Emanuel Appoints CTA’s Chief Planning Officer to Be New CDOT Chief

Rebekah Scheinfeld, CTA
Scheinfeld at an MPC roundtable on BRT. Photo: .Ryan Griffin-Stegink, MPC

It looks like the next Chicago Department of Transportation commissioner will be following in Gabe Klein’s progressive footsteps. This morning the mayor’s office announced that Rahm Emanuel has selected Rebekah Scheinfeld, the CTA’s chief planning officer, to fill the vacancy, pending city council approval.

While some of CDOT’s previous commissioners seemed fairly indifferent to public transportation, walking, and biking, Scheinfeld would be coming to the department with a proven track record of promoting transit. She has led planning efforts for the Red Line’s 95th Street station rehab, the North Red Line reconstruction, and the South Red Line extension, and she has been heavily involved in planning the Ashland and Loop bus rapid transit corridors. That means there will be zero learning curve for her on BRT, which CDOT is partnering with the CTA on.

“In two and a half years, Chicago has become a national leader in expanding transportation options and rebuilding infrastructure,” Emanuel said in a statement. “Rebekah will continue to build on our successful record and ensure that every Chicagoan has access to world-class transportation. Her strong management and planning skills will bring a lot to the agency as it continues the critical work of making sure Chicago has a strong, vibrant, accessible transportation network.”

“Chicago has proven itself as one of the most innovative, dynamic cities in its approach to transportation, and I am committed to cultivating this spirit of innovation to implement even more creative and effective ways to plan, build and maintain the public way,” Scheinfeld said in a statement.

Scheinfeld is a lawyer who previously at Mayer Brown, representing public and private sector clients on infrastructure and transportation projects like transit systems, toll roads and ports. She has also helped develop mixed-income housing in East Saint Louis, and worked for the New York City parks department as director of government relations and operations coordinator.

While it’s likely Scheinfeld’s appointment will be approved by the city council, since most of the 50 aldermen tend to go along with the mayor’s will, it’s possible there will be some resistance from reps who previously grumbled about Klein’s speed camera and protected bike lane initiatives. Scheinfeld will start work in an interim capacity in late January.

  • Anton Cermak

    If any BRT opponents can’t read between the lines on this, allow me to illuminate it: the Mayor’s Office just threw it’s political weight behind the project and is now asking you to be quiet. See you at the ribbon cutting!

  • Brian

    It still needs federal funding, and it’s likely that won’t happen.

  • Brian

    She’s just another lackey that will bow down and say “yes mr mayor, whatever you want mr mayor, how can we rip people off, mr mayor”
    And for those of you who think she is pro-transit, she certainly has no problem cutting vital transit routes

  • Voltaire

    So this seems like great news.

  • Voltaire

    I lived along the part of the 11/Lincoln that was cut, and as much as it sucked, I couldn’t reasonably complain about losing a bus that had 5 people riding it during morning rush (I did this every day, that’s the number I normally saw). I trust the CTA thought it better to spend the money elsewhere. Would I rather have the bus back? Sure! But only if they beefed up the schedule so it would actually represent a reasonable transportation option. With buses every 20 minutes at rush hour, you might as well just take the Brown Line like the CTA said (and I ended up doing).

    The point is, I see no reason why this wasn’t a reasonable decision by the CTA on how to spend its limited resources (I know more than the 11 was cut, but that’s my direct experience with it).

  • Anton Cermak

    Why do you say that? If anything, it seems that the FTA would be eager to award this as a New Starts/Small Starts program because it would be the largest, most visable BRT project in the country.

  • duppie

    Agreed. Similar to bikeshare, you need a few early adoptors to showcase it. Once people realized that it is a positive development for a city, everybody wants it.
    Federal government does understand that.

  • duppie

    You say “cutting vital transit routes”, I say allocating limited budgets so that they benefit the most people. If a route does not perform, it should be cut.

    On a sidenote: now thsty the new commish is known, are you still happy Klein and Kubly left?

  • Brian

    Too early to tell. From the looks of her, she doesn’t appear to be as bold as Gabe, but who knows.

  • duppie

    fair enough. time will tell.
    Yours and mine definition of success are diametrically opposed of course.
    btw, Happy new year, Brian.

  • Brian

    Happy New year! May we all continue to fight for want we believe in!

  • Brian

    Happy new year! My we all continue to support what we believe in!

  • jeff wegerson

    I’m new to following the developments in CDOT during Rahm’s regime. I never heard of Gabe Klein until I started reading some of the local blogs oriented towards transit issues like this one. I am generally a critic of Rahm because of what I feel is a strong corporate orientation on his part. Privatizing the school system is a prime example. The second being the reboot of the parking deal. But at the same time I am willing to recognize that we all tend to be complicated in our beliefs. While I thought that the Daleys were also to be criticized I was able to appreciate Rich’s devotion to planting trees.

    So it has been refreshing for me to learn of what appears to be Rahm’s own genuine appreciation for urban solutions to urban problems like dense transit. This appointment appears to reinforce that impression of actual understanding and concern for beyond car based solutions for providing people with the most and best choices possible for getting about.

    I can only imagine the cultural changes that are occurring within the CDOT. I had the opportunity to talk at a Christmas party with a member of that department and it was his opinion that internally the department was divided half/half in support for the Ashland BRT. To me that was a good sign that things can move forward without having to drag a lot of the department kicking and screaming into the future.

  • eric299

    If she had anything to do with planning Ventra this is not good news for Chicago.

  • Roland Solinski

    Emanuel has made much larger sums than ~$100 million appear out of thin air (Red Line rehabs, 95th, Wilson, et al.) Various federal grants, formula funding, and unallocated capital dollars from Springfield are usually the sources.


Claypool’s Tenure at the CTA Has Been Action-Packed

Chicago Transit Authority President Forrest Claypool has worn many hats in local government. He twice served as Mayor Richard M. Daley’s chief of staff. He was superintendent of the Chicago Park District. And he’s been a Cook County commissioner. But, arguably, he’s made his biggest mark as head of the transit agency during the last […]

Construction Cycle: CDOT Has a Lot on Its Plate This Summer

[This piece also ran in Checkerboard City, John’s column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings.] If 2013 was Chicago’s Long, Hot Summer of Transportation, then 2014 is the Summer of the Big Projects. Last year featured well-publicized game changers like the South Red Line rehab and the Divvy bike-share launch, but […]

No Central Loop BRT in 2014 as CDOT Delays Launch Indefinitely

Construction delays have pushed back the Central Loop BRT project, from a projected 2014 start until next year or even later. The causes of the setback remain troublingly vague, and there is no clear timetable for the improvements proposed for four downtown streets, which are supposed to speed up six Chicago Transit Authority bus routes with a combined […]