Home Asides Polly Trottenberg named de Blasio’s DOT commissioner

Polly Trottenberg named de Blasio’s DOT commissioner

by Benjamin Kabak

A bit of late-breaking news before 2014 arrives: Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has named Polly Trottenberg as his Department of Transportation commissioner. Trottenberg, a veteran of the Obama administration and a former staffer for Senators Moynihan and Schumer, will succeed Janette Sadik-Khan, and in the eyes of pedestrian safety and transit advocates, will have big shoes to fill. According to a release from de Blasio, Trottenberg will oversee his transportation agenda which will seek to “expand Bus Rapid Transit in the outer boroughs, reduce traffic fatalities, increase bicycling, and boost the efficiency of city streets.”

Streetsblog runs down Trottenberg’s credentials, and both Transportation Alternatives and the Straphangers have voiced their approvals this afternoon. Trottenberg sounded the right tones too in her statement but spoke earlier of making the pedestrian plaza planning process “more collaborative with local communities.” (For what it’s worth, the pedestrian plaza planning process has been far more collaborative than just about anything else DOT has done in decades. Slowing it down with more meetings would be counter-productive.)

Despite that hiccup, I think this is a solid appointment by de Blasio, and I’ll give Trottenberg the last word. “One life lost on our streets is too many. We are committed to the maxim that safety— for everyone who uses the roads, including pedestrians and cyclists —is our top priority,” she said in a statement. “From improving our roads, bridges and waterways to better serve our citizens and businesses, to connecting New Yorkers to jobs and opportunities through improved high-speed bus service, to expanding biking across the five boroughs, we can have a transportation system that is safe, efficient and accessible to all.”

Polly Trottenberg, current Under Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation, will serve as the Transportation Commissioner, executing Mayor-Elect de Blasio’s ambitious agenda to expand Bus Rapid Transit in the outer boroughs, reduce traffic fatalities, increase bicycling, and boost the efficiency of city streets.

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Quirk December 31, 2013 - 6:05 pm

“high-speed bus service”

A little too early for an aprils fool joke, no?

Roxie January 1, 2014 - 7:07 pm

Less an April Fool’s joke and more an oxymoron, really.

Jerrold January 1, 2014 - 10:35 am

Maybe off-topic, but very much on-topic for this blog:


Epson45 January 1, 2014 - 1:54 pm

Bad choice… Hope she is not the worse then the devil witch JSK

Bolwerk January 1, 2014 - 3:14 pm

Yeah, who wants ped plazas, bike lanes, or faster buses? Silly!

Epson45 January 1, 2014 - 3:31 pm

Yeah! you agree with me. Wanna have a cookie?

Scoop January 1, 2014 - 7:23 pm

Pedestrian plazas: Net positive where done so far. Could certainly be overdone if tried in areas w/o sufficient foot traffic.

Bike Lanes: In places where they narrowed bus-car lanes w/o eliminating bus-car lanes, probably a net benefit, though a small one because bike traffic is very, very low — even with CitiBike. In places where they eliminated bus-car lanes a criminal misuse over very scarce and (formerly) highly used resources and indefensible.

Faster buses: Really hard to argue JSK made any significant strides toward faster buses, though, frankly, I’m not sure anyone in her position could have.

Not a devil witch but not, as you seem to imply, a really transformative commissioner either. That said, I suppose she may one day be viewed as transformative if others fine tune the ideas she started.

Bolwerk January 1, 2014 - 8:52 pm

If you mean the leadership characteristic, as in transforming culture, I wouldn’t say she’s transformational in the technical sense. She (or her department) mostly simply borrowed proven ideas from elsewhere, and then only conservatively – and sometimes from the wrong places.* I find StreetsBlog posters often almost revere her, but that’s largely a symptom of StreetsBlog’s readers, and probably editors, being unaware best practice elsewhere in the world.

Still, credit where credit is due. The department didn’t change tactics much in decades. Anything that wasn’t car coddling was pretty much ignored, which is probably Epson’s problem. I’m not sure Trottenberg will be moving forward, but a critical hurdle has been achieved: she won’t be moving backward very much if at all.

