Friday’s Tribune has an editorial about the urgency of coming to grips with the state’s transportation needs. While the author and I might disagree on what some of the specific projects might be, we’re on the same wavelength on several points, including the need to ensure that maintenance gets funded.
We also see the way some candidates try to make this a wedge issue as a problem:
… Republican Ron Saxton, is often more comfortable saying that ODOT staff is the problem.
That’s just not useful in any way.
And finally, we’re in complete agreement on approaches to get voters on board:
Another idea is building business and citizen support for projects that make a difference in the economy, regional livability and the lives of local residents – and then gradually convincing taxpayers and businesses that new funding is needed to accomplish even more.
36 responses to “Urgency of Transportation Funding Problem”
But to date, Gov. Ted Kulongoski has not made long-term transportation solutions a cornerstone of his re-election campaign. And his chief opponent, Republican Ron Saxton, is often more comfortable saying that ODOT staff is the problem.
I think the media commentary has been the most frank and realistic read on transportation. I believe that our policy makers understand the dire situation, but as David Bragdon refers to 50 year cycles, we just can’t get out of the 50 year life cycle of the freeway expansion.
I hope that soon we can all get a grip on the reality of costs and revenue. Like done in The Netherlands, soon we will realize that we just can’t afford our system. Like someone making $30k living with a million dollar mortgage.
Maybe there is some bloat within ODOT, but even the best employees have trouble getting stuff done when they don’t have enough money. The state gas tax has not changed in a long time, falling behind inflation and buying less per gallon of fuel taxed. And, yes, another problem is that people like to build and show off new road projects instead of maintaining existing ones.
There are good people in ODOT but politics and the highjacking of Oregon Transportation Commission by Neil Goldsmith and his cronies has taken the State of Oregon and the Metro Region in the wrong direction. Re-gaining balance will not be easy. This means that more then equal funding and priority must now go to our roads and highways. An example is that over the last approximate 20-years very little money has gone to creating new and critically needed capacity on our roads and highways. At the same time we invested disproportionately into creating new transit capacity/opportunities. Balance was lost and investment into our roads and highways was targeted at maintenance and that was too little to catch-up with the critical needs. So here we are with a good transit system servicing 5% to 8% of the people and 90% plus of the people needs not getting addressed. A good example of this is and has been the effort to use the I-5 corridor throught Portland as a test bed for planned congestion to press for the eventual extension of Light Rail out to the EXPO Center. No question that the plan is to continue this Light Rail line into Vancouver/Clark County Washington. By continuing to constrict traffic thereby creating unreasonable congestion on the I-5 Corridor you lead most to believe that the only solution to the problem is to extend LIght Rail Transit into Vancouver/Clark County Washington. To help make this happen the special interest and political forces create a Bi-State Trade and Transportation Study Group that has Neil Goldsmith and friends appoint their people of the like minded and the hwole process gets highjacked again. From this group a new group of Neil Goldsmith cronies gets put together and we now have the Cloumbia River Crossing Project with the end result of getting a new Columbia River Bridge or bridges that enables Light Rail to get extended into Vancouver/Clark County Washington. The problem with these efforts and proposals are that the congestion in the I-5 corridor will not go away. It is at a Level of Service of “F” (that is as bad as you can get)for approximately 6-plus hours per day right now and with a new bridge and Light Rail getting extended across the Columbia River it will be 8 to 10-hours per day of LOS “F” conditions. Some will tell you that this is nothing more then Transportation Demand Management at work and that may be true. To try to make this all work they (the Neil Goldsmith team that are still running the show in the State of Oregon) plan to employ more TDM methods to get people off of the roads and highways no mater how draconian these messures are to the people, businesses and/or stakeholders that require them to use of the I-5 corridor. Light Rail into Vancouver will maybe get 3% to 5% of the vehicles out of the I-5 corridor. Draconian TDM methods might acheive another 3% to 5% reduction in I-5 congestion. A new replacement Interstate dBridge with twice the capacity will bring 30% more vehciles into the I-5 corridor by just openning up the spigot at the Columbia River Crossing area. These limited planned improvements to the bridge influence area do not solve the problem of the lack of investment that has a 2 and 3-lane capacity between the Marquam Bridge and the Interstate Bridges to deal with. I was raised in north Portland and I have a great affinaty to the people caught or trapped into environment where there health is and has been played with for social engineering reasons. This area has and will continue to have the 2rd worse air quality condition in the nation. If the Neil Goldsmith team and cronies continue to promote TDM, an new Interstate that does nothing and Light Rail as the solution we are screwed. We need a whole new additional corridor and that will not happen until they kill more people and businesses to a point where the public throws the bums out. But that is to late. Family wage jobs will have been lost, people of need will have had their health compromised and the basic quality of life will be less. The solution is balance in our transportation imvestments and priorities. That means that we must invest in our roads and highways in a disproportionate way (swing the pendulum 80% of the real dollars for the next 10-years) to creating new capacity for our roads and highways just to regain balance. This is the type of major shift that it will take. To fund this shift we will need to have a new gas tax put into place. This new gas tax must not have any dollars going to anything other then building new road and highway capacity. We need new and additioal lanes added or we end up killing the people, businees, and economy. The people across the State of Oregon would approve 10 to 15-cent per gallon increase in the cost of gas if they knew, including the truckers that all of the money was going to creating more lanes of new road and highway capacity. This would take the politics out of what is killing the goose and eliminating the golden egg from our lives. The I-5 corridor is just example of the problem. Balance with needs and environment are acheivable if people of reason come together.
This new gas tax must not have any dollars going to anything other then building new road and highway capacity… The people across the State of Oregon would approve 10 to 15-cent per gallon increase in the cost of gas…
A $0.15 gas tax increase provides about $230M/year additional funding. Is this amount enough to compensate for even the current road maintenance shortfalls, especially in light of rapidly increasing materials costs?
“Gov. Ted Kulongoski has not made long-term transportation solutions a cornerstone of his re-election campaign.”
He sure however wants money for everything else. Just give him time. Everything seems to be time released with his campaign instead of all coming at once. I kind of think Kulongoski has Kitzhaber fever. Every time he makes a speech, he wants to increase taxes or increase spending.
I also tend to agree with Paul Edgar’s analysis of another Governor’s changes to transportation planning which is well stated. It is my understanding that when Goldschmidt was the Mayor of Portland, he personally made it his prerogative to approve every I-205 interchange within city limits before they were constructed. That is why vehicles can only turn one direction when coming off the freeway at some intersections, and why I-205 only had two lanes in each direction until after he left office. I do take exception however to the amount Paul suggests for a gas tax increase, even if all the money did go to roads. A smaller amount would be more palatable. I also think any gas tax increase sent to voters must be coupled with a bicycle tax and a transit fare surcharge tax so those modes of transport can become more financially self sustainable.
As to the I-5 Crossing, it is my understanding the Washington people will not settle for anything less than a big new bridge while the Oregon delegation is still pushing light rail. That still leaves Hayden Island without the needed bridge(s) for a local motor vehicle connection. I still think one idea that should be studied is to float or barge the main section of the Sauvie Island Bridge to Hayden Island, build new approaches, and use the bridge for a local traffic connection to the Oregon mainland. This could be a very cost effective option. Just rerouting local Hayden Island traffic off I-5 will reduce congestion on the freeway.
Clay, State of Washington recently put in a new gas taxes to fund highway improvements. A few years ago they had a nickle tax and it started the ball rolling on making some real improvements. But like Oregon they needed a lot more investments and they put together a 10 or 12 cent additional gas tax year ago and it was challenged with initiative and it passed the muster of a state wide vote. In Washington they use the money to secure bonding. The cost of the bonds is significantly less then the rising cost of construction and materials delayed. I know Washington is much bigger consummer of gas but the model they used will work in Oregon. We just have to do something to get additional road and highway capacity without the use of tolls. That is where they are pushing us and that middle man will cost us a hell of a lot more money then a gas tax. What will cost us the most is a failed economy, NO jobs, and more hands out to government and that is just with an increased level of congestion.
Terry – I like your idea for a local bridge connection to Hayden Island. I think this would definitely help alleviate I-5 congestion, and would even allow people to bicycle or walk to the island.
In Washington they use the money to secure bonding. The cost of the bonds is significantly less then the rising cost of construction and materials delayed.
Thank you for the example, but I feel like I’m missing something on this point. Do you mean that they’re able to sell bonds in order to pay for projects before they actually have the tax income, and paying sooner/faster means it’s cheaper?
Oregon has bonded future gas taxes for current projects as well. Whether that saves money depends on whether it is spent wisely. The Oregon legislature did not spend it wisely.
Ross, if you’re referring to OTIA, they bonded future revenue from increased fees for licences and registrations, not gas taxes.
And to the folks taking issue with the Governor, let’s remember that he led the charge to get $100M in lottery funds to non-highway transportation projects.
Lol. That’s great, let the state prey upon gambling addicts, like an organized crime ring.
