Transport Oakland has 3 priorities for 2018 and beyond. During our endorsement interviews we shared our priorities with the candidates and asked them to support our platform.
- Support the Agency: Provide OakDOT with the backing and resources it needs to be successful
- Involve the People: Broaden community input into transportation-related decisions
- Fix the Streets: Support existing projects and processes that promote safe, multi-modal, street use
Support the Agency
Fix the hiring process
When OakDOT was created the city added new funded positions to support the goals in the Strategic Plan. However OakDOT has struggled to fill these positions and as of September 2018 has a 18% vacancy rate, which is about 8 times as high as the national average of 2.3% for state and local government. Of these 58 vacant jobs, the largest number are among technical and field staff. For example, only 8 of the 20 new paving crew jobs have been filled. The shortage of staff is limiting OakDOT’s capacity to fix the streets.
This appears to be a city-wide issue as OakDOT positions are hired by the City of Oakland HR department. As of September 2018 there is a single analyst that fills vacancies for both OakDOT and Public Works, with a second analyst funded but not yet hired.
Transport Oakland believes there is an important role for the Mayor and City Council to understand and address this issue by requesting periodic reports from both OakDOT and HR on the status of filling OakDOT vacancies and by dedicating additional HR staff to support OakDOT if the vacancy rate does not get below 5% within the next fiscal year.
Two years ago, a very impressive Strategic Plan for OakDOT was unveiled with 37 goals and over 100 actions. Transport Oakland is aware of some progress on these actions however there has been no progress reporting. We would like the Mayor and Council to demand transparency and accountability.
Involve the People
Our second priority is to Involve the People. Oakland should have equitable, flexible, and respectful community involvement in how we make transportation decisions and the planners and engineers who make up OakDOT should reflect Oakland’s diversity. Historically, in Oakland and around the country and the world, this has not been the case.
Traditional outreach techniques such as public meetings and hearings tend to turn out more privileged residents and ignore the voices of those unable to attend. Recently, we have been encouraged by alternative approaches OakDOT has taken such such as contracting with community based organizations to conduct inclusive and effective outreach for the 2018 Bike Plan Update. We want to see more efforts like this that build trust in government from those who have strong historical reasons to distrust government. At the same time, more inclusive processes benefit from practitioners who have experience working in diverse communities. We challenge OakDOT to set a goal of hiring more public-facing staff who reflect Oakland’s diversity and who have experience—lived or professional—of working in Oakland’s diverse communities.
Transport Oakland is well aware that all elected officials receive a substantial number of constituent requests but we are concerned that those requests tend to come from those with more privilege. While electeds have a role in being responsive to those proactively reaching out, we want to ensure this does not result in inequitable resource allocation. Transport Oakland would like to see the Mayor and City Council prioritize staff and resources toward more inclusive outreach, and support OakDOT’s efforts to prioritize service requests using an equity model, rather than enabling constituent-driven resource allocation.
Fix the Streets
Our final priority is to fix the streets. And by fix the streets, we do mean fill in the potholes, but potholes are not the only thing wrong with our streets.
Fixing the streets means ensuring that our streets are designed for everybody – not just those driving. Our streets should be safe for people of all ages and abilities, balance the needs of those walking, riding the bus, riding a bike, or driving, and support local land uses, economies, cultures and natural environments. However, almost all of our streets have been designed to prioritize cars and this had led to over 30 Oakland residents a year being killed in traffic collisions and countless more seriously injured on our streets.
Traffic deaths are preventable
In June 2017 a driver struck and killed Robert Bennett as he was crossing Harrison at 23rd street. OakDOT immediately initiated a crash response project and with 3 months of staff time and $30,000 in materials OakDOT transformed the Harrison and 23rd street intersection.
With some purple paint and flexible bollards, OakDOT shortened the crossing distance, created a safe place to wait while crossing and increased the visibility of the crosswalk. This fast and cheap transformation led to a 7% decrease in drivers speeding and 96% of drivers started yielding to people using the crosswalk. Now that the paint is dry, OakDOT is planning a permanent installation and will replace the purple areas with concrete sidewalk extensions and median. Transport Oakland would like to see more OakDOT projects use low cost materials like this to provide immediate safety improvements to the community during the multiple years of planning it takes to pour concrete.
Don’t miss opportunities when repaving streets
In 2016, Oakland overwhelmingly passed Measure KK to provide $350 million for transportation improvements and with this new funding source OakDOT is increasing the number of miles of pothole ridden streets which are repaved. In 2018, OakDOT planned to repave over 4 times the number of miles as compared to previous years. Transport Oakland would like to see OakDOT use these street repavings as an opportunity to rethink the allocation of space at the same time. For example, this block of 4th street was repaved and OakDOT added a bike lane. Transport Oakland would like to see the Oakland City Council and Mayor support rebalancing roadway space as a part of all repaving projects and commit to expediting contracting and approval processes that include road diets and complete streets upgrades.
We’ve done the planning – now it’s time to act
Over the past several years OakDOT and planners with other agencies have created extensive plans on how to fix our streets. AC Transit’s Major Corridors Study has identified priority bus corridors in Oakland where traffic from drivers is causing excessive delays to high ridership lines. These corridors have been prioritized for better bus infrastructure including boarding islands, queue jumps, and bus only lanes so that buses can escape traffic and provide an attractive alternative to driving. In 2017 Oakland approved an updated Pedestrian Plan which includes 5 years of prioritized investments to close sidewalk gaps, repair damaged sidewalks, and safety fixes for high injury corridors and intersections.
OakDOT is also updating the Bike Plan and for the first time using an equity lens to ensure that Oakland provides safe bike access to everyone–not just those who are currently biking. Transport Oakland expects the bike plan to prioritize separated bike lanes because the plan’s research found that 67% of people feel comfortable biking when they are physically separated from cars compared to only 5% when using traditional bike lanes. It also found that only 6% of Oakland streets have bike routes that feel safe for most people and many of these routes don’t connect to other low stress routes.
With these 3 plans we have done the research and we know how to fix the streets for everybody – not just those driving. Transport Oakland will endorse candidates for City Council and Mayor who will champion implementation of these plans even if some of these changes are controversial for some.