* SBS is an example of this; it may be based on bus service in South America. Yes, the DOT has improved bus service. Yes, it’s better than nothing, but surface transit could be much better still.

Epson45 January 1, 2014 - 9:19 pm

No, DOT has not improve bus service, especially in Staten Island residents or even Brooklyn residents that they have not fix spacing of stops and the bus lanes.

Bolwerk January 1, 2014 - 10:19 pm

Oh, come on. 15% faster M15 service? I know SI didn’t go as well as planned, but even that shaved 10% off the time it takes for the bus to complete a route. Saying the DOT hasn’t improved bus service is a crock of shit, and the only legitimate realm of criticism is they didn’t do it enough.

Epson45 January 1, 2014 - 11:44 pm

Those numbers are out of date especially on M15 SBS, even with BusTime. They increase speed, what about wait times? I don’t believe DOT has improve SBS, they don’t even fix when they implanted the service. Bullshit to you.

VLM January 1, 2014 - 11:46 pm

I had a whole coherent response written for you but I’m not even sure English is your first language. Logic and proper argument would be lost on you so I’ll just call you an idiotic troll and be done with it. No idea why Ben lets you comment here considering how ass-backwards your ideas and comments are.

Epson45 January 2, 2014 - 3:13 am

Where’s your great ideas? …. NO?

Bolwerk January 2, 2014 - 2:28 pm

Still waiting on those numbers.

Alon Levy January 2, 2014 - 1:44 pm

Dude, it’s New York; a huge minority, if not a majority, has a first language other than English. (I’m part of that group, for the record.)

Bolwerk January 2, 2014 - 2:25 pm

Haha, I always piled on by saying his incoherence and poor use of the language almost certainly demonstrates he is a native USAian suburbanite, but I decided against it.


Bolwerk January 2, 2014 - 2:27 pm

Aww, I guess my self-deprecation there was poorly executed. Oh well. 🙁

Bolwerk January 1, 2014 - 11:54 pm

Okay, if there is some reason to think the improvements evaporated, then post updated numbers. And what about wait times? And the, uh, higher ridership? Maybe you don’t like buses, but you can’t exactly argue with the outcomes.

I don’t believe DOT has improve SBS, they don’t even fix when they implanted the service.

WTF does this sentence even mean? DOT partnered with the MTA to implement SBS. It prima facie improved bus service according to several metrics.

Dan January 1, 2014 - 11:08 pm

According to DOT study, the SBS route in SI (Hyland/Richmond) is improve on travel time for the BUS only.. BUT they really mess up the travel time for all other vehicles…. As you know, they took 1 moving lane away, so that the travel time for other vehicles really mess up…

Bolwerk January 1, 2014 - 11:36 pm

Jeeze-ass. What study are you talking about? And what is the ratio of privately occupied vehicle drivers/passengers to bus riders?

Epson45 January 1, 2014 - 11:46 pm

Absolutely correct Dan, especially the bus lane fiasco where people were WRONGLY getting tickets.

Brandon January 1, 2014 - 3:54 pm


Epson45 January 1, 2014 - 9:14 pm

Yep, its bullshit spending lots of money on a stupid Haiku poems or disaster city bus shelter contract or even “Look” signs on the pavement…

BillyGoatGruff January 2, 2014 - 11:34 am

BS is SI CarTrolls bombing a board about NYC. Complain to NJTransit; no one here cares.

Scoop January 1, 2014 - 7:10 pm

“One life lost on our streets is too many.”

I know politicians constantly say stupid stuff to appeal to people who either are stupid or simply have not thought through issues, but anyone who says something this stupid should not be allowed to vote let alone lead the transportation department.

There is a necessary tradeoff between safety and other goals — speed, cost, personal autonomy (of both walker and driver), etc. Zeroing out fatalities would clearly and obviously make us all worse off.

That is not, by any means, to say we shouldn’t look for smart ideas to improve safety with minimal tradeoffs. We should.

But if we went any period of time with just one life lost in the streets that would be far, far too few.

Alex C January 1, 2014 - 8:12 pm

I don’t think they mean *literally* one life lost is too many. Everyone realizes best plans still leave room for outright accidents. Your train of thought is what leads to troll community boards obsessed with accommodating people stupid enough to drive gigantic SUVs in this city. Fourth avenue in Brooklyn is a great example of that. Would suggested improvements reduce fatalities and make the area less hectic? Sure, but the SUV-driving road ragers are against it, so those plans need to be scrapped to please them.

Dan January 1, 2014 - 10:57 pm

Fast Bus (SBS) mean slow down other vehicles. YES, the Staten Islander HATE the Hylan/Richmond SBS… I agreed with the Islander 10000%…
SBS – Taking 1 moving lane or parking lane away to make a bus lane. And YES, the travel time really cut shorter. BUT how many time you see a bus stay in the bus lane? they normally travel into the regular moving lane… Bike Lane and Plaza is a great idea…

VLM January 1, 2014 - 10:59 pm

I’ve often wondered how a site devoted exclusively to transit get so many Neanderthals who can’t deal with losing a lane of traffic for their precious cars. GTFO.

Dan January 1, 2014 - 11:05 pm

For the Bus Rider: Yes, they love he fast bus service (Selective Bus Service)…
For the regular Driver: YES.. THEY HATE the bus lane.
The reason they go with the bus lane, because they try to have everybody using mass transit, which more money for the MTA, less polution, etc…

John Smith January 1, 2014 - 11:43 pm

JSK further pushed NYC into a more sustainable: (Pedestrians > Mass Transit > Bicycles > Autos) order of operations. For that we must be grateful.

I don’t see the harm in converting a moving lane into dedicated SBS when those buses carry many more people. It’s more efficient and makes sense.

This new commissioner will surely follow JSK lead, it’s the only logical direction.

Epson45 January 1, 2014 - 11:49 pm

Except in some parts of city like Staten Island, there is no need for bus lane on Richmond Avenue that is no a heavy thorough fare then say Hylan Blvd.

Alon Levy January 2, 2014 - 1:46 pm

JSK pushed New York into the following order of operations:

Gentrified Manhattan and Brooklyn neighborhoods > Harlem (had to beg for bike lanes) > southeastern Brooklyn (B44 SBS made things worse).

Bolwerk January 2, 2014 - 2:22 pm

Not disagreeing with you about JSK, but you really think B44 made things worse?

Henry January 3, 2014 - 4:37 pm

Stop spacing on the outer ends of the B44 SBS is extremely sparse for any sort of service. Stops should ideally be a half-mile apart in dense areas even on rapid transit, but the stops spacing exceeds this amount by a lot.

Bolwerk January 7, 2014 - 2:35 pm

I realize what happened. I just don’t know if I’d say it was worse, but I haven’t looked too much either.

That’s a route crying out for [real] rapid transit. The BRT should be a local service complementing the rapid transit.

Griz January 2, 2014 - 5:36 pm

I wish that were so, but from my own experiences and observations, the DOT under JSK’s reign placed pedestrians dead last.

Herb Lehman January 2, 2014 - 9:04 am

I’m cautiously optimistic that this new commissioner doesn’t seem to sound as bike-centric as Janette Sadik-Khan. The bike stuff is definitely nice, and important in its own right, and I’m glad CitiBike has taken off as well as it has. But it does nothing to help those who live in the far reaches of eastern Queens and Brooklyn, and Staten Islanders can’t bike on water (or over the Verrazano Bridge, thanks to Robert Moses).

Bus Rapid Transit and SBS are not all bad. They’re definitely not a long-term transit solution. But the pre-boarding payment and not having to stop every two blocks do make a significant difference. While I want subway expansion as much as anyone, until that is realistic, a pro-SBS transportation commissioner is not a bad thing.


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