Greater Greater Washington

Mary Cheh wants to break up DC's transportation agency

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has gotten too large and unwieldy to carry out all facets of its mission, says DC Councilmember Mary Cheh. Cheh has introduced a bill to reorganize transportation-related functions, create some new agencies, and abolish one.


Cheh's proposed reorganization. Image from Councilmember Cheh's office.

Cheh, who chairs the council committee that oversees DDOT, says there is precedent for slicing large agencies into smaller ones. Before 1998, all transportation-related functions were part of the Department of Public Works (DPW).

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) was formed that year by splitting off driver and car licensing-related functions. Then, in 2002, DDOT was created. Finally, the District Department of the Environment split from DPW in 2006.

Cheh feels that it's time again for a too-large District agency to split into several. She has proposed a possible set of changes, below. But her staff emphasize that this isn't the only possible approach. More than the specifics, they want to put out one option for discussion, and foster a broad conversation about what to do.

The current version of the bill would make a few significant changes.

Centralize parking functions in one place. Today, three separate agencies handle parking issues. DDOT determines parking rules and posts signs. But officers who work for DPW are the ones who actually write tickets. If someone contests a ticket, it's the DMV that reviews the case.

This creates significant confusion when DDOT policymakers want to solve one problem, but information can get lost when trying to get DPW ticket-writers to focus in that area, and DMV hearing officers might interpret rules entirely differently. The bill would form a new agency, the Department of Parking Management, to handle all of these matters: policy, enforcement, and adjudication.

Establish a new transit authority. Cheh says that DDOT seems unable to really manage transit planning amid all of its other responsibilities, and groups like the Downtown BID have been complaining that DDOT does a poor job of with and coordinating with them about transit.

In many cities, the transit system is its own authority with a separate board. Cheh's bill would create such an authority for DC. That authority would supervise the Circulator and DC Streetcar, and be the point of contact between the District government and WMATA. It would also handle taxicab policy (see below) and "multimodal planning," but Cheh's proposal is not clear on what exactly that means.

To govern this authority, the mayor would appoint four members to a board, including a chair. The directors of DDOT and the Office of Planning, the DC Chief Financial Officer, and the councilmember who oversees transportation would each serve on the board or designate staff members to represent them.

The board would also include the head of DC Surface Transit, a private nonprofit made up of various local Business Improvement Districts, the convention authority Events DC. DC Surface Transit was involved in pushing to launch the original Circulator. The organization now helps market the Circulator, advises DDOT on operations and routes, and is advocating for the streetcar program.

Cheh's staff say that a transit authority, versus just an agency, could also be more transparent about transit planning than DDOT has been, by having a public board with open meetings. Furthermore, they say they have heard feedback that a separate authority could attract higher-caliber people than a mere government agency.

Abolish the Taxicab Commission. The DC Taxicab Commission has an unusual and, many say, dysfunctional structure. It has a board whose members the mayor appoints and the council confirms, but the chairman of the board also manages all of the agency's staff. Under Mayor Fenty, the Taxicab Commission chairman sometimes just ignored the board entirely. The agency has had problems with transparency and more.

Besides, does it make sense for one agency to only consider issues about taxis completely in a vacuum? Taxis are one of many transportation modes. People often choose between taxis, Metro, buses, driving, bicycling, and more. But having a separate agency make taxi policy means there's usually no overarching thought about how to help taxis fill a void other transportation modes leave, or vice versa.

Cheh's proposal would dissolve the Taxicab Commission. Instead, the District Transit Authority would make taxi policy and set taxi regulations, while the DMV would actually handle the day-to-day of registering, inspecting, and licensing the drivers and vehicles, just as it does for other drivers and vehicles now.

Move trees to DDOE. DDOT's Urban Forestry Administration handles street tree issues. Cheh's proposal would make this part of the District Department of the Environment, an agency that split off from DPW in 2006 to handle environmental protection, energy, and similar issues.

Cheh says there isn't a good reason for tree management to be part of DDOT. It's originally there because tree boxes are part of the roadway area, but there's also good sense in putting trees with the agency primarily focused on the District's environmental quality.

