SEATTLE — Seattle’s new Department of Transportation director has been on the job for just a few weeks, and he’s already making news for focusing on alternatives to driving.
“We have a growing city and a finite amount of right-of-way,” said SDOT Director-nominee Scott Kubly. “We actually need to get more folks carpooling, more folks taking transit, more folks biking and walking.”
Kubly said that’s the mandate he has been given by Mayor Ed Murray, who chose him, in part, because of his background advocating for alternative transportation in both Chicago and Washington, D.C., where he previously worked.
Kubly, who has already started working, is expected to receive official City Council confirmation in early September.
The director-designee rejects the “war on cars” label that has been attributed to City Hall policies in recent years. “It’s not about a war on any particular mode,” he said. “It’s really about how do we make smart investments that make the whole thing work better.”
Kubly says that his experience working as a transportation leader in Washington, D.C., proves that pushing alternatives helps everyone, including drivers. “When I go back now to visit friends, it’s actually easier to get around via car. It’s easier to find parking now than it was when there were fewer people living there.”
One of the first items on Kubly’s plate is implementing a new two-way bike lane on 2nd Avenue through downtown. The mayor has asked Kubly to accelerate the project in an effort meet aggressive goals for getting commuters out of their cars. It will mean taking out a lane of parking, which has some concerned.
“It’s easier and safer and feels more comfortable to bike in downtown Chicago right now than it is in Seattle,” Kubly said. “I really think it’s about us catching up.”
This fall, Kubly will oversee the city’s first bike share program, which will allow users to pick up and drop off bikes at several points around town. “Every city that it’s been rolled out in, there’s been some initial skepticism before it’s launched,” he said. “Then the first question folks ask after it launches is why isn’t it bigger? Every single city.”