Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ron Linton Dies At 86

- described as a fan of rules

- had a long career of government-bureaucratic service, from the police force to the taxi commission appointed by DC Mayor Vincent Grey

- became a particularly controversial figure with his legally questionable heavy-handed campaign against Uber

- guided NY Avenue corridor planning, particularly with a 1996 proposal for a road tunnel connecting directly with the still truncated northern end of I-395, with curved transition failing to meet FHWA standards for geometry

Ron Linton - 2014

1996 'Ron Linton' NY Avenue Tunnel Proposal

This is the Ron Linton mentioned elsewhere in this blog A Trip Within The Beltway for his 1996 proposal for a tunneled connection to the northern end of I-395, designed together with ha new WMATA subway line

Was cited by The Washingtonian as a man who "thrived on tinkering with the way cities work..."
Ron Linton, whose nearly four-year term overseeing the District’s taxi industry made him possibly the city’s most unfairly reviled public servant, died Monday at age 86. But Linton, who spent six decades in Washington working on nearly every part of DC’s infrastructure, thrived on tinkering with the way cities work, even if it earned him enmity from both the providers and customers of the industry he tried to improve.
The final, but most visible chapter of Linton’s long career was to oversee a massive, and usually contentious, overhaul of DC’s taxi industry from an analog, cash-only business to something worthy of the early 21st century. And while it wasn’t in the job description when he was tapped, Linton had to balance all that with the arrival of companies like Uber and Lyft, which upended the entire notion of hired vehicles. ...
After taking office in January 2011, DC Mayor Vince Gray decided he wanted to spiff up the taxi fleet, sometimes joking that cabs had common color of rust, said City Administrator Allen Lew. Gray fired the incumbent Taxicab Commission chairman, a former cop named Leon Swain, and put it to Lew to find a replacement.

Lew and Linton went back to the early 1990s, when Lew was running the old convention center and Linton was overseeing the economic redevelopment of New York Ave., Northeast, where he fostered the construction of the Metro station at the intersection with Florida Ave. and enticed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to build its fortress-like headquarters in what was then an empty, blighted neighborhood. Their paths crossed over the years as Linton had also stints chairing the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and the DC Water and Sewer Authority.
According to dcist, Linton dies at Suburban Hospital.

According to the Washingtonian, Linton was "by nature, a fan of rules."
But Linton, by nature, was a fan of rules, befitting the 27 years he spent as a member the Metropolitan Police Department’s reserve unit. Linton, who spent most of his private-sector career running a lobbying firm focused on federal infrastructure contracts, signed on to do volunteer police work—traffic management, crowd control at football games—in 1971 and rose through the unpaid ranks until 1994, when then-MPD Chief Fred Thomas put him in charge of the entire reserve corps. (It required Linton, who by then had merged his lobbying firm with another company and was only part-time, to become a fully sworn officer with a badge and a gun when he was 65 years old.) Linton, who continued to go unpaid by MPD, was put in charge with overhauling the reserve units, which now range from administrative clerks at police stations to armed patrols.

He got his start at Michigan State.

Linton’s conversational style was easygoing and avuncular, and he was always quick to go on a tangent about one of his many past jobs, going all the way back to his time running the student newspaper at Michigan State University, where his editorials railing against the Korean War earned calls for his expulsion. Following a stint in the 1950s as a cub reporter for United Press, Linton got to Washington as a deputy to Pierre Salinger during John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign. That led to a job as an aide in Robert McNamara’s Defense Department. (Linton once had to yank Ed Muskie back into line during Kennedy’s funeral procession when the senator from Maine tried to step out to snap photographs of Charles DeGaulle.)
His Linked In resume gives the following:

visiting professor

Rennsaeler Polytechnic Institute
(1 year 1 month)

In 1971 as an avocation, he joined the Metropolitan Police Department as a reserve officer. In his 26 years with the MPD he rose to the position of Assistant Chief in charge of Volunteer Services, spending his last four years in a full time capacity as a fully sworn officer. During his police service he was involved in several initiatives including the development of community policing in the first district and the roll out of the Patrol Service Area (PSA) program

Mr. Linton initiated his practice of representing clients with federal agencies in 1968 after eight years with the federal government, mostly in high staff positions in the Congress.

He had come to Washington in November, 1959, as a fellow of the American Political Science Association to participate in its Congressional Fellowship Program, on leave from his position as Labor Editor of The Courier Journal; Instead of returning to Louisville after the fellowship he joined the campaign staff of Sen. John F. Kennedy first as an assistant press secretary and the as a senior advance man.

After the election, he served in the Defense Department between 1962 and 1963 as Director of Economic Utilization Policy where he was responsible for policy development relating to economically depressed areas. In 1963 he returned to Capitol Hill as Staff Director of the United States Senate Committee on Public Works and was instrumental in developing legislative programs for transportation, pollution control, and economic development. After leaving his Senate post, he became one of the founders of the National Urban Coalition working from 1966 through 1968 as the Coalition*s national coordinator.

