EXPIRED: 08/26/09 – Alan Kiepper, 81, could barely fit in a NYC Subway car at 6’4” tall, but he went on to tackle the entire system back when it was in steep decline and people were afraid to ride it. Think it’s bad now? Think again!
Kiepper, who led the construction of Atlanta’s rapid transit system, one of the first of its kind in the South, and later took over the New York City transit system at a time when many people were afraid to ride the subway, died in Annapolis, Maryland – a city with no subways at all.
What was he trying to tell us?
In 1972, Kiepper was tasked with designing and building a large-scale commuter rail network in Atlanta. But even though public transportation was not his expertise, he took the job. Today the system he created carries riders on about 70 million trips a year.
He left for Houston in 1982, where he took over the transportation authority. When he arrived, fewer than half of its buses ran on time; nearly all did by the time he left in 1989.
He moved to New York in 1990, overseeing the nation’s largest subway and bus system, which was a mess. He dealt with fires, accidents and crimes, including an explosion in a Brooklyn tunnel in which two passengers died, a derailment in Union Square that killed five and the death of a young tourist killed while defending his parents from muggers.
Subway crime fell by 50%. Ridership also rebounded to its highest level in 20 years, and trains were – dare I say – cleaner.
A lifelong lover of poetry, he even introduced the popular Poetry in Motion program that placed verse alongside advertisements.
Sadly, the Poetry in Motion program died this year too.