Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s transportation appointments are a clear signal that the new administration is serious about making Chicago’s transportation network more multi-modal, cost-effective, and modern. Mayor-elect Emanuel has named Forrest Claypool new CTA president and Gabe Klein new Chicago Dept. of Transportation (CDOT) commissioner. Terry Peterson will remain CTA board chair.
In an official statement on the appointments, MPC Vice President Peter Skosey said, "Forrest Claypool, Gabe Klein and Terry Peterson are proven leaders who have demonstrated expertise, political will and reform-minded sensibility that will be necessary to addressing the challenges of maintaining and improving the world-class transportation network that is critical to our region's economic competitiveness and livability.”
On April 20, MPC staff members, including myself, and members of our Regional Planning & Investment Committee were fortunate to host the mayor-elect’s new transportation leaders. Here’s what each of the leaders brings to the table:
Forrest Claypool served two terms as a Cook County commissioner and was superintendent of the Chicago Park District. Forrest is known for being reform minded, innovative and sharp. I got to know Forrest better while helping out on the transition team Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which he led. I found him to be collaborative, detailed, and very open to opinions and good ideas, no matter how big or mundane. The most pressing issue at the CTA is the budget, and Forrest can bring a lot of experience to fix it. At the Park District, he streamlined the budget and expanded programs for kids without increasing revenues.
Gabe Klein, who I met for the first time this morning, is all about getting things done. As the former director of the District Dept. of Transportation (DDOT) in Washington D.C., Gabe brought innovation and a customer focused culture: He was known to personally answer hundreds of emails every day and explained the biking and parking system on YouTube. Klein expanded the Circulator bus lines into D.C. neighborhoods and put in place a program so customers could buy tickets at parking meters. He also launched the nation's largest bike-sharing program with 1,000 new bicycles and 100 stations. At DDOT, Gabe secured a $100 million allocation for new streetcars and created a transparent budget process, putting budget and schedule information online for every road, bridge and transit project, including an explanation as to why any project went off schedule. At our meeting this morning, Gabe stressed that collaboration between departments was key to getting things done in D.C., and he wants to continue that in Chicago. Klein, the owner of a Smart Car for practical purposes, commuted to work at DDOT by walking, riding one of his five bikes, or via his Vespa scooter. He previously was an executive at ZipCar and co-founded On the Fly, an innovative company that designed and operated zero-emission electric vending trucks.
Terry Peterson has served as the Chicago Transit Authority Board chair since 2009. His tenure has seen one of the most challenging economic environments and he’s been able to secure more state and federal funds. Prior to his time on the CTA Board, Peterson served six years as the chief executive officer of the Chicago Housing Authority, executing the CHA’s groundbreaking Plan for Transformation, a 10-year program to overhaul Chicago's public housing.
During the mayoral campaign, MPC issued Keepers and Seekers: The Next Mayor’s Priorities for a Prosperous Metropolitan Region, which outlined key economic development, infrastructure and housing-related challenges facing our city and region. The report urged the city’s new mayor to nurture Keepers—current programs and initiatives led by the City of Chicago that should continue or be expanded—and Seekers—initiatives, programs and activities that need nurturing and increased support from the city to succeed. Among them:
- Regional decision-making and collaboration
- Chicago Climate Action Plan
- Central Area Action Plan
- First-ever pedestrian plan
- O’Hare Modernization Plan
- CREATE (Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program)
- Bus Rapid Transit, low-cost transit innovations, and transit-oriented development
- Congestion pricing
- Increased funding for transit
- Employer-Assisted Housing and the new Commute Options Program
Through Mayor-elect Emanuel’s transition process—and during early meetings with Klein, Peterson and Claypool— MPC has encouraged the new administration to adopt these projects among its top priorities. Inspired by their openness, my colleagues and I at MPC look forward to working with Mayor-elect Emanuel’s transportation appointments to find innovative, cost-effective solutions to improve Chicagoland’s transportation options.