With these changes, DDOT would continue to have:

  • Its engineering arm, the Infrastructure Project Management Administration (IPMA) that builds and maintains roads, bridges, sidewalks, alleys, and other infrastructure;
  • The Traffic Operations Administration (TOA), which handles traffic lights, streetlights, crossing guards, and road safety;
  • The Public Space Regulation Administration (PSRA), with oversight over sidewalk cafés and other private uses in public space; and
  • Some or all of the Transportation Policy, Planning, and Sustainability Administration (PPSA) which devises long-term and short-term transportation plans, and works with communities to devise proposals to improve transportation. The pedestrian and bicycle programs are part of PPSA today, and PPSA is also handling the moveDC citywide transportation plan.
PPSA encompasses what Cheh probably means by "multimodal transportation planning." According to Cheh's transportation committee director, Drew Newman, they are considering a number options for transportation planning, including keeping it in DDOT, moving it to the new transit agency, or moving it to the Office of Planning.

Process

Cheh and her staff want to have a series of conversations on the various proposals, through some combination of public forums and a smaller working group. Based on that, hey might decide to change their recommendation, maybe reallocate which functions go to which agencies, or even decide that something shouldn't get split out and should stay where it is.

The forums will take place in June and July. Cheh hopes to then have final hearings in September, mark up the bill, and pass it at council sessions in late September and early October so that it can take effect by January. That would mean that the next mayor, whoever it is, would appoint new agency heads under this new system.

Is this a good idea?

What do you think about Cheh's plan? Tomorrow, I'll give some of my own thoughts.

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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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I like,

Abolishing the DCTC. They're totally captured by the cab companies. Time to refocus the regulations on for hire cars (cabs, uber, ride sharing etc.)

Moving parking into one area. Can help springboard real street parking reform/management.

I don't like,

The DTA idea. I could be swayed with proof that DDOT is having trouble planning and operating but I want to see it rather than take CM Cheh's word for it. Maybe I'm more ambivalent than against it.

by drumz on Apr 8, 2014 9:18 am • linkreport

Some of this makes sense . . . but a Department of Parking Management gives me the chills. Judge/jury/executioner? Rampant mismanagement? Rampant corruption?

Consolidating different functions doesn't require a separate agency. Move the DPW parking functions to DMV or DDOT, but otherwise leave it as is.

by ah on Apr 8, 2014 9:19 am • linkreport

I do like getting rid of the DCTC and separating its functions. I've thought that for a long time. I also never understood why DDOT makes parking policy but DPW handles enforcement.

But I'm not sure about breaking up DDOT so much. I feel like they should be given the parking management piece and maybe have internal reorganization. I worry about more siloing, turf wars, and not treating all street users equally. I don't totally understand why we would want more separate agencies.

by Abigail Zenner on Apr 8, 2014 9:28 am • linkreport

1. Consolidating the parking thing makes sense, but I wonder how you can have one agency control street designs (DDOT) and another creating rules and posting signs.

2. Splitting off transit, bikeshare and multimodal planning and making that a separate agency on the level with DDOT could lead to problems. First, it can make each side more entrenched - DDOT will now be "roads and highways." You'll have one agency making the plans and another agency tasked with putting those plans in place. Which plans will get priority - DDOT's or the "multimodal" plans?

There is also a big benefit to be gained from having the agency that controls the streets and the agency that plans for transit be the same thing. Especially with how transit-focused the city should be, the transit agency shouldn't have to go begging to the roads people to get plans implemented.

It would be better if these were separate divisions within one agency that reports to the Mayor as one entity. Look at SFMTA - they may not be the best RUN agency in the country but they do a good job of coordinating their different functions.

by MLD on Apr 8, 2014 9:29 am • linkreport

Great idea to blow up DDOT.

I'm familiar with the bike stuff, and the current problem seems to be a disconnect between the planning folks (who really are trying) and what happens next. It seems under the current structure that the bike planners are a nuisance to upper management in DDOT, and have to scream very loud to actually get something built. Whether this is structural or due to bad leadership or something else, I do not know. The new structure has to change this dynamic.

Having the bike/transit stuff in a place different than roadway stuff seems to be a recipe to repeat the same dynamic. I'd prefer that it not take an act of Congress, or in this case the new Authority's board, to force the road folks to implement new infrastructure changes.

So let's say the bike planners decide to put a cycle-track on Connecticut Avenue all the way from Calvert Street to Chevy Chase Circle? Does that proposal come through the bike planners and go to the Authority for a vote? What is the role of the Bike Advisory Council in all this? Are they subsumed into the TRAC? And does putting bike stuff into TRAC marginalize it even more than it is under the current structure?

