Last Tuesday was Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein’s last day on the job. Three days later Deputy Commissioner Scott Kubly, one of Klein’s key lieutenants, announced his resignation as well.
Kubly, who has been central in implementing many of Klein’s progressive transportation initiatives, had seemed like a strong candidate to serve as the next commissioner. “Scott … is doing a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes to make projects happen,” Klein told Streetsblog in a recent exit interview. “Without Scott, there’s no way that automated enforcement would have happened, no way that the riverwalk would have been funded, and Divvy would not have been as smooth a rollout.” Klein declined to make a statement about whether his deputy should be the next commissioner.
However, 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar endorsed Kubly for the job. “The way to cement [Klein’s] legacy is to make sure his successor carries on Mayor Emanuel’s vision for a globally focused transportation policy,” he told Streetsblog. “Someone like Scott Kubly would be a great choice.”
Kubly will be staying on the job until December 27 to wrap up various projects. These include making sure the speed camera rollout continues to go smoothly, and overseeing the bid process for a contractor to activate 50 underused plazas. First Deputy Commissioner Pat Harney, who has been in charge of in-house construction and infrastructure management, is currently serving as the acting CDOT commissioner.
Kubly said his decision to leave CDOT was not tied to Klein’s departure. “I came in two-and-a-half years ago and was asked to get a bunch of things off the ground,” he said. He noted that Divvy and speed cameras have been launched, the Chicago Riverwalk extension is financed, about 50 miles of buffered and protected bike lanes have been contructed, and another 50 should be designed by next spring. “I view my career in milestones, and we just hit a ton of them. I’m really happy with what we got done. I’ve been thinking about this since May or June, and this really seems like the right time to step away.”
He declined to say who the next commissioner will be, but noted that Rahm Emanuel is up for reelection next year, and he doesn’t think the mayor’s transportation agenda is going to change over the next year. “Whoever the next commissioner is, that person is going to execute the mayor’s vision,” he said.
For example, Kubly said there’s no danger that plans to install concrete curbs next year between the Dearborn and State protected bike lanes and car traffic will be derailed. “It’s been part of the plan all along to quickly install the lanes with paint and [flexible plastic] delineators, but over the long term we’d like to put in permanent infrastructure. We just need to find the right funding for it.”
Kubly said its possible he’ll be sticking around Chicago. He has family in the area and bought a house in Logan Square. “But there’s opportunities all over the country to do interesting stuff, so I’m open to any area where it seems like there’s a really fun, attractive opportunity.”
It’s reassuring to hear Kubly say he thinks Emanuel will continue to set a progressive transportation agenda. However, losing Kubly in addition to Klein makes it even more important for Chicagoans to make sure CDOT is staying on the right course for creating safe, efficient, livable streets.