One Metro Councilor Challenges the Status Quo

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.

6 responses to “One Metro Councilor Challenges the Status Quo”

  1. Live Where You Work

    I propose a state, county and/or Metro tax break for employers who hire people who live within a 2-mile radius.

    For more-replaceable employees, the savings in absenteeism, lateness, and general gain in employee happiness would offset any reduction in the pool of potential employees.

    For less-replaceable people, employers could subsidize their move to within the radius.

    This would result in employers and employees who are more invested in their communities, as well as a huge reduction in commuting.

    I have proposed this to my State Rep Mitch Greenlick, but of course nothing will be done with it for two years now. Anyone else interested?

    Virginia Bruce,

    Cedar Mill News

  2. But I don’t want to live near my job! No offense to Wilsonville, but I like Portland much better.

    Can I get a tax break for the fact that I telecommute 4 days out of 5?

  3. I would rather live 5-7 miles from my job and get better exercise biking to and from work. But I think this is an excellent proposal. It would be nice to have some way to lure employers into Portland added to the proposal too.

    Another idea might be tax breaks to people who do NOT own cars along with a graduated, increasing scale for individuals who own more than 2.

  4. I don’t think Robert Liberty’s first point is valid. All transportation planning is based on land use forecasts as a very basic input. You have to have such small area population and employment forecasts in order to develop estimates of future travel.

    These small area population and employment forecasts are “given” to the transportation planners at the beginning of any transportation planning project. They largely determine the future flows in the transportation network which, in turn, are used to evaluate the likely performance of alternative highway and transit investments (projects).

    Where do these small area forecasts come from? From the land use planners. If they are changed, then the calculated future loads on the transportation network will change. Of course, the land use planners typically do not think much about the likely transportation impacts of their land use plans – they have other objectives in mind which they regard as more important.

    But, it doesn’t make sense to argue that transportation planning is being done
    independently of land use planning. It is and has to be based on land use forecasts – the foundation of further efforts to generate future trips, assign them to various parts of the highway and transit network and to evaluate the performance of various proposed additions to that network.

  5. I think the point is that the impacts that a new road, boulevard, or highway has on future land use and existing communities typically has a much greater impact on the future of a place than what is usually taken into account – especially by the actual transportation engineers.

    While Portland has made some headway, thanks in part to our land-use planning laws, Metro and individual communities, there is still a long ways to go towards planning in a reasonable fashion.

    Just take a look at Beaverton.

  6. Jerry said, —“All transportation planning is based on land use forecasts as a very basic input. You have to have such small area population and employment forecasts in order to develop estimates of future travel.”—-

    Perhaps someone can explain to me how the biggest project in city history, South Waterfront, predicting some 10,000 employees andnow 8000 new residences was planned and adopted without a traffic impact study?

    So what is the “Transportation plan for South Waterfront? There isn’t one.

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