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.


6 responses to “The Regional Business Plan on Transportation”

  1. Chris,
    Thanks for this report.
    On Swan Island the largest employers dedicate acres and acres of land to parking, which is free, but do not offer any transit subsidy to their employees.
    Its pretty widely agreed that most job growth occurs with existing businesses and that is were any public policy should focus. Its curious that most such businesses, especially in the manufacturing and shipping sectors, already have land for expansion…in there parking lots!
    Also note that the studies done for the Portland Freight Master Plan show NO congestion now or in the future on Going Street, which serves Swan Island, nor on Columbia Blvd, which serves all of the Columiba Corridor. In fact vehicle counts are down on Going Street over the last 5 years.
    The greatest threat right now to freight movement to and from Swan Island is the I-5 Delta project which will eliminate the add-lane off Columbia Blvd to I-5 southbound. But worse, it will shift commuter peak hour congestion south into N. Portland, no doubt causing ramp meters at Columbia, Going and Greeley to increase wait times for freight coming out the Columbia Corridor and off Swan Island.
    An honest discussion of freight movement and land for industrial expansion must begin with reducing SOV trips and shifting commuters to other transportation options.

  2. I haven’t read the report, but does it take into account bicycles as a valid BUSINESS transportation mode? i.e Springwater Corridor and npGREENWAY? I participated in Mayor Potter’s first of five “10 Minute Community Meetings” on Saturday. This meeting was held at Patty’s Home Plate Cafe in downtown St. Johns. I was there advocating npGREENWAY ( ). The Mayor seemed supportive of the idea of a water level, multi-modal path as a transportation option between North Portland and the Steel Bridge downtown. There it would connect to the East Bank Esplanade and other parts of the regional bike system. One person at the meeting brought up the concept of a “transit path”. The mayor was quick to question what was meant by that term. The community member responded contrasting a largely “recreational path” to a “transit path.” He used Swan Island as an example of a prime opportunity with many businesses greatly benefiting from a path used as a “transit option.” This would augment the current bus lines and combat the plethora of single occupancy vehicles who now daily converge on this relatively small, isolated plot of industrial land.

    I, of course would use npGREENWAY for my daily bike (or roller-blade if the pavement was good enough) commute from the University Park Neighborhod to the ODS tower on 2nd and Morrison.

    The mayor was again quick to point out that one of his staff members regularly uses the Springwater Corridor to commute by bike from the Gresham area to City Hall.

    My point for all of this–lets look back to some of the things we learned in Holland this fall. The BICYCLE is a valuable, viable transportation option for businesses–if the barriers to its use are mitigated. (Which reminds me of someone else’s suggestion… what ABOUT turning the old Powells on Pioneer Square into a shower and locker room facility for all those who would LIKE to bike downtown but do not want to show up to work all sweaty after doing so?)

    Looking forward to further discussion and ACTION,
    Scott Mizée

  3. Any updates on the Regional Business Plan for Transportation? I’d like to get npGREENWAY involved in this plan.

    Please pass along any info you have.

    scott.mizee (at)

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