Progressive transportation commissioners have become heroes in planning circles. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding Chicago Mayor Emanuel’s appointment of Gabe Klein as DOT commissioner. Poached from Washington D.C., where Emanuel saw his work first-hand, Klein has extensive experience instituting new transportation ideas, including the nation’s largest bike sharing program and a new streetcar system.
The Chicago Tribune has a good roundup of Klein’s thoughts so far, which include focusing on improving the CTA rather than building a new High Speed Rail Line to O’Hare, increasing traffic calming measures and pedestrian upgrades, expanding bike lanes and bus rapid transit. Overall he wants to dramatically increase biking, walking, and transit use and diminish the presence of cars, especially in the central city.
Before transitioning into government, Klein worked in the transportation field as an executive at a bicycle company and at Zipcar.
More broadly, the appointment signals an openness on the part of the Emanuel Administration to bringing in new people and new ideas into Chicago’s government agencies, a welcome shift from the patronage system of the Daley regime. Janette Sadik-Khan in New York and Jan Gehl of Denmark may have a new rival for the title of progressive transportation star.