Nunes-Oeno with CM Bagshaw (Wedgwood Community Council Photo)
Nunes-Ueno (center) with CM Bagshaw in 2012 (Wedgwood Community Council Photo)

Proposition 1’s November passage greatly deepened SDOT’s role in transit service planning, with the new Transit Division being created to oversee the intergovernmental purchase of service hours and also to formalize SDOT’s role in transit improvements more generally.  Yesterday, Mayor Murray and SDOT Director Kubly announced the division’s first Director, Paulo Nunes-Ueno.

Longtime transit and bicycle advocates will recognize Nunes-Ueno, who has been a visible and vocal advocate for smarter transportation policies. The NYU and UW graduate has spent his career primarily overseeing employer programs and policies, first with Metro working as a Commute Trip Reduction Program Manager, and for the last 7 years as Director of Transportation and Sustainability for Seattle Children’s, one of the country’s best employer transportation programs. He was also instrumental in Children’s sponsorship of Pronto Cycleshare.

As an aside, Nunes-Ueno will now work for the city that once fined him $500/day for the mildest possible form of urbanist civil disobedience, defying city policies by installing a sandbox for his kids in the public planting strip in between the sidewalk and his neighborhood street.

In private conversations with SDOT staff, we have been encouraged by the rigor and thoughtfulness with which they’re approaching the Prop 1 spending, and we are hopeful that Nunes-Ueno will be an adept administrator who enables his staff to do good, and assuredly contentious, work. Prop 1 service hours begin in June 2015.

The city’s media release is after the jump.

SEATTLE (Nov. 19, 2014) – Today Mayor Ed Murray, along with Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Director Scott Kubly, announced the appointment of Paulo Nunes-Ueno as the new SDOT Transit Division director. Joining the department’s executive team, Nunes-Ueno will lead a newly created SDOT division focused on addressing the city’s and region’s current and future transit needs.

“It’s critically important that we deliver expanded transit services efficiently and cost-effectively after Seattle voters said yes to Proposition 1,” said Mayor Murray. “We’re stepping up to work with Metro to identify the routes and increased service that will roll out this summer. The new Transit Division will help ensure that we get the most from our investment.”

In this new position, Nunes-Ueno will lead a team of transportation professionals focused on delivering safe, efficient and cost-effective transit solutions for Seattle. This division will be responsible for four main areas:

•         Transit policy, planning and procurement

•         Transit design and construction oversight

•         Transit operations and interagency coordination

•         Mobility options and parking programs that support transit.

Nunes-Ueno will also provide subject matter expertise to SDOT leadership, the Mayor’s Office, the City Council and other City departments.

“Making transit better helps everyone who lives in, works in or visits Seattle,” said SDOT Director Kubly. “With the creation of a new Transit Division and the hiring of Paulo Nunes-Ueno, we will have the right team in place to guide our short- and long-term transit efforts. He is a strong hire due to his success at Children’s Hospital, where his transit and commute trip reduction work resulted in sixty percent of employees walking, biking or taking transit.”

Nunes-Ueno joins SDOT after having served as the director of Transportation and Sustainability for Seattle Children’s Hospital, and manager of King County Metro’s Commute Trip Reduction Services Project/Program. He will start at the City on December 17 and will receive annual salary of $144,500.

21 Replies to “SDOT Hires Transit Division Director”

    1. Agreed, and to that end I edited the post’s first sentence to read “greatly deepened SDOT’s role…” rather than the original “put SDOT in the business of…”.

  1. I’m always dubious of professionals who have their experience only in Seattle. Seattle suffers from too much inbreeding and desperately needs someone with an outside perspective when it comes to aiding transit operations.

    1. Then the question becomes, what non-work exposure has he had to other cities and their transit systems, especially those with better systems. Has he lived elsewhere or gone to college elsewhere? Has he travelled extensively and maintained a network of transit contacts in other cities? Has he read transit theorists like Jarrett Walker and what does he think of their ideas?

