MTS bus processional
The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System honored its late leader, Paul Jablonski, with a bus procession Friday through downtown San Diego. Photo courtesy of MTS.

A career in transit that started more than 40 years ago came full circle Friday when the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System honored its late chief executive with a procession of 40 MTS buses through downtown San Diego.

Paul Jablonski, who had been at the helm of MTS since 2004, died unexpectedly Sunday. He has since been lauded by elected officials, industry leaders and colleagues for a career notable for leadership, attentiveness, accountability and public service.

“It was a fitting tribute for Paul,” MTS Board Chair Nathan Fletcher said. “This region will never know how much Paul did for public transit. He transformed the transit operation into a highly efficient system that provided more service to the communities that need it the most. He will be dearly missed. But we can honor his legacy by continuing to build on all the great things he did for MTS.”

During his tenure with MTS, Jablonski is credited with overhauling the system and ushering through numerous improvements, including consolidating operations, trolley line expansion, opening new facilities and rebranding the agency.

He is survived by his wife, Debbie, and their four children, as well as many other family members. The family has not commented on his cause of death. An online obituary suggests donations to the National Park Foundation.

Additionally, the American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF), a charitable affiliate of APTA, has established the Paul Jablonski Scholarship to provide opportunities to deserving students and transit professionals. To support their mission, please donate at

— Staff report