He then served as chairman of a federal government task force on the environment whose landmark report in 1970 led to a number of new initiatives to improve the environment.

as President and Chief Executive Officer of Linton

Mields, Reisler & Cottone, Ltd
(26 years 1 month) 
Ron M. Linton is a public policy planner whose primary fields are, transportation, water resources, environment and public safety. He has 50 years of experience in intergovernmental relations, planning, and communications. He was the founder, and; the firm merged with the Carmen Group. He retired in 1997 and now consults on government relations , law enforcement and economic planning.

Currently he is the Airports Authority liaison to the District government and business community. He also is affiliated with the DC PEP Joint Venture assigned to the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization developing the comprehensive maintenance program.

He recently was president of his own development firm, Linton Properties, LLC, engaged in building senior citizen housing on Maryland*s eastern shore. The venture failed in the housing crises. He continues consulting on a variety of local and national issues.

Board Chair

(1 year 5 months) 
He was among the initial directors appointed to the Airports Authority when it was created in 1986. For six years he chaired the Operations Committee and was Vice Chairman when he was elected by the board as Chairman for his final two years in office.

After leaving the MWAA board, he was elected to the board of TAMS CONSULTANTS,Inc. a world wide engineering firm, and participated in several projects including three years of the planning effort for the third Chicago airport. He had previously served on the board of directors of the engineering firm of Metcalf & Eddy.

Linton served a four year term on the board of the District of Columbia Water & Sewer Authority, the last two years of which he served as chairman. In the first two years he chaired the board*s finance committee and was principal architect of the Authority*s financial plan that resulted in a $280 million bond issue. The Authority provides water and sewer services not only to the District of Columbia but to its suburban counties in Maryland and Virginia.

In 2002, he stepped down after four years as Chairman of the New York Avenue Development Corporation, a non profit citizens effort leading in the revitalizing New York Avenue,the capital*s gateway from the east. For the next several years he was a senior consultant on the planning for the third Chicago airport.

Mr. Linton initiated his practice of representing clients with federal agencies in 1968 after eight years with the federal government, mostly in high staff positions in the Congress

He served in the Defense Department between 1962 and 1963 as Director of Economic Utilization Policy where he was responsible for policy development relating to economically depressed areas. In 1963 he returned to Capitol Hill as Staff Director of the United States Senate Committee on Public Works.

Metropolitan Police Department, Washington D.C.
(26 years 5 months)
Joined as a reserve, served the last four years as fully sworn Deputy Chief then Assistant Chief

former Chairman

DC Taxicab Commission
(3 years 7 months)
Regulates cab fares and rules and regulations and enforces compliance,resolves customer-driver disputes and licenses taxi drivers and for hire drivers.
According to DCist:
Aside from the D.C. Taxicab Commission, Linton has a long record of public service in the D.C. area. He was Chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors from 1992 to 1994. From 1996 to 2000 he served a four-year term on the board of the D.C. Water & Sewer Authority, two of which he was the chairman. At one point, Linton even served as an ANC Commissioner in his neighborhood.
One of Linton's last big accomplishments before he retired was giving residents with disabilities and no means of transportation an alternative to MetroAccess rides. Working with WMATA, the CAPS-DC program, which Linton worked diligently on, introduced handicap-accessible cabs acquired from WMATA to the fleet.

Even after he stepped down in January, Linton's commitment to the District's taxi business was still strong. Loose Lips reports that, in March, he "asked the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability if he could help taxi cab companies create an app-based co-op without the District's breaking conflict of interest rules.
Linton's initial involvement was pushing for taxis to install more modern electronic equipment, such as credit card readers.  According to The Washingtonian:
Linton had two orders: drag the taxis into modernity, and clean up an agency with a poor reputation for protecting customers and enforcing the rules.

“The mayor’s policy was to change things,” Linton said. “He laid out where he would like this thing taken. I knew we were in agreement.”

The DC Council introduced a bill in December 2011 that promised the biggest rewrite of taxi regulations—already more than 1,000 pages long—since the commission was created in 1985. Cabs would be required to install large, visible dome lights and adopt a uniform paint scheme. More importantly, all taxis would upgrade their meters to interact with GPS devices and transmit trip data back to the commission.

Drivers balked, saying all the upgrades would cost as much as $2,000 to implement (far more if they needed to replace their cars), a hefty chunk of the $31,060 annual salary the average DC-area cabbie earns in a year, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The modernization bill was never in doubt. It took six months’ worth of DC Council hearings at which Linton defended the effort, and Taxicab Commission meetings over which Linton presided, but it was guaranteed to pass, which it did in July 2012.

Linton faced opposition from cab drivers not wanting to make the equipment investments.

One he achieved this goal, Linton made himself extra controversial his actions against Uber.

it wasn't until October of 2013 that all D.C. taxicabs had credit card readers installed, and that in and of itself was quite a tenuous process to complete, with a majority of District cabs missing their deadline to install readers on more than one occasion.
In the wake of ride-hailing apps like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar, Linton led a much-publicized, often heated charge against the companies, who threatened to make District cabs and the DCTC obsolete.

