Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities here to stay?

In May, legislation worked its way through City Council to make the Mayor's Office of Sustainability a permanent City of Philadelphia office. That got us wondering what will happen to the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU).

PlanPhilly asked Deputy Mayor of Transportation and Utilities Rina Cutler if MOTU could be at risk of dissolving under a new mayor and if there are any plans to make MOTU a permanent office, like the Office of Sustainability.

"I don't know who the next mayor will be ... I don't know what the format will be, but I certainly would think there would be an Office of Transportation and Utilities regardless because the functionality of the office would need to happen somewhere," Cutler said.

Mayor Nutter established MOTU under Deputy Mayor Cutler in 2008. Since then the office has brought in more than $100 million in competitive grants. On the utilities side, its two-person team manages supply and procurement of energy for the entire city government. On the transportation side, MOTU helps coordinate infrastructure policy and has a single person sit on the DVRPC and SEPTA boards. MOTU also coordinates relationships with all of the overlapping organizations like the Philadelphia Water Department, the Streets Department, PennDOT, SEPTA and Philadelphia Gas Works.

"The list just really goes on and on and on, and having an office that coordinates and makes sure everybody is aware of what everyone else is doing is critically important," Cutler said.

So when it comes to the future of MOTU and the question of whether or not MOTU could disappear under a new mayor, Cutler said, "Not only does the office significantly more than pay for itself, it also performs really important coordination and policy issues that I think whoever the next mayor is, is going to really appreciate."

In addition to bringing in more than $100 million in competitive grants, MOTU has launched a complete streets policy, successfully piloted pedestrian plazas, parklets and bike corrals, established a program for bike sharing and taken strides toward institutionalizing green infrastructure.

"I do think that the office has been a huge value add for the government and residents of Philadelphia," Cutler said.

Cutler said MOTU has helped consolidate a constituency around a livable city agenda and started the discussion about how to live in a multimodal world. She also credits MOTU with attracting younger people to Philadelphia.

"I can translate transportation to health," she said. "I can translate it to economic development. I can translate it to environment, so to me the office is crucial to every aspect of city management."

At the moment Cutler does not know of plans for legislation that would make MOTU a permanent office, but she said it is a great idea.

"I will certainly have conversations with several Council people to see if they have any interest," she said. 

About the author

Christine Fisher, Transportation reporter

From 2012-2014 Christine covered transportation, writing about everything from pedestrian concerns to bicycle infrastructure, bridges, trail networks, public transit and more. Her favorite assignments sent her bushwhacking through Philadelphia’s yet-to-be-cleared bike trails, catching a glimpse of SEPTA’s inner workings or pounding the pavement to find out what pedestrians really think. Christine also covered community news for Eyes on the Street, where her work ranged from food sovereignty to public art and urban greening. She first joined PlanPhilly in fall 2011 as an intern through a partnership with Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods website. 

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