      This raises a broader issue, how does one get extensive knowledge of transit in other cities without living in them or working in them? STB is extensive but it’s local. There are starting to be national/international communities like Streetsblog and a couple others but they’re still just getting started — I mean they only have a few people per city and maybe not the transit agencies and maybe nobody in some cities.

      1. As someone who sustained a head injury while riding transit — a**hole jaywalker — I’d still be violently opposed to such a measure.

    2. While I 100% agree that living somewhere else with a great transit system is critical to having perspective (and living it day in and day out), I also think that local knowledge and relationships are also extremely important. In my experience traveling (and using/studying transit systems) is also a very good way to learn about different solutions and well as common flaws. I studied abroad in Stockholm and traveled to 35+ western European cities over a period of over a year and I’m very much better off because of it.

  2. It’s good that Seattle is setting up a Transit Division. I was wondering how it was going to decide what routes it wanted, if it was just going to be some ad-hoc time by somebody whose primary job is non-transit, and approved by a City Council with little transit knowledge. This will also help with other issues going forward, such as implementing the Transit Master Plan. We can’t wait for Metro to do everything because it won’t and can’t. And Seattle has probably waited too long waiting for Metro to do something.

    1. I always thought SDOT engineering staff were generally transit-supportive anyway. Nevertheless, it’s good to have staff assigned keep track over Prop 1 funds by the creation of this position.

      I still feel that we do ourselves a disservice by having a mode-based organizational and strategic planning structure at SDOT — and not having sector-based structure. Having a team that works within a specific part of the city to resolve transportation issues makes great sense because most SDOT issues (outside of Prop 1) are local and transit just one mode. For example, the placement of a bus stop impacts pedestrians, bicyclists, traffic (crosswalks and bus maneuvering), on-street parking and bus operations.

    2. Well, Seattle is working on integrating its transit and bicycle and pedestrian and other plans, so perhaps that’s the first step.

  3. I don’t think it’s clear if he was actually fined $500 per day. They city said they would fine him if he didn’t remove his sandbox, but I don’t think anyone here knows if he actually had to pay a fine. All we know is was threatened with a fine.

    And someone correct me if I’m wrong, but when you boil down the Times article, he blamed cars for any danger there might be to the children, but oddly, he didn’t blame the location of the sandbox. In other words, he believed placing a children’s sandbox next to a road is perfectly reasonable, and if there’s a safety concern, then it’s the road and cars that need to be fixed, not the location of the sandbox. Am I summarizing that correctly?

  4. Perhaps the position is mostly about management, but I’m curious what transit-specific experience/expertise he is bringing to this position.

  5. As a father and bike commuter I am pretty happy to see the city picking someone who is interested in getting folks out of cars when feasible, calming traffic and improving street safety. So far Mayor Murray seems to have done pretty well in Transit… I am surprised by the immediate negativity this announcement received in the comment section.

    1. I think people are just being cynical. I don’t think many people here actually believe he will perform poorly, or was a bad choice. They just want some big changes to transit (like a gridded bus route) and they fear this guy won’t be able to help that happen. Personally, I think he is a fine choice, and time will tell as far what actually happens.

  6. Is there any chance that Seattle Transit Blog, or a representative from this blog can arrange an interview? I’m thinking we could come up with a bunch of questions and then present them to him (after some editing by the folks here). I have a couple:

    1) There is fairly wide spread consensus amongst even the most cynical transit experts that we should seriously consider a gondola line from Capitol Hill to South Lake Union (and beyond). Will you be taking a look at this?

    2) The streetcar through downtown Seattle is supposed to get its own lane. Do you think this lane should be shared with buses as well?

    I wouldn’t expect detailed and informative answers on these questions, because he just got the job. But this could actually set us up for asking similar followup questions a year from now.

    1. About the streetcar lane, I asked that at the CCC open house a few weeks ago when the poster said “exclusive lane”. The rep said it’s transit exclusive, not streetcar exclusive, so buses would be able to use it.

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