Mayor London Breed initiated a nationwide search for a new transit chief this week.
Now she’s announcing a major new appointment to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors, the governing body that will hire the agency’s new director when Ed Reiskin steps down in August.
Steve Heminger, the 18-year executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, retired from the MTC in February.
Should Heminger’s nomination be confirmed by the Board of Supervisors, he will aid Breed’s stated desire to find a “transportation expert” to lead the agency.
“Steve Heminger’s expertise in regional transportation will make him an incredible addition to the Board of Directors, especially at this critical moment as the Board embarks on its search to find SFMTA’s next leader,” said Breed in a statement. “Moving forward, his insight and experience working with transportation agencies across the Bay Area, including SFMTA, will support the City’s work to strengthen our public transportation system, make our streets safer for all users, and deliver transportation improvement projects.”
SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin announced Monday that he would not seek renewal of his contract in August when it expires, an effective resignation. His announcement closely followed Breed’s letter to the SFMTA Board of Directors asking them to begin a national search to replace him, following a number of high profile stumbles by the transit agency including a Muni operator shortage impacting citywide service, sexual harassment complaints within the agency that some allege went unanswered and potentially defective doors on the agency’s new Muni trains that dragged a woman to the tracks.
All of that was capped off with one of Muni’s most publicly challenging days yet last Friday when the entire metro subway was out of service due to a downed power line.
The announcement of Reiskin’s departure came only three days later.
Heminger’s own transportation experience is vast. His 18 years leading MTC includes administration of more than $2 billion a year in funding to various transportation agencies across the Bay Area, a role as chairman of the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee, and oversight of the construction of the East Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The MTC plans, finances and coordinates transportation across the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.
He also oversaw the implementation of MTC’s interagency agreement with the Association of Bay Area Governments, which earned him some public ire. The San Jose Mercury News and East Bay Times editorial boards called the quasi-merger a “hostile takeover.” Those editorial boards also touted the need to expand and improve freeways.
“San Francisco has no shortage of transportation challenges, but I am confident we can improve,” said Heminger in a press statement. “I thank Mayor Breed for the opportunity to bring my regional experience to bear on making it easier for my fellow residents to move around town.”
Heminger will replace outgoing SFMTA board member Lee Hsu. The SFMTA Board of Directors is not a full-time position and is considered to be mostly a civic volunteer role, with directors earning a per diem of $200 per month. All members are appointed by The Mayor’s Office, though several efforts in recent years have focused on shifting some appointment power to the Board of Supervisors — an effort that supervisors pledged to revive this year in light of SFMTA’s recent woes.