Archive | April, 2006

Scenarios, Sensitivity and Resilience in Regional Planning

I started thinking about this post following the Regional Transportation Plan scoping workshop that occurred last week, which others have written about. But it really jelled for me yesterday after another workshop with Metro’s panel of economic advisers (engaged to help validate the models for the 20 year forecasts).

During the breakout session for the RTP workshop, I pushed for the idea of using scenario analysis to evaluate potential transportation system designs. What kind of transportation network would be optimal if gas is at $5/gallon? $10/gallon? Or if we decide we need to cap the output of greenhouse gases, what kind of transportation system would work best?

Sensitivity analysis is the process of looking at a variety of inputs and the scenarios they create, then comparing these to work back to how those inputs affect the outcomes that we care about. So we could do a sensitivity analysis for how our region’s economy and livability vary with varying energy costs.

[By the way, the current assumption set for the regional models has oil settling back to $35-40/barrel, before going back to a curve where it rises more or less at the rate of inflation. Does this make anyone else very nervous?]

The concept I brought up in yesterday’s workshop is resilience, which is the idea of minimizing our sensitivity to certain scenarios. If we agree on a set of desirable outcomes (robust economy, maintaining air quality, providing open spaces, just as examples), how can we design the land use and transportation system for our region to maximize these outcomes against different external forces (like energy costs or climate changes)? I hope we can build a ‘resilient’ region that helps defend us against what the economists called ‘abrupt changes’ (a major earthquake, or the shutdown of the gulf stream, is an ‘abrupt change’).

What do you think would make our region more resilient against potential external forces for the next 20-50 years?

CRC Task Force Has Trouble Crossing Decision Point

It was a busy meeting for the Columbia River Task Force last night. Their task was to vote on the crossing and transit components to move forward to the next round of analysis. They didn’t get very far. Concerns were raised about the level of outreach in the public comment process (indeed, Portland Transport’s comments, submitted by the deadline on the comment cards handed out at the open houses, didn’t make it into the packet mailed to task force members – in fact, no comments submitted after the open houses were available to the task force before this decision making meeting) and other objections to task force process were raised.

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BTA Policy Director (and Portland Transport contributor) Scott Bricker addresses the Columbia River Crossing task force

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The task force reviews crossing options

It was a busy meeting for the Columbia River Task Force last night. Their task was to vote on the crossing and transit components to move forward to the next round of analysis. They didn’t get very far. Concerns were raised about the level of outreach in the public comment process (indeed, Portland Transport’s comments, submitted by the deadline on the comment cards handed out at the open houses, didn’t make it into the packet mailed to task force members – in fact, no comments submitted after the open houses were available to the task force before this decision making meeting) and other objections to task force process were raised.

The task force did make a couple of decisions. They narrowed the arterial bridge options to RC-23, the single option recommended by staff. The logic was that this option was sufficiently broad to allow a number of arterial configurations to be studied, but some task force members expressed concern that having a single arterial option would limit the number of non-freeway configurations that would be studied in later phases of the project.

They also eliminated all the ‘3rd corridor’ options, on the basis that they didn’t serve the project ‘Purpose and Need’. But before this vote, several Clark County representatives expressed the need to move forward new corridor options, and apparently the SW Washington Regional Transportation Council (RTC) is in the process of advancing a proposal separate from the CRC process.

The meeting was already 30 minutes over schedule when they adjourned, leaving the rest of the decisions to the next meeting.

Remembering Jane Jacobs, 1916-2006

All of us who think and care about urban form owe a huge debt to Jane Jacobs. The following is from the CLF newsletter:

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urban writer and activist who championed new, community-based approaches to planning for over 40 years. Her 1961 treatise, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, became perhaps the most influential American text about the inner workings and failings of cities, inspiring generations of urban planners and activists.

Jane Jacobs passed away yesterday at the age of 89. To read more about Jane and her numerous contributions
please visit : http://www.pps.org/info/bulletin/jane_jacobs or http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/26/books/26jacobs.html?_r=1&oref=slogin