Mary and her staff should create several flow charts for common activities to show how all this stuff works.

by fongfong on Apr 8, 2014 9:30 am • linkreport

WTOP this morning said, hey, this is great, but what are you going to do about the chronic rudeness in the DDOT and traffic ticket adjudication system?

Cheh had no answer.

by Crickey7 on Apr 8, 2014 9:36 am • linkreport

Given how difficult it has been for the multimodal planners to coordinate their efforts with other divisions within DDOT I imagine that moving them to a different agency is going to simply make that worse.

I'd also be concerned that creating a new transit authority that is in competition with WMATA will only worsen service in the city. If the new DC authority expands service to further take over revenue generating routes, that has the potential to hurt WMATA service in lower performing areas.

by jeff on Apr 8, 2014 9:37 am • linkreport

The problem with breaking up a large institution is that you break up the complexity of scale with walls that people will hide behind, causing conflicts between the different agencies. See the issues with parking.

It would be better to analyze where the internal dysfunction within DDOT stems from and solve those issues.

Most reorganizations are window-dressing. It seems something is done, but the underlying problems are often not addressed.

by Jasper on Apr 8, 2014 9:43 am • linkreport

Also, if you are going to create an independent board, go whole-hog and just make it a transportation board in charge of the whole thing.

by MLD on Apr 8, 2014 9:44 am • linkreport

A lot of this makes sense. I like the idea of a separate transit authority, especially as programs like the Streetcar and Circulator continue to grow. It also makes sense to put all things parking under the the authority of a single agency. The director of this agency should be a civil service position rather than serving at the pleasure of the mayor, which could help to alleviate issues where enforcement is selective (I'm looking at you, churches).
You'll have one agency making the plans and another agency tasked with putting those plans in place. Which plans will get priority - DDOT's or the "multimodal" plans?
I'm not following here. I don't see how it would be up to DDOT what projects get priority. I envision the process as follows: the transit board would make plans and proposals, which would get sent to Council for funding/approval, who would then pass legislation ordering DDOT to build/construct.

by dcmike on Apr 8, 2014 9:51 am • linkreport

I have to disagree with Cheh. Separating cars from "everything else transportation" is only going to further the disconnect in planning for multimodal systems. Parking has potential but i'd need to see more. Parking should be about parking/ travel management first and revenue second, but if there is an independent agency does it risk just adopting revenue as its mission since it will become less beholden to those working on the parking management side?

by BTA on Apr 8, 2014 9:55 am • linkreport

I guess I also question whether they need to be separate or if a reorganization of DDOT would be just as effective?

by BTA on Apr 8, 2014 10:00 am • linkreport

I'm not following here. I don't see how it would be up to DDOT what projects get priority. I envision the process as follows: the transit board would make plans and proposals, which would get sent to Council for funding/approval, who would then pass legislation ordering DDOT to build/construct.

So here are the two options I'm getting from the way you've laid things out:

1. The multimodal agency creates master plans like the existing bike plan. It's approved by the Council and is then up to DDOT as to when they implement individual pieces.

That is what I mean when DDOT gets to decide what has priority.

2. The other option seems to be that every time we want to put a bike lane on a street, that action needs to be approved by the Council and have funds appropriated.

And that seems like an incredibly inefficient way to do things that will lead to all sorts of Council meddling.

by MLD on Apr 8, 2014 10:01 am • linkreport

Oh yeah and getting rid of DCTC is fine. Totally agree with the proposed distribution of taxi oversight responsibilities. Should have done this before even all this rebranding hoopla.

by BTA on Apr 8, 2014 10:02 am • linkreport

Thank you to GGW for great coverage of issues and proposals like these.

by Kishan Putta on Apr 8, 2014 10:32 am • linkreport

A really thought-provoking plan. Trees to DDOE and getting rid of DCTC are slam dunks. Forming a new transit board to manage DC transit is also a great idea, and I'd go further in recommending that some of the members of this board should also serve on the WMATA board just like the city administrator and DDOT director both serve on the DC Water board - it allows for a lot more consistency and info sharing across related activities.

A lot more to think through on my end on how the dynamics between new agencies could unfold, and much of it has to do with who the leaders are. I can see this working really well with a great team of leaders, but I can imagine the opposite too, ultimately it will still require the attention and leadership of the mayor.

Great proposal, and I look forward to the public discussions this summer.

by Will Handsfield on Apr 8, 2014 10:38 am • linkreport

There is a completely different way to go, one that I've recommended for years, and that is to create a bigger agency rather than smaller, like the Municipal Transportation Agency in San Francisco or Transport for London. (And I've suggested this also because those agencies include taxi regulation. SFMTA includes parking enforcement and traffic police.)

The real problem is lack of leadership within DDOT and the Executive Branch and City Council to correct the various flaws and the cross-cutting structural differences. E.g., the planning arm of DDOT doesn't have much input into parking planning and only some input into mass transit planning.

Not having a transportation master plan for many years only complicates the problems.

So having a robust overarching planning function with full purview is key, baring that, subsume planning functions into OP.

Also there should be a Transportation Commission comparable to the Zoning Commission (although really there should be a planning commission with transportation responsibilities too).

For years I used to tout separating DOT functions from DPW's, because of DDOT under Tangherlini and to some extent under Klein, but Montgomery County DOT was split off from DPW and it isn't particularly innovative, and Arlington's transportation functions remain within the Dept. of Environmental Services (DPW equivalent) and is.

The other issue is added planning and knowledge heft to the agency. Clearly they need more.

AND, it means hiring someone at a high caliber, like what NYC did, although DC is much smaller and the purview smaller, although it is easier to do more things here. (And there, most transit except for ferries is out of the control of the city.)

AND AGAIN, THIS PROPOSAL, LIKE THE DEREGULATION OF UBER BILL, DEMONSTRATES THE NEED FOR A TRANSPORTATION MASTER PLAN, RATHER THAN COUNCIL PROPOSING ALL KINDS OF WACKED SH**.

It's more complicated here, because WMATA is an overarching agency doing both service delivery and planning.

In the UK, typically transportation planning is done at the county level and the actual services are contracted out. I'd probably rather see an amalgamation of services, but since PM Thatcher, privatization has been the name of the game.

E.g. only do London and Liverpool have authority over their local train services, otherwise the national govt. runs it all planning-wise.

by Richard Layman on Apr 8, 2014 10:43 am • linkreport

Abolishing DCTC is a MISTAKE.

DCTC serves important functions. What or who will take over these responsibilities?

Where are the assurances that it is NOT competing transportation services that are behind this "abolishment"?

May Cheh is a bright individual but to give-in to the outside pressure to abolish DCTC is WRONG.

Support DCTC, give it more powers. This way you will get BALANCE. By abolishing DCTC, the gap created will be immesarable.

by Andy on Apr 8, 2014 10:44 am • linkreport

Cheh's proposal to reorganize and reform DDOT is a good one. DDOT has been poorly managed since Dan Tangherlini left, I know that readers of this site were partial to Gabe Klein, who had smarts and ideas, but was no manager, And since he left, DDOT has gone downhill even further.

by Buzz on Apr 8, 2014 10:50 am • linkreport

and counter to Will H., David Barth has argued for years that streets should be planned as linear parks. The point is to completely change how the infrastructure people think of street planning and the roadside character elements.

I have argued that DDOT (and DOTs) need "thoroughfare architects" comparable in power to an agency's chief engineer, to address those elements of street planning.

My "signature streets" concept rolls all of those elements in to one program with branding and financing elements, but the basic point is that streets are the defining elements of a community, key to the community's identity and perception of itself and therefore the road (and other elements of the transportation) network needs to be treated accordingly.

But as long as the street tree programs is just seen as being about trees and not the overall image management of neighborhoods, commercial districts, and the city as a whole, then DDOE is what people would think makes sense.

And again, this touches on my big reservations about the MoveDC process and not having "robust frameworks" at the heart of each element.

By not acknowledging through planning the importance of street character elements, someone like CM Cheh and her staffers likely aren't clued in to their fundamental and foundational importance.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2013/06/dcs-transportation-planning-process.html

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2013/03/arlington-countys-bus-shelters-and.html

by Richard Layman on Apr 8, 2014 10:51 am • linkreport

Totally for major reorganization; however, I do not think that MORE government is the answer. How would this proposal affect staffing levels, office space usage, etc? If you're just taking bodies and moving them between offices, I'm not sure it has to be external/that complicated.

A lot of cities in the northeast manage their parking through police departments. Not that officer's are parking enforcement, but that they manage the team. That eliminates the need for at least one new agency.

by PotomacAveres on Apr 8, 2014 11:11 am • linkreport

DDOT can be better, its problems are essentially based on a lack of communication both internally and externally. I get what CM Cheh is thinking, that the bathwater is dirty, but there are some good parts of DDOT that could be hindered when all they need is greater cooperation with other District departments and adherence to comprehensive plans like MoveDC.

by Randall M. on Apr 8, 2014 11:48 am • linkreport

Rare holistic thinking Richard Layman!

"but the basic point is that streets are the defining elements of a community,"

Now, if you can talk about DC without distracting us with how they do it in Portland or London, you'll be golden, my friend!

Thank you.

by Jazzy on Apr 8, 2014 12:12 pm • linkreport

If you take Cheh's proposssl, change the name of DDOT to District highway administration, and then put all three departments under a single DDOT director, you would pretty much have the organization of Maryland's MDOT. Put DMV in the reorganized DDOT and it is exactly like Maryland.

That's worth considering. Putting all these agencies under a single department is good for policy, but maybe they each need their own management and communications structure.

by JimT on Apr 8, 2014 12:35 pm • linkreport

@Jazzy

What are you saying? We should ignore successful lessons from any other place on earth?

by LowHeadways on Apr 8, 2014 12:43 pm • linkreport

I agree with Richard Layman on his point. Today, DDOT's span of control is the entire public space from right-of-way line to right-of-way line. Permitting uses in public space, trees, sidewalks, parking signs/policy, roadway design/construction, traffic operations, etc. If the city is to achieve the concept of Great Streets for both thoroughfares and neighborhood streets that is more than just a planning exercise, the authority and ability to plan, design, construct, operate and maintain the public space should be in one organization, not many.

Is DDOT without problems, no; but reorganizing to reorganize will not make things better and it will take years for the organizational culture(s) and business process to be reestablished. Again, not saying that it is excellent today, but it will definitely a bumpy ride while this going on. The implications of change management are routinely underestimated in this city...

Professionalized transportation departments have leaders of long standing and don't rearrange deck chairs, they continuously improve what they do.

by Some Ideas on Apr 8, 2014 1:02 pm • linkreport

I think moving UFA out of DDOT makes sense, but unfortunately they were going to handle trail maintenance for DDOT, so now I worry about that.

Using recreational trails money, DDOT bought a small CAT with attachments for UFA to use clearing trees and cutting grass along trails. Meanwhile, DDOT has been negotiating a deal with NPS that would let DDOT maintain the Capitol Crescent Trail (Yes, asking to do someone else's job because they won't do it requires a deal) and that is currently sitting on Terry Bellamy's desk with NPS having already signed it. So now, with Bellamy leaving and DDOT blowing up, I'm confident this will delay everything.

by David C on Apr 8, 2014 3:26 pm • linkreport

Parking should be about parking/ travel management first and revenue second, but if there is an independent agency does it risk just adopting revenue as its mission since it will become less beholden to those working on the parking management side?

Considering how close we are to that situation now with the separated structure we do have, that's absolutely a risk, and a major one. It would not take long for a mayor having a budget shortfall to glance over at the unified parking agency and put pressure on the management to get a little more revenue out of the system, or put an appointee in place to do so. Imagine systems tracking the rate at which the people processing appeals overturn tickets. All it takes is one manager putting the emphasis on revenue, and creating an environment where promotions and employment depends on ensuring you don't overturn too many tickets. Judge, jury and executioner is a very scary concept in any case, but even more so in a place like DC that's always hungry for more money and more ways to punish commuters for not living in the District.

That unified parking agency is a glaring red flag to me. Everything else looks okay (or, in the case of eliminating the DCTC and folding their function into anything else, absolutely wonderful), but I would at least want parking enforcement and appeals entirely separate from each other.

by Zeus on Apr 8, 2014 4:04 pm • linkreport

We execute people for parking illegally?

by MLD on Apr 8, 2014 4:09 pm • linkreport

"Judge, jury and executioner is a very scary concept in any case, but even more so in a place like DC that's always hungry for more money and more ways to punish commuters for not living in the District."

