Friday, September 30, 2016

TransportiCA's Inaugural Feature: OakDOT RISING: Developing a DOT for Oakland

Like many readers, we were surprised to hear about the creation of an Oakland Department of Transportation (“OakDOT”) last year.  Despite Oakland being California’s eighth- and the nation’s 45th-largest city, Oakland has never had a DOT; most of the city’s transportation planning and operations have been handled by the Public Works Agency.  This fiscal year–2016-17–OakDOT begins operations, and under the interim direction of international urban planner and bestselling-author, Jeff Tumlin.

OakDOT RISING is TransportiCA’s inaugural feature series, and will chronicle the establishment of OakDOT – from its organization development and initial leadership; expectations and desires from citizens, stakeholders and officials; and even the setbacks, challenges and collaborations that define OakDOT’s character.

Stay with TransportiCA every Monday, as we bring you OakDOT's new developments, reporting how the nation's newest big-city DOT operates for citizens and all system users.

But first, who is Jeff Tumlin?

Tumlin is an expert in helping communities move from discord to agreement about the future.

For more than twenty years, Jeff has led award-winning plans in cities from Seattle and Vancouver to Moscow and Abu Dhabi. He helps balance all modes of transportation in complex places to achieve a community’s wider goals and best utilize their limited resources. He has developed transformative plans throughout the world that accommodate millions of square feet of growth with no net increase in motor vehicle traffic.

Jeff is renowned for helping people define what they value and building consensus on complex and controversial projects. He provides residents and stakeholders the tools they need to evaluate their transportation investments in the context of achieving their long-term goals. He understands that managing parking and transportation demand is a critical tool for revitalizing city centers and creating sustainable places.

A dynamic and frequent guest speaker, Jeff is the author of Sustainable Transportation Planning: Tools for Creating Healthy, Vibrant and Resilient Communities (Wiley, 2012).  Bachelor of Arts (with distinction), Urban Studies, Stanford University.  (Bio: Nelson/Nygaard.)

What about his Book?

As transportations-related disciplines of urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture, urban economics, and social policy have undergone major internal reform efforts in recent decades Written in clear, easy-to-follow language, this book provides planning practitioners with the tools they need to achieve their cities? economic development, social equity and ecological sustainability goals. Starting with detailed advice for improving each mode of transportation, the book offers guidance on balancing the needs of each mode against each other, whether on a downtown street, or a small town neighborhood, or a regional network.

"The Great American Dream of cruising down the parkway, zipping from here to there at any time has given way to a true nightmare that is destroying the environment, costing billions and deeply impacting our personal well-being. Getting from A to B has never been more difficult, expensive or miserable. It doesn't have to be this way. Jeffrey Tumlin's book Sustainable Transportation Planning offers easy-to-understand, clearly explained tips and techniques that will allow us to quite literally take back our roads. Essential reading for anyone who wants to drive our transportation system out of the gridlock."  -Marianne Cusato, home designer and author of Get Your House Right: Architectural Elements to Use and Avoid.

"The book is full of useful ideas on nearly every page."  -Bill DiBennedetto of Triple Pundit.

"He has written a compact, engaging, and approachable text that is ideally suited to bringing a diverse group of students up to speed on the topic and providing and a launching point for supplementary readings and discussions. This book provides an ideal overview of key issues, a helpful quick reference on design guidelines, and a long reading list for those interested in digging further into the subject." (, August 2012)

"Sustainable Transportation Planning is an outstanding, easy to navigate source for planners of all kinds, not just transportation specialists... is an ideal book for America's many citizen-planners." (Better! Cities & Towns, April-May 2012)

". . .Tumlin argues that on the whole, transportation planning has remained overly focused on engineering. If planners took a broader approach to how urban regions work, he contends, they could serve those places more economically and also enhance liveability." (Better! Cities & Towns, March 2012)

"Tumlin's book starts with a provocative chapter on recent research into brain chemistry, noting how excessive driving makes us anti-social and stupid. Conversely, more walking and biking contribute to making us happier, sexier, and smarter." (Ecohome, March 2012)

"Transportation planning and urban planning, mobility and accessibility don't have to be mutually exclusive anymore, and Tumlin's book is a good place to learn about sustainable transportation planning." (, January 2012)

Questions and Comments about Tumlin / OakDOT From Experts

TransportiCA spoke with Liz Brisson (SFMTA, Oakland resident) and Prof. Ethan Elkind (Berkeley/UCLA) for their thoughts on OakDOT, and what can the department accomplish.

