Challenges await new Muni chief Ed Reiskin

SF Public Press
 — Jul 21 2011 - 5:01pm
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VIDEO: Muni board chairman Tom  Nolan introduces new director Ed Reiskin.

A new manager is taking over the city’s transportation agency. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation agency board chose Edward D. Reiskin, currently San Francisco’s public works director, to oversee the agency’s programs including the city’s transit system, Muni.

Reiskin will have a big challenge in improving on-time performance and service for riders while implementing a new labor contract with drivers. He will also face a $22 million budget deficit this year.

Reskin said he was confident that savings would be found without major cuts to service. “As a very frequent Muni rider and patron, I believe there is some low-hanging fruit,” he said Thursday. “I think think there’s efficiency to be found.”

Reiskin has public transportation experience, but has logged 20 years in the private sector, academics and nonprofits.

He said many of the answers lie within the agency: “My job is to unleash and empower those who work here to make that happen.” He gave no outline, but said engagement with  staff and operators will be key.

The agency’s board of directors spent most of July interviewing candidates for the position after Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. announced he was leaving the agency. The board interviewed about 30 candidates.

Chairman Tom Nolan said the board liked Reiskin’s knowledge of the city and its politics.

“The board saw in him a leader,” Nolan said. “We see in Mr. Reiskin a fast learner, who has proven that time and again” at the city’s 311 information service and public works.

“He’s someone who rides the ride and walks the walk,” said David Chiu, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. “I think today, the future of transportation in San Francisco is brighter.”

Reiskin will also not just oversee Muni, but also the agency’s taxi, pedestrian, parking, traffic and bicycle programs, as well as capital projects. Some major projects are ramping up, including the construction of the Central Subway to Chinatown.

Before his appointment in 2008 to the Department of Public Works, Reiskin was the first director of the city’s 311 customer service center.

Reiskin will take over Muni on Aug. 15. Debra Johnson, the agency’s administration, taxi and accessible director, is serving as acting chief. She had been a candidate for the permanent position.