Archive | February, 2007

Planning Commission Disses the Couplet

Because I was at the CRC task force last night, I missed the Planning Commission work session on the Burnside/Couch couplet, but here’s the update I got from a fellow neighborhood activist:

The motion made by Don Hanson and carried in a 3-1 vote (and 1 abstention) made the following recommendations to:

  • not move forward on the B/C couplet
  • enhance Burnside
  • address Burnside safety issues
  • develop an urban design and development on B/C
  • eliminated Broadway as a barrier between East and West Couch
  • make more positive pedestrian environment as development occurs
  • make streetscape improvements
  • apply sound economic strategies and assist social services in the area
  • make turn lanes from Burnside
  • evaluate East/West streetcar alignment as a part of the rail system plan to find the best spot for it

Further, they recommended that IF the City Council does adopt the couplet to:

  • implement pedestrian safety measures on Burnside now
  • make streetcar part of the up front improvements
  • do not extend the couplet past 16th, however the streetcar could be
  • make I-405 overpass upgrades
  • make street designation changes right away

My personal view is that the Planning Commission fails to appreciate that the ‘enhanced Burnside’ alternative delivers only a fraction of the benefits to pedestrian safety that the couplet does and that any serious attempt to tame the traffic while Burnside is still a two-way street will have significant effects of diverting traffic into the surrouding neighborhoods.

Stay tuned for the next round in the bout at City Council on the 15th of March.

Agreeing with ODOT

ODOT Region 1 director Jason Tell (mislabled James Tell in the print edition) has an opinion piece in Friday’s Trib bemoaning the state of transportation funding here in Oregon.

While I don’t always agree with ODOT about modernization (i.e., new capacity) projects (hightlighed in an article in the same issue: “Caution: bump in road“), Jason nails it that our system of funding transpotation here in Oregon is broken. We can’t even maintain the system we have. The legislature, and the people who elect them, need to step up to reality.

Rex in a Box?

A mildly positive outcome from last night’s Columbia River Crossing task force meeting.

After about an hour of testimony, almost all of it from advocates for more options going into the DEIS process, the task force got down to the real business – deciding whether to add a fourth option to the alternatives.

Rex Burkholder played it cool, electing not to advance a specific option that might be shot down on technical grounds, but instead moving to create a sub-committee to bring back a potential option in 30 days.

The debate was interesting. There was a clear faction wanting to advance only the staff recommended options (big bridge or nothing) while another clear faction was not going to advance into the DEIS without more options. Along the way there were fear tactics (“if we don’t move quickly we may miss the next federal funding cycle”) and parliamentary moves (“we should separate the amendment and vote on the staff recommendation first”).

In the end, Oregon co-chair Henry Hewitt had to remind the group that if they didn’t enter the DEIS phase with some kind of consensus they might all just as well go home. The Burkholder ammendment passed with a solid majority, and the full motion to move into the DEIS phase then passed unanimously, although Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, who had been instructed by his Council to ONLY vote for the staff recommendation only raised his hand in assent after it became clear he was at risk of being the only ‘no’ vote.

So good news for the moment, but I wonder about the longer term. Clark County Chair Steve Stuart openly opined that staff would try to kill the 4th option before it was born, and I fear that he may be right. There was much discussion of the new option needing to “meet the Purpose and Need” and pass “the same criteria” as the other options (and many feel the criteria applied are actually much more stringent than what the Purpose and Need statement requires).

So whatever comes out of the subcommittee is likely to face an uphill climb. And if no fourth option survives, I think the task force may well splinter permanently.

Rex will chair the subcommittee. Let’s see if he can navigate his way out of the box.

So good work to all the advocates that made it clear that no choice was not a choice. And keep paying attention, it’s only the beginning.

Here’s the early coverage:

Avoiding Icons

I’ve been reading the Eddington report, a fascinating piece of research and advice to the government of the UK. I’ll be posting on it in more detail later in the week, but I can’t help highlighting one conclusion that seems very much on point for this afternoon’s decision:

The risk is that transport policy can become the pursuit of icons. Almost invariably such projects – ‘grands projets’ – develop real momentum, driven by strong lobbying. The momentum can make such projects difficult – and unpopular – to stop, even when the benefit:cost equation does not stack up, or the environmental and landscape impacts are
unacceptable.

The resources absorbed by such projects could often be much better used elsewhere. The suggested benefit:cost ratios of such projects, although only estimates, are often lower than many other less-exciting transport projects. International evidence collated for this Study suggests that the claimed transformational impacts of such projects are rarely observed, and any speculative assessment of ‘macro-economic’ benefits would involve considerable risk, particularly in view of the large sunk cost investment that would be required. Furthermore, the projects are rarely assessed against other interventions that would achieve the same goals – it can often seem that, unless Government can somehow demonstrate that the project’s costs outweigh the benefits, the project should go ahead. In fact, the question should really be are there better ways to achieve the same goals, or are there better uses of the funds to achieve different, but more valuable goals, for the same cost?

Have we had a more iconic project in this region than the CRC?

Calendar Conundrum

I occassionally get an e-mail from someone saying “that item on your calendar is off by a few hours.”

This seems to be a ‘feature’ of Google Calendar that it adjusts for the timezone it thinks you’re in. If you have your computer’s OS set to the wrong time zone, things start getting wierd.

This seems to be even more challenging right now as Microsoft is distributing a patch for this year’s change in the start of Daylight Savings Time. Even on my computer, which I believe to be set correctly, I’m seeing a one-hour shift in event start times.

If in doubt, check the left sidebar on the Portland Transport home page. The start times there should be free of any timezone biases…