Building Biker’s Paradise – and the Rest of Portland


Late last year, I was on a podcast talking about the Comprehensive Plan update and was asked about tips for where the best places to live in the future would be. Intuitively I answered “inner SE and inner NE are going to get even more awesome”.

Last week, my intuition got validated by some data. Roger Geller, bicycle coordinator at the Portland Bureau of Transportation, has been analyzing data from the Oregon Household Activity Survey. He’s been looking at how cycling has grown from 1994 to 2011 and how it will need to grow to hit a 25% mode share by 2035. The answer varies quite a bit by geography.

You can find Roger’s white paper and the slides he presented at Metro last week online.

The graphic above shows Roger’s estimate of the mode split in different parts of town to meet the Portland Plan goal of getting single-occupancy vehicle trips down to about 40% of all trips.

A note on how to read the graphic – it refers to the trips generated by households in the area of town. So if I drive to 82nd Ave from my home in NW, that trip is assigned to “West PDX” where I live.

“Inner East”, the area I intuitively suggested was “going to get even more awesome” has a lot going for it on the path to becoming “Biker’s Paradise”. First, the majority of Portland’s population lives in this area, and therefore it generates more than half the trips. But densities are consistently moderately high, there are lots of services available as destinations, and it’s proximate to the jobs center in Portland’s central city.

That’s a perfect mix for leveraging the Portland Plan goals of making walking the preferred mode for trips under one mile and cycling the preferred mode for trips under 3 miles. There are a LOT of trips of this distance by folks living in this area. That’s why Roger can project more than one-third of trips by bicycle in 2035 for households in this area.

But what about the rest of the city? Outer East is challenged by lower average densities, a lack of destinations and a long distance to employment areas (downtown and various industrial districts).

Southwest is challenged by hills and the lack of a grid system.

I’m actually hopeful that we can outperform some of Roger’s numbers for cycling in these areas, but equity is going to demand that if cycling can’t perform as well, then we need to disproportionately invest in transit in these area.

I’m hopeful that electric bikes may boost the cycling numbers, conquering the hills in Southwest and the longer distances in Outer East. But here’s my recipe for how to optimize the results in each area:

Outer East:

  • Build sidewalks!
  • Improve frequent transit network with more frequency and addition of north/south lines
  • Encourage more mixed used development and commercial centers (we’ve already started this with zoning on 122nd)
  • Encourage development of jobs centers in Gateway and Lents so there are employment opportunities closer to the population



78 responses to “Building Biker’s Paradise – and the Rest of Portland”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, it’s pretty interesting.

    One thing that jumps out at me is that there’s a lot of variance within those three zones with respect to alternate transit friendliness. Available services and destinations tend to be concentrated rather than evenly dispersed.

    An overall average of 65% alternate and public transit in the inner east side would require an even higher share in and around destination centers, to offset probable lower mode shares away from them.

  2. In regard to Lents, I have never felt that the Pearl District folks understand Outer SE. I note that our neighbor Boeing provides (including local suppliers and contractors) about 2500 well-paid jobs in Multnomah County, but is never mentioned when the city talks about outer SE. Is this because Boeing machinists don’t fit the Portland narrative?

    Also, I would love to know how the recent job growth in Washington County would impact decisions re: density in outer SE. It would seem to me that density needs to be near Intel and that Lents is just not going to boom. It may be better to re-think our approach to Lents. We can’t use the same template over and over again.

  3. To encourage bicycling in East Portland, we need more jobs. Bicycling won’t be a priority east of 82nd until the residents of the area are demanding it, as they are west of 82nd. That won’t happen until they see more bike stands in front of stores, have more retail areas they actually want to travel to, and have jobs closer to home.

    Only the hardcore cyclists are going to spend 40 minutes on a bike to get to work in the morning, and another 40 at the end of the day. Until the jobs are closer, we’ll be sticking to transit and cars.

  4. I think bicycling at this level will require cycle tracks on arterials with destinations; people will happily ride bicycles to local destinations, if they can get there safely and without fear of an adverse interaction with a car en route. While neighborhood greenways are great for moving bicycles from point A to point B in some other part of the city, they don’t help much if either point happens to be on an arterial that lacks bicycle infrastructure. Cycle tracks on arterials will allow for those last-few-block connections to be made by bike, and this is what will allow bicycling to rise to the levels envisioned in this scenario.

    And yes, this strategy could begin to work east of 72nd, once the land use begins to change from auto-orientation to people-orientation; specifically, surface parking needs to be either eliminated or moved to the back of buildings, and strip commercial needs to be replaced with mixed-used buildings with ground floor retail, en masse… that will provide the urban form to support walking, biking and transit use; it will provide the local destinations for people to walk and bike to.

    Oh yeah, and sidewalks…

  5. No intent to dis Boeing here, but looking at the data on where folks who live in East Portland commute to, it’s pretty clear they travel a lot farther than folks in other parts of Portland do (I’m sure a few go to Washington County, but not very many).

    I don’t have a particular template in mind, but it would seem these folks would benefit from more jobs that are closer. Gateway, with it’s fantastic transportation connections, at a minimum, ought to be a strong jobs partner.

    Wanting more jobs in East Portland doesn’t take away from the need for housing in Washington County (but the later is not in the scope of the Portland Comprehensive Plan – although our Comp Plan has to be coherent with regional plans).

  6. There’s plenty of new housing built out in Washington County, including higher-density housing, FWIW.

  7. Lents: how about look to St. Johns as a model. They function well as a neighborhood district fairly isolated from the central city.

    Are you going to see high bike-to-work mode shares in St. Johns? probably not. But the compact development and neighborhood layout allows for many of the *other* trips to be made by walking or by bike. Lents could be more compact, and emphasize local walkability over the auto-dominated landscape you have today.

    And clearly, development of Gateway into a second downtown could help all of east Portland immensely by providing close destinations to shorten average trip distances.

  8. I’m unsure what ‘plenty of new housing built out in Washington County’ means. My impression is that maybe a holistic ‘net importer of employees’ or ‘net exporter’ would be useful. I have the impression that Hillsboro for example imports over 10,000 employees, although some are coming from other areas of Washington County

  9. Chris,

    I appreciate that you are not dissin’ Boeing, but I do find it odd that we hear all about Integra and Intel and Nike, but Boeing does not exist. Also, before we start building a new downtown in Gateway and eliminating parking lots on private property (as Garlynn suggests) it would be nice if there was a factual predicate for the idea that Portland really can swim against the tide and bring jobs to Lents and Gateway. As you know, the Brookings Institute report for this area shows job losses in Portland and job growth in the suburbs.

    Where is the proof we can do this? That is not a rhetorical question- I want to know if Portland is wasting energy trying to do something that it cannot do- change the hearts and minds of a handful of high level executives who decide where the jobs go.

