Carfree crowd praises SFMTA's choice of Reiskin

Ed Reiskin is the new head of the SFMTA, which operates Muni and manages the city's transportation system.

Today's announcement of Ed Reiskin as the new executive director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is being warmly welcomed by bicyclists, transit riders, and other advocates for alternatives to the automobile – and not just because Reiskin doesn't own a car and gets around by bike and Muni.

As the head of the Department of Public Works, Reiskin transformed the agency into one that facilitated the creation of more vibrant public spaces and safer, multi-use streets, overseeing some of the Newsom Administration's most significant progressive accomplishments.

“He really began the process of turning DPW into a complete streets agency,” says Tom Radulovich, executive director of Livable City and an elected member of BART's Board of Directors. He noted that Reiskin is widely respected by city staff, department heads, and a variety of community groups.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition director Leah Shahum said she was “really pleased” with the choice – saying Reiskin has been “lights years ahead” of previous DPW administrators – and said it bodes well for an agency that faces some difficult challenges.

“I think Ed Reiskin has proven himself as a leader and someone who is really involved with San Francisco,” she said. “He will be the MTA director who most understands the real needs that San Franciscans have in terms of mobility.”

For example, she said Reiskin prioritized repaving and filling in potholes on streets that have bike lanes, where bad pavement can cause serious crashes or conflicts with drivers. “The fact is he understands that is a safety issue,” she said.

Radulovich offered two cautionary notes in his praise of the choice. The first was his hope that Reiskin will be allowed to take the bold action the MTA needs to reform Muni and create truly mulit-modal, safe streets, rather than being micromanaged and having the agency turned into a piggybank for other departments, as Mayor Newsom did with former MTA director Nat Ford.

“Is the mayor finally going to allow the MTA director to do what he needs to do to fix the agency?” Radulovich asked.

Secondly, he fears that DPW might backslide to the days before Reiskin took over, when the agency was removing public benches all over the city and making public spaces less inviting, rather than taking the lead on creating new, more inviting public spaces – from parklets to Sunday Streets – as Reiskin did.

“The worst case is you don't gain anything at the MTA and you lose something at Public Works,” Radulovich said.

For his part, Mayor Ed Lee sounded a note of optimism that Reiskin will transform the agency. “I thank the SFMTA Board of Directors for their thoughtful, deliberative and unanimous support of Ed Reiskin as the new leader of the SFMTA,” Lee in a prepared statement. “Now is the time to focus on the future of the SFMTA and continue to make good on our promise to San Francisco transit riders and taxpayers by creating greater efficiency in our transit system, improving on-time performance, and honoring our City’s Transit First Policy.”