The Evolution of Institutional Governance

Listen in as John Porcari and Mortimer Downey, who both served as Deputy Director of Transportation at U.S. DOT, talk about the importance of governance. Governance is at the core of any transportation issue. The ability of agencies to respond to changing and expanding demands varies across the country as is shaped to a large extent by a range of different institutional and organizational structures. Can today’s transportation governance structures, funding arrangements, decision-making mechanisms, and operating practices respond to the disruptive changes that surround them? As transportation-related organizations’ missions evolve and goals change, governance has become a “threshold issue” that can encourage or slow progress and policy. This episode will explore the evolving governance of our federal and local transportation institutions and what potential reforms could improve safety, efficiency, and equity.

More about the Participants

Mort Downey served on the Transportation Policy Committee for the Obama Presidential campaign, and during the presidential transition was appointed as leader of the Department of Transportation Agency Review Team. He also served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Mr. Downey held the position of U.S. deputy secretary of transportation for eight years, the longest serving individual in that post. He also served on the President’s Management Council, as Chairman of the National Science and Technology’s Committee on Technology, as a member of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Council and as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak). In a prior Administration he had served as an Assistant Secretary of the Department. Previously, Mr. Downey was for 12 years the executive director and chief financial officer of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). He has also worked at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Budget, and at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

John Porcari is currently President of Axilion Smart Mobility. Prior to his current position, Mr. Porcari worked at WSP as President of Advisory Services and served as interim executive director of the Gateway Development Corporation. Mr. Porcari was deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation from 2009 to 2013. He served as chief operating officer for an executive branch department with a $77 billion annual budget, composed of 10 operating administrations and 55,000 employees worldwide. He twice served as secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation, from 2007 to 2009 and from 1999 to 2003, managing a state agency responsible for integrated highway, transit, aviation, port, bridge and tunnel authority and motor vehicle administration components, with 9,300 employees and a $3.2 billion annual budget. From 2003 to 2007 he was vice president for administrative affairs at the University of Maryland, serving as chief administrative officer and chief financial officer for the flagship campus of the University System of Maryland.

Mr. Porcari has a master’s degree in public administration from the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the State University of New York at Albany and a B.A. in political science from the University of Dayton. He has served on the board of directors of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the American Public Transportation Association, the World Trade Center Institute and the National Aquarium in Baltimore.


Mortimer Downey
Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation


John Porcari
President,  Axilion Smart Mobility