44. Michael Pimentel
California’s public transportation sector was hit hard by the pandemic. Ridership is still down at pretty much every system across the state, and the fiscal support the feds dished out for the three years of the pandemic is over. And with California facing a $30-plus billion budget deficit, Gov. Newsom was poised to pause billions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades for the industry. Lawmakers instead rejected that and committed another $1.1 billion from the state’s cap-and-trade program, bringing the total outlay for public transportation to $5.1 billion over the next four years. Michael Pimentel, executive director of the California Transit Association, was a big part of the reason why. Pimentel worked tirelessly with the governor and lawmakers to hammer out a deal that kept the systems working while also satisfying lawmakers who wanted the industry to be more accountable. Thinking about who his members are (spanning from BART and MUNI to smaller rural agencies like Arcadia Transit), it was an even tougher fight to align interests in need of those dollars. Not many of us thought they’d pull it off, but they did.