Yet they are pushing bike improvements that help all of us who bike in over the 14th street bridge, and just maybe they will see their way to supporting the seperate blue line. Surely you don't think "commuter from the suburbs" = "driver from the suburbs"?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 8, 2014 4:16 pm • linkreport

also I suspect most people who DO auto commute from the suburbs are parking off street.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 8, 2014 4:18 pm • linkreport

Parking is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Separate parking authorities rarely result in any innovative thinking, because by their very missions they can't understand the above. Putting parking underneath SFMTA, for instance, has been an integral part of both providing financial support for transit and pushing along much-needed parking reform.

I understand the desire to give day-to-day transit operations more autonomy, but whether managing these contracts merits an entire new "transit agency" isn't entirely clear to me.

by Payton Chung on Apr 8, 2014 4:26 pm • linkreport

We might have a solution in search of the wrong problem.

Most of the delays getting the streetcar going are because of the prior decision to lay tracks on H Street without a clear plan at the time to complete the project, which AFAIK predates both Klein and Bellamy, nor has anything to do with DDOT's organizational structure.

Bus priority, and particularly bus lanes are more about political will than anything else.

Parking is inextricably linked to transit use, mode share and other transport and land use goals, so it makes sense for the transportation agency to manage it in coordination with other agencies.

The Move DC transportation planning process (managed by DDOT) has been impressive, and something DDOT and the city can be proud of. If DDOT were split into highways and "multimodal" transportation it could undermine the implementation of Move DC as well as create unnecessary competition between bike, transit and highway projects.

TfL is a part of the Greater London Authority, which is both regional in nature and also is responsible for land planning and other various roles. It's a great model for regional governance but it's just not a good analogy for DC transport.

SFMTA is the best analogy for DC as they controls streets, parking, and local transit (Muni) in the context of other regional agencies (BART, MTC, etc). Frankly, the SFMTA model probably argues for a more expansive DDOT role rather than a lesser one.

by Jonathan P on Apr 8, 2014 5:23 pm • linkreport

Once a "Dept of Parking Management" owns the parking spaces -- no more bulb-outs, no more bike lanes, no more bus stops, no more traffic calming.

by Turnip on Apr 8, 2014 6:55 pm • linkreport

Jonathan P. -- TfL is still a good example of a unified agency. If you don't like the example, just use SFMTA, it's no different, but for a city-county footprint 1/3 smaller than DC, but with much more extensive transit operations. Sure BART is run regionally, while MUNI is SF only, and Caltrain is separate. In London, TfL runs everything except the trains, but they handle the marketing for some of the trains (London Overground).

Jazzy and others -- wrt to the point about streets as linear parks etc., see in one of my links the presentation by SFMTA Dep. Director Timothy Papandreaou (something like that) on SF's Livable Streets program.

In 2000, DC's streetscape programming (which was new at the time) in Georgetown and 8th St. SE was best practice. Since then, NYC, SF and other cities have far outspanned us, our practice quality hasn't really improved and DDOT doesn't have "the habit" of harvesting new learning and baking it in to future planning iterations.

But the SF Livable Stretes idea is a different version of the stuff I talk about.

WRT parking, the biggest thing that shocked me is that the planning unit under Sam Zimbabwe DOESN'T handle parking planning, although they do have the public space policy unit. The "parking think tank" stuff Angelo whatsisname did wasn't particularly robust. I was amazed at the DDOT staff doing "facilitating" at the sessions and how little they knew about parking issues.

Parking planning and operations needs to be unified, but in DDOT and organized differently from how it is handled now.

Anyway, I will be writing my own post about this proposal in the early a.m.

by Richard Layman on Apr 8, 2014 7:33 pm • linkreport

Richard and others, wrt the constant referential points outside of DC, I get tired of it, because I suspect a lack of appreciation/rootedness/connectedness/understanding "investment" (gag) in our own city - hence the need to almost defensively point to other cities far away.

This is DC. ALL OF US ARE "WORLDLY," m'kay? We know that about each other. What we do not know is how much each of us knows about and is committed to our own city, and for how long. In your case Richard, let me just say here and now, ****I know you know a ton about DC**** and are equally "invested" in it. But, I wish you could make a more compelling case for your points by not uber linking hither and yon. I appreciate efforts SF has made. But sorry I will not go look up something SF or Portland or Seattle or some other farflung western city did in any detail. We need to know what WE do and what we have done. If you wanna get locals jazzed about your concepts, don't send them packing to California.

