Governor’s New Secretary of California State Transportation Agency Is from the Auto Industry

David Kim when he was Vice President of Government Affairs at Hyundai Motor Company
David Kim when he was Vice President of Government Affairs at Hyundai Motor Company
Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

The California State Transportation Agency, CalSTA, oversees all transportation departments in the state, including Caltrans, the California Transportation Commission, the DMV, and the CHP. So the new governor’s appointee to CalSTA’s top post should play a key role in guiding all those agencies towards a sustainable future.

But Governor Newsom just appointed David Kim, whose most recent experience is with the auto industry and the Federal Highway Administration.

Which is a mite disappointing.

Kim also worked at the U.S. DOT, as well as on federal advocacy for the L.A. DOT. His most recent post was as vice president of governmental affairs for Hyundai.

Despite his clear ties to the auto industry, advocates for sustainable transportation issues are cautiously optimistic about Kim’s appointment. He has been described as a good administrator, and his experience shows he probably has the chops to serve as a liaison to industry–but is that what Newsom wants for the head of CalSTA?

California is in the midst of a big fight with the federal government–many fights, but a particularly messy one is over rules on vehicle emissions standards. Newsom began his term hitting hard on climate, environmental, and transportation issues, and even established a “strike team” to fix problems at the DMV. That makes the optics of appointing an auto industry executive/highway administrator to the top transportation post in California. . . strange.

Has he appointed someone whose task will be to smooth things over? That would be a little off the point, given the policy issues CalSTA faces. These include internal questions such as DMV reform, and policies on autonomous vehicles, and of course the ongoing Caltrans transition from a car-and-highway-centered focus to one that considers all transportation modes. There are also policy questions that require partnering with other state agencies, like the Air Resources Board in its fight to preserve clean car standards.

The question is, what will matter to this new appointee?

Newsom has some upcoming opportunities to show strong leadership by making the right appointments. The undersecretary of CalSTA, for example, should be someone who can weigh in on these issues and help the new agency head formulate strong policies.

There are also two vacancies on the California Transportation Commission. Sustainable transportation and climate advocates have called for Newsom to appoint people who can bring a balance to that decision-making body, which currently is heavily weighted towards representatives from industry, labor, and real estate.

Kim’s appointment must be confirmed by the Senate before it is final.

29 thoughts on Governor’s New Secretary of California State Transportation Agency Is from the Auto Industry

  1. ON THAT WE CAN AGREE! The benefit of Mass transit is the cost to operate does not go up much as ridership increases. The problem is the fixed cost to build & operate is high. The challenge is going to be the true cost of transit will be super high, at current ridership levels, although dropping with increased ridership.

  2. “The total of all taxes and fees for vehicles (fuel taxes, licenses, sales tax on vehicles, and road tolls) collectively More than pay for the cost of roads and car infrastructure.”

    Indeed factually incorrect as your above statement demonstrates. You peg it at 60%. This is only direct costs and takes no other negative societal costs into consideration. If you factor this in, we are way below 50%.

    One thing we should be able to agree to is that transportation should not be subsidized in any way. Let the true cost be born by the user and watch miles traveled PP plummet and Mass Transit explode – and our population become healthier and happier.

  3. I’ll respectfully disagree. In California over 60% of the costs of roads are paid by locally generated fuel taxes, user fees from vehicle registration, etc. Sales tax on Fuel, sales tax on vehicle sales, and other taxes and fees would cover the remaining %.

    Compare that with Transit where 90% of the cost is subsidized with no offsetting tax or fee income.

    In some areas like mine (San Diego) there is a separate 1/2 cent sales tax (TransNet) to pay for transportation projects. The current plan has 95% of that TransNet revenue going to non-private vehicle projects. This tax has been in place since 1984, and in 2004 it was voted to extend for 40 more years.

  4. This is factually incorrect. Please investigate this further to discover the fact that car owners/users receive more money from public funds than they pay in.

  5. The cost of real estate is what drives spread-out development. Cars just make it possible to have lower cost housing.

    The cost for cars is primarily borne by the car owner, where the subsidy for transit is borne by all taxpayers.
    The total of all taxes and fees for vehicles (fuel taxes, licenses, sales tax on vehicles, and road tolls) collectively More than pay for the cost of roads and car infrastructure. Where fare box recovery in transit covers less than 10% of the cost of transit in my state. One is a subsidy, one is an individual cost.

  6. What cars do well is spread out development thereby eliminating the possibility for successful transit. All done with the largest per user subsidy of any mode.

    This is a positive feedback loop which can only be solved by removing the subsidy.

  7. Agreed. Understanding where and when to apply different transportation solutions is the element I sometimes find lacking in the conversation.
    The high cost of new infrastructure for some forms of transit, and all forms of rail. The limitations of biking based on distance and geography. The lack of housing density to make transit pencil out. These are topics that also need to be understood.
    I believe that reducing the number cars is good, but we must understand why it is the dominate form of transportation now, what private cars do well, and what other forms do well and do poorly.

