Thinking Big Thoughts

The Future of our Transportation – Big Ideas and Outcomes

We’ve been hearing from Metro that the Regional Transportation Plan Update just getting underway is going to be different. (See Council President Bragdon’s remarks (PDF, 31K) and Councilor Burkholder’s comments (PDF, 31K) from the April 20th stakeholder forum.) They say the new RTP is going to focus on outcomes. That it’s going to take into account the reality of shrinking federal and state dollars, as well as the wild fluctuations in oil prices that are projected for the future. It’s going to move us away from the laundry list approach to transportation planning and provide us with something different.

We think Metro’s vision of doing the RTP differently is a good thing … but what does it really mean? How do we break free of business as usual and start thinking about transportation in a completely new way?

One of the most inspiring success stories, I’ve heard about is Bogota’s transportation transformation. Their big idea was to “put people before cars”. What a novel idea! By restricting cars and aggressively investing in bikeways, pedestrian improvements and transit, they transformed the city. One of the outcomes they achieved in a mere six years was a shift from negligible bike use (less than a percent) to 5% of the trips in the city being made by bike. Their weekly car-free days got people of all incomes and walks of life out of their cars and onto buses and sidewalks. These are two incredible outcomes!

The transportation system we created in the 20th century is unsustainable. What are the big ideas that we should consider to transform our system so that it can be more resilient and sustainable? What should the outcomes of the new system be?

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