The Regional Business Plan on Transportation

Last week I attended the Oregon Business Plan Summit. The Summit was also the occasion of the release of the first ever Regional Business Plan.

Just as I found many things to like in the state plan, there is much to like about the regional plan. I could hardly have written a better set of bullet points for the vision:

  • Sustainability
  • Innovation
  • Openness
  • Individualism

In analyzing the current state of affairs, our excellent multi-modal connections are celebrated. The plan recognizes our superior transit system and (relatively) lower congestion than other major metro areas. But increasing congestion is noted, with bottlenecks impacting business productivity.

In evaluating a variety of business factors, “Urban Mobility” is rated just over 3.1 (on a scale where 5.0 is the max). Interestingly pretty much all the different regional business groups’ rankings fell right around the average, except for “Identity Vancouver” which came in about 2.6.

In a section on public leader perspectives there is a bullet suggesting that “the JPACT model for transportation planning should be reexamined” without saying what is deficient about the process. I can’t help wondering what that’s about.

The bottom line for any business plan of course is the set of recommended actions. This plan has initiative sections for both land use and transportation. The land use section calls for more shovel-ready industrial sites, and talks about speeding infrastructure development in UGB expansion areas, but does not make any explicit statements about making sure new industrial areas are specifically sited to match planned transportation facilities (they do talk about the converse, extending transportation facilities to industrial lands – not quite the same thing).

Points for encouraging redevelopment of brownfields and other sites within the UGB.

The transportation section (actually labeled “Freight Mobility”) has three bullets, which I would summarize as:

  • Better private sector advocacy for freight priorities
  • Develop transportation policy that supports business needs and economic development strategy
  • Make sure transportation planning decisions are evaluated against economic development criteria

I can’t argue with any of those, but there’s no mention of promoting alternative modes as a way to offset increases in congestion, or development of transportation improvements that facilitate movement of goods and services without adding capacity for SOVs that creates induced demand.

I fear that until the freight community learns to distinguish between raw lane capacity and moving goods that we’re not going to make much progress toward their goals.

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