  10. Mamacita-

    As Jane Jacobs pointed out many decades ago in her work on the economies of cities, cities create jobs not by attracting large out-of-town companies, but by building local capacity to replace items imported with items locally produced, then expanding that local production so that it itself eventually begins to export those goods and services. This process is known as import replacement; strategies that focus on small business development and finance are strategies that help to promote this process.

    So, job creation in Portland should not be dependent on decisions made elsewhere by high level executives; indeed, if we are only dependent on those decisions made by those executives, we have already failed. Job growth in Portland as a whole, and in East Portland and in Lents, must rely on the development of a healthy ecosystem of small, locally-owned businesses, some of which will succeed and become net job providers to the community (and many of which will fail, as is the norm for small businesses — but, as the saying goes in Silicon Valley, you must fail many times before you can succeed).

    The issue of off-street parking provision is an issue of urban design, city zoning and city parking requirements; I’m suggesting the city should change its policies to stop encouraging off-street surface parking adjacent to streets, and instead encourage buildings built to the build-to line (just like in downtown and other successful areas of the city), which will contribute to walkability, bike-ability, transit use and, likely, economic vitality.

    Also, wouldn’t Gateway be the city’s third downtown? Isn’t the Lloyd District already the second downtown?

  11. Garlynn,

    Thanks for your background re: import replacement.
    That is behind some of the awesome (but car centric)success in the Jade District. For instance, we make and export asian style food products from our area. That is one example where we are reversing the flow from China to the US. Cool.

    Having said that, where are the hard numbers in Portland? The last job numbers I saw put McDonald’s in fourth place for local job creation. I need to look for a breakdown of small employer creating jobs vs big corporations.

  12. One big difference between Lents and St. Johns is that Lents has been sliced nearly in half by a freeway; St. Johns has not.

    While I-205 isn’t going anywhere, increasing opportunities for pedestrians, bikes, and even local traffic to cross the freeway might be helpful.

    Neither Lents nor Gateway has large tracts of vacant industrial land suitable for attracting major industry; but they have plenty of room for office and retail. And they have good multi-modal connections already (including ready access to the freeway).

  13. Scotty – while Lents does not have vacant industrial zoned land, it does have one of the largest contiguous tracts of industrial zoned land available for redevelopment in the city of Portland. The Freeway Land site is 100 acres, of which about 60 acres could be easily developed. While it is tenanted, it is very underutilized. It also has owners that are willing to do a project that pencils for them.

  14. I forgot to mention that the Schnitzer properties (LKQ and U Pull It) could be prime industrial development sites if the flood mitigation proposed in the Foster Corridor Investment Strategy is completed.

  15. Nothing about facilities for cycling in Portland is “awesome.”

    We riders, putting up with what little PBOT provides, are not awed.

    Less hyperbole, more detailed engineering competence, please.

  16. Cora,

    what do you think of the flood mitigation alternative that proposes extra green space instead of industrial land? It’s a compelling proposal and would create an amazing natural area, but I’m not sure what would benefit the neighbors and LTC the most: more industry, or more nature.

  17. While I think the green space proposal would make a project of that scale and cost more palatable to the general public of Portland, the best thing for our neighborhood is preservation of those lands as job centers…not necessarily heavy industrial, but zoned in a way that provides as much opportunity to locate family wage jobs in large numbers into the area.

    I also think it’s a more interesting feature and more creative challenge to develop projects that gracefully and beneficially weave their way through the already plentiful natural areas that surround the parcels that would be developed as employment areas.

  18. As the bike commuting coordinator for Boeing Portland, I feel I should chime in here to clear a few things up.

    We have about 1700 well-payed jobs at our plant, which is technically in Gresham, which is why you probably don’t hear much from the City of Portland about us. You could say we are in “outer NE” Portland, because we are right on the border. We are definitely not in SE Portland, though. I work closely with Gresham TMA for our cycling, transit, and walking promotions.

    I can tell you that the number one barrier to increased cycling at our plant is the infrastructure, particularly NE Sandy Blvd near our site. There are a few stretches that have no bike lane or shoulder. A few of us fit into the “Confident and Fearless” category, and we do ride consistently.

    I can happily say that bike commuting has roughly doubled at our site during the past five years; but we are still under 1% mode share. There are a lot of people that prefer the rural lifestyle, and commute from the exurbs and Washington. A big number do live in east Portland and Gresham, and I really think we would see big increases in the number of bike commuters if the streets around our plant were safer.

  19. What I get out of this is that central Portland gets a disproportionate amount of TriMet service, but has the lowest percentage of residents actually using it.

    Time to start removing bus lines from that part of town to improve service elsewhere, and express-route buses through that area. Fewer buses having to pull off the road also has a bicycle safety component; as do fewer congregations of riders waiting for a bus that can impede bicyclists.

  20. The transit rates seem low. If we are getting to 20% of trips by walking and 25% by bike, I would expect transit to be higher than 12%. Perhaps the author of the graphic expects transit service to continue to be limited to every 20 minutes on our “frequent” routes?

    Bike trips in East Portland don’t need to be trips to work. They can be trips to the nearest rapid transit line, or trips to local businesses and destinations. Only a minority of people work each day; most of us work 20 to 60 hours a week but have many non-work trips in the other 60 to 80 waking hours, and a majority of the population are kids, seniors, students, stay-at-home parents, and others who don’t need to commute.

    In the Netherlands, the only country with at 25% bike mode share for the whole nation, the majority of bike trips are not work-related.

    If we build a safe (in practice, but also subjectively safe) network of bike routes everywhere in E Portland, and provide safe and easy bike parking at homes, destinations and transit stations, people will ride, just like they do in the Netherlands.

  21. FWIW, not too long after high school, I worked two days at the Boeing plant near Gresham (not in SE Portland as others have stated) as a temp. It’s not a particularly endearing or resume-worthy story for anyone involved, but I do remember it and I do know that they’re there. :-)

  22. Nick C: 40 minute for a bike trip is certainly on the long end of things, but it is also not an uncommon length for a transit or car trip.

    Anyone driving from Lents to the westside suburbs risks a 40 minute commute, and the MAX from Lents to downtown Portland or Downtown Gresham is just about 40 minutes, not including any time spent walking to/waiting for the train.

  23. Nick F – I live in a car free household that’s about 6 blocks from the Holgate MAX station, 6 blocks from the 72, and on the line 17 street. I’m primarily a transit commuter, and my spouse is a fairweather 100+ mile per week bike commuter.

    He can get to SW Park in about 45 minutes by bike – it’s the same whether he takes the Springwater or Center/Woodward/Clinton. It takes about 35 minutes by bus. My commute to the Kerns neighborhood is about 35 minutes by bus, or 45 minutes by MAX (the walk is significantly longer).

