Greater Greater Washington

No Mo'neme

DDOT Director Emeka Moneme has resigned. The Post reports that Moneme was "irked by Fenty's hands-on managing style"; my sources say there was a growing dissatisfaction with Moneme from the Fenty administration as well.


Former DDOT Dir. Emeka Moneme.

I've frequently criticized Moneme for focusing on getting projects done rather than getting the right ones done. Whether it's the streetcar, intercity bus loading, or a neighborhood streetscape redesign, DDOT reveals its internal conflict between planners who have good, progressive ideas and engineers who are still stuck in LOS-land.

But even if DDOT's output didn't always reflect it, Moneme's heart was clearly in the right place. He wanted to make the city safer for pedestrians and bicycles, and make sure our transportation network aids rather than hinders the development of walkable communities. Just look at his great comments in Eric Weiss's "war on drivers" hatchet job. And there's merit to the charge that Fenty was too "hands-on"; he would often attend community meetings and instruct Moneme to adopt a certain policy regardless of the wisdom of that approach or the research DDOT had put into making a decision.

Fenty's choice to succeed Moneme will have enormous influence over DDOT's direction. We could get an old-school traffic engineer focused on moving as many cars as fast as possible. Or we could get a visionary, progressive leader who will bring clarity to DDOT's actions. New York City stood at the same fork in the road last year when replacing their DOT Commissioner. The two finalists were Michael Horodniceanu, a "cars-first" traditionalist and DOT insider, and Parsons Brinkerhoff VP Janette Sadik-Khan. Mayor Bloomberg chose Sadik-Khan, and now we have separated bike lanes, brand-new plazas, a boulevard-like design for Broadway, and more.

We need a similarly visionary leader for DDOT. And that wouldn't be unusual for Fenty, who plucked an innovative founder of a school reform organization to be chancellor of the DC Public Schools, and picked a national leader on Smart Growth to run the Office of Planning. So far, he has stood behind them despite controversial actions.

DDOT needs a strong leader with a clear vision as much as DCPS, OP, MPD, and other city agencies. And it needs the Mayor to stand behind that leader. Just as with NYC DOT, there are plenty of conventional, established people who could take over. General Counsel and interim Director Frank Seales Jr. is not the visionary leader we need. Fenty should find DDOT's Janette Sadik-Khan, their Michelle Rhee, their Harriet Tregoning. Who is it?

Update: sign this petition to ask Mayor Fenty to find and appoint a world-class leader as the next Director. We should impress upon the Mayor now how important his choice will be.

Update 2: Streetsblog's Aaron Naparstek pointed out that, after calling NYC DOT's Horodniceanu "cars-first", they found out he's not so bad. (Sadik-Khan was still the best choice for Commissioner.)

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

Comments

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This is a shocking development. I agree that the decision on the replacement will absolutely determine the nature of design, policy and implementation going forward.

I have been pleased with Mr. Moneme's personal conduct and outreach. I have been dismayed with many of the decisions made which rely on LOS and other outmoded metrics.

I am hopeful that the Mayor will bring someone in who has experience in cutting edge traffic management policies and understands what it takes to make streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

This is a generational moment in the history of the District and urbanism. Let's all hope (and lobby) the mayor to get this choice right!

by Andrew on Jul 23, 2008 4:16 pm • linkreport

Former head of WABA, and current Director of Transportation Programs for the downtown BID, Ellen Jones would be a bold choice in the right direction. She also serves on the District's Transportation Committee I think.

by VC on Jul 23, 2008 4:58 pm • linkreport

I really like Moneme, as I think he is a great, progressive and approachable leader.

But I also agree with Avent (see post at the Bellows) that this is a remarkable opportunity to get an amazing mover and shaker into the position. I think we need to get a petition / letter going. You are great at those...

by DG-rad on Jul 23, 2008 5:35 pm • linkreport

David,

If you create such a petition, I will be happy to circulate it to circles of folks who would be more than happy to support it.

by Andrew on Jul 23, 2008 5:59 pm • linkreport

DA,

Is there anything else we could be doing to help influence Fenty on this issue? Where to call, write, etc?

Thanks.

by Jimmy D on Jul 23, 2008 6:47 pm • linkreport

It's a shame that you list Rhee in the same league as people like Janette Sadik-Kahn or Harriet Tregoning. Once the school system is even more completely wrecked, let's talk about it.

by Richard Layman on Jul 23, 2008 6:52 pm • linkreport

WMATA just announced that Emeka Moneme is their new "Chief Administrative Officer", and will maintain his position on the WMATA Board of Directors. He will switch over in September.

I think it's probably a bad idea to have members of your board of directors also have executive positions within the organization.

See here.

by Michael on Jul 23, 2008 10:00 pm • linkreport

Let's compile a list of the most effective transportation directors in Portland, Oregon in the last decade and try to hire the best one of them!

by Cleveland Park Neighbor on Jul 24, 2008 11:09 pm • linkreport

Has there been any movement on finding Emeka Moneme's replacement for DDOT director?

by FourthandEye on Dec 29, 2008 5:02 pm • linkreport

Nope.

by David Alpert on Dec 29, 2008 6:03 pm • linkreport

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