From today's Democrat: The man behind the city's public-transit overhaul is leaving StarMetro's top post for one more focused on advancements in electric buses and smart technology. StarMetro's Executive Director Ron Garrison is going to work for Proterra Inc. in Greenville, S.C., a company helping to revolutionize future public transit that also has a city contract for Tallahassee's first electric buses. His last day with the city is Jan. 1. Garrison, 55, led the move toward a decentralized bus system in July 2011, eliminating the need to transfer only at C.K. Steele Plaza and adding more transfer points citywide. Praise and complaints followed and some regular riders continue to question the system's efficiency. Garrison stands by the upgrade, adding it now has more routes traveling to areas not previously served, shorter overall trip times and more buses serving stops at peak times. "I'll take all the darts and arrows. I knew this would be very hard, but I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do," Garrison said. "We created a system that laid a foundation for the future of Tallahassee. With the other system there was no real way to improve or expand it without totally exploding the cost." The challenge was making the historic change without spending more money while also attracting new riders. StarMetro reports a 2.5-percent increase in ridership when compared to the average ridership of the three prior years. Two years ago, the Federal Transit Administration gave the city a $5-million grant to purchase electric buses. The following year, the city entered into a contract with Proterra to buy three new, all-electric buses and construct a charging station. Last year, the grant was bumped to $7 million for an additional two electric buses. Garrison, an enthusiast of tech-savvy enhancements throughout StarMetro's shop, said he'll be responsible for developing new intelligent transportation systems and working with customers on warranty and maintenance systems. "I've been hear almost eight years," Garrison said, adding he's proud of the support he received by city administration and the commission. "This is such a tremendous opportunity for my family and I. I really struggled with it, but I couldn't pass it up." Ivan Maldonado with StarMetro will be the acting director once Garrison leaves. City commissioners recently said they want to have a workshop on infrastructure proposals to improve the overall system, such as adding more cement padding at grassy stops and covered shelters, said Assistant City Manager Jay Townsend. "From our perspective, we are continuing to move forward," he said, adding Garrison and his team took on the challenge to transform the system. "We have pretty much a modern fleet ... He should be proud of what he's done."