Jeffrey Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy at Nelson/Nygaard Consulting. Photo: Streetsblog.
Jeffrey Tumlin, Principal and Director of Strategy at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting, has until early next year to put together a Transportation Department, pretty much from scratch, for the City of Oakland.
“A better Oakland starts with better streets today, in every part of our city,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf, in a prepared announcement. “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 increases the vibrancy of our urban community.”
Tumlin is charged with setting up the department and putting all those goals in motion, as the interim director of the new DOT. Easy, right? Uh, no. From where Streetsblog sits, it seems pretty daunting. If anybody can do it, it’s Tumlin. He’s famous for his work on planning projects all over the world and his uncanny ability to make the wonkiest transportation stuff easily digestible to the general public. That’s important, considering how many voters–and the politicians who represent them–still think better transportation equals widening highways.
Tumlin asked Streetsblog for a sit down to talk about what he’s up to. And when a rock-star of the safe-streets movement asks Streetsblog for a lunch meeting outside Oakland City Hall, he gets it.
Streetsblog: So Jeff, what brings you to Oakland?
Jeffrey Tumlin: My charge is actually fairly simple, first thing I have to do is create a DOT for Oakland. There’s currently one employee, that’s me. We need to create an organization. We need all of the details of the organization chart, including how to split administration functions from Public Works and have the resources to adequately staff our administration functions. Do we organize it functionally or by service delivery? Do we organize the org chart according to conventional silos, or do we turn it 90 degrees and organize it by project team or service delivery. Both structures have profound advantages and disadvantages.
SB: 90 degrees–come again?
JT: Is our primary orientation around skill and function area, or is it around service delivery? In a capital project, you can set it up so one group is in charge of planning, another does design, another does operations, and another builds it. And there’s a hand-off that occurs when it moves from phase to phase. Another way of addressing it is instead of organizing a group of people who do nothing but, for example, budgets, instead organize a project team.
SB: So instead of a design department, a planning department, and a bike lane department, you structure it so you have an office for, let’s say, the Telegraph Avenue Complete Streets project, and people from all those specialties are inside that office?
Oakland will get more parking-protected bike lanes like this one demonstrated by Bike East Bay. But will the pavement be repaired? Photo: Melanie Curry