Big city commissioners talk politics of transportation reform

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
Commissioners Panel-1

Commissioners on stage for, Raising the Bar: Building
political capital to implement key design initiatives.

(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

What is the latest thinking on transportation politics and perspectives in America’s largest cities? How do transportation department chiefs view bicycling and transit? On Friday, the top transportation officials from Chicago, New York City, Boston, San Francisco and Philadelphia shared a stage for a panel discussion at the final event of the National Association of City Transportation Officials’ (NACTO) Designing Cities conference.

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Mayor Bloomberg: “Cyclists… more important than automobile riders”

Mayor Bloomberg at NACTO-2

Bloomberg said street projects and transportation
have played major role in New York City’s success.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke at the closing plenary of the NACTO Designing Cities Conference today. At an event held at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of NYU in Manhattan, Bloomberg shared his perspective on the role transportation plays in his city’s success.

Bloomberg was introduced by the Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Transportation (and President of NACTO), Janette Sadik-Khan. She hailed Bloomberg’s leadership, saying that, “It’s not an exaggeration to say, the impact he’s had on New York, the nation, and the world will be felt for a long time after he’s left City Hall.”

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The quest for ‘8-80’ bikeways

NACTO panel slides-4

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A true 8-80 bikeway.

Much has been written lately about a “bicycling renaissance” that has taken hold in America. At the NACTO Designing Cities conference here in New York City, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the reality behind that renaissance and I’m happy to say that it’s real. Nowhere was that more apparent that at a panel discussion I attended today titled, 8-80 Bikeways: Designing protected bikeways and bicycle boulevards to accommodate a broader range of users. The session featured updates on bikeway development from four cities: Portland, Indianapolis, Chicago and New York City.

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Brookings’ Bruce Katz: Transportation reform key to “metropolitan revolution”

NACTO Day 2-2

Brookings Institute VP Bruce Katz wants a revolution.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution opened up day two of the NACTO Designing Cities conference with nothing short of a manifesto. The noted expert on what makes cities and metropolitan areas tick, stopped short of calling for cities to secede from the union; but he delivered a scathing indictment of what he sees as a feeble federal government and told the hundreds of city leaders and planners in attendance that, “The U.S. is witnessing a metropolitan revolution.”

“The time of waiting for the regulations and waiting for enlightened leadership from national government are over,” he proclaimed, “this has to be a revolution that can permeate the world and I think the U.S. can start it.”

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PBOT staff in NYC to soak up the latest, greatest ideas

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
NACTO Designing Cities Conference-4

PBOT Bike Coordinator Roger Geller gleaning
secrets from US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood.
(Photos © J. Maus/

As you might expect at a conference about innovative street designs and city planning, the City of Portland has sent a team to participate. Here at the NACTO Designing Cities conference, I’ve bumped into several Bureau of Transportation staffers. I tracked them down during a break for lunch and asked each of them why they’re here…

Roger Geller, Bike Coordinator

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NACTO Conference kicks off with bold words from Sadik-Khan, LaHood

NACTO Designing Cities Conference-9

NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.
(Photos © J. Maus/

The first ever conference of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) got underway on the campus of New York University this morning. The opening plenary features speeches from NACTO President and New York City DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Sadik-Khan kicked things off. “We’re here to mark the flowering of urban design in our cities,” she said, “And to break down the institutional barriers that stand in our way.” NACTO, and the goal of this conference, is to give city transportation officials the tools, knowledge, and inspiration to do that.

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Headed to New York City for ‘Designing Cities’ conference

Next Tuesday (10/23) I will head to New York City to attend the NACTO Designing Cities conference.

NACTO is the National Association for City Transportation Officials, a group that was formed as a counterbalance to AASHTO, the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials. In a nutshell, the folks behind NACTO (whose founders include several key PBOT engineers and other local experts) were sick and tired of being constrained by outdated guidebooks and AASHTO’s old-school (auto-centric) standards for transportation planning. They wanted a group that understand their urban issues and that could provide cities with the planning and engineering tools to design streets for the future — not have them shackled to priorities of the past.

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