Oakland City Council on February 2, 2016 authorized City Administration to start recruiting a new Director for the Department of Transportation. They held off on any endorsement of whether the new department will include functions such as sewers and storm water management—the infrastructure part, and what if any budget adjustment will be needed to pay for new administration positions. Overall, this is good news, as we were worried that budget impacts for more administration positions could stall the proposal. These financial issues will be taken up in June during the mid-cycle budget review.
At Public Works Committee on January 26, 2016, Hearing Room 2 was full with residents, labor leaders, Public Works staff, Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, Bike East Bay and Transport Oakland in support of a new Department of Transportation. Oakland’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Facilities Manager Jason Patton spoke in support, as did Ali Schwartz the Project Manager for Measure DD projects. So great to hear testimony from rank & file at Public Works Committee.
There is still much work to do and many issues to discuss going forward as Oakland starts a strategic plan to outline how a new department will be staffed and operated. Local 21 and SEIU representatives, labor unions for city staff, still have concerns, as do representatives of persons with a disability. But overall, at least four city councilmembers voiced support and want to see this happen.
Bloomberg Associates will be working with Mayor Libby Schaaf’s Office to start work on a Strategic Plan for the new Department, as well as recruiting for the new Director position. In addition, Walk Oakland Bike Oakland will work closely with the Mayor’s Office and the City Administration to ensure a collective and transparent process occurs over the next several months to ensure public input.
A number of downtown planning efforts are underway (as you’ll see below), but none perhaps as critical to the future of right-sizing downtown’s many bloated streets and defining the next generation of protected bikeways as this effort.
The “CCS,” as it called for short, is a coordinated effort between the City of Oakland, the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC), and City of Alameda to update the assessment of local and regional circulation needs in the study area.
In October, WOBO participated in the initial public stakeholder group meeting as well as several project walking tours, and was able to preview the project’s initial “baseline assessment report.”
Although the report is not yet publicly available as of press time, here’s a preview of some key facts and content:
According to the initial traffic analysis, “more than 80% of the streets in downtown Oakland have excess vehicle capacity, meaning that space on those streets could be reallocated to better serve other road users by reducing vehicle lanes and widths and creating bicycling lanes, wider sidewalks, and/or transit-only lanes.” You probably already knew this intuitively, but now there are City-supported consultants backing this assertion up with real data!
The study area (which includes Uptown, Chinatown, Jack London Square, Lake Merritt, and a wider influence area) experiences about six crashes a day on average, and contains over 50,000 public vehicle parking spaces (half on-street and half off-street)
There are several categories of potential recommendations for converting street space to improve downtown’s “public life,” including: Sidewalk and Parking Enhancements, Pavement to Parks, Links Across Freeways, Plaza and Park Enhancements, and Shared Streets.
The baseline report includes a new “Family-Friendly Bike Network” Map prepared by the City’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, Jason Patton, which is a draft refinement to the existing Bicycle Master Plan proposed network. Key corridors preliminary targeted for (physically protected?) bicycle upgrades include 14th Avenue, Oak and Madison streets, as well as the Telegraph Avenue protected bikeway that is in construction…although there will be opportunities to further expand and refine this network through the CCS and Downtown Oakland Specific Plan planning processes.
The CCS project is planning to hold a public design charrette (collaborative working session) on Thursday, November 19th, from 9am to 4pm, followed by a community report-out meeting from 7pm-9pm. Mark your calendars, look for upcoming WOBO blog posts to help prepare, and bring your ideas to share!
A full house of interested downtown residents, businesses, planners and protestors filled the room to discuss how to redesign downtown Oakland. Hot topic issues included affordable housing, cultural preservation, promotion of local artists, and safer walking and bicycling.
Recap of the September 3 Kick Off Event
Oakland has kicked off its Downtown Specific Plan process, and over the next year, we have a golden opportunity to get protected bike lanes designed and approved for Broadway and 14th St, two priority bikeways. Our 14th St Bikeway Campaign has been stalled due to lack of staff resources, and the Downtown Specific Plan is just the opportunity to jump start things.
You can help by marking your calendars for a series of design charrettes and workshops starting October 19, 2015. For ten days, Oakland wants to hear your ideas for reimagining Downtown Oakland. What changes would you like?
Grand Ave road diet goes to City Council Tuesday, October 20 for approval. Council meeting starts at 5:30pm, and Grand Ave is on the Consent Calendar as item S7.23. So it should come up quickly. While not a perfect project by far, it is a step in the right direction. Please come and support and ask for back-in angled parking and completion of the bikeway all the way to Lake Park Drive.
Oakland Public Works Committee unanimously approved a road diet with bike lanes on Grand Ave, from Jean St to Mandana, as proposed by staff. Our ask for back-in angled parking, rather than pull-in as approved, was not even discussed, as there is too much concern over the novelty of it in Oakland. There was strong support from several councilmembers to see a followup project to extend the bike lanes down to Lake Park Ave, where bike lanes pick up.
A few speakers spoke against the project, saying things like “this is not San Francisco,” “only 1% of people bike in Oakland,” and “bicyclists can’t follow the rules of the road” — the usual noise from concerned residents who struggle to imagine a better Oakland where people walk and bike around town, and local businesses thrive as a result. Council listened to their concerns but the super-majority of public support for the project allowed forward thinking and reason to prevail.
