Sadik-Khan Said to Be Obama Cabinet Contender

jskcrop.jpgHer post-Bloomberg career has been the province of wishful speculation. But a report published today indicates that DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan may be considered for a position in Barack Obama’s Department of Transportation — possibly its top spot. 

Conventional wisdom held that front runners for transpo secretary were known progressive brands like Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Jim Oberstar. But that’s not necessarily the case, reports Traffic World (via Bike Portland).

Transportation industry executives close to the Obama campaign, speaking on condition of anonymity, say it is more likely … that the incoming administration will seek to put a new stamp on the department through new appointments less familiar to Washington’s political establishment.

There is a wide array of transportation officials at the state and local level who could have a role at the top of DOT or in agency posts, including Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in the San Francisco Bay area, and New York City Transportation Commissioner Jeanette Sadik-Khan [sic]. 

Whether or not Sadik-Khan is tapped for the top job, sounds like change is coming.

Photo: Brad Aaron

  • vnm

    New York’s loss would be our nation’s gain.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    It’s flattering and all but she’d be crazy to take the job. She can get more done and have a much bigger national impact by continuing to do what she’s doing here in New York City.

  • I have to admit, I would rather not lose JSK. Her work is not finished here, and though I don’t think reversal of such widely popular measures is likely, progress could stall.

    And maybe my brain is stuck but I just don’t see the strengths she has demonstrated in New York being as applicable nationally. The federal government is responsible for interstate travel, which simply is not human scale—walking or riding a bicycle across states is not generally practical. To the extent that the federal government involves itself in local transportation, it should A) stop boosting automobile uses and B) stop involving itself altogether. As JSK herself has demonstrated, the best local transportation changes are locally motivated, implemented, and managed. What we need at the federal level is a substantial investment in interstate railroads (a government buyout of the tracks that Amtrak does not own, for starters), and I should think the best person for that job would have a railroad background, someone that runs commuter rail on time and cost effectively.

    That said, JSK is the queen bee of my transportation world and if she does want the position (are these even rumors, or just speculation?) she has my support.

  • If President Obama gave her a mandate for the same kind of change she is bringing to New York, than I say go for it.

  • Shemp

    Marty is right. Federal transportation is all on paper – doling out money and writing the framework for doling out money. Can you have some influence? Of course. But there aren’t that many cities and states out there ready to take advantage of a better federal deal, so you do have far more influence creating a tangible example of change.

  • The federal role in transportation is vital for many other cities that have been denied the chance to implement rail and other forms of effective transit. The right person in that job, who knows what can be done for urban centers, could be the single best option for transit to blossom in cities across America. If Sadik-Khan took the job, she could become instrumental in breaking the highway lobby’s stranglehold on transportation. I say give her that chance.

  • If Sadik-Khan can join forces with Jim Oberstar and VP-elect Biden we may yet have a half decent start on a transportation system. Heck we should consult with the Japanese – they’ve got a train system (complete with awesome robot bike parking) that I’ve envied for quite some time.

  • The French are no slouches either. They’ve got Velib, an attractive and efficient Metro, a high-speed regional rail (RER), and a world-class train system.

  • Streetsman

    I think I agree she may be able to do more for the country by staying in New York and blazing the trails for other American cities to follow. What’s important is that she has a close relationship with Washington to get Federal Transpo funds to develop serious infrastructure in NYC – BRT, separated bike lanes, ferry network, surface rail, high speed trains, etc.

    Think like the FDR-LaGuardia-Moses connection except, you know, less creepy and domineering.

  • christine

    wonderful news although we would miss her terribly
    the good news is that she has assembled a deep team whose memebers would continue.

  • I’m selfish, but I say let Obama pick Oberstar (who’s really the JSK of Duluth anyway) so that we can keep JSK.

  • I agree with Christine. There’s a big group of young people working on this. It’s a big opportunity to make this pile deeper. It’s time time for Ms. Peters and her dinosaur club to retire.

  • Chris in Sacramento

    Wow, she’d be great for the country.

    I’d be especially excited for the urban and metropolitan perspective she’d bring to the process. For decades, rural needs and goods movement have dominated debate and decision-making regarding the federal transportation program. With JSK in charge of USDOT, we’d see a bigger emphasis on regionalism, personal transportation, quality of life and urban ecology. She would bring the outsider’s perspective that Obama seeks and could help redefine the values reflected in the national transportation program.

  • (n)

    I don’t want to crap on anyone’s reputation, but can anyone tell me what would be so great about Steve Heminger? As someone who moved back to nyc a couple of years ago after spending some years in sf, it seems to me that nyc is way ahead of SF in transportation issues, and being comish is a much more tougher job in nyc.

    Who knows how the jobs scale between city comish and executive cabinet, but holy crap, JSK’s (and Jim Oberstar’s) presence in the Obama admin makes me weepy in joy (again)!

  • @ Urbanis

    While I respect the French, the Japanese system is where it’s at in terms of train travel across the board in my (never so) humble opinion.

  • Not for nothing, don’t forget what the motivating factor was to get congestion pricing our of the “nice in theory” stable and onto the race track this year: USDOT and Mary Peters waving 1/3 of $1B at our elected officials and transit consumers. Instead that money is seeding progressive, driving-reducing programs elsewhere (such as “congestion-parking” in SF).

    That said, we can’t spare JSK – especially with the prospect of an additional 4 years (the only good reason to support Bloomie’s self-interested term-limits change — although don’t think that we weren’t going to pressure any incoming mayoral administration to not screw up such a good thing!).


Sadik-Khan is Next at DOT

Employees at the engineering consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff were recently informed that senior vice president Janette Sadik-Khan will be leaving because she has been selected by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as New York City’s next Department of Transportation commissioner. She is reportedly due to start work on May 14. Today’s Crain’s Insider reports: Insiders say Janette […]

NYC’s Next Transportation Commissioner Is Polly Trottenberg

Bill de Blasio has appointed US DOT Under Secretary for Policy Polly Trottenberg to lead the New York City Department of Transportation. Trottenberg is a veteran federal policy maker, whose resume includes stints working for New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan on the 1998 federal transportation bill and for Senator Chuck Schumer. At the Obama […]

Shifting Gears at DOT

  DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan bicylcing to work during her first week on the job Crain’s New York reports that the earth is shaking below Dept. of Transportation headquarters at 40 Worth Street: Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s new transportation commissioner, politely says she’s building on the foundation left by her predecessors. In fact, she is […]

Polly Trottenberg Tapped For Senior U.S. DOT Spot

It’s a happy Friday for transportation wonks: the White House has nominated Polly Trottenberg, executive director of Building America’s Future, as assistant secretary for policy at the federal DOT. Polly Trottenberg, tapped as assistant DOT secretary (Photo: NewTalk) Trottenberg’s ascension signals that the Obama administration will make transit a serious priority and encourage a more […]

Mayor Bloomberg at the Crossroads: Who Will Run DOT?

With DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall set to depart city government in three weeks, sources say that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is close to announcing her replacement. The Mayor’s choice will have a profound impact on day-to-day neighborhood life as well as the City of New York’s long-term future. Though the DOT commissioner job search has barely […]

DOT Commissioner Update

Sources say that Janette Sadik-Khan (left) is a top candidate to replace Iris Weinshall when she resigns on April 13. Sadik-Khan met with Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff this week to talk about the job. A senior vice president at Parsons Brinckerhoff and former Director of the Mayor’s Office of Transportation for New York City during […]