For the last 30 to 50 years, transportation planning in the United States has been:
1. Carried out largely in isolation from regional, city or neighborhood land use planning, even though we know transportation investments shape property values and land uses and land use regulations play a major role in travel patterns.
2. Based on unexamined assumptions about what are the right questions to address. (For example, is the right question always “How do we reduce congestion on this corridor?”)
3. Shaped by an environmental impact statement analysis that often uses straw-men alternatives (especially the “no build” alternative) and that are organized around analyzing a single “corridor” instead of more sophisticated combinations of transportation investments, land use strategies and demand management.
4. Powerfully shaped in Oregon (and elsewhere) by state and federal mandates limiting the use of funds for only certain kinds of transportation investments.
5. At its worst, one of the last refuges of back-room deals and log rolling by a narrow group of interests, conducted out of the public eye.
Our state and region have made progress in changing some of these dynamics, especially #5. But the time is right to take new steps in this region to reform how we make these decisions that use so many tax dollars and have such a profound effect on our region and neighborhoods.
I would welcome other peoples’ ideas about what reforms are needed and how we can gain acceptance for change.