Top Metro executives made $3.1 million in 2011


Richard Sarles, Metro's general manager and CEO, talks to reporters at the Bladensburg Heavy Overhaul Facility May 10. Sarles had higher compensation last year than the New York City transit chief. (James A. Parcell/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Metro’s top 16 executives took home $3.1 million in salaries in 2011, and the head of the agency made more money than his counterpart in New York, according to records and officials at the transit agencies.

That information comes as Metro considers how to close a deficit in its next budget. Riders face average fare increases of about 5 percent, although the effect on people’s wallets will vary greatly depending on when and where they travel.

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles’s $350,000 salary isn’t a surprise. Sarles signed a three-year contract that established his annual salary last year, but it makes him one of the highest-paid executives running a major U.S. transit agency. Sarles falls short of being a 1-percenter, but his Metro salary ranks in the top 5 percent of median household incomes in the Washington region.

(DATA: Top salaries at Metro in 2011)

Metro is the No. 2 rail system in the country, based on the number of passenger trips on an average weekday — about 961,000. Sarles earned more than his counterpart in New York. That system provides more than eight times the number of trips, but its chairman and chief executive has an annual salary of $332,500.

The general manager of the Philadelphia rail system, which has about a third as many trips, is paid about $250,000 a year, and the head of Boston’s subway system — about half the size of Metro — will receive $149,129. The executive director of New Jersey Transit, where Sarles retired as chief in 2010, received $261,400 last year, comparable to Sarles’s salary when he left.

Sarles’s top lieutenants receive salaries that stack up well next to some transit chiefs, and all earn well into six figures. According to information obtained under a public records request, the six highest-paid executives on Sarles’s executive team are:

●Dave Kubicek, deputy general manager of operations, who earns $240,000 a year. He also receives an annual $30,000 housing allowance, part of the package he negotiated, according to Metro’s chief spokesman, Dan Stessel.

●Carol Kissal, chief financial officer, who earns $235,000.

●Arthur R. Troup, assistant general manager for infrastructure and engineering services, who earns $190,000.

●James M. Dougherty, chief safety officer, and Kevin J. Borek, assistant general manager of information technology. Each receives $185,000 annually.

●●John P. Requa, assistant general manager of bus services, who earns $184,000.

According to census figures, the median household income for the Washington region is about $85,000 per year.

Stessel said the executives’ salaries are based on the pay of jobs in the public sector and “benchmarks of other large transit systems.” The top executives also receive medical and dental benefits, plus a deferred 457 compensation plan.

Sarles, who has 40 years of transit experience, including a stint at Amtrak, was brought in to turn around the 11,000-employee transit authority after the deadly 2009 crash on the Red Line. An engineer by training, he became interim head in March 2010 and was named chief executive in January 2011. Sarles’s predecessor, John B. Catoe Jr., who resigned two years ago, received a salary of $315,000 a year, plus a $60,000 annual housing allowance. Sarles also draws a pension of about $3,200 a month from his former job at NJ Transit.

Metro officials have said that the board recently offered Sarles a performance bonus but that he turned it down. Chairman Cathy Hudgins praised Sarles, crediting him with “stabilizing the organization, improving safety and advancing its capital program.” Sarles would not disclose the amount of the proposed bonus, noting that the “recognition is what’s important to me.”

In the coming weeks, he is expected to evaluate his executive leadership team and decide whether the members are eligible for bonuses.

The Metro board is also expected to decide in coming months how much more riders should pay.

The transit authority has faced sharp criticism recently from passengers as Sarles has proposed an across-the-board increase in fares for rail, bus and parking to help close a $116 million deficit in the authority’s fiscal 2013 budget. He also wants local jurisdictions to provide larger subsidies to help close the gap.

The public has weighed in at six public hearings on the proposed increases. A few riders have criticized Metro’s management for being top-heavy. At an Arlington hearing, one rider called the board and upper management “arrogant” and “tone-deaf.” Another Metro rider brought up executives’ pay at a hearing in Anacostia.

Leslie Wilcox, who rides the train daily from Congress Heights to her job at an environmental agency in Montgomery County, told Metro officials they should “look within their own organization and make cuts.” She called for Metro to “eliminate nonessential positions as in management.”

Metro officials have said the proposed budget does not include money for raises, but the increasing costs of pensions is one factor driving the deficit. Metro projects that pension costs will rise in its next budget about 31 percent, to more than $124 million.

The board has said it will not support pay increases for workers in contract talks set to begin this summer. But Jackie Jeter, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, said that doesn’t mean she won’t ask.

Jeter said an economist advises the union on wages and benefits.

“We look at the industry and whether [compensation] has gone up or down to decide whether we should ask for something and what we should ask for,” she said.

“We’re not going to ask for anything outlandish, but I’m sure if the numbers show our earnings should go up, we’ll ask for what we’re entitled to.”

Staff writer Carol Morello contributed to this report.

I'm a Washington Post reporter, working an early morning shift that deals with crime, lottery winners, traffic, you name it.
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