Chicago’s Leah Treat named as new PBOT Director

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.

Trying out a Divvy Bike.
(Photo: Twitter)

I met Treat last month as part of the candidate selection process. During conversations at that event, Treat described her transition from budget wonk to transportation wonk: “As I worked with Gabe I became more exposed to the creative side of transportation and used my financial skills to get involved with some really fun and creative projects that has created a passion for me in transportation outside of finance.”

In D.C. Treat worked on the roll-out of Capital Bikeshare (the nation’s most successful bikeshare system), open streets and other placemaking programs. Those initiatives gained considerable national attention and Treat and Klein were eventually lured from D.C. to Chicago by Mayor Rahm Emanuel where Treat says “We were trying to implement the same things we’d done in D.C.” Divvy Bikes, Chicago’s bikeshare system with 3000 bikes, is set to open for registration any day now.

Treat says she loves Portland and is “Turned on by the progressive politics and the beauty and splendor of this city.”

In an official PBOT statement, she added that, “I believe Portland to be a national leader in sustainable transportation modes and know we can continue to push an aggressive agenda by developing smart, fiscally responsible budgets, focusing on efficient operations and incorporating smart planning and economic development strategies into future city goals.”

Treat will join Novick, who was recently appointed Transportation Commissioner. They should make a very dynamic pair given that Novick is also known for his creative ideas and fiscal acumen. They face a daunting task of finding more transportation funding and building a transportation system that reflects the goals and plans adopted by the majority Portlanders who want better bicycling access and safer transportation options. It’s a foregone conclusion that the City of Portland will make a major move toward a new transportation funding stream as early as 2014 (there are also rumblings of a statewide transportation funding initiative in 2015). Having Treat at the helm could be a major asset in making sure whatever funding solution we come up with has a positive impact on bicycling.

Treat is married and has four small children. On Twitter she describes herself as a Good government gal with a passion for change in the transportation industry. A Mom to 4 smarty-pants kids and wife to an artsy, intellectual, bike fanatic.”

This is huge news for bicycling and transportation in Portland. Treat clearly understands the value and importance of bicycling and she has the skills and background to move it forward. Both Novick and Mayor Hales are also big fans of bicycling and we are now truly poised to finally start moving the needle once again.

Stay tuned for more coverage.

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