Right by my Old Trolleys

People Who Move People

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Profile on: Shirley DeLibero, former CEO of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) and NJ Transit

Interview location: Shirley’s condo in Milton, Massachusetts and Ashmont Grill in Dorchester, Massachusetts

How we got there: by Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)

In one word, Shirley describes herself as “tenacious.”

As far as public transportation circles are concerned, Shirley DeLibero is known as the Queen of Transit. Her career expands over three decades. From improving transportation at agencies in Boston; Washington, DC; Dallas; and New Jersey; all the way to Houston, where, as CEO of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO), she oversaw the construction of the METRORail, the city’s first light rail. Her efforts in Houston were even recognized with a building named in her honor, the Shirley A. DeLibero Rail Operations Center.

“Everybody thinks, oh you’ve had a great career. You have a building named after you,” says Shirley, sitting in the living room of her condo in Milton, Massachusetts. “But they don’t understand some of the nuances that you go through. I had a lot of hard nights.”
— Shirley DeLibero

Shirley was born in 1937 and raised in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, a fact betrayed by her Eastern Massachusetts accent. Her parents and grandparents had emigrated from Cape Verde, an island country off the northwest coast of Africa. “It was a great way of growing up,” she says. “Living on the Cape, I feared nothing and everybody loved me.”

Her family moved to Boston when she was fourteen. “That was a real awakening,” she says. “I remember coming home from school and telling my mom someone called me ‘n-----.’ I’d never heard that word. It sounded funny to me.” Cape Cod, she says, “kept me innocent. Boston was reality. It’s been like that since.”

People Who Move People is a web series profiling individuals who have made an impact on public transit.

You can enjoy more of Shirley’s story as well as the stories of other transit aficionados across the country at PeopleWhoMovePeople.com.


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