Public transit champion tapped to lead transportation planning in region

James Corless has been chosen new head of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments
James Corless has been chosen new head of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments SACOG photo

The Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the region’s chief transportation planning agency, has chosen a public transit and smart growth advocate as its new chief executive.

James Corless, the founding director of Transportation for America, will join SACOG in April, replacing retiring executive Mike McKeever.

Corless’ Washington, D.C.-based agency has been pushing for more transportation funding for communities, use of technology to increase mobility, and ways for communities to leverage transportation dollars to boost economic development.

As head of SACOG, Corless will help guide land-use thinking and transportation spending priorities for leaders in six counties: Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer, Yolo, Sutter and Yuba.

SACOG is overseen by elected representatives of those six counties and 22 local cities. The agency handles local distribution of federal transportation funds, and is tasked with assuring transportation spending aligns with state and federal sustainable community goals and air quality standards.

McKeever plans to step down at the end of the year. SACOG legal counsel Kirk Trost will serve as interim head until Corless arrives.

In a press statement Wednesday, Roseville Councilwoman Susan Rohan, who chairs the SACOG board, described Corless as “a world-class visionary and leader in the field of transportation, land use, social equity and creative place-making … He is a gifted leader and collaborator who will be an asset to the Sacramento region.”

Sacramento Rep. Doris Matsui called Corless a “thought leader” in Washington, D.C. “We’re thrilled to welcome him in Sacramento. I look forward to working with him to ensure the implementation of smart growth and transportation systems in our region.”

Corless lauded SACOG for its groundbreaking work over the last 15 years in connecting transportation and land use planning, and for its focus on promoting walkable, transit-oriented and compact development.

“It is one of the most forward-looking and visionary regional planning agencies in the country,” Corless said. “SACOG’s leadership and role as convener and collaborator is going to be critical in the years ahead in order to promote economic prosperity, innovation, and a high quality of life that will benefit each and every resident of the region.”

Corless previously worked at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in the Bay Area.

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak