Transportation Policy in the Obama Administration?

Smart growth activists are eager to see a visionary appointment in the federal Transportation Department to shake up our car culture.

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Earlier this month President-Elect Obama’s transition team announced the transportation experts who will form its agency review team for the federal Department of Transportation. The list serves as a reminder that while urban wonks might view Transportation as primarily about cars versus trains, the agency mainly worries about such obscure issues as air traffic and commercial shipping.

But among the career bureaucrats are a couple veterans of the nation’s most forward-looking cities on transportation: New York and San Francisco. So New Yorkers and urbanists who are enamored of New York’s aggressive Transportation Commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, are wondering if she will get the tapped to run the federal agency. Sadik-Khan has launched multiple initiatives to reclaim New York’s streets from automobiles by creating dedicated bike and bus lanes. To learn more about her innovative strategies I highly recommend Dana Goldstein’s profile of her in the new issue of The American Prospect.

Other leading candidates, according to Politico, include congressmen with strong smart growth advocacy crednetials: Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.)

Whomever Obama ultimately taps, transporation policy is going to be a crucially front in the efforts to reverse suburban sprawl. The appointment, while it is not even included on most major media speculation lists for the new Cabinet, will matter a great deal.

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Ben Adler is a journalist in New York. He is a former reporter for Grist, The Nation, Newsweek and Politico, and he has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Guardian and The New Republic.

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Tags: new york citypublic transportationwashington dcsan franciscojanette sadik-khan

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