Mayor Michelle Wu on Tuesday named Jascha Franklin-Hodge as Boston’s chief of streets, to will be responsible for overseeing the administration’s transportation and public works departments and serve as a liaison to the water and sewer commission.
Franklin-Hodge comes from the Open Mobility Foundation, where he is executive director, and before that, City Hall, where he was former Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s chief information officer.
Wu said in a statement that Franklin-Hodge will work to implement her administration’s transportation goals, including fare-free MBTA buses, safer street designs, and a connected network of low-stress bicycle routes. He will officially join the mayor’s Cabinet in January.
“Fundamentally, our transportation system needs to be something that is safe and comfortable and dignified for everyone no matter what mode of transportation they choose. We don’t always deliver on that right now,” he said. “I’m excited to get to work . . . I feel very passionate about making sure our transportation system works for people.”
The chief of streets position was created by Walsh in 2015 and held by Chris Osgood until Councilor Kim Janey, who was acting mayor from March to November, picked Osgood as her chief of staff earlier this year. Since then, the position has remained vacant. The chief of streets has become an integral part of City Hall — and keeping constituents happy. The position is in charge of everything from fixing potholes and snow removal to multimillion dollar infrastructure projects like the new center-running bus lanes on Columbus Avenue.
Franklin-Hodge said basic city services are the building blocks of broader change.
“We have to have that solid foundation of basic city services to be able to do the big things,” he said.
The two departments Franklin-Hodge is charged with overseeing are currently without permanent leadership, something he said he will be taking a look at as soon as he starts. The public works commissioner position is currently vacant, and Brad Gerratt is serving as interim transportation commissioner.
Transportation advocates applauded Franklin-Hodge’s appointment.
Jarred Johnson, the executive director of the advocacy group Transit Matters, said Franklin-Hodge’s background in computer science and data analytics will be helpful when planning transportation projects and measuring their impact.
“One of the biggest challenges is fear of the unknown, fear of these changes,” he said. “There are so many interesting and helpful data points that can help guide some of this work. "
Johnson hopes a reassessment of the GoBoston2030 plan, the city’s transportation plan that aims to increase public transit ridership, reduce air pollution, and improve road safety, will be a top priority for Franklin-Hodge.
“We’ve got less than a decade left to implement that and set ourselves up for significant greenhouse gas reductions, air quality improvements, and congestion relief,” said Johnson. “What do we need to do to get there? What do we think made sense in 2016 that no longer makes sense?”
Johnson said he’s excited to see a chief of streets who is a public transit user and cyclist.
In an interview, Franklin-Hodge said he mostly gets around the city on the Orange Line or his e-bike and sometimes rides the 39 bus in Jamaica Plain to amuse his toddler who is a big fan of buses.