Spring 2004, p.27

The Towering Evergreen of Transportation Alternatives

John Kaehny and his son Cassius.

“Reformers are like Morning Glories: They look great early in the day and then they disappear.”

John Kaehny is no ephemeral morning glory. More akin to a conifer of his native Colorado (and similar in stature), John, in his 14 year tenure at Transportation Alternatives, outlasted seven City Department of Transportation commissioners, three mayors and—thanks to his brand of informed, multi-pronged and dogged advocacy—more than a few misguided transportation policies.
Under his watch, T.A. opened many new and fruitful fronts in the fight for a more livable city: New York City traffic calming, enforcement cameras, Safe Routes to School, Bus Rapid Transit and, most recently, Safe Routes for Seniors and crash mapping. John also pried opened bridges and parks to those not traveling by motor vehicle, the vast majority of New Yorkers. With quotable flair influenced as much by Martin Luther King as Jane Jacobs, John’s spoken and written words raised the profile of alternative transportation. He also raised significant funds, which he plowed into winning key victories and making wise investments in human capital.
John’s tenure, however, will be remembered more in terms of the expectations he raised, two of which will long endure: first, what to expect from our government in terms of traffic safety and equitable allocation of transportation resources and; second, what to expect from ourselves in terms of professional and effective advocacy.

John’s work is etched in the streets, greenways, boulevards, bridges and parks of this great city. These places now bring less death and more life, more silence and less noise, less fear and more joy.

We’ll miss you John.