We are not giving up on back-in angled parking and continuing the project toward downtown. But a followup project will most likely need to be directed by the new Department of Transportation, which is in the works but won’t be up and running until the 2nd half of 2016. We will keep you posted on new DOT developments.
What you can do:
Send an email today to Councilmember Abel Guillen and to Project Manager Phillip Ho, and thank them for getting this phase 1 of the project moving forward and ask them when the project will be completed. And remind them that Oakland residents want the project continued to Lake Park Ave, and want to see back-in angled parking utilized in Oakland.
Good public attendance at two community workshops and a walking tour, and hundreds of emails to Oakland Public Works evidence strong support for staff’s proposal to take Grand Avenue down from 4 lanes to 3 lanes and add bike lanes north of Mandana. There is also majority support to expand the staff proposal and continue the proposed bike lanes south from Mandana to Lake Park, with many speakers supporting separated, protected bike lanes and support for back-in angle parking, as shown in the image below, but staff is simply not able to take on a much bigger project of this sort.
Continue talking to your neighbors, favorite Grand Lake businesses, friends, co-workers, and family about the potential for A Better Grand Avenue!
Summary of Public Input to Date
Of 217 total public responses to the proposed project on Grand Ave, 172 responses expressed explicit approval or disapproval:
115 respondents (67%) support Phase 1 project
51 respondents (30%) oppose the project
6 respondents (3%) only support the project with modifications
The top five most common concerns included:
a preference for back-in angled parking (30)
a desire to extend the project boundary south to Interstate 580 (i.e. Lake Park Ave) (22)
a preference for protected bike lanes (21)
concerns over increased traffic congestion (17)
concerns over increased delay from parking maneuvers (11)
Great work everyone helping with public outreach! Please keep the pressure on by sending an email today and asking your friends to do the same. Grand Ave is one of Oakland’s great streets, and is should be a great street for walking and bicycling.
Why Back In/Head Out Angle Parking is Better
Back-in/head-out diagonal parking is superior to conventional head-in/back-out diagonal parking. Both types of diagonal parking have common dimensions, but the back-in/head- out is superior for safety reasons due to better visibility when leaving. This is particularly important on busy streets or where drivers find their views blocked by large vehicles, tinted windows, etc., in adjacent vehicles in the case of head-in/back-out angled parking. In other words, drivers do not back blindly into an active traffic lane. The back-in maneuver is simpler than a parallel parking maneuver. Furthermore, with back-in/head-out parking, the open doors of the vehicle block pedestrian access to the travel lane and guide pedestrians to the sidewalk, which is a safety benefit, particularly for children. Further, back-in/head- out parking puts most cargo loading (into trunks, tailgates) on the curb, rather than in the street.
A little background: Oakland repaved Grand Avenue in summer 2014, but city leaders are now reconsidering whether there are better ways to make it safer to walk across, safer to bicycle on, easier to drive and park, and more inviting as a neighborhood main street for people to visit, hang out and spend some money.
In addition, Piedmont has written into its Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan to reduce Grand Avenue to one through-lane in each direction and adding bike lanes.
WOBO is kickstarting round 2 of the Grand Ave campaign. We have plans in the summer of 2015 to conduct deep outreach to bring the best ideas to the table for the City to consider.
Bicycling has tripled in Oakland over the past 12 years as our City has become a top 10 city nationally for the number of people bicycling. As the rate of bicycling grows, people need a safe space to ride. And an inviting space to ride is going to encourage thousands more people to try bicycling.
Walk Oakland Bike Oakland supports a 4 to 3 redesign of Grand Avenue through the Grand Lake commercial district. With this redesign, there will be one through-lane in each direction, a center turn lane, bike lanes and diagonal parking. The street goes from 4 through lanes to 3 lanes (2 through and 1 center turn lane), much like the road diet on Lakeshore Avenue, shown below.
Significantly improves pedestrian safety because pedestrians are crossing one lane of traffic at a time, and have a refuge island in the middle, allowing them to cross one lane at a time
Calms traffic by allowing the more prudent drivers to set the pace of traffic and provides a buffer between oncoming traffic in the outer lanes
Significantly improves bicycle safety and encourages more bicycling by creating a dedicated space for people bicycling
Helps drivers by giving bicyclists a dedicated space in the road, thereby reducing concerns of hitting a person on a bike
Streets with 3 lanes vs 4 lanes have 30% fewer crashes and calmer traffic
Can improve capacity for through traffic. Grand Avenue carries approximately 16,000 cars/day. Lakeshore Avenue nearby carries 24,000 cars/day and received a 4 to 3 road diet in 2009 as part of Measure DD. A 4 to 3 redesign of Grand Avenue will work better for drivers
Lakeshore Avenue currently, after receiving a 4 to 3 road diet in 2009 as part of Measure DD. Lakeshore Avenue carries 50% more traffic than Grand Avenue, and functions just fine.
Easier for motorist to enter and exit the street
Emergency vehicles have better access thanks to the center turn lane
Safer for drivers because speeds are slower, lane changing is eliminated, and the center turn lane provides a buffer between on-coming traffic
Retail activity goes up when streets are made more walkable and more bikeable because people shop more often and spend more money overall when they walk and bike to shop. Good for business
A redesign provides additional opportunities to green the street by adding planter boxes and artwork in center refuge islands