    If I have a morning work meeting in Beaverton or Tualatin and use a car share vehicle to get there – I generally anticipate a 1 hour drive during the AM peak. It’s worse if it’s in Hillsboro or Forest Grove. But, if anyone wants to have a laugh, attempt to get to Tualatin from SE 82nd and Holgate for a 8:30 AM meeting using transit. Now imagine you work somewhere in NW Tualatin and your shift starts at 6 AM (which is common).

    We recently did a study in Tualatin to look at improvements to their local shuttle service. Based on the employer data we got – many large employers had up to 10% of their workforce coming from the 97266 zip code. I think that illustrates pretty well the imbalances, when the economics between time cost and potential earnings make that sort of commute seem ok.

    There is a serious jobs/housing balance problem between Washington and Multnomah counties – especially for entry level, family wage jobs.

  24. Cora, no doubt the commute burden is real and bad. I was just noting that Nick C’s dismissal of bicycling because of a theoretical 40 minute commute didn’t make sense in the context of an area where 40 minute commutes are common.

    Clearly there is more to the decision about how to travel than just pure time. Safety, comfort, and a myriad of lifestyle related needs all come into play. Some of these can be “fixed” through planning and infrastructure, others cannot.

  25. I think the comfort aspect is the biggest consideration. Even I can do 45 minutes on a bike if the terrain is relatively flat. But, even my spouse isn’t willing to do 45 minutes on a bike doing 12-17 MPH in cold and/or rainy weather -even with his wool riding tights and rain gear.

    And the “rain or shine” bike commuters that have maybe a 10 minute ride don’t really get the difference, or the challenges and support sweeping policy preference decisions based on their pretty “posh” biking experience.

  26. Remember—bikes and transit are complimentary. One is excellent for shorter trips, the other for longer trips. (And yes, service to and within Tualatin is lousy; and has been for a long time. The good thing is the SW Corridor does seek to address this; the bad thing is that’s a long way off).

  27. “There is a serious jobs/housing balance problem between Washington and Multnomah counties – especially for entry level, family wage jobs.”

    Cora, what is going wrong in Portland is a ‘serious” attitude problem. As a home owner/renovator, I have gotten plenty of exercise fixing things, most recently digging holes and installing a vinyl fence (in part to shut out my pot smoking, Buddhist neighbor whose pit bull has been coming into my yard recently trying to bite me). I could also get exercise building a new home. Contrary to what some here think, people who don’t have a lot of building skill could do these things too. In fact even with my skill, I run into unusual circumstances that others, by luck, probably wouldn’t encounter.

    Building, since I started in the 1970s’ has become even easier, with prefabrication available to home owners, and things like PEX tubing making plumbing a snap, etc. Residential home wiring is very simple, once you understand a few rules. (By contrast, when I worked at Trojan nuclear plant, I saw some very complicated electrical wiring!)

    But in the new urbanism model there is no way for the individual to build a home, or even do a significant renovation. This is a sea-change in the Portland real estate market; one which I strongly lament, because the new urbanism model gives everything to the developers (many of them out of state) and saddles home buyers with lengthy mortgages. So what alternatives are there? Buying rentals?—which depends upon increasing rental properties instead of ownerships. Renting out vacation and executive rentals? Difficult with the HOA rules, now, and you still have very lengthy mortgage terms.

    But if it were inevitable that Portland would rapidly grow no matter what, density is OK. However, I don’t see it as a necessary end, on its own merits, because it shifts people to buying only corporate built dwellings. There is a lot of talk about “equity” in Portland, but the way we are going is making it more difficult for people with limited means to own very much. And if current purchasers’ equity goes up, it will be due to an unmanageable population growth and corresponding demand.

  28. But in the new urbanism model there is no way for the individual to build a home, or even do a significant renovation. This is a sea-change in the Portland real estate market; one which I strongly lament, because the new urbanism model gives everything to the developers (many of them out of state) and saddles home buyers with lengthy mortgages.

    Again, Rod–this has nothing to do with the “new urbanism model”. Nothing prevents you from buying a lot and building on it yourself. Zoning restrictions are maximum densities, not minimums; as long as you get the permits and pass the inspections you can do the work yourself (anybody you hire, though, should be licensed), and I’m not sure how much money you will save from buying land and materials and firing up the saw, vs buying a lot and hiring a builder, vs buying an already-build home.

    What rules and regs are holding you back?

    If you’re complaining that lots are too expensive and/or developers have bought them all up; that’s the free market at work. If your complaint is that Portland is doing too much to attract (or not doing enough to repel) new migrants to our fair city–that you prefer the old days of Tom McCall and “plan to visit but don’t stay”; those days are no longer tenable in the modern economy (where strong private-sector unions can no longer protect workers from both local competition and outsourcing). If what you want is restrictions on the activities of developers (either outright bans on subdivisions, or other laws designed to counter the economies of scale that developers enjoy–such as a requirement that private developers pay a prevailing wage), then I’m all ears. (Keeping in mind that the specific topic of immigration law is unwelcome at PT…)

    But I’m not sure what bike lanes or transit or New Urbanist apartments have to do with this. They first two may drive up real estate prices by making Portland more desirable; construction of apartments, OTOH, generally drives housing costs down.

  29. There are ways to create developments that people can build their own homes into pretty dense developments of single- or multi-family homes, and you’re right Ron, these opportunities are not being created. I would guess that there would need to be some incentives set up by the jurisdiction to incent developers to allow people this opportunity since the market is not providing it on its own.

    Good luck driving this into policy, however.

    In larger developments, you might advocate for China’s “only the structural pieces model” where when you buy a condo you only get concrete floor and walls and you have to build out the interior walls, etc yourself.

  30. I’m not sure where Ron is getting his facts, but I live in the City of Portland, and I have done multiple “significant renovations” on my 1922 house, including major foundation work, framing, PEX plumbing, wiring, etc. You have to apply for permits, which ensure that everything is safe. It’s not something that everyone can do, but a lot of us can. I just helped a coworker convert his basement into a living space a few months ago.

    I probably could “build my own house” if I wanted to, but it would be stupid. Why would I waste my time when I can hire contractors that are better at their specialty? I make more than they do at my full-time job.

  31. Yeah, I live in Sellwood, and there have been 4 complete rebuild from the foundations on up project houses within 2 blocks of my house. There was 1 6-unit condo that was built right after the bust.

    Lots of places in SE have been split from SFH to duplexes, which is a very affordable way for landlords to inexpensively increase their profits (and city densities) in the rental market.

