Author Archive | Chris Smith

Mission and Devolution of Transit

The most recent episode of the Strong Towns podcast is particularly thought-provoking. It presents a panel discussion held off-site during the recent Railvolution conference. The panel includes some well-know transportation bloggers: Jeff Wood (The Overhead Wire) and Jonah Freemark (The Transport Politic).

The topics are wide-ranging and challenge some sacred cows. Two themes I found interesting:

  1. What’s the mission of transit:
    • Providing urban mobility, primarily for low-income or minority populations?
    • Moving commuters to the central city to ameliorate (or avoid) auto congestion?
    • A catalyst for development?
    • Some rational combination of all of the above (but we may lack a framework for rationalization)?
  2. The devolution of transit:
    • When we couldn’t afford Subways, we turned to Light Rail
    • When we couldn’t afford Light Rail, we turned to Streetcars
    • When we couldn’t afford Streetcars, we turned to BRT
    • When we couldn’t afford BRT, we turned to Rapid Bus
    • When…

Whatever your own perspective it’s an intelligent and stimulating listen…

Frequent Services on 122nd Needs an $8M Ante from the City of Portland

An interesting sidebar in today’s Council work session on the street fee: TriMet could justify (and pay for the service hours) upgrading 122nd Avenue to Frequent Service if a series of safety and access improvement were made by the City to help draw ridership from the surrounding area. The cost of those improves is about $8M according to Commissioner Novick.

Does Metro’s Climate Smart Communities Plan Do Enough for Active Transportation?

I’ve been struggling for a week with how to write this post, and I’m grateful to Michael Andersen at BikePortland, who has covered many of the great things about Metro’s Climate Smart Communities plan.

That leaves me free to write to a counterpoint, questioning whether in fact it does enough for active transportation.

First, let’s talk a bit about the plan. It’s a response to a mandate from the Legislature to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation. Metro considered three alternatives when developing the plan:

A) Keep building in the pattern we have been

B) Build what’s in the RTP (Regional Transportation Plan)

C) Get more aggressive and develop new policies to reduce GHG

The draft plan in front of us for comment is essentially option B+. It’s what’s in today’s constrained RTP, plus about $5B in additional transit funding (for which we will need to find new funding sources).

The political logic for this is pretty straightforward. Rather than a big lift for new policies, let’s just amp up a bit what we’ve already got regional agreement on. That turns out to be sufficient to meet the state GHG goals (a 20%  reduction in transportation GHG contribution from the 2005 levels by 2035).

So what’s not to like? I would suggest there are at least two ways in which this plan is going to be challenging for active transportation, particularly in Portland.

1) The funding priority tilts heavily towards transit. The RTP already is much more aggressive about funding transit than it is about funding active transportation. The constrained plan only builds out a portion of the region’s active transportation plan, and Climate Smart Communities would give a $5B boost to transit while not adding to what’s planned for active transportation. The Commission that I serve on weighed in with a letter suggesting that fully funding the active transportation plan would yield more mobility per dollar and would have substantial health co-benefits.

2) It’s not very aggressive about reducing driving. The plan goal is a per-capita reduction in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) from 19 miles daily to 17 miles by 2035. That’s just a smidge over a 10% reduction. In contrast, Portland’s 2009 Climate Action Plan (stay tuned for the 2014 update in a few months) shoots for a 30% reduction in per-capita VMT by 2030. Why is Metro’s VMT target important for Portland if we have a more aggressive plan? Because Metro is the keeper of the yardstick by which we measure regional travel. To take a current example, if we’re looking at whether we can take out an auto lane on Barbur Blvd, the planners have to look at Metro’s regional model to determine how much auto traffic is projected on the street. Portland’s goals are generic, they are not modeled street-by-street, so we have to use Metro’s numbers!

So please read the plan, and comment in any of these ways (via Metro). The comment deadline is October 30th.

  • Take a short survey online at makeagreatplace.org on transportation and land use policies and actions that can shape our communities.
  • To provide more in depth feedback, visit oregonmetro.gov/draftapproach to download and review the draft approach and implementation recommendations (Regional Framework Plan amendments, toolbox of possible actions and performance monitoring approach) and provide comments in one of the following ways:
  • Mail comments to Metro Planning, CSC Comment, 600 NE Grand Ave., Portland, OR 97232
  • Email comments to climatescenarios@oregonmetro.gov
  • Phone in comments to 503-797-1750 or TDD 503-797-1804
  • Testify at a Metro Council hearing on Oct. 30, 2014, at 600 NE Grand Ave., Portland, OR 97232 in the Council chamber

Oh… and whatever policy changes do get enacted won’t show up until the 2018 RTP. The old yardsticks are going to rule for a few more years.

 

 

KBOO Bike Show: Activism and Awareness

 Listen to the show (mp3, 20.1MB)

Alon and Tori talk with Shannon Galpin, humanitarian and woman’s rights activist to talk about her new memoir, Mountain to Mountain: A Journey of Adventure and Activism for the Women of Afghanistan, that tells the story of fighting for the lives of women in Afghanistan, one pedal stroke at a time.

In the second half, the topic shifts to the role of bikes in disaster preparedness.