Although he has been an alternate member of the MSRC since 2013, La Habra City Councilmember Tim Shaw recently joined the Committee as a new member representing the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA). Tim’s passion for transportation, as well as his commitment to Southern California, comes full circle as he begins his tenure on the MSRC.
Tim grew up on the border of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, in East Whitter, and attended La Habra High School. He’s moved around the country to attend school and serve his church, but came back home to marry the girl next door. In fact, Tim, his wife Shannon, and six sons still live very close to the house he grew up in.
As a kid, his favorite thing to do was to play soccer, but he said there were always the Stage 1 smog alerts to contend with. “I distinctly remember the burning feeling in my lungs when we’d be playing soccer and I vividly remember the horrible smog days we would have.” Air pollution was a serious problem in the 1980s. “Who can forget the black smoke pouring out of school buses and trucks – it was a nightmare.”
Air quality in Southern California has improved over the last few decades. “It’s great living here with the air quality being drastically better and, thankfully, my kids don’t have to experience that like I did.” He joked that he couldn’t remember the last time he heard about a Stage 1 smog alert.
Tim’s interest in transportation first started in the air. In his early career, he fell in love with the idea of being a pilot. He earned his degree in Aviation Management from Southern Illinois University, as well as his private pilot’s license and accompanying certifications. As he was completing his degree, however, September 11 happened and Tim began to explore his other interests – like politics.
At the age of 25, he ran for La Habra City Council in 2002. Although his bid was unsuccessful, it drove him to pursue a career in politics. He moved to Washington, D.C., where he earned his Master of Arts in Legislative Affairs from The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.
When he came home to Southern California, he got a surprising call from the Councilmember who beat him in the 2002 race, encouraging Tim to run for an open seat on the La Habra City Council. Tim was elected 2008, where he has served three terms and led the City as Mayor in 2012 and 2018.
Before becoming a Councilmember, Tim worked for then-Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen, whom he staffed during her time on the OCTA Board. He attended meetings, got to know the staff, and became well versed in on-road transportation issues, so when the opportunity arose to join the OCTA in 2012, he hopped on-board.
He explained that the competition was fierce from other local electeds to join the OCTA Board because it is such a great Board to be on, but his experience made him the ideal candidate. Shortly after joining in 2012, he also become an alternate member of the MSRC. In 2019, he served as Chairman of OCTA.
Tim said that it’s an exciting time to be part of the OCTA and the MSRC. “We’ve picked a lot of the low-hanging fruit when it comes to getting better air quality and cleaner technologies, so taking it to the next level is a little more interesting and a little more challenging. We need to be open minded to different technologies and not get too stuck on one thing. We need to do pilot programs to see what works and what doesn’t and be flexible to adopting the things that work best.”
Tim expressed that the MSRC’s work is critical to helping local jurisdictions pursue their air quality goals. “Putting my City Councilmember hat on, La Habra just received funding to install an EV charger. Cities are strapped for cash and they are not going to be in the position to afford to do projects like this, so the MSRC making this still feasible for them will enable them to advance their clean transportation goals even when government agencies would not otherwise be able to do so.”
Tim is looking forward to his new position on the MSRC. “During normal times, it’s exciting to have the MSRC’s special event services, especially in Orange County where we’ve had great success with the Angels Express and the OC Fair shuttle.” Tim notes that a lot of people are getting introduced to public transportation for the first time with these special event services. “It can be a light bulb-going-off moment for them where they say ‘maybe I can do this more often.’” It opens the door for people to use Metrolink and OCTA’s other bus services that take cars off the road. “By promoting these kinds of services, maybe we can change people’s behavior with respect to transportation.”
The MSRC’s recent focus on cleaning up the goods movement sector is also something Tim is eager to work on because of the tremendous amounts of cargo traveling from the Ports through Southern California. “To the extent that we can improve that system that’s really feeding the rest of the United States, and streamline this process of moving goods through Southern California in a clean way is really exciting.”
In addition to his roles as a Councilmember and members of the OCTA Board and MSRC, Tim was elected in March as a Trustee to the Orange County Board of Education. Tim may wear many hats, but the common thread is his commitment to improving the quality of life for all residents in Southern California.