    The apartments may be high-profile, but only around 20% or less of the city is zoned for multifamily housing anyway. And most of that land is focused in either downtown, the Lloyd, or along transit streets, ala Hawthorne or Division – and that normally tapers off within 1/2 to 1 block from the street So there is little dilution of SFH zoning in SFH areas.

  32. “I’m not sure where Ron is getting his facts, but I live in the City of Portland, and I have done multiple “significant renovations” on my 1922 house, including major foundation work, framing, PEX plumbing, wiring, etc.”

    Then that is a SFH, and not an urban condo. I know you can do renovations in a condo, to a degree. Thanks for your anecdotal comment.

    “If you’re complaining that lots are too expensive and/or developers have bought them all up; that’s the free market at work.”

    Can’t I say what I think?

    “those days are no longer tenable in the modern economy (where strong private-sector unions can no longer protect workers from both local competition and outsourcing). ”

    What? I missed the connection there.

    ” (Keeping in mind that the specific topic of immigration law is unwelcome at PT…)”

    There you go. Now the dialogue is prejudiced.

    “The apartments may be high-profile, but only around 20% or less of the city is zoned for multifamily housing anyway.”

    It doesn’t require any greater percentage, to affect the economics of it.

    ” I make more than they do at my full-time job.”

    Well, I guess there is no need for an equity policy then.

    Oh well. Say what you want. I took the case for low cost SW Corridor options directly to the METRO council today. We’ll see if anything sinks in.

  33. Engineer Scotty,

    Love my bike, love my car. But I can’t stand transit. Personally.

    That’s the problem: cars are so cool. We need cooler cars. I note that the new smart cars are so small that their very size should reduce congestion in the city. Please note that Tualatin and West Linn (with their terrible transit) have high per capita incomes. Allow me to utter this blasphemous statement:Seattle will
    leave us in the dust by jumping on the smart car bandwagon. We will be neo-Luddites stuck on bikes as transport to jobs 365 a year, and Seattle will have realized that the future is small, smart cars.

    So, with all due respect, the SW Corridor problem may be solved by Detroit, because the traditional template is a long, long, long way off

  34. Ron,

    I guess the main point you are missing here is that no one really cares about “corporate housing”. The number of people that live in Portland and actually want to build their own residence is so miniscule that it isn’t even worth mentioning. You might want to find a different cause.

  35. 1. For all intents and purpose, you can’t build a home close in. There are now very few lots that have not been rezoned, in the better areas.
    2. Time will tell whether “Portlanders” don’t want something different than a small condo. If you had read my post you would see that there is already a national trend reverting to “McMansions.

    And if people who bicycle save a lot of money (which I don’t disagree with) what are they going to spend it on, and how long before they decide that bigger digs is what they want? I don’t need your belittling comment about a “cause.” I’m sure any economist would agree. If you think your ideas are sound you’re welcome to join us on the UN World Urban Forum:

    So far no one from PT has ever taken me up.

  36. Chris I,

    I think that there is an interesting angle in Ron’s concern about corporate housing choices. that folks can’t build their own houses. For me, that point is self-sufficiency. I am unwilling to give up my car because it is a type of self-sufficiency. The new transit model is to put us on bikes or in corporate-owned cars or city-owned transit.

    Ron is on to some of the larger issues that have pitted white middle class bungalow dwellers against each other. It is a deep cultural issue, and it has to do with our personal independence and whether we will all tolerate the intrusion of the city into our life styles. Fishing, hunting, building houses, cars, backyard chickens- that is about independence for some of us.

    Underpinning, at a deep level, some of our arguments on this page, is our relationship to corporations and gov’t. Here in Portland, Alta Bike Share, Mhyre Group seem to have a lot of influence, and we are supposed to trust them as enlightened capitalists to shape our city. And, furthermore, there is a an idea in Portland that the city should manipulate how we move and even eat (yes, we have city-funded food experts to nag the working class about shopping at Wal-Mart and not New Seasons).

    So- Ron may have a point that resonates with larger population.

  37. @Mamacita,

    Fishing, hunting, building houses, cars, backyard chickens- that is about independence for some of us.

    You clearly want to live in Silverton, not a city, and that’s a valid choice. I’ve been a “back to the lander” too and loved it. But once I had a child it became clear that for cultural richness we needed to live in a city, not out in the boonies.

    But that requires better housing, a job, transportation; lots of things that we didn’t personally have as commune members.

    Maybe you should come over to Vantucky if you want those backyard chickens. They’re legal here, but you can’t have a rooster (the crowing). To get eggs you have to rent one for a day every so often.

    The bottom line is that 99% of the country is organized on the pure profit motive basis that you advocate. Since there are citizenz who want a more balanced way of life, and enough have collected here in Portland to win control of the political system, it’s fundamentally anti-democratic (I’d even say “fascist”) for you to demand that we be disenfranchised by re-making Portland in the “I’ve got mine, screw you” model of the rest of the country.

    If it eats at you so badly, you have thousands of alternative opportunities. The folks who’ve come here for the “weirdness” don’t.

  38. Mamacita,

    I’m curious: Why don’t you like transit? Slow? Unreliable? Infrequent? Full of riff-raff? Many people are more than willing to spend taxpayer money building new highways, but balk when the idea of increasing TriMet’s revenue base comes up.

    (And I agree with you; transit service to any place south of the Tualatin River or Oswego Creek leaves much to be desired).

    That said–what is Seattle doing to promote “smart cars” (by which I assume you mean autonomous vehicles, not the pint-sized one-seaters manufactured by Smart and increasingly found on Portland streets). The Seattle region is busy expanding their light rail system–University Link in a few years, and extensions to points further north and across the lake in to Bellevue and Redmond are in the works. Seattle’s also building more streetcar lines as we speak. It is spending a lot of money on the Deep Bore Tunnel project, which will benefit cars–but it will benefit dumb ones as well as smart ones. Smart cars (particularly if better electric power becomes available) will have benefits over dumb ones, certainly–but the same technology that enables smart cars will also enable smart busses and trains. And in dense urban areas, space will still be at a premium.

    Ron is on to some of the larger issues that have pitted white middle class bungalow dwellers against each other. It is a deep cultural issue, and it has to do with our personal independence and whether we will all tolerate the intrusion of the city into our life styles. Fishing, hunting, building houses, cars, backyard chickens- that is about independence for some of us.

    Maybe, but the question of whether one builds a house on a vacant lot, or hires a realtor and buys a house off the market (whether from a builder or from a private seller) has nothing to do with things like fishing, hunting, or backyard chickens. (Some developments may have CCRs that restrict backyard livestock in places they are otherwise legal; and you can’t raise chickens in an apartment–otherwise, none of these things are relevant to the question of housing).

    And nobody is proposing banning cars–there is plenty of car-friendly housing stock (complete with garages in which you can repair them if that is your wont) on the market.

