Transportation as Plumbing, Considering the RTP Update

At Wednesday’s MPAC meeting, Metro Councilor Rod Park gave a briefing to MPAC on the update to the Regional Transportation Plan that is now being launched. For the first time, the region’s land use and transportation plans are being updated at the same time, a unique opportunity to really examine our regions priorities.

A few of Councilor Park’s main points:

Population will grow by 1 million people in the next 20 years

The buying power of available transportation funding is expected to decline by about 40% during the time period, based on current trends.

The need for transportation funding is expected to grow by 40% during that period.

Currently the plan would project that we have about $4 billion to spend on transportation during the next twenty years. The fiscally “unconstrained” plan calls for about $10 billion in projects.

Rod suggested that we may need to reframe how we think about how we do this (I’m paraphrasing slightly): if the transportation system is the region’s plumbing, do we build a house around the plumbing we can afford, or do we plumb the house that we want to build?

Another fundamental question is whether we spend the transportation dollars that are available on the 80% of the people who are here now or on the 20% who are coming.

One response to “Transportation as Plumbing, Considering the RTP Update”

  1. Sounds like the region needs to discover a new source of funding. Is Metro empowered to enact a regional gas tax?

    I would say that the region should build the house that it wants to live in, and then roll the cost of the additional plumbing into the mortgage. Assuming the region doesn’t get fired from its job, it’ll probably pay off the mortgage before it retires, and if not, its kids can inherit the payments alongside the nice house that they will want to continue to live in. (…to take the analogy to its logical extreme…)

    Our regional transportation funding should be spent in such a way that it benefits both the 80% that live here now, and the 20% who have yet to come. Extending mass transit through existing neighborhoods in such a way that encourages newer, higher-density adjacent (and supportive) development is the way to go. As the Portland Streetcar folks like to say, “Development-Oriented Transit.” We’re pretty good at building the transit; getting the proper adjacent development is a little more tricky, but we’re getting there. The little Streetcar seems to have been the most successful at this thus far, but Westside MAX has also pulled off an astonishing feat of encouraging nearby development.

    Duplicating these successes around the region should allow us to accomplish our regional goals. If we’re creative with our financing, we can not only build the house we want, but we can plumb it and our grandchildren will be proud to live in it.

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