Public Works Director Ed Reiskin to Be Named SFMTA Chief

Ed Reiskin (at microphone) announcing the Better Streets Plan last year. Former Mayor Gavin Newsom in background. Photo: Bryan Goebel

Ed Reiskin, the head of the San Francisco Department of Public Works, has been chosen to oversee the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Streetsblog has learned. The official announcement will be made at a 10am press conference tomorrow at SFMTA headquaters at 1 South Van Ness Avenue.

City Hall sources who requested anonymity told Streetsblog the SFMTA Board made the decision in closed session Tuesday. Reiskin and acting SFMTA CEO/Executive Director Debra Johnson were the only candidates spotted entering the meeting, and Reiskin emerged all smiles after a one-hour interview, though he would not comment.

Reiskin, a bicyclist and Muni rider who is widely respected by his staff, supervisors and transit advocates, was first appointed to head the SFDPW in 2008 by former Mayor Gavin Newsom, and current Mayor Ed Lee, who was city administrator.  In his current position, Reiskin oversees 1,100 employees and an annual operating budget of $165 million. At the SFMTA, he will oversee 5,000 employees and an annual operating budget of $775 million.

No doubt, he’ll have his hands full managing the SFMTA, but one of the reasons Reiskin was picked is for his management skills, sources said. The Mayor recently said the new SFMTA chief’s top priority should be to implement the labor agreement with Muni operators, and improve the transit system’s reliability and meet on-time performance, something that has seemed impossible since the on-time mandate was passed by voters 12 years ago.

Unlike his predecessor, Nathaniel Ford, Reiskin is likely to be aggressive on bicycle and pedestrian safety initiatives. Though he has no transit experience, that’s not exactly unusual for the head of a transit agency. Some of Reiskin’s backers who have spoken to Streetsblog privately have praised him as a competent and visionary leader who would overhaul the agency and make some major improvements.

According to a report this evening in the Chronicle, “Reiskin has agreed to a three-year contract, and will be paid $294,000 annually, the source said. That’s nearly $15,000 a year less than the base salary for Nathaniel Ford, who left the agency’s top job last month after a 5-1/2-year tenure. Reiskin is scheduled to start his new gig on Aug. 15.”

We’ll have more coverage tomorrow.

Updated 8:42 p.m.

  • Alex

    Who needs transit experience when you’ve been hand picked by Mayor Pak?

    Meet the new boss, same as the old…

  • Shmoozilla2000

    Jeez, give him a chance.

  • Alex

    To do what?  Is Reiskin’s appointment really anything other than extremely blatant cronyism?

    Seriously.  From the woman that brought you the world’s most thinly disguised astroturf, the Rose Pak Memorial Subway to Nowhere, blingfrastructure for the blacks, the world’s most expensive streetcars (that still don’t work)… you really expect something positive ?  Really?

    We paid $400,000 premium to get rid of Natty Tatty Ford before election time, and the best we can do is some schlub with zero transit and minimal labor experience?  It’s not like the MTA has a load of transit issues to deal with… or is tasked with corralling three of the most contentious groups (TWU, cabbies, and bike zealots) around.  Please.  Let’s not forget that the metro has /still/ not recovered form the hit of trying to run the T.

    Let’s also not forget how much SF BikeBlog fawned over Ed Lee after he did a few photo ops on a bicycle… and how quickly that love has turned to loathing as it’s become clear that he’ll buckle to the same outside influences that every other Pak aligned puppet has.  Or was scrapping the Cesar Chavez plan a feather in his mayoral cap?

    Pak didn’t even bother to look beyond her immediate cronies.

    Give me something to be hopeful about, and I’ll be hopeful.  I was hopeful with Ford for a number of reasons.  I was hopeful with Newsom, but with zero track record of any kind of leadership, don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

  • Tojo122001

    I don’t like this guy.  Degrees from Harvard? NYU? MIT?  What about people who were educated locally?  SFSU?  City?  We need local people to solve local problems and the colleges and universities in San Francisco would produce some of the best people for the job.  We don’t need any fancy east coast educated snobs telling us what to do.  

  • Tojo122001

    I don’t like this guy.  Degrees from Harvard? NYU? MIT?  What about people who were educated locally?  SFSU?  City?  We need local people to solve local problems and the colleges and universities in San Francisco would produce some of the best people for the job.  We don’t need any fancy east coast educated snobs telling us what to do.  

  • Stu Chuang Matthews

    I don’t know anything about this guy, but why are we handing out _contracts_? And why are these contracts worth $300k per year? I am sure we could find someone that would do a good job for under $200k, without a contract.

    It is an insult to transit riders who having rising fares and decreased service to pay anyone in the SFMTA so much.

  • Anonymous

    +1 – didn’t they learn anything?

  • GoodbyeGoldenParachute

    You’d prefer someone local to the best person for the job?  This job desperately needs the best we can get, no matter where they are from. 

  • Anonymous

    Contracts are because the job is so fraught with risk — beyond what anyone can control — that if you don’t have a contract, either side might buckle and bail under the pressure. This is how all important professional work gets done — whether you are in pro sports or cleaning streets. Contracts protect both sides. Now how can people post with such confidence on running the city when they don’t understand the most basic aspects of business management?

  • Huh? I’ve lived in SF or the Peninsula for 90 percent of my years, and I don’t think someone needs to have been born or educated here to understand the city. It helps, sure, but it’s not a requirement by any means.

  • Stu Chuang Matthews

    @13315259d560f212288ea5072e7455fd:disqus I don’t need to be a professional businessperson to know that a three-year $300k/year contract is absurd, greedy, and cronyism.

  • Fight Against SF-Gangs

    SFMTA & SFDPW employment structures are base on,
    cronyism at the top; nepotism below; favoritism in between. Ed Reiskin career
    is all about political cronyism. SFDPW Muhammad Nuru and Ephrem Naizghi careers
    are all base on nepotism. If you are ever at SFDPW fire-drill a method of
    practicing the evacuation of a building for a fire or other emergency, you will
    observe on one side of Market St there is china and the other side of Market St
    is Africa. However, if you’re an American that only speaks English you will not
    be able to understand both nations on each side of market St in the middle of
    their conversations.  Nathaniel Ford will
    receive a separation package bonus for his remaining contract to get Ed Reiskin
    his crony position. Dennis Herrera said Edwin Lee is the godfather the Cronyism
    Gang.  Dennis Herrera is promising to
    throw Crony Gang out let us try him and if he doesn’t we will throw him out…