely will have accountability with our vendors," he said.

Mirabito mentioned that he utilized public transportation frequently growing up in the New York/New Jersey area. He first rode a CATS bus three weeks ago, after his interview for the interim CEO position.

He said the experience could be improved, "but to get from Point A to Point B, I got there safely. That's one of the critical pieces. Now, did I get there on time? I'm not sure." 

Mirabito described his management style as transparent, relating a story about showing financial information to his previous employees so they felt more attached to the company. He said that he will carry that into his role with CATS, particularly as it relates to communicating his vision to the public.

"CATS probably doesn't have a very good reputation right now," he stated. "I'd like to change that, and we are going to change that.

"Perception is reality. So whether its warranted or not, that's what reality is, and I have to change that."

CATS has said it will look to hire a permanent CEO early in 2014. Mirabito has already made it clear he would like that assignment, as well.

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