Private car service Uber entered Washington, DC a month ago and has loaded up lots of local support. But now it has hit a regulatory traffic jam. Taxi Commissioner Ron Linton personally led a sting yesterday to bust one of its drivers for trying to transport him within the district, following up on his declaration earlier this week that Uber is “illegal.”

Whether or not Uber is actually breaking any rules is still unclear. He hasn’t told the company anything directly, and he hasn’t responded to its requests for more information. He’s just talking to the media about the issue. That includes inviting The Washington Post and local blog DCist to personally witness his sting outside the Mayflower Hotel.

The sting involved Linton personally using Uber’s mobile application to order a sedan (from his DC office, apparently). It arrived as scheduled, and took him to the Mayflower Hotel. Then, Linton’s Taxi Commissioner officers surrounded the car, handed the driver a variety of fines, and impounded the driver’s vehicle. “We did it,” Linton told a local ABC station later that day, “to send a message to drivers who are signing up with Uber that we are going to enforce our laws.” ....
Linton, who doesn’t normally lead stings in person, told a local NBC outlet yesterday that “the primary issue is that they are trying to operate as a limousine company, using taxi rules, and it can’t be done.” Limos in DC decide on rates with passengers before the start of the trip, whereas the taxis charge based on distance (and a few other fees), based on Commission-set rates — at least according to him. So Uber would need to install meters like taxis in order to operate within district limits, or else change from its GPS-derived mileage charge to one-off negotiations with passengers?
Hold on, chapter 12.99 of the DC taxi regulations includes a section that defines sedans differently than regular limos:

Sedan – a for-hire vehicle designed to carry fewer than six (6) passengers, excluding the driver, which charges for service on the basis of time and mileage (effective May 1, 2008).

This line specifically says that sedans are able to charge taxi-style for their services, and indeed many of the non-Uber ones in operation already do this. How is Uber breaking the law in the way that Linton is describing above? Oh, and also, contrary to what you might think from Linton’s description, Uber doesn’t actually employee the drivers, it partners with existing, licensed drivers and companies.

IMHO impounding the vehicle sounds like depriving a person of their liberty and property without due process.


6/29/2015 6:11 PM EST [Edited]
It's not nice to speak ill of the dead but let's be honest: 

1. For years, the required taxi-drivers course was not offered, limiting the supply of drivers.
2. I understand that the signs on the tops of DC taxis cost $500 to install. But they only face forward, so someone approaching a taxi from the side (say, from a hotel) or rear (for example, if the taxi is stopped up ahead) cannot see the sign.
3. The city forced taxi drivers to spend hundreds of dollars to repaint decades-old, re-purposed police cars with a quarter million miles on the odometer. Yet Uber's and Lyft's success proves that a car's paint job has nothing to do with customers' acceptance.
4. Linton and the city forced taxis to install a needlessly elaborate credit-card acceptance device (do riders REALLY need to be able to watch TV?) that drivers hate and riders cannot rely upon. Whether to accept credit cards should have been left to owners as a business decision. After all, taxis have to compete with Uber and Lyft which both accept electronic payment.
5. Linton strove to kill off Uber and Lyft (which users love) in favor of DCtaxis (which users despise).
6. Hailo (hailo.com) provided a taxi app in DC for awhile and failed. Hopefully the city didn't and won't spend any money trying to create one itself.
7. The MWAA STILL grants a monopoly to a taxi company at Dulles and prevents other taxis from picking up airport passengers. Forcing taxis to drive empty is an incredible waste of fuel and needlessly contributes to air pollution. Why didn't Linton work to eliminate that restriction?
8. Now MWAA wants to regulate and tax Uber and Lyft even though they provide customers to the airports at no cost.

Friday, June 19, 2015

WMATA to Continue To Push Corridor Chock

WMATA Profiteering at the Public's Expense- seeks to sell off transportation corridor land needed for rail expansion and underground freeway for yet more residential development.

Clearly, the concepts of transit oriented development is being perverted to restrict the publics mobility for the sake of short term profits.

From Aaron Wiener at the Washington City Paper:

Metro Offers Up Two Brookland Parcels for Development


Nine months after picking a team to buy and develop a swath of land it owns near the Brookland Metro station, Metro is seeking to cash in on more of its land holdings in the neighborhood.

Today, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs Metro, offered up two Brookland parcels to developers. The larger parcel, at 21,094 square feet, is just a block south of the Metro station; the smaller one, at 16,239 square feet, is a block south of the first. Both consist of unimproved land—just grass, trees, and shrubs—between the Metro tracks and 9th Street NE.
The move follow's Metro's selection in August 2014 of a partnership of MRP Realty and the CAS Riegler Cos. to develop land just east of the Metro station. The developers there plan to build 280 residential units and 9,000 square feet of retail.

Today's solicitation contains few guidelines as to what developers can and should build on the sites. Given the increasing popularity of the neighborhood among young professionals and families, residential development is likely. Bids are due to Metro by June 19.

The southern parcel, at 9th and Kearny streets NE.

The northern parcel, at 9th and Lawrence streets NE


End this chocking off of vital transportation corridors.
Re-Map the B&O North Central Freeway- as promoted by the slain US President John F. Kennedy, with an update making it and the existing railroad underground beneath a new linear park.