This is off topic a little bit, so I'll stop, but just wanted to say what I said.

In all these discussions, there is a noticeable lack of historical perspective, replaced with geographical reference points.

by Jazzy on Apr 8, 2014 8:42 pm • linkreport

@Jazzy

It's pretty clear that what's been done here and that the existing structures and institutions we have ARE. NOT. WORKING. I'm not going to blame some southern mentality or something for having produced an ineffective, small minded transit and urban policy, but if you're insisting that we ignore what many other places both in the area, the country, and the world have done successfully, you're out of your mind.

by LowHeadways on Apr 8, 2014 8:47 pm • linkreport

So we can't examine best practices?

by Drumz on Apr 8, 2014 8:51 pm • linkreport

Since there's only one DOT in DC it's hard to learn best practices from someplace within DC. So by definition in this case to figure out who is doing things right you have to look outside of DC.

by MLD on Apr 9, 2014 8:24 am • linkreport

I'm not going to change my approach, it's a form of gap analysis and business process redesign... it's important because it provides context. And it makes my analyses so much stronger and insightful compared to most others.

DC being inwardly focused and believing in its superiority, unjustifiably calling itself a world class city because it happens to be the National Capital of the United States of America is a form of what I call "defining mediocrity up."

It's sad because DC is lucky. In all of North America, it is the only city-state, with so much more control over its destiny and funding (yes, with a modicum of congressional meddling, but not on the stuff that affects people the most) than any other jurisdiction.

We're lucky that between the L'Enfant Plan, historic building stock, the heavy rail system and the concentration of federal agencies at the core, we can make tons of mistakes but the foundation has been strong enough to withstand it. As the federal govt. begins to shrink, law firms merge, shrink, or go out of business, and more areas of the Metropolitan area become eligible for federal leases because of transit expansion, the city will not be so resilient in the face of continued bobbling by elected officials.

... and I have now lived here about 27 years, which is half my life.

by Richard Layman on Apr 9, 2014 10:05 am • linkreport

about AWITC's point about managing the Dept. of Parking for income, we have to acknowledge that one of the criticisms of SFMTA is that the elected officials use that it's a revenue generating agency as an excuse to put responsibilities into it that the city couldn't pay for otherwise. So while I see the traffic enforcement division there as a way for a totally unified agency, others say that detracts from the transit mission.

Note too that in the SF charter, they have enshrined a "transit first" mobility policy through referendum.

by Richard Layman on Apr 9, 2014 10:09 am • linkreport

"about AWITC's point about managing the Dept. of Parking for income, "

Wait, what? All I said was that A. DC over all is not engaged in a war on commuters - because among other reasons commuters/= motorists. B. Increasing the cost and difficulty of on street parking is irrelevant even to most car commuters.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 10:14 am • linkreport

jazzy

how can you see the possibilities for improvement if you dont look at what others have done? every business, every successful organization, looks outside itself to find best practices. It makes sense that a city do that as well. Thats what Richard does, and I appreciate it (though I would love if he summarized a bit more tightly ;) but since I am not paying him for what he provides, I have no grounds to complain eh? )

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 9, 2014 10:17 am • linkreport

Two quick thoughts (quite possibly already covered)...

1 - Don't we already have a transit authority? Wouldn't it be better to reform what we have than create/expand a competing agency?

2 - Splitting transit from roads, in my opinion, is an unfavorable choice. This separation would be more likely to result in myopic views within each, and having equal ranks among their command structures would lack a boss to rule on disputes (short of going to the Mayor for what would be issues easily resolved by a Director).

For example- whether or not a Bikeshare dock should be located in-street on pavement, or if parking should be converted to a transitway or bikeway, or if traffic signals should have transit priority, or to whom should one go for permits for projects affecting a parking lane and an adjacent streetcar line, or...

by Bossi on Apr 9, 2014 12:14 pm • linkreport

What will this new empire building cost all of the citizens of the District of Columbia? Most of what we see today as it relates to structure in DDOT was legislated by this same council,when it was chaired by Mr Graham.The data are in the record. Is it prudent for the legislative body to use a pet peeve, or a set of former employees of an agency to justify the need to redesign a given agency .

