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Job interview Q & A with new PBOT Director Leah Treat

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

“I do believe that Portland has started stagnating in terms of progressive transportation.”
— Leah Treat, incoming Director of PBOT

Last month I accepted an invitation from the Mayor’s office to be involved in the selection process for a new director of the Bureau of Transportation. The event was billed as a “meet and greet” and an opportunity to have informal, small-group discussions with each of the final candidates. Three finalists had already been through grilling formal interview and the City wanted to hear feedback from citizen transportation advocates. I gladly accepted and agreed to not share any details of the conversations until a final selection was made. One of the people we spoke to that day was Leah Treat, who we’ve now learned is Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick’s ultimate choice for the job.

The first thing that impressed me about Treat was that before we (myself and three others) even started asking her questions, she opened up the conversation by asking each of us what our priorities were. What followed was an enlightening back-and-forth that ranged from Portland’s transportation stagnation, to equity, financing, and other issues. I made an audio recording of the event and the Q & A with Treat is below: (more…)

Chicago’s Leah Treat named as new PBOT Director

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
Leah Treat.
(Photo: PBOT)

The City of Portland has selected Leah Treat to be the new Director of the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). Treat is currently the Managing Deputy Commissioner at the Chicago Department of Transportation where she serves under Chicago’s Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein.

In a statement released this morning, PBOT Commissioner Steve Novick said, “Portland needs a transportation leader who has the budget management background to help us address our deficit in basic street maintenance and who understands the value of sustainable modes such as biking and walking. We know we have found the right person for PBOT in Leah Treat and we are excited to have her join us in Portland.”

Treat has been in government service her entire 17-year career. Her background is in budgeting and finance and the majority of her past positions have been focused on “standing up organizations financially.” Treat and Klein first worked together in Washington D.C. where she was Klein’s deputy director of finance and managed D.C. over $1 billion transportation budget. Prior to working in D.C. Treat served in advisory roles for the governor and Legislature of New Mexico. (more…)

The latest on PBOT’s $6 million downtown transportation plan

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013
Bike traffic on NW Broadway-16
PBOT wants to make downtown streets easier and safer to use.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The details of the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s plans to invest in downtown bicycle access are getting clearer. As we shared back in February, PBOT has applied for $6 million in regional flexible funding (administered by Metro) in order to improve the transportation network in the downtown core.

Much about the plan — like specific locations and facility-types — remains undecided; but PBOT’s grant application (published on Metro’s website) provides the most detail we’ve seen yet about the project.
(more…)

PBOT hires former Oregonian reporter, BTA board member for media relations

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
Dylan Rivera

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has taken steps to fill a big hole in their communications department. As I shared last week, PBOT’s sole media relations staffers — Dan Anderson and Cheryl Kuck — both decided to move on. Today PBOT confirmed that they’ve hired Dylan Rivera and Diane Dulken as interim media relations staffers to fill those vacant positions.

Rivera is a former transportation reporter for The Oregonian who was laid off back in 2010. He covered many transportation issues including the Columbia River Crossing (he did great work exposing important details about that project), Sunday Parkways, parking policy, and so on. In July 2010 he was hired by Metro and became their senior public affairs specialist (as well as writing for their Metro News department). He left his Metro position at the end of last year to become the communications director for the Oregon House Democrats. (more…)

PBOT loses its only two communications staffers

Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Walk and Bike to School Day!
PBOT’s Cheryl Kuck at an
event in 2005.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The communications issues at the Portland Bureau of Transportation just got worse. After hearing about it yesterday from Bureau sources, I’ve now confirmed with the Mayor’s office that PBOT’s two current communications staffers — Dan Anderson and Cheryl Kuck — are on their way out. No official statements have been made, but sources say Kuck has moved over to the Bureau of Environmental Services and Anderson is taking a job up in Washington.

“Cheryl and I are both leaving the bureau on great terms. The timing is a coincidence,” said Anderson via email this morning.

Communications have long been a trouble spot for PBOT and in recent years a lack of resources and staff at that position has led to a number of PR missteps that have hurt both the bureau and bicycling in general (“Blood in the bike lanes,” “sewer money for bike lanes” and the SE Holgate controversy being just a few examples).
(more…)

The good and bad about biking in Portland — in PBOT’s own words

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

“While business and political support is strong it could be stronger, especially in key constituent groups.”
— Roger Geller, PBOT Bicycle Coordinator in a League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly Community award application

Back in 2008 Portland became the first major U.S. city to be given a “Platinum” level Bicycle Friendly Community award by the League of American Bicyclists. Now, as per League policy, the Portland Bureau of Transportation must re-apply every 2-3 years in order keep its Platinum designation. (If you’re wondering, the League says the Diamond-level designation isn’t available yet.)

I recently got a glimpse of the current application and two questions stood out: “What are the three primary reasons your community deserves to be designated a Bicycle Friendly Community?” and “What are the three aspects of your community most in need of improvement in order to accommodate bicyclists?”
(more…)

Mayor Hales: Spate of fatal crashes ‘unacceptable’

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Active Transportation Debate at PSU-5
Mayor Hales
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Office of Mayor Charlie Hales put out a statement this morning saying that “traffic fatalities are too high” and “Portlanders must drive sober.”

Here are the opening paragraphs:

“The number of people dying in traffic crashes on Portland streets this year is unacceptable according to Mayor Charlie Hales. In office for less than 80 days, the new mayor was alarmed that there have already been 11 traffic fatalities with five of those 11 involving driving under the influence.

“Every person who dies in a crash represents a family and community tragedy. So far in 2013, we’re averaging about one death a week. That’s unacceptable,” Hales said. “Leadership at the Transportation Bureau, Portland Police Bureau and I are alarmed that five people have lost their lives this year related to driving under the influence. Drive sober to save lives. Doing otherwise is illegal and reckless.”

(more…)

Read former PBOT Director Tom Miller’s farewell email to staff

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
National Bike Summit - Day three-205
Yesterday was the last day for Tom Miller as Director of PBOT.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

(more…)

Hales picks interim PBOT director: “Street maintenance is his first priority”

Thursday, January 17th, 2013
Gravel, leaves in bike lane-4
Speaking of maintenance.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Mayor Charlie Hales has picked Toby Widmer to be his interim director of the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT). Hales asked current PBOT Director Tom Miller to resign his position effective February 4th. In a statement today, Hales said Widmer will serve in the position for six months while a national search for a new director is completed.

Widmer, 61, is a former City staffer. He served as director of the Bureau of Maintenance (which is what PBOT used to be called) prior to retiring from service in 2002. Hales is touting the pick as another sign that he’s making street maintenance his main focus. Here’s more from Hales’ official statement: (more…)

Ride green, save green: PBOT coupon program looks to boost bike business

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
Green lanes on SW Stark-13
Businesses along SW Stark.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

One of the Great Myths that somehow continues to follow urban bicycling around is that when you redesign a street to improve bike access, it will automatically be bad for adjacent businesses. This is of course completely absurd. But even with studies and common sense easily disproving such notions, the myth persists (particularly among business groups that use the idea as leverage).

This myth is partly why the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) goes out of their way to help and work with business owners whenever they do a project that improves bicycling. On Stark and Oak streets downtown — where they’ve painted an entire lane green and made it a bike lane — they wanted to make sure adjacent business owners were on board.

Before the new green lanes were completed and made public, PBOT staffers walked the Stark/Oak corridors and talked to every single ground floor business and even those on side streets. According to PBOT, staffers made 65 in-person visits and mailed a fact sheet about the project to over 500 businesses. (more…)

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