Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday appointed a CTA veteran to be his new transportation commissioner — replacing Gabe Klein, who stepped down from the post in November.
Rebekah Scheinfeld, 38, comes to the Chicago Department of Transportation after a 2½-year stint with the CTA, where she was chief planning officer. She also served on Emanuel’s transition team after his election.
Klein resigned to start his own transportation and technology company. The former transportation chief for Washington, D.C., and Zipcar executive had worked on Emanuel’s goal of making Chicago the “bike-friendliest city in the country.”
He dramatically increased the number of bike lanes in Chicago and installed the city’s first protected bike lanes by shrinking the number of lanes available to motorists.
Then he launched the Divvy bike-share program which, the mayor hopes, will someday be the largest in the nation. He also was the point man on Emanuel’s controversial plan to install speed cameras that churn out $35 and $100 tickets around schools and parks.
Scheinfeld was chosen for her technocratic ability.
“She’s a proven manager of transportation projects,” Emanuel spokesman Tom Alexander said.
At the CTA, Scheinfeld developed rider contingency plans during the rebuilding of the Red Line. She also did extensive work on the city’s bus rapid-transit efforts, including the controversial Ashland Avenue corridor, which would eliminate two lanes currently open to traffic. “The mayor has a very well-stated public vision for the transportation system and specifically its role in getting Chicagoans where they need to go,” Alexander said. “That’s going to be her charge.”
While the City Council still needs to sign off on her appointment, she is scheduled to start the $169,000-a-year job in late January.
Scheinfeld declined to delve into specifics, but she said she will continue with Emanuel’s goals, which include rebuilding roads, adding bike lanes, continuing the Divvy program and building the Bloomingdale Trail on the Northwest Side.
“It’s not just about repaving,” Scheinfeld said. “Potholes are important. But there’s also issues around how to make a space safe and efficient for all users.”
An attorney, Scheinfeld previously worked for the firm Mayer Brown, handling transportation matters. Before that, she worked for the New York City Parks Department for three years under then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
She has a bachelor’s degree in urban studies from Brown University. Scheinfeld earned her law degree and master’s in business from Northwestern University.