By Jen Kinney.
Until this summer, like many other midsize cities, Oakland has had no Department of Transportation. Decisions about streets have fallen under the jurisdiction of public works or planning instead. Now, nearly a year after Mayor Libby Schaaf announced its creation as part of the city’s 2015-2017 budget, Oakland’s first DOT is taking shape. Earlier this month, the city announced that the transition would be led by Jeff Tumlin, a transportation consultant and director of strategy with planning firm Nelson/Nygaard. The department’s creation couldn’t come at a better time. The city is considering putting a $600 million infrastructure bond on the November ballot, which could yield $350 million for transportation if approved.
“The issues that Oakland is facing right now are the same issues that metropolitan areas around the country, indeed around the world, are going to have to grapple with in coming decades,” Tumlin says.
Among the questions he thinks a new DOT will play a role in answering: How can a mobility system be designed around inclusivity? How can cities accommodate the many who are now demanding better bike infrastructure, knowing it means some drivers will feel they are being made to give up their privileges? How does a city grow its economy while ensuring opportunities also proliferate for those who have historically been bypassed by economic growth?
Tumlin points to Oakland’s opportunity score, as calculated by Redfin. Around BART stations and in downtown, Oakland scores high, meaning that a large number of jobs are accessible within 30 minutes by transit and walking. But scores drop off in East and South Oakland, meaning it’s unlikely residents there can get to work in 30 minutes, even with a car.
“For me mobility has no independent utility,” says Tumlin. “Movement in itself is value neutral. But the opportunity for movement creates or accelerates other opportunities.”