Ron Thaniel has always had his eye on the road. Since joining the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2002 as assistant executive director for transportation, Thaniel has advocated for major infrastructure improvements in the nation’s cities. He has lobbied for light-rail projects, pushed sustainable initiatives and counseled government officials on the role of transportation in averting terrorist threats.
Now, as he takes the executive director post at the National Association of City Transportation Officials, Thaniel wants to focus the conversation about investments in infrastructure -- a prominent feature in President Obama’s jobs plan -- on the need to improve mobility in transportation systems in America’s urban areas. That means better road networks and more efficient public transit. After all, more than 75 percent of the U.S. population lives in or around cities, and that number is expected to grow.
“These cities are competing on a global scale and, in many cases, with 1950s infrastructure. That is largely because they have been neglected by Washington,” Thaniel says. “In turn, these cities are struggling. I believe firmly that the future success of this country is largely dependent on the success of these cities.”