Oakland

Preparing the Populace, 2.0

Despite my enthusiasm for this use case, municipal mobile apps aren’t only good for data collection – they can also be used for information dissemination.  Such is the purpose of the Bay Bridge Explorer app, a driving simulator for iPhone and iPad developed in partnership with a coalition of government agencies including Caltrans, the Bay Area Toll Authority, and the California Transportation Commission.Bay Bridge app The San Francisco – Oakland Bridge is currently undergoing major construction for seismic retrofits.  The project, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2013, involves several temporary or sectional changes to the traffic pattern before its completion.  Caltrans learned the hard way when one of the early changes, the infamous s-curve, led to the death of a truck driver who entered the curve 10 mph faster than he should have.  Then, they responded by installing more and brighter signage.

Now, they’re acting preventatively by providing drivers the opportunity to test the bridge’s new alignment before actually encountering it from behind the wheel.   Users of the Bay Bridge Explorer app are able to simulate the driving experience and also see very detailed birds-eye view visualizations of the new structure.

So far the app has received some bad reviews because it is so detailed and causing systems to crash.  But, bugs are being worked out, and I’m hopeful that it can help prepare at least some for the new pattern they should expect.

- Terra Curtis

 

Preparing the Populace, 2.0

Despite my enthusiasm for this use case, municipal mobile apps aren’t only good for data collection – they can also be used for information dissemination.  Such is the purpose of the Bay Bridge Explorer app, a driving simulator for iPhone and iPad developed in partnership with a coalition of government agencies including Caltrans, the Bay Area Toll Authority, and the California Transportation Commission.Bay Bridge app The San Francisco – Oakland Bridge is currently undergoing major construction for seismic retrofits.  The project, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2013, involves several temporary or sectional changes to the traffic pattern before its completion.  Caltrans learned the hard way when one of the early changes, the infamous s-curve, led to the death of a truck driver who entered the curve 10 mph faster than he should have.  Then, they responded by installing more and brighter signage.

Now, they’re acting preventatively by providing drivers the opportunity to test the bridge’s new alignment before actually encountering it from behind the wheel.   Users of the Bay Bridge Explorer app are able to simulate the driving experience and also see very detailed birds-eye view visualizations of the new structure.

So far the app has received some bad reviews because it is so detailed and causing systems to crash.  But, bugs are being worked out, and I’m hopeful that it can help prepare at least some for the new pattern they should expect.

- Terra Curtis

 

Oakland Zoning on Youtube

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzJky8yENVU&fs=1&hl=en_US] We have written about the use of online media as a tool for city planning previously, including a specific example about the town of Cary, North Carolina.  Today I want to highlight the efforts of the Oakland, California planning department, which is using Youtube as a means of education and public engagement.

The last time Oakland’s zoning code was updated was in 1965, and no matter where you live, the 1965 world was a very different one from the one you’re living in today.  With that in mind, it makes sense for Oakland to embrace one of those stark differences – online communications and Youtube – to broadcast its updates.  You will find four videos on Oakland’s Youtube Channel.  Each of these is meant to prime the audience (the citizens of Oakland) for a thoughtful discussion on proposed zoning changes. In addition to the Youtube Channel, there are over a dozen other videos posted relating to the zoning update.  Many of these capture public sentiment and the opinions of elected officials.

The City of Oakland’s use of Youtube is great from an access and transparency perspective.  However, it doesn’t appear that they’re succeeding from an engagement perspective.  (The City of Oakland has around 400,000 residents; the first primer video posted has a mere 400 views – just 0.1% of its population).  While its efforts are noble, they’re going to have to be more innovative if they are to truly engage segments of the population that aren’t already.  Perhaps they could look to showcased company Socialight, or Second Life and Acton, Massachusetts, or to Cary, North Carolina.