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Alex Clifford was recruited from Los Angeles to clean up Metra after his disgraced predecesor Phil Pagano committed suicide.  Today Clifford resigned and in doing so will accept a buyout of $442,000 which will cover his salary for the rest of his contract and other benefits.

Said DePaul transportation professor Joe Schwieterman, “The severance is dramatic considering the cash situation at Metra”

Schwieterman describes Alex Clifford as a good leader.  He says Clifford had to make some tough moves to get Metra back on track.

Said Schwieterman, “I think he made some hard decisions that had to be made, they weren’t popular with the board, (like) two back to back fare increases (and) getting rid of the 10 ride ticket. I think they made a mistake here, but time will tell.”

Prior to the board’s vote to approve Clifford’s departure, board chairman Brad O’Halloran said, “In discussing how Metra moves forward, it became clear there were differences of opinion with respect to what we need (in) leading this organization.”

As for Clifford’s costly severance package, O’Halloran said, “While we want every dollar possible to go directly to serving our passengers, this payment is a small price to pay for future goals of garnering more state and federal investment in Metra and taking Metra in a different direction.”

Metra spokesman Michael Gillis says customers will not see any immediate changes as a result of today’s news. Says Gillis, “We still have the same people in place running operations (and) customer service will continue to be a priority.”

As for Clifford’s replacement, Prof. Schwieterman says he thinks the board should once again bring in someone from the outside.

“I think that’s what our region needs,” he said. “We have a lot of bad feelings among CTA, Metra, PACE…that needs to be fixed to run a better system.”