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.
- 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.