Perspectives on the RTP Update

Last Thursday Metro held a workshop to begin scoping the process for updating the Regional Transportation Plan. A number of Portland Transport contributors participated, and you’ll be reading a number of perspectives on the update over the next few days.

Last Thursday Metro convened 100 leaders and local politicians to kick off the Regional Transportation Plan update process. Metro President David Bragdon and Councilor Burkholder reflected backwards and discussed the coming of a new era of transportation and public works. They talked about finite resources – both financial and natural.

Next they held a facilitated input process. We sat around tables while facilitators prompted us for general themes that would help guide the two-year long planning process; they asked for methods by which Metro could public comment.

I heard two primary themes among participants: ‘bang for the buck’ and ‘outcomes based’. Ironically these are two of the things that transportation engineers do worst. I’ll illustrate by example:

Circle-peg and Square-hole
If I said “boy the freeway is congested” a highway engineering would add a lane; however once built the congestion would not be eased. Many transportation academics believe that you literally cannot build your way out of traffic congestion, it’s a low bang for the buck and lacks desired outcomes.

Square-peg and Square-hole.
If I said “boy the freeway is congested” an economists would add a pricing system where the price increases with congestion and therefore easing congestion. While perhaps politically difficult, from a resourse and result standpoint it achieves the objective while raising resources, a great bang.

As it goes I am encouraged by this trend. I believe that bicycle, pedestrian, transit, and other non-auto investments are the way of the future, a great bang for the limited public buck and clearly moves us towards desired outcomes of improved economy, livability, and efficient transportation systems.

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