Brisson is Co-Founder and President of "Transport Oakland," a political action committee supporting transportation and infrastructure, as well as, one of the first and most fervent organizations that called for a DOT years ago.

TransportiCA: Why does Oakland need a DOT?

Brisson: Transportation is an increasingly important policy area for cities. Public works agencies tend to be geared towards infrastructure maintenance of expensive assets like sewers and stormwater drains. But cities around the country have proven that quick, cheap transformative changes can make streets more sustainable. This requires a different skill-set because street changes require heavy public involvement and different models of project delivery.

Big cities across the country have Departments of Transportation. This includes cities bigger than Oakland - like New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, but also cities of similar size to Oakland -- like Portland, Seattle, and even Sacramento.

What are your hopes for the new department?

I would like to see streets with underutilized right-of-way be transformed quickly to provide safer and more attractive walking and cycling options. I would like to see installation of bus-only lanes to improve the speed and reliability of AC Transit's buses. I would like to see equitable investments across all parts of the city.

What transportation issue do you want OakDOT to solve, or at least work aggressively on?

Project delivery improvements are essential. Take the example of Telegraph Complete Streets. First there was a long delay from when the project was legislated until when it got underway with the re-paving. The street then sat re-paved but with no striping on it for more than five months. That's not efficient. 

OakDOT is poised for a massive ~twenty-five fold increase in funding to spend on streets if the Infrastructure Bond is passed this November. OakDOT must come up with a new project delivery paradigm to spend this funding quickly and effectively.

Are there any collaborations you hope OakDOT establishes with other municipal or regional governments, non-profits, business organizations, etc.?

I want to see OakDOT and AC Transit strengthen their collaboration. This includes developing a policy for bus stop re-locations that de-politicizes these decisions so we do not have more examples of what happened at 30th and Broadway. I also want to see OakDOT make it easier for AC Transit and Oakland to partner on major corridor investments. East Bay BRT is in the works and I want this to be the first of many such Oakland corridor investments.

In speaking to Prof. Ethan Elkind (pictured right), he responded, "I hope Oakland ends parking minimums for transit-oriented development and transitions to VMT analysis for transportation impacts, both in CEQA and in its local codes (and ends LOS).  I also know Jeff Tumlin and think he's a fantastic fit for this position as an expert visionary.  I can't think of a better choice to get the dept up and running."

Elkind is an attorney who directs the climate change and business program at the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) at the UC Berkeley School of Law. He also has an appointment at the UCLA School of Law’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. His areas of focus include land use, transportation, electric vehicles, energy storage, and renewable energy.  In January 2014, UC Press published his book “Railtown: The Fight for the Los Angeles Metro Rail System and the Future of the City.” (

Challenges / Issues for Tumlin and OakDOT

1. Oakland's Infrastructure Bond: If approved, Measure KK brings $350 million for transportation related projects.

2. UBER's Thousands of New Employees Uptown: while this does means more jobs and spending, how will these employees get to/from work?

3. Worsening Transbay Traffic: how can OakDOT - with regional partners - ease congestion around the toll plaza?

4. Calls for a Second Transbay Tube: with BART at-capacity in morning and afternoon commutes, how can OakDOT assist with the development of added capacity across the Bay.

5. Completing Bicycle Networks: OakDOT will be a step in the right direction for establishing more lanes, but will this also result in many more connected bicycle networks, especially in the south.

6. East Bay Bus Rapid Transit: With construction already begun, and expected revenue operations in November 2017, what can OakDOT do to assist with the project, and can it get Berkeley to reconsider opposition?

Again, follow us every Monday for the latest about OakDOT, as we explore these six issues, and many more.

1 comment:

  1. Oakland has already ended parking minimums for the downtown and has made the transition to VMT analysis for transportation impacts in CEQA. The work on local guidelines and codes is underway!