News | USC Price Graduate Lauren Deaderick Becomes the Face of Customer Experience at LA Metro

Stop the Video



by Jacob Wong, USC Master of Public Policy, 2023

A year after LA Metro’s former CEO criticized the transit agency for being “apathetic about customer experience,” an alumni of the USC Sol Price School is taking the lead in addressing some of the most pressing needs identified by Metro’s riders.


Lauren Deaderick, who earned dual Master’s degrees in Public Policy and Urban Planning in 2019, joined Metro this April as the agency’s first Senior Manager of Customer Experience. Deaderick’s role is the product of Metro’s Customer Experience Plan which Metro initiated in 2018 and formalized in 2020. 


Lauren Deaderick, Master of Public Policy and Urban Planning, USC Price 2019


Deaderick joins a recently-assembled team under Metro’s newly-branded Customer Experience Department, which includes other existing agency departments including Communications, Marketing, and Public Relations. Deaderick’s team is focused on collecting public feedback, promoting a customer service-focused culture internally, and drafting Metro’s annual Customer Service Plan. In her new role, Deaderick will take the lead in forming and executing the 2023 plan.


Deaderick acknowledges that her role at Metro is part of a newly-emerging field in public transit overall. “If you do a scan of transit agencies in the U.S., only a handful have anybody with a Customer Experience title let alone team,” said Deaderick. She cites a number of institutional barriers such as fiscal constraints and data collection as reasons for this current lack of emphasis on Customer Experience. “It’s new for transit agencies to think about and there’s so much to do that I think it’s a real call to action to start challenging how things are normally done in the public sector,” she said.


Deaderick credits her education at USC and professional experience with preparing her for the collaborative side of her job. Before joining Metro, Deaderick had previously worked for the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Operations department for the City of Santa Monica Big Blue Bus. At Metro, Deaderick uses her knowledge of the transportation planning process that she acquired through her education and planning roles, but also her experience at Big Blue Bus working with operators in the field.


“Customer Experience relies so heavily on other departments chipping in,” said Deaderick. “Operations is a group we work extraordinarily closely with. The way Metro is organized, facilities and maintenance sits under operations as well. That’s a big one, especially during Covid when cleanliness and safety are so important.” 


Metro’s 2022 Customer Experience plan, which was filed with the Board in April, focuses primarily on these two topics of cleanliness and safety. “If you don’t have that, you’re not really going to win riders back,” said Deaderick, acknowledging Metro’s declining ridership since the beginning of the pandemic. She points to a number of ongoing Metro programs to promote these agency priorities. On the cleanliness side, this includes additional cleaning crews and increased frequency of bus and rail car cleanings. Regarding safety, she cites the agency’s transit ambassador program, which places unarmed workers in Metro facilities to provide information to customers and watch for individuals who break the service’s code of conduct.


Transportation planning had not always been on Deaderick’s radar career-wise. After finishing college with a degree in Economics, Deaderick was hired as a community planner by the U.S. Department of Transportation. “I had never studied planning and felt underqualified,” she said. “I was surrounded by all these really smart people and wished I knew the lingo and had that formal training.”


USC’s dual MUP/MPP degree program offered Deaderick an opportunity to acquire the formal planning background she desired and develop quantitative skills she could apply in her field. She credits the program with providing opportunities to seek out internships with different public agencies over summer breaks. “My goal was to figure out where in planning I wanted to end up, so I spent those three years taking internships in every sector and any different thing I could do,” said Deaderick. One of these internships was with Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, which eventually led to her full-time job with the agency once she finished her program.


Reflecting on her time in grad school, Deaderick encourages other planning students to focus on networking, stating, “don’t be afraid to reach out, especially if they’re in your Trojan family.” She also believes that studying planning as a field requires an open mind and a willingness to engage in experiences across different fields. 


“Don’t be afraid to look outside of planning,” said Deadrick. “The analytical mindset that you gain in planning or policy school is widely applicable, so don’t narrow yourself down to a planning role because your understanding of the system is going to be helpful, even in different departments.”

Editor’s note: Lauren and her colleagues will speak at the Metro Community Advisory Council General Assembly meeting this Wednesday, July 27, at 6:00pm PT. She shared a link to the event if you are interested in following along or watching a recording afterwards.


About the Author:

Jacob is a second-year MPP student at the Price School of Public Policy. He is interested in urban policy and transportation planning issues. As a recent LA transplant, he enjoys exploring the area and the local food scene in his free time.