  8. Your third sentence is the exact opposite of my experience. To be within this group you identify is to be engaged in transportation issues and be well versed on motivations for users of all modes.

  9. Bear in mind that dense inner cities that are desirable to live in often raise the real estate prices far above affordability for most people – which is a key reason they have long driving commutes. I live in a very desirable modest sized midwestern college town. My house is 12 rooms, about 2500 sq. ft., and would sell for about $400,000. A smaller single family home in San Francisco averages $1.2 million and similar prices prevail in Palo Alto where Stanford is located. Many well employed people such as nurses and teachers drive to Palo Alto in their small RVs and stay the week, driving home on Friday be with their families in real estate they can afford.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  10. We can redesign our cities and we are redesigning our cities. See note above about the need to change attitudes

  11. I respectfully disagree because we cannot redesign our existing cities. If we want to build new cities along your wishes, that if fine, but our existing cities will have a high percentage of commuters that come from well beyond walking/biking range and from places without viable transit options to keep trip times roughly the same as driving.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  12. No, “balance” means not forcing people to drive everywhere and giving those people who don’t drive a safe way to navigate the streets. And we need to encourage more people not to drive because they are not damaging the environment, dirtying the air, or taking up a lot of space on the road. Oh, but why am I bothering? You know this. Just because we’ve done a lousy job building communities in the past doesn’t mean we should keep doing so.

  13. Visionary is good. But being regular user of Transit and Trains says more about where you live than your visionary abilities.
    Understanding the reasons for the current rate of private vehicle use seems to be lost on many transit, bike and train advocates. If we do not understand our history, we will be doomed to repeat it.

  14. “Balance” in the way you use it means to force some percentage of the drivers out of their cars by making the main collectors and arterials so difficult and congested that they don’t come. This is simply wrong. A high percentage of commuters, shoppers, tourists, visitors and commercial vehicles that go to our cities to support the commerce reasons that the cities exist come from areas too distant to consider walking or biking and/or from areas where using transit would unacceptably double the trip time.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  15. What is truly NOT a function of government is continuing to expend large investments in widening and straightening roads so more people can drive, because more people will drive. Then what. Continue expanding? It’s just not a wise way to invest.

  16. Time to end this unquestioning acceptance of horrible too-wide roads through communities because “people drive.” People also walk, bike, and take transit, and no one should be forced to put up with roads designed exclusively to keep cars moving quickly through them just because others insist they have a right to use a car. Balance is possible, and it means changing attitudes like this one.

  17. That’s not what Dan said nor insinuated. This being America, unless you dig really hard for an administrator directly from a tribe in the Gobi, being a regular user of the mode ‘private car’ is a given.

    Also, the ‘now’ of private car user rates is not a future goal anyone is supporting and, therefore, a visionary is what is needed – not a historian.

  18. Time to end this unquestioning acceptance of horrible too-wide roads through communities because “people drive.” People also walk, bike, and take transit, and no one should be forced to put up with roads designed exclusively to keep cars moving quickly through them just because others insist they have a right to use a car. Balance is possible, and it means changing attitudes like this one.

  19. Of necessity, many collectors and arterials do go through some residential areas – it is the only way to get from the city limits to the downtown areas. The collectors and arterials were designed to carry high loads of commuters, shoppers, visitors, tourists, and commercial traffic. They are NOT highways, they are urban collectors and arterials designed to support commerce.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  20. Except a lot of these streets, now highway sized, run straight through communities. It affects quality of life for the people who live around them. I don’t think highway capacity was meant to run through neighborhoods.

  21. What is truly NOT a function of government is continuing to expend large investments in widening and straightening roads so more people can drive, because more people will drive. Then what. Continue expanding? It’s just not a wise way to invest.

  22. This seems like an odd disqualifacatuion. If he ONLY walked, biked, used transit or train would he then be Unqualified to make decisions regarding DMV, State highways, etc?
    Since the majority of those over 18 use cars as their primary mode of transport, shouldn’t understanding that mode be a primary requirement?

  23. I have no problem with local residents supporting taxes to subsidize transit options or improvements – I have voted twice for millages to improve our local bus system. But when commuters have a choice to drive for 25 minutes or use transit that takes 45 minutes for the same door-to-door journey – a very high percentage will continue to drive.

    Choking down our collectors and arterials that are designed to move large numbers of vehicles efficiently in attempts to create more congestion and make driving less attractive to the majority of commuters is NOT a proper function of government.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  24. It is not a matter of forcing people to drive. It is a matter of giving them options. In many places one is forced to drive as there are no other options.

  25. With rare exceptions, a majority of commuters in most cities choose to drive to work for a variety of reasons they find to be valid. Trying to force these people to double their door to door commute times by not driving is not a proper function of government.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  26. G­et residual profit every week… This is an amazing part-time job opportunity for anybody… Best thing about it ,work from your home and start making $100-$2000 each week … Start now and get your first cash by the end of this week…> http://me.beep.ie/sgR

  27. Regardless of his credentials as an administrator, if he does not walk, bicycle, use transit, and train on a frequent basis, he is not qualified for the position.

Comments are closed.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG