City hires transportation director after rescinding offer to Portland official

Tucson's new transportation director, Daryl Cole, left, accepts an award honoring his 25 years of service to the city of El Paso.

Tucson has a new transportation director, but only after rescinding an offer to Portland’s head of transportation.

Daryl W. Cole, currently El Paso Texas’ transportation director accepted the postion last week.

Michael Graham, the City of Tucson’s public information officer, confirmed yesterday that the position was originally offered on contingency to Portland’s transportation director Tom Miller.

Graham said the city reevaluated the situation and determined that Cole would be a better fit for the position.

Miller, a huge proponent of alternate transportation and separated bicycle infrastructure, was out of the office until July 23 and could not be reached for comment.

Cole, who has worked in El Paso’s transportation department for the last 26 years, said he grew up in Chandler and loves the southwest.

Cole said he believes its important to build for all modes of transportation including bicycling and walking.

As for the streetcar, he said he didn’t know enough to comment specifically on Tucson’s streetcar, but in general streetcars are an economic benefit and can help move people through the city.

He said Tucson’s pavement quality is about the same as a lot of cities in the country.

“There is no good pavement in the country,” Cole said. “I don’t care what city you are in, it is an investment issue. It sounds like we need to invest more. ”

Miller's profile photo on Twitter.com

He said his first priority was to begin working with the people of Tucson to accomplish what they wanted done.

“I am the new guy and I need to learn,” he said.

Cole said he was all about working with all the jurisdictions to make the system better for everyone.

“We are all in one system,” Cols said. “If you are a user you don’t care what jurisdiction you are in.”

Up until Wednesday, Cole was in Tucson with his family looking for houses and driving around the city. He said they found a place on the east side of Tucson.

Cole said it has been a while since he’s been on a bike, but said his wife said the first thing she was going to do when they moved was get a bike.

When it was announced that Tucson’s former director Jim Glock, who biked to work every day, was retiring, bicycle advocates became concerned about replacing him with someone as bicycle-friendly as Glock.

Advocates would likely have been thrilled with the hiring of Miller, who has been pushing Portland to become even more transit and bicycle friendly.

BikePortland.org has reported that Miller believes separated bicycle infrastructure is the key to increasing the number of bicycle commuters beyond where Portland currently is.

It appears, however, that Miller’s position in Portland may be a bit tenuous because of some questions about his ethics after he stayed at the beach home of a Portland real estate developer. BikePortland.org also reported that the two 2012 mayoral candidates, who appoint the director, would likely fire him if they were elected.

The story is worth a read. Of particular interest to alternate transportation advocates is what Miller said was the  Portland transportation department’s mission, which is for the department, “to be an agency that does not prioritize auto access at the expense of everything else.”

El Paso, where Cole is coming from, has started to attempt to make its region more bicycle friendly. The El Paso Times reported about a planning group that was hired in 2011 to help make the city more bicycle friendly. According to the article, the planners said the bicycle situation was “dire, but could be fixed.”

According to 2010 U.S. Census data, El Paso has a bicycle commuter share of 0.1 percent. In 2012 The Alliance for Biking and Walking reported that El Paso was ranked no. 45 for the level of bike commuters. Tucson was ranked no. 8 and Portland was ranked no. 1.

Cole said he wasn’t sure when he would officially start, but said it would be sometime before Sept. 1.

Ian Johnson, the chair of the Tucson-Pima County Bicycle Advisory Committee, sat on the transportation director citizen’s selection committee. Johnson said he planned to invite Cole to a BAC meeting in October or November to start forming a relationship with Cole.

In addition to hiring a new transportation director, the city is hiring a deputy director who oversees alternative transportation modes including the streetcar and bicycle and pedestrian issues. Graham said he believed that would be in addition to a full-time bicycle and pedestrian program manager to fill Tom Thivener’s vacant position.

Check out BikePortland.org’s followup with information from Miller. We have a call into Miller’s cellphone.

14 comments
Christian
Christian

I was friends with Tom (Portland guy) in high school in PHX.  He's a great guy and we dodged no bullet by not hiring him.  Tucson will always be a backwater.  Some prefer it that way.

3wheeler
3wheeler

I won't judge the new guy until he's in office and has done something.  Because El Paso is a mess, doesn't mean this guy is against bikes.  He's an employee and generally does what he's told.  Glock couldn't have done anything for bikes if his bosses were dead against it.  There's a perception in this town that cycling brings in revenues, as long as that exists at least some money will be spent on bike-frastructure.

Rod
Rod

Tucson, yes you did dodge a bullet.  Consider yourself lucky that you hired a highly qualified transportation professional.  Having streets paved helps both cars AND bikes, but here in Portland it has sadly been announced by Mr. Miller that street paving will NOT be a priority at all for transportation.  Which leads one to ask, what then should transportation be doing?

