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.