Tilly Chang Elevated to Top Spot at SFCTA

The next executive director of the SF County Transportation Authority will be Tilly Chang, who currently serves as the agency’s deputy director for planning, the SF Chronicle reported yesterday. Chang will succeed José Luis Moscovich, who resigned from the position last November citing health reasons, and Maria Lombardo, who has served as interim director since.

Tilly Chang with Tim Papandreou, SFMTA's deputy director of planning for the Sustainable Streets Division. Photo: SF Environment/Flickr

Chang was selected on Tuesday by a closed-session vote of the SFCTA Board, which is comprised of the Board of Supervisors. As many as five of the 11 board members voted instead to appoint Sonali Bose, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency’s chief financial officer, according to the Chronicle. Bose was voted unanimously to be the secondary candidate, meaning she would be next in line if Chang chooses not to fill the position.

Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich said Chang’s appointment was a “safe choice” that will probably “preserve a lot of the culture at the TA, good and bad.”

Bose would have been more apt to overhaul SFCTA’s planning practices, said Radulovich. “I think she would have been a really good choice… she really understands the SFMTA’s and the TA’s policy goals, and how to connect what she’s doing with that.”

Sustainable transportation advocates have said the most important goal of the next TA chief should be to improve the agency’s collaboration with the SFMTA and the Planning Department. The TA plays a key role in determining whether the city moves toward a livable future or continues the car-dependent status quo, because it manages the city’s transportation finances and plans some major projects, like the city’s two bus rapid transit routes, which are both expected to be transferred to the SFMTA for implementation.

In his article, Chronicle transportation reporter Michael Cabanatuan posed some burning questions:

Will the new chief continue the status quo of butting heads over transportation planning with the Municipal Transportation Agency? Or will the two agencies hold hands, sing you-know-what and work together to improve the city’s transportation system?

And does the vote signal a major split among supervisors on transportation? The authority, which oversees spending of transportation sales tax revenues and does some planning and project delivery, is the supervisors’ only chance to directly influence transportation policy. The MTA board is appointed solely by the mayor and doesn’t have to answer to the supervisors.

Radulovich said he hopes to see Chang and other agency heads sit down with the SFCTA Board “to sort out what the TA ought to do, and not ought to do,” as well as rely less strictly on traffic planning models and focus more on visions for the future.

“That’s an important conversation to have in the city,” he said.

SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum said, “Ms. Chang and the TA have shown strong commitment to helping San Francisco live up more fully to its transit-first policies.”

“Obviously, there is still a lot of room to improve on this, so as the newly appointed executive director, we expect her to increase the urgency and accountability around our city’s transportation funding and policy priorities and to maximize the clearly growing public and political momentum to prioritize safe, livable streets that make bicycling, walking, and taking transit the most convenient and comfortable options for getting around San Francisco.”