Robert R. (Bob) Kiley, the widely respected transportation expert who transformed public transit in Boston, New York and London, died early Tuesday at his home in Chilmark. He was 80. The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

He revived Boston’s ailing public transport systems in the 1970s. In New York in the 1980s he instituted management reforms and secured $8 billion in state capital funds that were essential to the rebuilding of New York’s transit system. From 2001 to 2006, he was the first Commissioner of Transport for London, and oversaw the rebuilding of the century-old Tube, its subway stations, subway cars and rail infrastructure. He greatly increased bus and subway ridership by successfully implementing the controversial measure of congestion charging for car drivers. 

“Bob Kiley is one of the best public servants I have ever known,” said former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who now teaches at university. “When my students want an example of public leadership at its best, I tell them about Bob.”

When Mr. Kiley announced he was leaving London in 2005, London Mayor Ken Livingstone said: “The positive impact of his transport legacy will be felt by Londoners for many years to come.”

He had summered on the Vineyard since the 1970s with his wife Rona, first renting in Chilmark and West Tisbury and later buying land at Quenames Farm from John Whiting. There they built a house where they spent summers for the following decades.

“He loved the Vineyard,” Rona Kiley said this week. “We were very happy here.” Bob liked to jog and ran in the Chilmark Road Race for many years.

Robert Raymond Kiley was born on Sept. 16, 1935 in Minneapolis, Minn., son of Georgianna Smith Kiley and Raymond Kiley, an executive with Woolworth Co. He went to St. Thomas Military Academy in St. Paul, Minn. and graduated magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame. He was elected president of the National Student Association. For the next two years he served as U.S. representative to the Coordinating Secretariat of the International Student Association (COSEC) based in Leiden, Holland. Subsequently, he studied government and foreign policy at Harvard Graduate School. In 1963 he joined the Central Intelligence Agency, ultimately serving as executive assistant to CIA Director Richard Helms.

Mr. Kiley left the CIA in 1970 and worked as assistant director at the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, D.C., where he developed and oversaw police reform programs with municipal governments in the United States. Two years later, he was appointed deputy mayor of Boston for public safety during the crisis over court-ordered busing to end school segregation.

In the midst of one of Boston’s most violent and divisive periods, Mr. Kiley developed a reputation for being cool under pressure. He was also the lead recruiter of Robert DiGrazia to head the Boston police, initiating a period of reform and recruitment of new talent, including William Bratton’s first police job. He held this position for three years under Mayor Kevin White.

In the summer of 1974, he endured a series of stunning losses. His wife of eight years, Patricia Potter Kiley, and their two-year-old daughter and four-year-old son died after a car crash in New York. Two months later, his father died.  

In 1975, incoming Governor Dukakis appointed him as the first chairman and CEO of the reorganized Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Mr. Kiley revolutionized decades of patronage hiring by introducing a lottery system of hiring drivers and workers, thereby opening well-paid jobs at the T to minorities and women. He began the southwest corridor relocation of the Orange Line, the largest grant in the history of the federal program up to that time, and completed the Orange Line extension north to Oak Grove Station in Malden. He oversaw the introduction of light rail vehicles on the Green Line, and began the Red Line extension to Alewife. He ordered new trains for the commuter rail system, and new buses and new subway cars for the Blue and Orange lines. He and Transportation Secretary Fred Salvucci pushed to reform the MBTA binding arbitration statute, requiring arbitrators to justify decisions in writing based on specific criteria including the compensation level of comparable workers in the Boston Metropolitan area.

‘What Bob Kiley did with the M.B.T.A. was the best job I ever saw done in public administration,’’ said James E. Smith, a lawyer who was on the agency’s board of directors. ‘’I don’t know a better public administrator in the country.’’

In 1976 he married Rona Shuman Kiley of Reading, Pa., then an executive with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She is active in U.S. and international education human rights and business organizations as a founder, an executive and board member. In London, she helped found Teach First, the British adaptation of Teach for America, and Future Leaders, the UK version of New Leaders for New Schools. They have two sons, David and Ben.

In 1979, Gov. Edward King, who defeated Dukakis in the 1978 Democratic primary, fired Kiley. He went on to become a vice president at Management Analysis Center (now part of CapGemini). 

In 1983, after running for Boston mayor and bowing out before the primary, he was appointed chairman and CEO of New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) by the late Gov. Mario M. Cuomo. He remained in the position until 1990, revitalizing the railroads, buses and subways in the MTA region. He was credited with reversing the deterioration of the nation’s largest mass transit system, especially the New York subways, which had been plagued with delays, derailments, track fires and graffiti. The cleanup campaign included arresting fare dodgers and eliminating graffiti on trains, wearing down young artists by same-day cleaning of the vehicles.

Prominent officials who worked under him at the MTA included David Gunn, who later became president of Amtrak; Thomas Prendergast who now heads New York’s MTA; Mortimer Downey, Deputy Secretary of Transportation under Bill Clinton; and William Bratton, current New York City Police Commissioner,

In 1991, Mr. Kiley moved to a new role as president of the New York international construction company Fischbach Corporation. From 1994 to 1995 he was a member of Kohlberg & Company, a private equity firm. He was named president and CEO in 1995 of the Partnership for New York City, which represents the city’s business leadership and works to promote economic growth and innovation. During this period he also served as a member of the board of Amtrak.  

In January 2001, he became the first Commissioner of Transport for London (Tfl), a powerful new city agency charged with taking over and running the London Underground, bus, taxi and water transportation facilities that had been under the national government, plus Central London roadways. The Tube was in such bad shape that an enthusiastic British diplomat told him: “You are the most important American to come to Britain since Dwight Eisenhower.”

He was hired by Ken Livingstone, the newly-elected Mayor of London and was regarded as a strange bedfellow for Red Ken — the former firebrand socialist. Indeed, they described their working relationship as “a CIA activist working for an unreconstructed Trotskyite.” But both were vehemently opposed to the Labor government’s plans for public-private partnership (PPP) for maintaining and rebuilding the Tube.

They tried to renegotiate contracts to provide public accountability. When the Blair government frustrated the efforts, they took the government to court. In the end, the efforts did not succeed and Mr. Kiley was only able to introduce changes later when the PPP failed, as he predicted it inevitably would. In 2003, three separate private companies took control of renovating and maintaining various tube lines and Mr. Kiley’s Transport for London took control of daily operations.

In November 2005, Bob Kiley announced that he would stand down in January 2006 after five years on the job.

He also served as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, board member of the Salzburg Seminar, the American Repertory Theatre, MONY Group Inc., a board member of the Regional Plan Association and the advisory board of the Harvard University Center for State and Local Government.

The Kileys returned from London to live in Cambridge and Martha’s Vineyard.

Rona Kiley said the last few years of his life were colored by Alzheimer’s disease.

“That was very sad thing for all of us,” she said. “He was an inspiration for people who worked for him. He knew how to ask them the right questions to give them the leeway to do more important things in their work...He was very much committed to public service; he was an idealist about that.”

In addition to his wife of 40 years, he is survived by their two sons, David Kiley, of Washington, D.C., a senior vice president with Piper Jaffrey, and Ben Kiley, of Brooklyn, N.Y., an investment officer at Weizmann Global Endowment Management; and a sister, Kathleen K. Goloven of Sarasota, Fla., a retired executive with the March of Dimes.

A memorial service is planned in New York for October.