If there are any broken modules in DDOT , lets identify them and determine what is the most appropriate thing to do to correct the problem .

Our city has indeed been on the move -- and so has DDOT--- What ever we do ---We must not engage in re-designing government organizations -- as if it will not impact projects ( size or function),delay projects, or encourage a new cost to support new entities ---Lets all work hard and make all agency accountable to the public ---predicated on their mission ----- DDOT has won national -- international honors for the past 4 years for its enterpizing engineering and implmentation of multi-modal transit --All consumers should be Proud -- We need not look outside of the District of Columbia for new ideas,reseach or findings for best practices -- we are city that abounds with Universitities mentoring our next generation of engineers --- as Wells Major Corporations--- The record is clear ---- Support What is in Place --- analyze what is not woking --- assit where required to fix the problems -- DC Agencies are Serving All Comnsumers

by Concerned Resident on Apr 10, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

Obviously every city/state/country has a different context so what works in A might not work in B but I don't see the harm in saying this works in A why not think about how it might work for B as well?

by BTA on Apr 10, 2014 2:31 pm • linkreport

Could someone provide a link to the text of the legislative proposal?

Does proposed legislative language affirmatively preclude the proposed DTA, on its own initiative, from interrupting cellular voice or data services (hereafter, broadband services).

On August 11, BART interrupted evening broadband services for some evening hours. EFF comments:

Operators of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) shut down cell phone service to four stations in downtown San Francisco yesterday in response to a planned protest.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/08/bart-pulls-mubarak-san-francisco last viewed April 10, 2014

The FCC opened an inquiry into interruptions of cellular services in 2012. EFF comments:

In the wake of the infamous Bay Area Transit Authority (BART) shutdown of cell phone service during a protest in August of last year, the FCC opened a notice of inquiry on the issue and asked for public comment last month.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/05/eff-asks-fcc-forbid-cell-phone-shutdowns-wake-2011-bart-incident last viewed 4.10.2014

see: http://www.fcc.gov/document/commission-seeks-comment-certain-wireless-service-interruptions

A cursory google search returned an array of comments filed. I've shortened the url for the google page displaying the array using bitly.
http://bit.ly/1gczol0

If FCC summarized, redacted, or issued policy guidance I can't find it using FCC search function.

Richard Moss

by Richard Moss on Apr 10, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

Thank you Mary Cheh. DDOT needs major reform. Ask any ANC Commissioner about DDOT and you will get an earful. DDOT has a lot of really talented engineers and professionals in its ranks but the structure is dysfunctional. Reorganization & new leadership under a new Mayor will be the right fix.

by Gary Thompson on Apr 12, 2014 10:27 am • linkreport

Sounds like a PLAN and if executed properly, will work out.
This is government.

by Cmsr. G. on Apr 15, 2014 12:17 pm • linkreport

Shifting this agency or any other agencies structure for the sake of shifting it to meet the demands of a few Is not the correct thing to do . Are the citizens of the District informed that many of the construction guidelines to shift sidewalks out to increase green space is a federal mandate- to add trees where there were none is a federal mandate, add a new bike route because someone thinks the existing one on a parallel street is too crowded ( 20 riders am - 11 pm ---yes accurate counts are taken daily),Some folk want a alley done in cobblestone when it was concrete( cobblestone is 100 times more expensive than concrete - the agency is not supposed to operate as an individual community's private contractor) , sidewalks vs. no sidewalks--sidewalks are right of all citizens but If client X screams loud enough (squeaky wheel) the 90% are denied a sidewalk

What is wrong is communities need to begin working closely together with all its internal organizations ANC, Civic /Citizens Associations ,Local business ,churches et.al , so what ever the product is that is being sought It can be delivered timely, it is what everyone wants , it can be done with quality and is cost effective.

The council should not ---must not interfere with agency structures without getting adequate internal data using professional standards to audit their functions.

ALL must ask the question? What aspect of this agency has a need for modification --- why -- and what do you change it to ? Is this change going to benefit the many or the few -- what is the cost for this change ? Yes ,change has a et dollar value --- Lets encourage full participation of communities -- all stakeholders so when something is coming into a community ---all know about it-- agree with it -- and help expedite the process -- remember it is a public duty

by Concerned DCResident on Apr 16, 2014 10:33 am • linkreport

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