David L. Gunn

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For other people of the same name, see David Gunn.
David L. Gunn
Gunn with Biden and Carper.jpg
David L. Gunn (right) with then-Senator Joe Biden and Senator Tom Carper touring Amfleet dinette 28351's dining facilities.
Born June 21, 1937 (1937-06-21) (age 77)
Boston, Massachusetts
Nationality United States of America / Canada
Occupation Transportation official
Known for President of Amtrak

David L. Gunn (born 21 June 1937) is a transportation system administrator who has headed several significant railroads and transit systems in North America.

Gunn was born in Boston to parents of Canadian ancestry whose families had emigrated to Massachusetts from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.


Gunn was educated at Phillips Academy in Andover and received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Harvard College in 1959. He served in the United States Navy Reserve from 1959 to 1962. He received a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration in 1964.


Gunn has the following work experience:

New York City Transit Authority[edit]

During his tenure as president of the NYCTA, Gunn instituted operational changes that led to the reduction of graffiti and service improvements in the New York subway system, including the establishment of a "clean car program" and restoring the system to a state of good repair. Cars were to be regularly cleaned, hundreds of older cars overhauled and tracks and stations rebuilt.

The "Redbird" cars were originally known as "Gunn Red" when they were repainted between 1984 and 1989, under Gunn's tenure.

Toronto Transit Commission[edit]

Gunn has a philosophy called "state of good repair" where the first priority is to maintain infrastructure and equipment, making regular repairs where needed and retiring equipment from service at the end of its life-cycle. This brought him in frequent conflict with TTC chairman Howard Moscoe, who advocated the use of funds for improving TTC accessibility. Gunn's tenure at the TTC was also marked by changes in management structure, which were criticized by his successor, Rick Ducharme, amongst others.[1] He also argued against new subway construction.

Toronto's only fatal subway train accident, the 1995 Russell Hill subway accident that claimed 3 lives, happened only 8 months after Gunn became head of the TTC.


Gunn assumed the presidency of Amtrak on May 15, 2002, and was fired by the board of directors on November 9, 2005.[2]

Gunn came to Amtrak with a reputation as an experienced operating manager. During his tenure at WMATA (the Washington Metro) from 1991 to 1994, Gunn was frequently at odds with that agency's board of directors, which included representatives from the District of Columbia and suburban jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia. His work as president of the New York City Transit Authority from 1984 to 1990 and as Chief General Manager of the Toronto Transit Commission in Canada from 1995 to 1999 lent him a great deal of credibility as these two agencies were each the largest transit operations of their respective countries.

During his administration at Amtrak, Gunn was the subject of congressional criticism.[citation needed]

The view of the Gunn administration at Amtrak was that no form of mass passenger transportation in the United States is self-sufficient as the economy is currently structured. It said that highways, airports, and air traffic control all require large government expenditures to build and maintain, although some of those taxpayer dollars are gained for other modes under the guise of user fees and highway fuel and road taxes.[citation needed] Before a Congressional hearing, Gunn answered a demand by leading Amtrak critic Arizona Senator John McCain to eliminate all operating subsidies by asking the Senator if he would also demand the same of the commuter airlines, upon whom the citizens of Arizona are much more dependent. McCain, usually not at a loss for words when debating Amtrak funding, did not reply.[citation needed]

Gunn eliminated almost all of the express business while improving critical equipment repair facilities and services to keep trains moving.[citation needed] He stated that continued deferred maintenance would become a safety issue which he would not tolerate [3] and his management team implemented Amtrak's first system-wide comprehensive capital program with planned target dates and budgeting.[citation needed] Under Gunn, Amtrak's ranks of unionized and salaried workers were reduced.[citation needed]

On November 9, 2005, Amtrak's Board of Directors fired Gunn, ostensibly for his refusal to split the company in preparation for privatization; Gunn was opposed to this policy, pointing out that the entire reason Amtrak was created was because private railroad companies did not wish to run passenger services. The Chairman of the Board, David Laney, a George W. Bush appointee, provided a statement that read "Amtrak's future now requires a different type of leader who will aggressively tackle the company's financial, management and operational challenges".[citation needed] Recent problems had included Gunn's decision to suspend Acela service in the Northeast Corridor until wheel and brake problems were sorted out with the manufacturer, as well as Gunn's philosophical difference over dividing long distance inter-city services from the Northeast Corridor. A report issued by the Government Accountability Office one week before Gunn's dismissal stated that Amtrak needed to continue to improve the way it monitored performance and oversaw its finances in order to achieve financial stability.


A dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, Gunn retired to his family home on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. He has become associated with the Free Congress Foundation since his dismissal from Amtrak.[4] He currently sits on the board of a local transit service in rural Richmond County known as the Strait Area Transit Cooperative.[5] and will be consulting for his former employer, WMATA.[6] In November 2014, Amtrak named ACS-64 class unit number 600 after Gunn.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hall, Joseph (1999-07-21). "GO chief transfers to TTC". The Toronto Star (Toronto). pp. B1, B5. 
  2. ^ (November 9, 2005), Amtrak Board Releases Gunn. Retrieved November 9, 2005.
  3. ^ http://harvardmagazine.com/2002/11/working-on-the-railroad.html
  4. ^ "Arrivals & Departures". Trains Magazine 66 (3): p 11. March 2006. 
  5. ^ Strait Area Transit - Team Accessed February 23, 2009
  6. ^ "Ex-general manager David Gunn to assess D.C. area Metro system". The Washington Post. February 18, 2010. Retrieved May 1, 2010. 
  7. ^ http://www.railcolor.net/index.php?nav=1405330&id=6953&action=dview

Further reading[edit]

  • Six Myths About Amtrak: Testimony of Amtrak President David Gunn before House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. April 10, 2003.

External links[edit]


  • CBC Archives Gunn briefly talking about a Toronto subway accident.


Preceded by
General Manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
Succeeded by
Preceded by
President of the New York City Transit Authority
Succeeded by
Alan F. Kiepper
Preceded by
William A. Boleyn
General Manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Succeeded by
Lawrence G. Reuter
Preceded by
Al Leach
Chief General Manager of the Toronto Transit Commission
Succeeded by
Rick Ducharme
Preceded by
George Warrington
President of Amtrak
Succeeded by
David Hughes