Frank Tellez
Frank Tellez

Turn out the lights the party's over. :( So instead of going forward we take a giant step backwards. What's the logic in that? Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. We almost had some seriously cool bikey stuff but oh well. :( Goodbye Loop, goodbye Velodome, goodbye bicycle boulevards, goodbye hawk signals, goodbye separate bike lanes, goodbye Cyclovia. Feel like I'm being dropped off the back of the pack. :( 

Colby
Colby

I'm all for activism when needed, but maybe we should actually wait and see how Mr. Cole conducts himself and maybe try to build a working relationship with him first.

Guest
Guest

Martha, You're right.  Please forgive my rather crude language.  I'm rather embarrassed by those words now.  But I am angry.  I'm tired of always losing, and of have having allies that often capitulate (in my opinion) to the existing power structure. I do like your idea about forming alliances with other marginalized folks here in Tucson.  The LGBT community certainly has an admirable record of taking no guff, as it were, and moving the culture forward.   Whatever the response strategy, it's pretty clear from this and other decisions by our political leadership that advocates of alternative transportation is up against a massive machine that includes the city government, TPD, and the private sector.  We can't afford to be naive about the existing war on pedestrians and cyclists.

rynsa
rynsa

Well, there you go: car culture wins.  Game, set, and match.  26 years in El Paso, which has climbed its way all the way up to a whopping 0.1 bicycle commuter share... and we're supposed to believe that Mr. Cole will be accommodating to needs of the alternative transportation community?!  Psssh.... Eff this town.  Now watch the BAC roll over, eagerly pull their spandex aside, and take it like a bitch.   

Colby
Colby

After a quick look at El Paso DOT website, I don't even see any reference to bike/ped planning. Does anyone know if they have staff dedicated to that?

Martha Retallick
Martha Retallick

Hey, Frank. I know how you feel about being dropped off the back of the pack. Story of my life. Since you're now back here with me, let's poke along and talk. Pardon me, but we'll have to keep stopping to indulge my passion for bike-tography, but that's par for the course. Any-hoo, the Portland bike transport guy of our dreams isn't coming here. Well, quite frankly, I think that fella has a cloud over his head as big as the one above that guy in the Li'l Abner cartoon. Methinks that we dodged a bullet by not hiring him. As for all those things that it appears we'll be saying goodbye to, chin up, Frank. You'll see the road a lot better that way, and you know how how those Tucson drivers are. You're not going to see them if your chin's down there on your shoe-tops. Remember folks, this is war. We fight wars. We don't accept defeat and fade away. We hang in there and keep giving the enemy hell.

rynsa
rynsa

 Sorry, TucsonVelo... I can't figure out how to delete this redundant comment.  Any ideas?

Martha Retallick
Martha Retallick

I like your anger, rynsa. Now, here's how we build on it. First of all, let's channel the LGBT community. The folks who brought us such things as ACT UP! aka the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power. The Stonewall Riot. Among other things. Let's just say that they haven't always been nice, polite, and oh-please-oh-please could everybody just like us when it comes to getting what they want. But, over time, the LGBT community has been very good at accomplishing its goals. Next, let's start taking action. Sure, this guy may seem like a carhead now, but what if he keeps having to deal with a very loudmouthed bicycling community? A community that makes like Churchill and never gives in? Not ever?

rynsa
rynsa

Martha, You're right.  Please forgive my rather crude language.  I'm embarrassed by those words now.  But I am angry.  I'm tired of always losing, and of have having allies that often capitulate (in my opinion) to the existing power structure. I do like your idea about forming alliances with other marginalized folks here in Tucson.  The LGBT community certainly has an admirable record of taking no guff, as it were, and moving the culture forward. Whatever the response strategy, it's pretty clear from this and other decisions by our political leadership that advocates of alternative transportation is up against a massive machine that includes the city government, TPD, and the private sector.  We can't afford to be naive about the existing war on pedestrians and cyclists.

Martha Retallick
Martha Retallick

 No worries, rynsa. I've been known to talk like that too. Just ask my friends and family. Any-hoo, back to that war on pedestrians and cyclists. It is indeed a war. And all sorts of forces are allied against us. But, in my own family, a relative was killed during World War II. She was in London during the Blitz, and thank you, Nazis, for taking her out. She was an innocent civilian, you ahos. I met this relative's sister in the 1970s. She sure missed her sister. Oh, did she ever. But, as she and her husband told me about London during the Blitz, the pride really shone. It was indeed their finest hour. That is what we need to channel.