Archive | January, 2006

Drive Less/Save More

We’ve featured pieces on efforts in the center of the region to reduce auto reliance. Now there’s a program aimed more towards the edges.

A new public information campaign sponsored by Metro, TriMet and others is about to launch. It’s called “Drive Less/Save More”. This will be a sustained media effort to get out the word that even if you can only make some small adjustments, say shifting one trip per week from the car to another mode, you can be part of a huge collective impact on our transportation system. It will also focus on the benefits to the individual making the choices.

The kick-off event is tomorrow (Wednesday the 1st) at Washington Square. I’m told we’ll gather near the Williams Sonoma. I’ll report back after the event.

Taking the Scalpel to PDOT

The 3rd meeting of PDOT’s budget advisory committee was held last Friday. The task is to take $8.3M out of PDOT’s budget due to declining buying power of the gas tax and re-distributions of population.

It feels like we’re pretty close to getting there, without huge impacts on services.

The largest single item is $4.3M from positions that are temporarily unfilled. This occurs when employees (particularly in the Bureau of Maintenance) turn over. Naturally, finding a replacement takes a little time, and during that time, no paycheck is going out. This budget adjustment just recognizes that reality. I’m a little surprised this one has not been captured in prior budget cycles, as it should show up clearly as a surplus at the end of each budget year.

There are about another $1.5M in ‘efficiencies’, reductions from doing things smarter, in ways that don’t reduce service levels. For example, there is a savings of about $700K from changing wireless carriers for the ‘SmartMeter’ parking meters and switching to a different credit card processing system with lower fees (my understanding is this is in part enabled by the UnWire Portland initiative).

There are another 23 items that cut program expenses that DO reduce services, but not those that are felt to be ‘core’ services based on community input. For example, reducing speed bump construction by a third and cutting maintenance on the transit mall (doesn’t make a lot of sense to maintain concrete that we’re about to tear up to put in light rail). No question that we’ll miss those speed bumps, but it’s not in the same league as letting streets fall apart from neglect. A few of these items were questioned by the advisory committee (cutting back some preventative maintenance of signals and relying on user complaints to find those that fail) and I expect we’ll see some swapping in and out of a few items.

But on the whole the exercise did not involve as many painful choices as I had expected, and I’m glad the Commissioner drove the bureau through this exercise before seeking new revenue sources. If and when we do seek new revenues – for things citizens value highly – we’ll have more credibility for having done this.

Now I’ve Heard Everything

As many of you know, I’m a big supporter of the idea of taking West Burnside from I-405 to NW 23rd down to 10-foot lanes (currently at 11 feet) to let the sidewalks expand to 10 feet from their current eight.

The latest argument advanced by the opponents of this idea, mentioned at a recent PDOT budget meeting, is that it would hamstring Burnside as an evacuation route in a disaster.

If this is their best argument it seems like they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel…

Portland Outlasts Davis in One Category

We were all a bit stung when Davis, CA became the first Platinum cycling city in the U.S. I’m happy to say we’ve bested them in one category.

I remarked a few months ago about the fact that Davis’ bike radio program, Bike Talk, was available via podcast while our own estimable KBOO Bike Show was not. Happily that led to a partnership to podcast the Bike Show on Portland Transport.

Well, I just downloaded the most recent episode from Davis, and it is their last. The host/producer has pulled the plug on the show, while our own Ayleen and Sara keep rolling along.

Portland is in this competition for the long run…

Advocacy/Input Opportunities

Here are a couple of ways you can have impact on the transportation system:

  1. Over at the BTA blog, they are noting that the Metro Green Spaces bond measure may include funds for trails that could be used by bikes and peds. The hearings are this evening and Saturday. Get the details.
  2. ODOT is soliciting input on their ’08-’11 capital plan (the ‘STIP’). The hearing schedule and candidate project list are available at the ODOT web site. Hey, it’s only $75M or so… Mostly roads and bridges but a few token transit and bike/ped dollars are sprinkled in.