DOT Hires Bruce Schaller to Run a New Planning Office

This is the first of a number of exciting and heretofore unimaginable hiring announcements likely to be coming out of New York City’s Department of Transportation in the next few weeks:

Schaller.jpgToday, DOT is announcing the creation of a new Office of Planning and Sustainability and the appointment of Bruce Schaller of Schaller Consulting as the Office’s new deputy commissioner. According to the press release, Schaller "will oversee, among other initiatives, DOT’s Office of Freight Mobility,
public space planning, bus rapid transit, congestion pricing, urban
design, clean fuels and studies of congested corridors."

Over the last few years Schaller has been responsible for a remarkable volume of innovative New York City transportation research. A few recent favorites:

  • 4/19/07: CITYinFLUX: Understanding and Untangling Traffic and Transportation in NYC
  • 3/1/07: Congested Streets: The Skewed Economic Incentives to Drive Into Manhattan. 
  • 12/14/06: Rethinking Soho 
  • 12/8/06: Battling Traffic: What New Yorkers Think About Pricing.

A few weeks ago I joked that Schaller was emerging as the Bill James of New York City transportation planning. Apparently, I was on to something, though, if you’re not a baseball geek, you probably didn’t get the reference.

In the 1970’s James created Sabermetrics, a new, more effective way of analyzing and evaluating baseball data or, as he defined it, "the search for objective knowledge about baseball." For most of his career, James’ ideas were pretty much ignored and rejected by the professional baseball establishment. In the late ’90s, however, as described in Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball, a few teams began making use of James’ concepts with great success. In 2003, James himself was brought out of the baseball wilderness and was hired by the Boston Red Sox. A year later the cursed Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.

Let’s hope the Bill James of New York City transportation planning continues his search for objective knowledge about New York City streets, challenges the theories and assumptions of the traffic engineers and planners who have run DOT for decades, and helps the agency reach new heights as quickly as James helped the Red Sox.

Here is today’s press release:

            The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced the creation of a new Office of Planning and Sustainability and the appointment of Bruce Schaller as the Office’s new Deputy Commissioner.  In this role Schaller will oversee Agency planning, design and implementation of the transportation elements in Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC.
            "We are creating this office to bring a more comprehensive and sustainable approach to the planning, design and operation of our transportation network," said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.  "To help lead this effort, Bruce Schaller brings to DOT more than 20 years of experience in New York City transportation planning.  Most importantly he shares our goals of safer and greener streets, improved transit and an open and transparent planning process." 
            "I am very excited to be joining DOT and the Bloomberg Administration," said Schaller.  "I look forward to working with Commissioner Sadik-Khan to carry out the Mayor’s vision for a greener and more sustainable transportation system."
              For the last eight years Schaller has been principal of Schaller Consulting.  His New York City work includes reports on auto and transit access to the Manhattan central business district, bus rapid transit, congestion pricing and suburban commuter access to Lower Manhattan.  He has also has been a Visiting Practitioner at New York University, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management. 
            Schaller has also served as the Director of Policy Development and Evaluation at the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, and as the Deputy Director for Marketing Research and Analysis at New York City Transit.  He has a Masters in Public Policy from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.A. from Oberlin College.
             Schaller will be aided by Assistant Commissioner for Strategic Planning Steve Weber.  The newly created Division of Planning and Sustainability will oversee, among other initiatives, DOT’s Office of Freight Mobility, public space planning, bus rapid transit, congestion pricing, urban design, clean fuels and studies of congested corridors.

Photo: Aaron Naparstek, December 14, 2006, Prince Street, Manhattan.

  • Brrrr, it’s getting cold down here in hell.. what are you guys doing up there?

  • um, what’s the date again? i’m still not over the april fools’ “announcement”…

  • Events have definitely outstriped the April Fool’s day “announcement”.

  • anonymous

    Aaron…give us a hint. What “exciting and heretofore unimaginable hiring announcements” will be coming out?

  • To continue the Boston/NY baseball theme, I’m attributing the Yankees misfortune and the Red Sox 13-1/2 games ahead of the Yankees fortune to the Yankees’ benighted decision to reduce seating while increasing parking (at the expense of a neighborhood park) and the Red Sox’ enlightened decision to add seating while continue to neglect parking.

    Maybe the addition of Schaller will reverse this new curse. Probably not.

  • Comentz

    This is a good sign. Best of luck to him and the Office. An equally good sign would be to read about departures.

  • Commenz,
    You mean the early retirement of Dr. No?

    That would be a jubilant day.

  • Comentz

    Efficiency Nut:
    Yes, you are exactly right! He needs to be buried in guano!

    On a serious note, in addition to pushing people aside, the Comish would be wise to ally with selected personnel at CDOT who are hungry to pursue fresh ideas that can make their agency top-notch. The powers of CDOT’s bureaucratic essence can’t be discounted.

  • Davis

    This seems like an exceedingly appropriate moment to note how off-base Mr. Nimby Pimby was in his comment about Schaller in a previous posting here on Streetsblog:

    Re: "Those who have been following the work of independent consultant Bruce Schaller will recognize some of this material. (Speaking of which: Is Bruce Schaller the Bill James of New York City transportation policy, or what? When is city government going to offer the guy a job?)"

    Perhaps they will when his studies either a) are based on original research and data gathering and not just a compilation of other people’s work and b) aren’t so methodologically flawed as to be worthless.

    An ideological compatriot does not a smart consultant make…

    Comment by nimby pimby — May 1, 2007 @ 10:10 pm


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