    But not everybody wants to make the same lifestyle choices as you may prefer. Having a greater variety of housing is a good thing; and as was noted above, most single-family neighborhoods in Portland aren’t getting upzoned any time soon; upzoning is limited to transit corridors.

    I’m still not sure what Ron wants (if anything), but he seems to be upset that the government isn’t working hard to keep his personal preferences widely available at a low price–perhaps by not upzoning lots so they aren’t attractive to developers. The problem, though, is that the important thing in real estate is location location location, and Portland–despite the way it oppresses white bungalow developers with bike lanes and road diets–is a highly desirable place to live, and real estate prices reflect that. Including the price of lots.

    (As far as food goes–if people are buying groceries at a WalMart Supercenter or Neighborhood Market–i.e. stores with full-service grocery departments–“food experts” ought not have problems with that. People who buy food mainly at convenience stores, or big-box retailers with just a snack section as opposed to
    a full-service grocery with fresh foods, aren’t getting adequate nutrition.)

  39. A lot of people I know bike because you don’t have to wait for a bus to show up. The time savings can be huge for the evenings, if you have to work after 6pm. Sometimes the wait time for my bus can just about equal the time it takes for me to bike home – 30 mins/5.5 miles.

    I think that a lot of people would be willing to bike up to 30 mins, with the rate dropping off drastically above that point.

  40. Maybe you should come over to Vantucky if you want those backyard chickens. They’re legal here, but you can’t have a rooster (the crowing). To get eggs you have to rent one for a day every so often.

    Backyard chickens are legal in much of the Portland area. (Certainly in Beaverton, and IIRC in Portland as well). Roosters are not legal–but are not needed if all you want is eggs to eat; a rooster is only required if you want said eggs to contain baby chicks. Hens will lay eggs whether there’s a rooster around or not.

  41. If hens aren’t legal in Portland, the City is doing a terrible job of enforcing a ban. Walk around my SE neighborhood in the quiet of the morning and you can hear a lot of clucking.

  42. Andakos, please go on some more about how Mamacita is a Fascist for questioning density.

    Fascism is a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”

    You exalt your small community over the individual, support more centralized city gov’t, tell old residents to move if they don’t like livable streets activists, support social regimentation in the name of sustainability and have a hard time with opposition.

    Good luck with that, Andakos. Maybe you should look at how Cora Potter frames an argument. Everyone else have a libertarian weekend. Thank you Engineer Scotty, Garlynn and Chris I for having a dialogue with me. Maybe we can learn from each other …

  43. You can have up to 3 without a permit. Not sure what the maximum is if you apply for it. My neighbor had 6 at one point. I think they’re great. Never heard complaints from anyone.

  44. We had some great neighbors last year (they moved to Seattle) who had chickens with a coop and a pen. These rather resourceful hens would often find a way out and for whatever reason would next in our yard when the neighbors were away on extended trips. We had a great relationship going because we’d herd the chickens back into their yard but get to keep any eggs laid in hours. No worries about feeding/expenses. :-)

    Of course, we wound up eating a lot more eggs than our diet allows. Totally worth it.

  45. Re: “Back to the landers”

    There is a difference between being self sufficient and being a Luddite. Self sufficiency is kind of an indirect response to corporate excesses. If you follow Ralph Nader, then you would probably agree that there is a lot of corporate excess and irresponsibility. I don’t have a problem with that view, I have a problem with the new PC mentality of blaming W.A.S.P’s for all of it.

    So with “self sufficiency” there is a way to prosper with out misleading other people, the way that an unethical person would (Watch CNBC”s American Greed for stories). Isn’t that the same idea behind the do-it-yourself culture? Most things don’t take a genius to fix. I’ve done a lot of upgrading to my home without hiring it out, and am also thinking of building a home, with the traditional bells and whistles, that could be valued at 700k to 1 mil. If somebody wants to pay that money for it, when they could buy the same sq. ft. in a McMansion for half of that, that’s their business. Another example, my neighbor was a former auto mechanic; when faced with a $1500 repair in his steering column, he shopped on EBay, got the parts, and did it for $150 bucks.

    There is a lot of self sufficiency that isn’t the Luddite variety.

    So no matter whether you approach it from the right or left, the corporate climber mentality, combined with nanny state solutions, is not a good trend, IMO.

    What do I want? I don’t like the inflation that is setting in to this area, but I suppose if I owned several blocks in the next wave of development I might.

    The “Equity” model is wrong, too. When the Eastside takes off, thanks to the streetcar, there are going to be formerly poor North Portland and inner SE property owners in nearby areas that get a windfall. But out on SE Holgate or SE Harold you will probably be out of it. So why should we even make a big deal out of Equity? The projected developments will change all the categories anyway.

  46. Engineer Scotty,

    You asked why I don’t like transit. Well, I just like the freedom of the private automobile. I don’t like waiting around, or the per trip cost. I also enjoy biking (greatly) in good weather.

    In my SE neighborhood (neither close in or far out) we have lots of crazy people at the bus stops, and being a Mamacita they often think they can mess with me (wrong) but it is unpleasant.

    I pay taxes, and I don’t complain that some money goes for transit. Light rail seems to be cost ineffective, and watching the Eastside Street Car go by with one passenger is very annoying. But I do support a good bus system because I really do understand that some people need it.

  47. It’s interesting that the third world primarily used bicycles for mobility. Funny that they are moving towards owning cars now that they have a little hard cash in their pockets.

    And in Europe of course gas is very expensive and the cost of auto ownership makes it prohibitive to own private cars.

    There are two things that will get people onto bikes:

    1-expensive and lousy transit
    2-the cost of gasoline

    Also I stayed in Amsterdam for a few months a couple decades ago and remember tons of bikes.

    What I don’t remember is any ‘bicycle culture’, just a whole bunch of people on BICYLES

  48. That’s the problem around here. People keep trying to label things as part of the “bike culture”. Bicycle advocates (those also exist in Amsterdam) are working hard to remove this idea. There is no more a bike culture than there is a car culture. I’ve been on “group drives” for a local Volvo owner’s club. I’ve been on “group rides” a few times as well.

    We are all just people trying to get around.

  49. Well, Amsterdam has excellent transit, but expensive gasoline.

    It is also a rather dense city, with few places to park an automobile. And very easy to walk around–though the panhandlers can get aggressive.

    And the beer is cheaper and better-tasting than the water. :)

  50. Chris I,

    You seem to be both realistic and pro-bike, but there is definitely a group referred to as “bike evangelists” or “livable streets activists” who demonize cars.

    I love riding, I just reject that it makes me a better person.

  51. And the beer is cheaper and better-tasting than the water. :)

    Don’t forget the chocolate, and other treats available in that great city.

