“Happy Rails”

Mike Setzer at the Lake Street LRT station, May 2004. Setzer will leave Metro Transit soon after the debut of Hiawatha light rail.


On June 26, Hiawatha light rail will debut in the Twin Cities, and the man in charge of putting the line in place will take his curtain call.

June 2004—Mike Setzer, Metro Transit’s general manager since 2002, will head to Cincinnati to run the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, a position he previously held from 1987 to 1993. Setzer’s family has lived in Cincinnati during the years he has held his post with Metro Transit in Minneapolis.

"This is a very difficult decision," Setzer said in a statement announcing the move in May. "Metro Transit is the finest agency I have served in my 30 years in this profession. Nevertheless, my 13-year-old daughter and wife, Kathy, deserve a full-time dad and husband. This new position affords that opportunity."

On schedule, on budget

Managing the return of commuter rail to the Twin Cities after a 50-year hiatus will no doubt rank as Setzer’s signature achievement with Metro Transit. Hiawatha LRT will be delivered on budget at $715 million and, in terms of construction, on schedule.

But Setzer’s tenure has been marked with other major events, including the 2004 bus operators’ strike. The 46-day walkout was the longest in a major city in 20 years, said Setzer. Metro Transit reports that it recovered 90 percent of lost ridership in the six weeks following the strike, though Setzer noted that a year might be needed to close the gap fully.

In 2003, Setzer managed to close an $11.4 million state funding gap for the agency. He had to raise fares and implement a five-percent service cut, but the overall impacts were broadly thought to be minimal considering the size of the budget shortfall.

New services and innovation
Setzer’s administration created new and improved bus service for south Minneapolis, Bloomington, Edina and Richfield through a comprehensive community outreach process.

And Setzer is being praised as a technological innovator, boosting the performance of Metro Transit’s 900-bus system by introducing rechargeable “smart cards” for fares, installing satellite tracking systems on buses, and experimenting with hybrid electric buses.

The Phillips Partnership would like to thank Mike Setzer for his work on sustainable development in the Twin Cities and in south Minneapolis in particular.