Former DDOT Dir. Emeka Moneme.

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.

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 Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. 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 lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.