    If I coulda spoke Dutch I woulda stayed there.

  52. And they got trams even slower than the Portland Streetcar! :)

    YUP, it’s a whole nother reality over there. Virtually nothing in common with the USA at all.

  53. @Mamacita,

    Not for “questioning density”, for wanting to disenfranchise the people who have clustered here for the livability.

    Scotty did a really good job of presenting the sustainability position, so I’ll not beat that horse.

    Basically, my objection to your position — and that of so many other “libertarians” — is that you want to have a political and economic mono-culture controlled exclusively by those who have economic assets. Think Iowa corn fields, but without the Ethanol subsidies, to be sure.

    Such mono-cultures, whether they be biological or politico-economic are fragile and vulnerable to unexpected plagues.

    There’s a place for experiments in social organization on a larger scale than “intentional communities”. “Urbanism” is one such experiment, but it’s actually not new at all. It’s how human cities have been since the dawn of civilization. The deviant system is the one we have now: wholly dependent on inputs of energy from artificial sources which will run out. Maybe not as soon as Hubbert expected, but certainly within the next century. At that point the folks living in the boonies had better love gardening, because the Wal-Mart in their nearby town will be closing. Personally, I believe that conscious decisions by urban leaders to seek increased density in corridors that can support it is an excellent hedge against catastrophe.

    What happens if Iran gets the bomb and lobs them on Ras Tanura, Juayma and Yanbu plus Abu Dhabi? You probably won’t be enjoying a drive in your car for a good long time.

    Of course that probably won’t happen, but it would be the social equivalent of the Chestnut blight. Commuters from outlying communities would simply be out of luck. They would lose their jobs in the millions.

    While many of the details of conservative criticism of urban planning have valuable truths — there absolutely can be and often are cronyism and favoritism in municipal activities — the general thrust that doing away with all planning and leaving things to individual preferences leads to disastrous externalization of social costs.

    The truth is that the private sector is just as prone to that same cronyism and favoritism as is the public sector, but there’s no way for third parties harmed by those externalities — which are rewarded and not subject to democratic limits in the private sector — to gain redress other than a lawsuit.

    Ron mentioned that he had taken his position on the Southwest Corridor to a Metro planning meeting last evening. That’s exactly what he and all of us should be doing to keep track of those we have elected to do the public business.

    Conservatives are right to be skeptical of the day to day operations of governments everywhere. The quantum leap to “let the private sector do it” is usually a costly mistake.

  54. Anandakos,
    If you want to be part of the Portland scene you better jump fast, because the politics are forcing the price of homes up real fast, faster than a typical Vancouver home equity would cover. Unless you have some other source of funds…..

    As far as Middle East energy supplies, the US is sitting on plenty of resources of both petroleum and natural gas. A middle east crisis would definitely trigger a spike, but the flip side is that when energy costs go higher there is more incentive to explore. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have alternatives, but the economics is a lot more complex.

  55. @Ron,

    I worked for the oil companies as an I/T person in the geoscience departments of Sohio, Amoco (both now BP) and Shell for a total of seven years. The “plenty of resources” that shale gas and oil represent are a temporary stem of an irresistible decline in total hydrocarbon production in North America.

    Even with it, the US itself will never be “energy independent” except through a major commitment to renewables over the next forty years. It might be possible to be “North American energy independent” for the next couple of decades if we continue the reduce per capita consumption, but there will never be an onshore giant or supergiant discovered anywhere in North America again.

    There are over 2.5 million API numbers in the US alone, and another 250,000 in Canada. Now some of those are sidetracks and reworks, but there are well over 2 million surface locations at which a well has been sunk into the earth. The vast majority are shallow “stripper” wells to be sure, but anywhere that has a shallow collection has been drilled deep as well, since deposits are often stacked vertically with multiple traps sharing the same source rock.

    With 3D seismic and computer imaging the companies can find lots more pockets remaining untapped within and around depleted fields. With enhanced recovery techniques and the right price it sometimes makes sense to re-open old fields and get another 10% of the original hydrocarbons still in situ.

    But the companies know the geology of North American very well. There are no game changers left in the bull pen. It’s how they know the extent of the Marcellus and Bakken shales without newly delineating them.

    Oil is priced globally; right now an extended 2% dip in supplies — much less of an interruption than an all-out war would cause — would throw the market into an unstable shortage situation. Crude might hit $150 again.

    A 10% reduction would absolutely push prices to $200/barrel. It really can’t go any higher than that, because those sorts of prices would bring at least a 10% reduction in consumption. It would be the “new normal”.

    But what a terrible “normal” it would be. Since the one portion of global use which is moste elastic, transportation, is only 30 or so percent of total consumption, that would imply something on the order of quarter to a third reduction in global VMT. NOT. PRETTY!

    There is however, one good thing that might come of it: people would talk to their neighbors again, if for no other reason than to discover who might be going in the same direction and want to share the cost.

    So, since the physical structure that is our society will be with us for a good long while, it would behoove us to make changes to accommodate a less mobile future. Even if all-electric cars come way down in price the investment in the electric grid and generation to charge them will be eye-wateringly expensive.

    So as much as you seem to resent the young people who want to live in condos and other more dense housing, they’re doing you a favor. They consume less which leaves a micro-smidgen more for you to consume. You should be thanking “lefties”, “libruls”, and “urbanistas” for leaving more pie for you. Not sneering at them.

    Oh, and “No, I don’t want to be a part of the Portland scene.” I paid your income tax for 18 years, but now that I’m mostly retired (still doing “at home” programming) I don’t want to come over there and give you the 10% mordida. When we moved here my wife and I made the decision to live here based on the length of time I had yet to work.

    Plus, of course, since it was a first house and we had only a small inheritance for capital, we wanted the much cheaper housing available over here. I foolishly thought that Vancouver would be at least somewhat like Seattle where we both had lived. Maybe South Tacoma?

    Ha! Was I wrong.

    It’s more like North Anaheim. The place is crawling with boomers who sold out of Orange County before the bust and think therefore that they’re real estate geniuses. And some may be; can’t fault the timing.

    (Just so I don’t sound completely like a “get off my lawn”-er, let me stipulate that there are plenty of nice folks in Vancouver. It’s just that they’re completely out-shouted by the buffoons on almost every topic.)

    Because, unfortunately, those Orange Countians brought themselves with their money……

  56. Andakos,

    Portland is a democracy- the new urbanistas are a disliked minority. Maybe you just don’t like the Pacific Northwest.

    BTW- what is lacking in Portland is the Pioneer Spirit. Much cooler than the druggies on Alberta Street- Astoria, where young people are revitalizing downtown. Clatsop County is thrilled to see the new reclaimed spaces, and also its fun to see more babies on the coast (some coastal counties are retirement oriented). The Portland slacker urbanistas are just bitching because other people got here on the ground floor. Boo hoo. If they were really cool they would find a cheaper city and make it cool, instead of crying because everyone else won’t conform to their immature version of utopia.

