Former NYC transportation boss Trottenberg nominated by Biden as Deputy Transportation Secretary

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

Former New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg will get an appointment in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration after all and will serve as Deputy Secretary of Transportation.

A rung below former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, Trottenberg led one of the largest municipal transportation departments in the country with over 5,800 employees across the city from 2014, when Mayor Bill de Blasio took office, until November when she resigned her post to help the Biden-Harris Transition team.

“Our administration will hit the ground running to deliver immediate, urgent relief to Americans; confront the overlapping crises of COVID-19, the historic economic downturn, systemic racism and inequality, and the climate crisis; and get this government working for the people it serves,” Biden said. “These tireless public servants will be a key part of our agenda to build back better — and I am confident they will help make meaningful change and move our country forward.”

Trottenberg was perhaps best known for leading DOT to full realization of the Vision Zero program which has been called into question since 29 cyclists were killed in 2019, and close to the same amount in 2020 despite the pandemic.

The last two years marked the highest number of deaths in this category since 1999.

“To meet the unprecedented challenges facing the American people, we will need deeply experienced and knowledgeable leaders across our administration,” Harris said. “These remarkable public servants reflect the very best of our nation, and they will help us contain this pandemic, create an economy that works for working people, and rebuild our country in a way that lifts up all Americans. President-elect Biden and I look forward to working with them to deliver results for the American people.”

Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris acknowledged the benefits of having an a former New York City official in the administration, particularly to move projects that require federal consent forward.

“In New York City, Commissioner Trottenberg expanded the nation’s largest bike share and protected bike lane network, ushered in the nation’s first Vision Zero program to combat fatal traffic crashes,” Harris said. “As New York City and cities across the country face growing transportation challenges, we are hopeful that Trottenberg and the Biden Administration will deliver tested solutions that put people and public transit above private vehicles. Specifically, the Biden Administration must green-light congestion pricing for New York, fully fund public transit for America’s cities, and promote cycling and safe street design throughout the nation.”

Tom Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association, spoke highly of Trottenberg’s potential for the nation after bringing sweeping changes to the way New Yorkers get around today, mentioning the former commissioner’s role on the MTA board.

“[Trottenberg] has been a leader for safe, equitable and sustainable transportation for decades. As New York City’s Transportation Commissioner, she expanded bike and bus lanes, helped repair MTA’s transit system, and quickly established outdoor dining during the pandemic,” Wright said. “Polly understands the importance of major infrastructure investments, such as the Gateway Program. She also understands the vital role transportation plays in creating more livable and equitable communities.”

Among those in support of Trottenberg’s new appointment was the American Bus Association, whose leader stated belief that as deputy, the former commissioner will advance the interests of the motor coach travel and tourism business.

“We are looking forward to working with Polly and the Biden Administration to ensure that the motorcoach industry continues to be the safest form of surface transportation,” Peter Pantuso, the ABA president, said. “Polly knows our industry well, which will be a big help as we continue to work with Congress and the Administration to keep this industry alive and moving forward during this pandemic.”

Trottenberg and interim President of New York City Transit, Sarah Feinberg, were both in consideration to be nominated to U.S. Department of Transportation secretary until the Biden-Harris Transition team settled on Buttigieg.