Jeffrey Tumlin to Run SFMTA

Consultant who created Oakland's DOT to take over in San Francisco

Jeffrey Tumlin, 
Principal and Director of Strategy at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting, outside a restaurant near Oakland City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick, in 2016
Jeffrey Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting, outside a restaurant near Oakland City Hall. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick, in 2016

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Jeffrey Tumlin, currently the Director of Strategy at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, a San Francisco-based transportation planning and engineering firm that focuses on sustainable mobility, will become the new director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. The announcement came this morning from Mayor London Breed’s office. The SFTMA Board will formally appoint him at its meeting on November 19, and he will begin his new position on Monday, December 16.

From the Mayor’s release:

Tumlin is a renowned transportation expert with 25 years of experience working in cities around the world… he has worked to help cities achieve their broader goals through transportation, such as livability, economic growth, and equity. During his time at the Oakland Department of Transportation, he guided the newly restructured department to institute a data-driven and equity-based approach, while streamlining a bureaucratic system that had historically delayed project implementation. He is a longtime resident of San Francisco and lives with his immigrant, artist husband of 25 years in Noe Valley. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from Stanford University.

“Jeffrey Tumlin is exactly the type of forward-thinking, results-oriented leader that the SFMTA needs and I am excited to announce his new role as Director of Transportation,” said Mayor Breed in a statement. “I believe Jeffrey is the right person to improve our public transportation, continue making our streets safer, and ensure that our approach is equitable and serves all of our residents across San Francisco. The SFMTA is an agency that requires a balance between managing an enormous day-to-day operation and developing the vision to help our City continue to grow without increasing gridlock. I know Jeffrey is ready to lead this agency.”

“San Francisco is unlike any place in the world and I’m incredibly excited to help build a transportation system that serves all of our residents,” said Tumlin in a prepared statement. “I’m focused on putting people first and implementing solutions that work best for a diverse and ever-growing world class city.”

Tumlin’s appointment should come as good news to advocates for safe streets. In a previous interview with Streetsblog, Tumlin said this about Oakland’s transportation department: “First we had to decide ‘what is it for?’ One thing a transportation department is not for is solving the congestion problem.” Tumlin said there’s a conventional wisdom among citizens and politicians to assume a DOT is about widening roads and speeding traffic flow. “Widening roads works for about five minutes, until people ask ‘why not move to the bigger house five minutes farther away?’” he explained. The result is more road surface to maintain, more congestion, and more pollution.

According to the Mayor’s office, Tumlin will be tasked with focusing on public transportation and taking steps to implement the recommendations of the Transit Performance Working Group. In parallel, he will reinforce the early successes of the “quick-build” safety program and take additional steps to accelerate the pace of delivering safer streets for all users.

For more about Tumlin, check out our extended Q&A from 2016.

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