Tag Archives: streets

Behind Government Budget Problems

Sutro Baths Steps by sirgious
Sutro Baths Steps, a photo by sirgious on Flickr.

This month’s post by Gail the Actuary explains our country’s (and the world’s) economic situation better than I ever could, so here it is.

This obviously speaks for Oakland as well, since we’re one of hundreds of US cities built upon a once lustrous but increasingly potholed and cracked foundation of cheap (and now all burnt up) oil and gasoline.

We’ll need to find other means of social lubrication, and in the meantime, don’t be poor!

The ramifications touch every part of our society, and thus I’ve tagged this with all categories. Put on your systems thinking cap and get reading!

Free Parking and How to Stop a Bullet

VSmoothe @ABO alerts us to Oakland’s updated car parking drama today.

Here’s a relevant quote from today’s StreetsBlog:

“The root of the problem is that none of these streets were designed for cars in the first place. So I think it’s a little bit backwards for the kneejerk reaction always to be prioritizing cars.”

I agree.

Free parking is worthless to me. Parking spaces are DEAD SPACE. It’s like having zombies in your living room. You can’t put anything useful there, because the zombies are decomposing, messy, giving off poisonous gases.

Much like a cemetary, a parking lot is not so useful to the living.

If you look at old videos on youtube of people in public places, you notice that they walk all around the plazas and streetscapes haphazardly. There are no cars to watch out for. Well-to-do people are relatively free and relaxed in cities, even with the advent of streetcars, because these are slow on fixed guideways. Bicycles don’t kill pedestrians at stoplights in that era, unlike today’s cars.

Councilmember Kernighan, Shame on You and other businesses for promoting ecologically irresponsible “free parking”!

People should pay for the PRIVILEGE of leaving their oil-dripping heaps of glass, steel, vinyl and petro in our shared PUBLIC SPACES.

These spaces could otherwise be used for outdoor cafe seating, walking on wider sidewalks, REAL parks (search the net for “park(ing) day“), small sports fields — soccer, basketball, you name it; small garden plots, shrines, pull-up bars, massage tables, cooking classes, flea markets, lemonade and hotdog stands or any other socially useful purpose.

Cars and parking lots are dead zones at best. The best kind of parking lots are underground, where these polluting death beasts belong. Hidden.

I think that the best uses of these lots are for farmers markets (Temescal on Sundays), mini-golf, karaoke bars, reverting to natural habitat, housing or business spaces.

I assert everywhere and always that parking and car driver amenities should be limited to the maximum extent possible.

The street is our last common, public space we all share. What a shame for cars to gobble it all up. We should do as Copenhagen did: Transform Oakland from car-centric to people- and nature-centric! One street block at a time.

It’s all about creating a place worth caring about which is walkable, not retaining our vast WalMart parking lots, vast Oracle Arena parking lots, multitudes of BART parking lots. Walk, people! Lose weight the natural way. Avoid car payments, parking tickets, gas fill-ups, oil changes, crash liability insurance, speeding tickets, collisions, stress, boredom, fright, animal car-kill, road rage and zipcar. Work fewer hours to supporting a bad habit.

Less truly is more.

Except for public amenities. Just a few months ago, there was a bench outside my apartment complex. But it’s been removed. Lame!


How to stop a bullet? Jobs. People who are comfortable in life don’t go causing trouble.

Example: A new gang in LA: solar installers. (Homeboy Industries.) Could Oakland “employ” this model with a push from Van Jones, Coach Carter and FAB? Indeed, why don’t Oakland Tech and OUSD at the high school level offer vocational job skills classes? Car and bicycle and house repair, woodworking, urban agriculture and home cooking, financial literacy… you know — useful, transferable skills. I know Berkeley USD is ahead of the curve here with their elementary school gardens which supply local restaurants such as Chez Panisse and Flora under the “Green Leaf” BUSD brand; not sure about the non-food items above.

But playing devil’s advo, supporting social programs such as these from private donations and foundation funding only support more “social welfare” programs right? Which in turn support an ever-growing human population on a finite planet…

Still, I support re-localization and de-globalization, because ultimately these WILL provide more fulfillment and make the future a tad easier.

We’ll stil face famine, war, natural disaster. But at least we’ll be a bit better prepard for this future, without our up-till-now fossil-fueled cushion.

Oakland’s Slice of the Stimulus Pie Update: $5.8M for Street Rehab

President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 signed earlier this month promises a down payment on fixing and improving the nation’s infrastructure. The $700B in it pales next to the $7-8T the Fed/Treasury have given to our central banksters. But eating cake is better than eating yellow dirt cookies, as Haitians can attest. Here is an updated list of money Oakland should see “immediately,” to spend on public amenities:

  • Oakland – Various Streets and Roads Rehabilitation Rehab City of Oakland STP-ARRA $4,774,000
  • Oakland – Citywide Curb Ramp and Sidewalk Repair Bike/Ped City of Oakland STP-ARRA $1,194,000

Oakland’s famous “80 year repaving cycle” as mentioned in this 2003 City of Oakland report should become a little shorter in places as the Oakland Public Works Dept. uses the money to rehab our streets. 

According to North Oakland blog WeFightBlight, the city is actually on a 100 year repaving cycle, and it would cost $27 million to repave or otherwise keep a high “Level of Service” condition in Oakland’s 836 miles of roads per year. Is that a boondoggle or what?

Today’s Chronicle has a full accounting of MTC’s agenda for local transportation funding priorities, with 80% of stimulus dollars targetted to maintaining existing roads and transit lines. The MTC’s own site shows that of $495 million allocated by Congress, the remaining 20% will go toward safety and new projects including the Airport Connector.

Longer term, the MTC has a “Tier 2” list of not-quite shovel-ready investments and contingency projects based on its own ability to get additional funding. These monies cannot be spent immediately:

  • Oakland – Airport to Coliseum BART air-train connection. $70,000,000 
  • BART – System-wide rehab, mostly for renovating train car interiors: $16,972,051
Since Oakland has the most BART stations (and thus potential users) than any other city, this means that city residents who hold steady jobs in San Francisco stand to benefit the most. Of course, the entire region’s BART riders will benefit from basic maintenance.

At yesterday’s MTC meeting AC Transit advocates complained, perhaps rightly so, about undue emphasis on funding  BART’s Oakland Airport connector at the expense of inner-city bus transit. I have always felt that the airport should have a connector, given the voluminous amounts of cars which sometimes create a nighttime parking lot on the way into the airport. On the other hand, if we stop flying in great numbers, then this will be Oakland’s “bridge to nowhere” within 10-15 years. I believe that any electrification of our transport systems can only be a good thing. 

Oakland’s Mayor’s office contributed a $2.6 Billion shortlist of “shovel-ready” projects through the US Mayor’s Conference earlier this year as part of the USMC’s lobbying effort led by Miami Mayor Manny Diaz.


Source of Oakland funding receivables:

MTC, http://apps.mtc.ca.gov/meeting_packet_documents/agenda_1229/TMP-3885_memo_Attach-B-1_and_B-2_02-25-09.pdf