City of Oakland Department Of Transportation Pissing Off Oaklanders Left And Right

Ryan Russo OakDOT
Ryan Russo OakDOT

Wow. The City of Oakland Department of Transportation is just about two years old, and it’s already gaining media – the negative kind and from Oaklanders.

The Oakland DOT was started as part of the City of Oakland’s 2015-2017 Budget, and came with lofty goals of providing a kind of center of decisions for public works projects and initatives with a transportation orientation. Everything from street and traffic light planning to bike signage now comes through, and from, the Oakland Department of Transportation.

This is what Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said when she announced “OakDOT” as it’s nicknamed: “A better Oakland starts with better streets today, in every part of our city. We need a world-class transportation department to take a fresh look at our streets, and provide Oakland residents with safer, healthier and more accessible ways to get around, to and from work and school. Equitably enhancing our streets and adding to the array of viable transportation options in Oakland in creases the vibrancy of our urban community.”

Oakland DOT has three goals, according to Mayor Schaaf and the City of Oakland:

1. Economic: To increase the capacity of the City to attract funds, carry out projects and accelerate street and infrastructure maintenance, provide new mobility alternatives, and reduce traffic congestion.
2. Environmental: To leverage the accelerated repair of our streets to make them “complete streets”that increase pedestrian safety and support the needs of drivers, transit riders and bicyclists alike. Improving all types oftransportation reduces air pollution and Oakland’s asthma rate, and is critical to our fight against global warming.
3. Social Equity: The DOT will expand Oakland’s capacity to work more actively to bring local transit agencies, private mobility companies, and communities together to ensure that equity considerations are included within all forms of mobility including bike sharing and car sharing. By using better data in decision-making, including socioeconomic information, alongside more conventional safety and traffic data, the City can improve outcomes for all community members.

Mayor Schaaf said “This is such an exciting time for transportation in Oakland – our new Department of Transportation is forming just as AC Transit breaks ground on the bus-rapid-transit line connecting downtown Oakland with East Oakland and downtown San Leandro, as bike sharing gets ready to launch, and as the City develops our bond proposal to fund long-deferred infrastructure investments and fight against displacement with affordable housing.”

That’s all well and good, but what Mayor Schaaf forgot along the way was one word: service. It’s been replaced by another word: arrogance. And it’s that way that’s pissing off Oaklanders left and right.

Take this recent tweet by Oakland At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan to OakDOT. Yes, Kaplan’s no fan of Mayor Schaaf (and vice versa), and is pissed off that the Mayor kicked her off the Bay Area Air Quality Board, but she does have a transportation-oriented track record that includes having been an AC Transit Board Member and creating the Free Broadway Bus Shuttle.

Thus Kaplan’s heated social media reaction to the Oakland DOT’s tweet that it’s closing service requests. In other words where Oaklanders call to have things done like signage changes, street pothole repairs, and so on. This is what OakDOT put out on Twitter June 8th:

“We’re closing 1300 construction related service requests that are over 30 days old. If we mistakenly closed a service request that still hasn’t been resolved, call 311 and we’ll open it back up right away.”

Kaplan Twitter tweets: “Who authorized OakDOT to close many service requests without fixing them? This is Not okay! You have been telling people to use the complaint-based system – now demanding they report again is bad and disproportionately hurts communities that have less free time and technology!”

And she wasn’t the only one who tweeted about the Oakland Department Of Transportation’s decision to basically erase 1,300 service requests. Take Robert Prinz‏, the Bike East Bay Education Director, who tweeted this: “Suggesting that individuals go out and re-report issues the city closed out erroneously is an insult to everyone who volunteered their time to send in reports in the first place. The city is failing their responsibility twice.”

Robert Prinz on Twitter: “There are ways to deal w this w/o killing public trust in the process. Consider “Sorry we lost track of this report. If the issue reported is still a problem please comment to let us know. If we don’t hear anything within two weeks the report will be closed. Thank you!””

Robert Prinz‏, also tweeted “The way this was handled, the city just invalidated dozens if not hundreds of hours of volunteer time. The org I work for relies heavily on volunteers & treats them as a precious commodity to be protected & rewarded.”

Oakland DOT Pissed Off RCPC / NCPC Too

And if it’s not the 1,300 erased service requests, then it’s the matter of bike signage in Rockridge. Take this entry in the Rockridge Community Planning Council / Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council minutes from the June 14th meeting:

Those present (at the Rockridge Community Planning Council / Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council meeting of June 14th) discussed the issues around bicycles riding on the subject, the threat to pedestrians, the lack of city notice that this is illegal in Oakland, and the Oakland Dept. of Transportation’s refusal to post any signage in Rockridge prohibiting it. They argue first, that putting signage only on College would imply that it’s OK to ride bicycles on the sidewalk in surrounding streets without the markings, and second that the problem will be solved when College is repaved and provided with bicycle lanes (in the wider areas) and sharrow stencils (in the narrower areas). Attendees suggested several options to request signage, including a possible petition to the city, or possible signage on BART property.

Read that? First “Oakland Department Of Transportation’s refusal to post any signage” and then “they argue”. Sound familiar? There’a a pattern here by OakDOT of doing to Oaklanders and not asking Oaklanders about what it plans to do before something is done.

It’s an expression of the “I know what’s best for you, better than yourself” approach that causes many to use the word “arrogance” when the subject of OakDOT comes up. It’s one thing to have such talk around town, but when it repeatedly winds up in media, you know it’s a problem.

All of this falls on Oakland DOT’s Director Ryan Russo. Will he change the bad Oakland bedside manner he’s responsible for?

But this Oakland blogger has to say thanks for the new traffic signal at Grand and Bellevue – now can you turn it on, please?

UPDATE:

Sean Maher of the City of Oakland reached out to Zennie62Media via email and noted this tweet and reversal of policy by the Oakland Department of Transportation:

Stay tuned.

Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media

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Zennie Abraham
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media

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