Mike Wiley '75 (Social Studies)
The bus stops here
Forget the corporate ladder. Mike Wiley’s rise to the top came by way of bus and light rail, not surprising for the general manager/CEO of the Sacramento Regional Transit District (RT).
Wiley has been with RT for more than 30 years and was named to the top position in February after spending several months as the interim general manager/CEO. He manages a mass transportation system that has more than 240 buses, 37 miles of light rail track and an annual budget of about $147 million.
“Being in transportation is a passion, and you can’t do this job unless you like it,” Wiley says. “The real thrill is seeing a packed train or a bus, and knowing that we are providing a service for people, and they are responding and using our service.”
Mass transportation was not on Wiley’s mind when he was a student at Sac State. He was a social studies major who saw college as mostly a means to an end.
“I was not focused on the college experience per se. I was focused on getting a degree and getting on with life,” Wiley says. “I was married and working and my goal was to graduate, teach high school and coach athletics.”
His path towards transportation came during his senior year when an instructor encouraged him to apply for an internship as a transportation planner with the Sacramento Regional Area Planning Commission, now known as the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.
“Although I didn’t have any previous experience in transportation, I was good at problem solving, and that’s really what transportation planners do. They analyze problems and look at ways to solve them,” he says.
Wiley worked through his internship and moved to RT after graduation. Thirty years later, he’s still enjoying the ride. He is a familiar face throughout the system and can occasionally be found answering calls in customer service. He has even driven a bus.
“One of the things I learned and adopted years ago is ‘management by wandering around,’” he says. “I think it’s important for a person at the top to have a good understanding of what’s happening throughout the system and to meet with the staff. It’s more than just a ‘Hello.’ It’s ‘How are we doing?’”
This article was originally published in the Fall 2008 edition of Sac State Magazine.