Neil McFarlane will leave in early 2018 after 26 years, including the last seven as general manager

COURTESY TRIMET - Neil McFarlaneTriMet has announced that General Manager Neil McFarlane will retire in early 2018.

TriMet made the announcement in a Wednesday morning press release. McFarlane turned 65 this year and speculation has been growing about when he would retire.

The Oct. 18 announcement comes as TriMet is working with Metro and other partners on a $2.4 billion MAX line proposed for the Southwest Corridor between Portland and Tualatin. The agency is considering a $1.7 billion regional bond measure to help pay for the line and other transportation projects in the region to be placed on the November 2018 ballot. It must be finalized by early spring to be approved by the TriMet board of directors to meet state election deadlines.

McFarlane has been with TriMet since February 1991 and has served as general manager since July 1, 2010. The agency and TriMet's Board of Directors will now launch an international search for the next general manager, including holding listening sessions with community stakeholders and soliciting public feedback.

"It has been an honor to serve as general manager these past seven years," McFarlane said in a press release. "I want to thank all the employees past and present, the TriMet Board of Directors and the community partners who've contributed to our successes, helped us overcome challenges and understood how vital transit is to keeping the region moving. My work is not yet done. TriMet has a bright and busy road ahead and I pledge to continue in high gear until my last day."

Also in the release, TriMet board President Bruce Warner said, "On behalf of the Board of Directors, I want to thank Neil for his hard work and dedication to this agency. Neil's leadership guided the agency out of the Great Recession, improved financial stability and built the foundation to successfully expand service and modernize the system."

During his years at TriMet, McFarlane helped lead the expansion of the agency's light rail system from a single 15-mile line to the five-line, 60-mile system that serves communities from Hillsboro to Gresham and north Portland to Clackamas County. He also brought the first commuter rail line to Oregon. He has also been leading an expansion of TriMet's bus system to better serve communities outside Portland.

According to the announcement, TriMet will solicit public and rider comment on general manager search priorities at two upcoming board meetings:

• Oct. 25 Board of Directors meeting

9 a.m., Portland Building

• Nov. 8 Board of Directors meeting

8 a.m., Oregon Zoo's Conservation Hall

Finalists are expected to be identified by January 2018. The public will have an opportunity to hear from the candidates at the Jan. 24, 2018, Board of Directors meeting.

Metro President Tom Hughes praised McFarlane in the following statement posted on the regional government's website:

"In his seven years as general manager, Neil McFarlane has played a major role in improving greater Portland's transportation system. He helped lead the transit agency through the Great Recession, limiting cuts to service and re-assessing priorities as revenue increased and the economy improved. His leadership has been crucial to the development of the Southwest Corridor Plan, an effort that Metro is continuing through our Southwest Corridor Equitable Development Strategy, which is looking at ways of preserving access to housing once that rail line is built. All of us at Metro are grateful for his service.

"Neil leaves a lasting legacy of guiding transit projects that move more than 100,000 of our region's residents daily — from his time as TriMet's capital projects manager to his leadership of Orange Line and Tilikum Crossing construction as GM. And his work with Councilor Sam Chase to offer a more equitable fare structure for low-income riders has helped increase access and lower costs for greater Portland residents who are most in need."

You can read TriMet's full announcement on its website..

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