Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti picked a San Francisco official known for her focus on innovation, bicycle use and traffic safety to run the city's Department of Transportation on Friday.
Assigned to the "Livable Streets" office of San Francisco's transportation agency, Seleta Reynolds played a major role in carrying out that city's Vision Zero project, which is seeking to cut traffic fatalities to zero by 2024. She also helped launch a program that has introduced 35 bike rental stations in different parts of the city, with another 15 expected by the end of the year.
Garcetti's pick shows "without a doubt" that the mayor is trying to reduce the emphasis on cars at the city's transportation agency and give more attention to bicyclists and pedestrians, said Eric Bruins, planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Reynolds is known nationally for her work in making cities more pedestrian- and bike-friendly, he said.
"LADOT has been very conservative in its willingness to try new things," Bruins said. "Seleta is going to be willing to experiment a little and add more innovative street design to Los Angeles."
Reynolds' arrival comes at a time of transition for the Transportation Department, which manages traffic signals, regulates taxis, issues parking citations and runs a bus system, among other things. Lawmakers are debating how to regulate app-based, ride-sharing services, such as Lyft and Uber. And activists are demanding a reduction in the amount of fines for parking violations and have threatened to go directly to voters, if necessary.
Among the biggest changes at the department is a push to put key streets on "road diets," taking away car lanes and using the additional space for bus-only lanes, wider sidewalks or dedicated bicycle lanes. Some of those efforts have met resistance in some neighborhoods.
The City Council must vote to confirm Reynolds. She would replace Jon Kirk Mukri, who has been running the department on a temporary basis.
Councilman Mike Bonin welcomed Reynolds' selection, saying it sends a message to the department that its mission must go beyond "an engineering-based perspective about cars."
"One of the reasons there's so much traffic in Los Angeles is we have, more than most major cities, been reliant on a single mode of transportation," said Bonin, who heads the Council's Transportation Committee.
Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said in a statement that the mayor's approach to traffic will rely on multiple solutions, including bikes, cars and "increased motor vehicle mobility."
"There's no silver bullet to solving L.A.'s traffic woes," he said.
Reynolds, 38, worked on an array of traffic safety efforts in San Francisco, including the installation of buffered bicycle lanes, changing the timing of traffic signals and lowering the speed limit near schools to 15 mph.
"Last year was a really bad year for pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco," Reynolds said. "We had 21 people die in the street. That really catalyzed the city to focus on projects that could lead to safer outcomes."
Janette Sadik-Khan, who spent nearly seven years as commissioner for the New York City Transportation Department and advised Garcetti on the selection process, praised Reynolds' communication skills, saying she "knows how to manage and get things done."
"She's got an incredible way of getting across why it's important to experiment and try new things," said Sadik-Khan, who is also a principal at Bloomberg Associates, a philanthropic venture devoted to issues involving cities.