Silver Lining to the U.S. DOT Shakeup: Barbara McCann Joins the Team

The loss of Polly Trottenberg and John Porcari from U.S. DOT was a blow for livability advocates. But into the void has slipped Barbara McCann, an architect of the Complete Streets movement. McCann starts Monday as the new director of the Office of Safety, Energy and Environment in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation.

Barbara McCann, shown here talking to former Sec. Ray LaHood, starts work at U.S. DOT on Monday. Photo: ##http://www.bmccann.net/##McCann Consulting##

Barbara McCann, shown here talking to former Sec. Ray LaHood, starts work at U.S. DOT on Monday. Photo: McCann Consulting

“That’s a mouthful,” she said in an email to colleagues, “but I’ll be responsible for overseeing the Department’s strategic planning process and will help set Departmental policies, plans and guidelines relating to safety and environmental sustainability (and much more).”

McCann helped popularize the term “complete streets” while working at America Bikes in 2003, and with several other organizations, started the National Complete Streets Coalition in 2005. She left the coalition in June 2012 to write a book about building political and community support for complete streets. The book, Completing Our Streets: The Transition to Safe and Inclusive Transportation Networks, came out this fall. The new job at DOT will cut short her book promotion efforts, but the Coalition — now officially a program of Smart Growth America — will continue to use it.

There are now well over 500 complete streets policies in states, cities and towns around the United States. While these policies don’t translate into better walking, biking and transit overnight, they commit planners and transportation officials to at least consider non-motorized modes when engineering a street.

Transportation reformers and smart growth advocates can look forward to seeing a very friendly face when dealing with the Office of the Secretary at DOT. Let’s hope all of their hiring decisions during this upheaval are as wise as this one!