Chicago’s loss is Seattle’s gain. This afternoon, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray named former Chicago Department of Transportation deputy commissioner Scott Kubly the new director of the Seattle DOT. The appointment will require City Council confirmation.
Kubly served as a lieutenant to forward-thinking ex-CDOT chief Gabe Klein, and also worked under Klein when Klein was head of the Washington, D.C., transportation department. When Klein stepped down as CDOT commissioner last November, he told me that Kubly had been crucial to his success in Chicago. “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,” he said.
Although some people, such as 47th Ward Alderman Ameya Pawar, argued that Kubly would make a great CDOT commissioner himself, Kubly announced his resignation a mere three days after Klein left. “I view my career in milestones, and we just hit a ton of them,” he told me. “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 left the job on December 27. Since then, he has worked as acting president of Alta Bicycle Share, which runs Chicago’s Divvy program and several other bike-share systems.
Kubly is replacing Seattle transportation chief Peter Hahn, who resigned last fall after the newly elected Murray told him that he wouldn’t be retained in the new administration. In polls taken before the election, Seattleites said traffic congestion was one of their biggest concerns. Murray’s campaign platform included a promise to create an integrated, multi-modal transportation system.
In a statement, Murray praised Kubly as a “transportation renaissance man” with a proven track record in Chicago and D.C. “He’s worked on bike issues, car share programs, traffic management and pedestrian safety strategies, rapid transit and street cars,” Murray said. “He’s done long-range budgeting, strategic planning, cost reduction, major capital project development, and performance measurement and accountability. Scott is the transportation leader this city needs to take us to the next level in creating more livable, walkable communities.”
Just as he often said that Chicago needs to accommodate future population growth by making it easier to get around the city without a car, Kubly stated that fast-growing Seattle needs to provide better transportation options in order to preserve its quality of life. “[Seattle needs] a transportation system that doesn’t just get the basics right, like freight mobility and safety, but that also invests in new, high quality transit, bike-share, new bike lanes for Seattleites from eight to 80 to ride in, and improving the pedestrian experience throughout the city.”
Murray’s press release included endorsements of Kubly from several political, community, and business leaders in Seattle and D.C., as well as fellow former CDOT deputy commissioner Leah Treat, now the director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation, and Klein. “Scott and I have worked together in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, and he was one of the best hires I made,” Klein said. “From innovative finance to transit planning, and making active transportation a primary focus and mode of transportation, Scott has a deep understanding of the challenges, the solutions, and has the ability to execute and get the job done, which is the key.”
Assuming his confirmation goes smoothly, Kubly will have management oversight of more than 750 employees and an annual operating budget of more than $400 million. He’ll start the new job on July 28, with a salary of $180,000.