Biden-Harris tap NYC transportation boss Polly Trottenberg for transition team

NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg (center) was selected to advise the Biden-Harris Transition team.
Photo by Mark Hallum

City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was selected among 18 others to join the Biden-Harris Transition team and weigh in on transit issues nationwide.

Members of agency review teams were released Tuesday by the Biden-Harris Transition and include Vinn White, a transportation advisor to the state of New Jersey, and Brendan Danaher, who leads up government affairs for the Transport Workers Union of America.

Phillip Washington will have the reins of this department’s transition team with the clout of being CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“Our nation is grappling with a pandemic, an economic crisis, urgent calls for racial justice, and the existential threat of climate change. We must be prepared for a seamless transfer of knowledge to the incoming administration to protect our interests at home and abroad. The agency review process will help lay the foundation for meeting these challenges on Day One,” said Senator Ted Kaufman, Co-Chair of the Biden-Harris Transition. “The work of the agency review teams is critical for protecting national security, addressing the ongoing public health crisis, and demonstrating that America remains the beacon of democracy for the world.”

One question on the minds of reporters in yesterday’s press conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio was whether or not he would be placing pressure on the transition team to approve congestion pricing for motorists entering Manhattan’s central business district in order to provide a steady revenue stream for the MTA and avoid future financial crises.

Congestion pricing has sat in limbo since 2017 when Governor Andrew Cuomo announced it would officially be an option to pull the MTA out the mess it was in at the time. While it was approved by the state Senate in 2019, the state has been waiting on an inexplicably uncooperative federal government for permission to proceed with the plan.

The MTA continues to ask the federal government for $12 billion to carry the COVID-19 distressed agency through the end of 2021. After having ridership numbers reduced by 90% early on in the pandemic, the MTA has logged a slow return since New York City began its reopening in June.

Currently, ridership for all agencies under the MTA umbrella comes in at about 63.7% of the same time last years as of Nov. 11. That means 1,743,742 took mass transit on Monday.

De Blasio, however, said there were bigger fish to fry and that his focus will be on how the Biden administration handles COVID-19 through a clear strategy for deploying a vaccine and another stimulus, which has not been seen since March when the CARES Act was passed.

Trottenberg has led DOT under Mayor de Blasio since the beginning of his administration in 2014 and has overseen the deployment of the key transportation policy initiative in City Hall, Vision Zero.

Having served on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Trottenberg was also Under Secretary for Policy at the U.S. DOT during President Barack Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office.

Although it is unknown whether or not Trottenberg will get a cabinet appointment in the Biden administration, she has the support of some in the city such as Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez – Chair of the Transportation Committee – who laughingly floated the notion that the transit czar should take the mantle of DOT Secretary in Washington D.C.