Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Bombshell: Administrator leaves MTA 2 weeks before new bus launch

In an discomforting bombshell development MTA Bus Administrator Paul Comfort was either fired or left his post on his own accord, at any rate his departure is extremely sudden and a complete surprise.

Comfort has put his name on MTA and the bus reform BaltimoreLink like no other. He was the system overhaul's chief promoter and salesman, his fate clearly riding on the success of the operation. Just a day earlier Comfort posted a promotional video advertising his scheduled talk at the BWI Partnership on June 14. He was also seen with Governor Hogan at a "Responsive Government" luncheon with 700 State business leaders on Monday.
Paul Comfort inspecting progress on the West Baltimore bus hub last week.
The hub is to be in service June 18

The extremely sudden departure was announced by Transportation Secretary Rahn Tuesday. No explanation was given. Also leaving the MTA was Jim Knighton, MTA's chief of staff and Comfort confidant.

Kevin Quinn who is the chief organizer of Baltimore Link and the head of the MTA Planning Department has been named as acting Administrator. He is very well liked by all who ever dealt with him.

Obviously, the departure of Comfort so shortly before his signature project, Baltimore Link is to be launched on June 18 sends
Kevin Quinn (photo: Philipsen)
a terrible message, no matter what specific circumstances will emerge regarding Comfort's dramatic departure, whether he had a sudden fallout with the Secretary or whether he suddenly bailed.
Comfort with Governor Hogan on Monday

Paul Comfort's unconventional style and his enthusiasm were a welcome departure of the stodgy leadership previous Administrators have exhibited. However, it has becomes evident at various junctures, that Comfort's enthusiasm for better transit at MTA required resources and decisions that he didn't always get from his boss, Secretary Rahn, who is much less excited about transit, Comfort was also rumored to have ambitions beyond being Administrator although it wasn't clear which ambitions. The Washington Post quoted Comfort as saying:
"It was a pleasure to serve Gov. [Larry] Hogan and the MTA, and I enjoyed my time there, It appears I’m on to the next thing. I’ve got numerous options. … I wish everyone the best.”
Limited resources are a problem that could hobble the new BaltimoreLink system which is largely a reimagined bus operation with the existing fleet of vehicles and operators.

The bus reform is tailored after the bus overhaul Houston launched earlier. The big difference is, that Houston's bus system had the relief of two new light rail lines that opened with the bus launch giving the bus system the relief it needed to be successfully re-imagined. Secretary Rahn, by contrast, famously killed the planned Baltimore Red Line instead.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Baltimore SUN article about Comfort's departure
MDOT Press Release
WBAL report

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