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To Austin, please hire SDOT Director Scott Kubly

SDOT Director Scott Kubly. (KIRO 7)

Seattle’s director of transportation is one of six finalists for the city manager job in Austin, Texas. It’s a job he deserves.

During his time as the director of SDOT, Scott Kubly has helped Seattle move forward with its vision of becoming a bike-friendly, transit-friendly haven.

In the past few years since Kubly was appointed to the position by former Mayor Ed Murray, the department has pushed people out of their cars and into alternative forms of transportation. As Kubly said, the city can’t handle more vehicles.

“Our mode split needs to go from 30 percent SOV [single-occupancy vehicle] to 25 percent SOV and the lion’s share of that is going to be carried on the bus,” he said.

Indeed. StreetsBlog USA recently praised Seattle for investing in bus service, rather than making service cuts and sending transit into a “death spiral.”

Meanwhile, the number of people driving solo into downtown has decreased.

The Seattle Department of Transportation also continues its work on adding protected bike lanes, making it safer for those who choose to commute under their own power while taking away traffic lanes. A 1.2-mile bike lane along Westlake Avenue North was even named the No. 1 new bike lane in the country for 2016.

And the city, despite obvious concerns, continues to build its streetcar network, recently saying it would eliminate a northbound and southbound lane on First Avenue.

Kubly turmoil

Of course, there has been a bit of turmoil since Kubly became director in 2014.

An investigation yielded serious ethics violations related to Seattle’s efforts to purchase its now-defunct bike-share program, Pronto! Kubly, the investigation found, failed to file waivers related to the bike-share program, which he was once president of. He was fined $10,000, but half was suspended so long as he didn’t commit another violation.

More recently, it was reported that the department Kubly is in charge of is at risk of not making many of its Move Seattle levy targets for this year, with some of the money being deferred for future use. SDOT left $32 million in levy money unspent in 2016 and carried it over to 2017. A similar carryover could happen in 2018.

The department, for example, committed to re-mark 1,500 crosswalks in 2017, but only finished 527 by the first half of the year. Of the 560 lane miles of restriping, only 25 were completed by the end of June, KIRO 7 reports.

Luckily, Kubly knows how to handle these kinds of things.

“I would actually argue that the fact that we have carryover is an indication of us being responsible,” he said of SDOT’s levy targets.

When Kubly first became director, Mayor Murray called him a “transportation visionary.” He certainly has guided the city away from “auto-dependence.” At the very least he could be touted as someone who knows how to spin things.

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