    Why don’t you give up your Vancouver home to the homeless? Isn’t unfair that you have a roof and they don’t? That’s kinda your logic.

  57. Andarko characterized my position as “fascist” and suggested that I move to “Vantucky.” I am just using his own logic to discredit his position. Turning the tables.

    Density has this town in an uproar. Division Street has divided us as a city.

    I object to Andorkos values as expressed in his posts. We need to duke it out. Sometimes democracy involves a brawl. I hope my side wins, and that the New Urbanists lose big. Andorkos and I can agree that we have incompatible values and goals. One of us will prevail, and one will lose.

    Aaron, if you can see a middle ground, please share. I have no doubt that I am too partisan.
    But gosh, I am sick to death of the theories and values behind New Urbanism. They need to be questioned.

  58. I don’t like personally directed comments—-although there is a lot of verbal “elbowing” going on sometimes here.

    I don’t have any problem with however people want to get around, as long as they respect each other and the traffic laws. I do have a problem with the recumbent bicylists, because they are awfully hard to see—- between trucks, parked cars, advertising signage on the streetcorner or any number of reasons. For everyone’s sake, this is why we need a need a new approach to safety regulations. On the highway, motor vehicles have made forward strides in safety—–from the two inch red tail light in the 1930’s to 6 or 8 inch square ones now, to side lights, to ones all across the back, better braking system, better handling characteristics. Soon there will be integrated warning systems and overrides.

    Truck collisions are still the chief cause of highway carnage—-so why aren’t they adopting some of the proven safety features?

    What I do take issue with is disproportionate spending on any mode—–which is why I raise the concepts of prefabrication and standardization in transportation construction projects, the danger of agendas from either right or left, and re-evaluating mass transit modes (like light rail) when it gets to be too expensive in a given circumstance.

  59. I agree that the level of ‘personal direction’ of comments on this thread is stretching our rules. We can debate policies, including density, without needing to questions other people’s motivation.

    Everyone is welcome to pursue the lifestyle of their choice, the question is to what degree collective policy – through government – is going to support certain lifestyle choices over others.

    It should surprise no one that I have strong policy views around auto-dependence. I completely agree with the sentiment expressed by Mamacita that automobiles are very personally empowering (that’s why even though I don’t own a car, I belong to three car-sharing services).

    The problem is that when we rely on automobiles for in excess of 80% of all trips, we create societal problems including congestion, air quality issues, transportation and land use patterns that actually make alternative choices like walking and biking much harder and climate impacts.

    I don’t want to limit anyone’s individual choice to use an auto for a particular trip, but I do want to create a context where people who want to make alternative choices are equally empowered, and in the aggregate, folks choose the single-occupancy auto option much less frequently.

  60. Chris,

    I pretty much agree with the above comment from Chris S. except I think that cars will change. I elbowed Chris S. months ago on some of these points, but he has fine-tuned his positions.
    The above points would be even stronger if there was more thought about the libertarian aspects (without adopting them wholesale).

    Science shows that debates produce stronger results than touchy-feely agreement.

  61. Mamacita, even if we get to electric vehicles with the electricity being provided entirely from renewables, we still have congestion and parking problems.

  62. A recent Columbia University Earth Institute study “Transforming Personal Mobility” advocates shared autonomous vehicles. The concept would essentially eliminate parking concerns.

    Congestion would have to be addressed with other tools such as ridesharing, walkable communities, ecommerce/telecommuting, etc., especially with a highly probable transit implosion.

  63. There is a difference between trips generated by households and general infrastructure demand. If you have noticed the uptick in the economy you may have also noticed that there is a lot more commercial traffic. I don’t rely upon the standard economic indicators ( See: Peter Schiff but since those who do include housing starts in their calculations, I hope you notice that construction sites are not being supplied by bicycle. And most other commercial traffic doesn’t have that amount of time to spend on getting from one place to another. Nor do emergency service providers, government employees, people moving large things…..
    But you might find that the consumer sector will use it.

    “we still have congestion and parking problems.”

    Which can be attributed also to increased density. In the past I always figured that if I had to go downtown with my car, infrequently, I could almost always nab a parking spot at a meter for pocket change, instead of paying several dollars in a parking garage. This is going to be harder to do, not to mention that our meters are getting outrageously priced, despite governmental claims of progress… I’m all for the policies ‘working’ which should eventually result in lower costs, right?

  64. Why don’t you give up your Vancouver home to the homeless? Isn’t unfair that you have a roof and they don’t? That’s kinda your logic.

    This is typical conservative hyperbole. At no time have I ever said that I think that people should be denied the right to drive cars or own large properties.

    [personally directed comment removed]

    So far as a Grand Battle with the New Urbanists, your side has already won, at least throughout most of the United States. Ninety-plus percent of the country is run exactly as you like. Developers and mega-corporations are in complete control, running roughshod over any reasonable efforts to shape communities in ways that encourage neighborliness and healthy lifestyles. Americans are the test subjects of the world’s largest and longest-running uncontrolled experiment testing exactly how far large corporations run by and for the benefit of their rich owners can squeeze human beings out of any participation in society other than as mindless consumers of their crap.

    Portland is a democracy. And democratically it has chosen to direct growth in sustainable ways. There may be a burp in the coming three and a half years, because Hales “slipped through” on Smith’s stupid actions in college and hid behind some smooth vapid rhetoric. People are already appalled at his corporate wanking.

    He will be a one-term mayor.

  65. I’m jumping on this thread late, but I’d like to get back to the topic at hand, which was future mode splits for different areas of the city proposed by Roger Geller.

    My reaction to Roger’s map is that the proposed transit mode shares are way too low. I know we have bike and walk mode share goals for the city – but do we really not have a transit mode share goal that is higher than the status quo? And I say this coming firmly from roots as a bike guy, not as a transit guy.

    Roger probably has access to non-work trip mode split data that I haven’t seen yet, but assuming overall mode split is somewhat similar to commute mode split, those citywide numbers imply some changes I just can’t imagine happening. Compare:

    Portland current commute mode split, roughly (ACS 2011 1-Year sample):

    drive alone 58
    carpool 9
    transit 13
    walk 5
    bike 6
    work at home 8
    other 1

    Current share +/- changes to = Roger’s proposed citywide split:

    drive (alone/carpool combined) 67 – 24 = 43
    transit 13 – 1 = 12
    walk 5 + 15 = 20
    bike 6 + 19 = 25

    This is an imprecise comparison for a lot of reasons (work at home being irrelevant to overall trips is probably the worst bit), however I see zero precedent for quadrupling walk trips. Yes, we’ve quadrupled(ish) bike trips in the last 20 years, and we have room to grow. However, walking is stagnant. The trend is the same nationwide. 20% walk trips is getting to the level of much denser east coast cities like Boston or New York.

    Walk trips are necessarily about a mile or less. Any major move to increase walking therefore has to be driven by land use, not just facilities. Even if we build sidewalks in East Portland (which we absolutely should) people aren’t going to walk more unless they can work and shop within a mile of home. This brings us back to the density discussion, I suppose.

    Is transit mode share in Portland maxed out in the low teens? How much could walking actually increase? What would we have to do in the next 20 years to make that happen? Because whatever we’ve been doing for the last 20 years hasn’t increased walking all that much.

  66. Elliott,

    As a practical matter, how much influence does a transit planner have over the neighbor’s lifestyle?

    A certain percentage of the population does not like to walk. Period. How many adults do you see walking without dogs? If it wasn’t for canines, I would never see some of my neighbors on a sidewalk.

    And, when we talk about East Portland, we are talking about people whose jobs involve manual labor. Some service workers are physically tired at the end of the day.

    Sidewalks and bike lanes are great- but they won’t make a huge difference, IMHO.

  67. Planners may have a hard time convincing someone living in a given home a given distance away from their destination to walk or bike instead of driving, but they can certainly influence where people live and encourage more people to live closer to destinations. You don’t have to twist arms to get people to walk or bike when doing so is easier than driving.

    There’s also the issue of parking. Metro in a survey found that 37% of people who drive alone to work would do something else if they had to pay $25 a month for parking. That survey found alternate transit was more likely to be used for non-work travel, so I’d expect active parking management to have an even greater effect on that.

    Planning isn’t or shouldn’t be about trying to sell people something they don’t want to buy. It should be about enabling the market to deliver what people do want to buy. Based on prices for close-in housing there is no shortage of buyers for dense walkable neighborhoods.

  68. “Planning isn’t or shouldn’t be about trying to sell people something they don’t want to buy. It should be about enabling the market to deliver what people do want to buy. Based on prices for close-in housing there is no shortage of buyers for dense walkable neighborhoods.”

    I’m getting tired of hearing the ruse of “market demand” as a cover for reckless planning. Contrary to the drivel about “building more housing units will bring the rent down” the reality is that severe price spikes are already going on, and prospective landlords will eventually raise the rents when they have to buy rental properties at higher prices or when interest rates climb back up.

    Always has been.

    And this is the commonly accepted reason for why people are willing to spend a lot on housing:

    “Real estate is one of the few assets that react proportionately to inflation. As inflation occurs, housing values go up and rents go up. Can you then see why owning real estate may be a good thing? If not, let’s put this into perspective with a simple hypothetical example.

    “In 2012, you buy a house for $100,000. After the world doesn’t end that year and the government begins to drive off the Fiscal Cliff, the financial markets become a mess and inflation is in full-bloom for the next 10 years. Now 10 years later, because of inflation, this same house is worth $180,000. You now own an $180,000 house that you only had to pay $100,000 for! Sounds like a deal to me. You basically have $80,000 in free dollars now.”

  69. As Rush noted (the band, not the radio blowhard), “if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”.

    It is a false dichotomy, in many ways, between “planning” and “not planning”. Randall O’Toole’s guise as the “anti-planner” is false; he supports “planning” just as much as anyone. His plans, however, would maintain the status quo in many places, whereas many urbanists seek to disrupt a status quo they view as unsustainable and inappropriate. Use of the force of law to maintain existing arrangements is every bit as much “social engineering” as use of force of law to compel change.

    That is the real question–to change or not?

    Yes, real estate is a hedge against inflation–it’s also the only long-lived, non-financial asset that most of us will ever own. The other big ticket items that most people possess–cars, boats, etc–all depreciate significantly (except for collectibles), and dollar-denominated investment vehicles tend to change value along with the dollar (unless designed to react otherwise). Real estate also is an effective inflation hedge in that when it is financed, inflation allows you to pay off the loan with less-valuable dollars, assuming you didn’t finance with some ridiculous adjustable. :)

    But there is plenty of real estate for sale on the market. Right now, prices are jumping in the PDX area–but if you want to buy and you can get financing, there’s plenty of homes for sale.

    Over the long haul, increasing supply reduces prices–this is economics 101. Over shorter time frames, other market distortions and effects may counteract this, particularly if a bubble develops. (A good sign there’s a bubble: if you feel compelled to buy in before prices rise further, that ought to be a bright red flag). But given the lead times for housing construction, housing starts is often a lagging indicator of the housing market.

    At any rate, the rent-vs-buy question isn’t all that relevant to planning. Planners, in general, don’t dictate whether property is offered for sale or rent (when they DO, it’s often restrictions on rental, in order to keep out the poor; the City of Portland is certainly *not* doing this though I can think of private HOAs that do). Higher-density dwellings are more likely to be offered for rent–condo ownership being a hassle for many reasons. (At the federal level, the mortgage interest deduction is a major subsidy of homeowners, but outside the scope of local planning).

    Are you arguing, Ron, that local zoning/planning policy should act in ways to discourage home ownership and discourage rental?

  70. I imagine it is awkward for some people to hear about market demand, because it highlights how conflicts over development are fundamentally between regular people. Not people vs. developers, not people vs. planners, but people vs. people.

    For all the demonization of David Sackhoff or BPS, they weren’t the ones who wanted to move into no-park apartments and they aren’t the folks nimby groups can’t accept as neighbors.

  71. “You have $80,000 in free dollars now”.

    No you don’t. If “inflation is in full bloom for 10 years” the rule of 72 says that a dollar will be worth about half what it was at the beginning of those ten years.

    Seven percent inflation is hard to imagine these days, but I would expect that your gold flogging buddies think it will be much higher than that.

    So if you bought a house at $100K and suffered 10 years of 7.2% inflation AND the house was worth $180K at the end of that period, you lost $10,000 in real terms.

  72. In response to Elliot (June 23, 4:44 am). Elliot, the difference between the numbers I use and those reported in the ACS are: “my” numbers are from the Oregon Household Activity Survey, which reports on all trips. The ACS reports on journey to work trips, only.

    Please give my paper a read–Chris included a link to it–it discusses the data as well as the methodology I used to suggest advances in biking, walking and transit. The bottom line: to achieve 25% bike mode split bicycling would have to grow at a pace 1.4 times greater in the period 2011-2035 than it did 1994-2011. Walking, to achieve 20% would have to grow at a pace 1.1 times greater than it did 1994-2011 and transit would have to grow at a pace 3.4 times greater than it did 1994-2011 to achieve a 12% mode split by 20335.

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