Clay, I am not some financial expert but how it was taught to me was based on present value dollars projected out with interest compared to material and labor costs delivered in a delayed time frame. The bonds are scheduled in a fixed repayment structure. If we are to look at the cost of buying Right-of-Way as soon as it can be identified and fast tracking construction with incentive bonuses often we can cut the total project cost by 15% to 20% over delaying a construction project until all gas tax revenue is in hand. With the way concrete and steel has gone up in the last couple of years we might have saved an additional 25% plus over what the cost of a transportation project might cost in out years. ODOT has figures that they use to reflect these cost changes that they face. The big thing is that you know that it is not going to cost less money by delaying needed infrastructure imvestments. If we use a business philosophies and require a Return-on-Investment analysis and use weighted value methods for justification instead of catering to all of the political and special interests smart thing could happen. I however am not holding my breath based on what I am currently seeing coming out of Metro, JPAC, ODOT and City of Portland Transportation. Knowledge is really scary to them, knowledge in the hands of the public. A big problem is the lack of a reasonable Transportation IQ found in the public sector. Most people cannot equate costs like what congestion brings to the table. Some envision only the cost of emissions to the air and water. Others see a lack of freight mobility and know that this reduces the ability to create family wage jobs. It just goes on and on but most people only think of themselves. The Federal Highway Administrator for the State of Oregon one time told me to think in a regional way when it come to transportation investment. I do not see it happening, I do not see many with vision and I see little or NO business sense.
The people across the State of Oregon would approve 10 to 15-cent per gallon increase in the cost of gas if they knew, including the truckers that all of the money was going to creating more lanes of new road and highway capacity.
They haven’t to date, and the last was for a 5-cent increase that was referred by the initiative (2000? 2002? earlier?).
Regarding where the money can be spent:
According to the Oregon Constitution, Article IX , Section 3, monies from gas taxes and vehicle registration fees can only be used “for the construction, reconstruction, improvement, repair, maintenance, operation and use of public highways, roads, streets and roadside rest areas.” (from ci.corvallis.or.us via google)
ODOT has to spend 1 percent on bike-ped facilities, but only within the right-of-way.
“Most people cannot equate costs like what congestion brings to the table. Some envision only the cost of emissions to the air and water.”
Again Paul you are right on target, actually your entire last post is on target. One of the big problems with some of the current transportation thinking is that functional roads and highways can not be built by themselves any more. One example is the widening of I-5 through the Delta Park area. Added to widening costs are recreation trails along the slough, biking routes and other aesthetics that have nothing to do with reducing congestion on the freeway, but are being required by the anti-automobile faction so the costs of the entire project goes up, all paid for on the backs of motorists. Furthermore, PDOT is using congestion and creating more congestion with so called modern street design that include things like bubble curbs in an attempt to move people from their cars to other modes of transport. Personally I view PDOT, JPAC, Metro and even ODOT as divided between part of the problem as much as they are part of any solution. That is one reason why I am unwilling to just hand them more money with a large gas tax increase. Alternative modes of transport must start paying for their own infrastructure thereby becoming more financially self sustainable first.
In principle, do you support _any_ government subsidy of any particular program by non-users?
For example, do you support the notion of public schools, even when paid for by the property taxes of childless homeowners? (For the record, I do, but I’d like to know your thoughts.)
Do you favor the implementation and results of past programs such as the Rural Electrification act, which taxed all electricity ratepayers for the subsidy and benefit of rural areas?
If you _do_ support some government subsidies/redistribution, what in particular makes Transportation funding something which absolutely should not be redistributed?
– Bob R.
With the way concrete and steel has gone up in the last couple of years we might have saved an additional 25% plus over what the cost of a transportation project might cost in out years. ODOT has figures that they use to reflect these cost changes that they face. The big thing is that you know that it is not going to cost less money by delaying needed infrastructure imvestments.
I think virtually everyone in the steel industry anticipates steel prices will go down – its a cycular industry. The problem with making investments now with future dollars is that you are limiting future decisions that would have been made with more complete information. We are not clairvoyant. You can almost guarantee conditions will change in the timeframe of construction of new transportation investments, muchless some lengthy period beyond that when you are supposed to be saving money.
Others see a lack of freight mobility and know that this reduces the ability to create family wage jobs.
It appears the freight discussion is largely a stalking horse for the road industry. But until capacity is reserved for freight, it will just be used up by people taking longer trips in their cars.
I think you can make an argument that we ought to give freight priority over the commuters, even if there is very little evidence that lack of freight mobility is having any effect on job creation in Portland. But general road investments to eliminate congestion contribute almost nothing to improving freight mobility. They simply allow commuters to travel longer distances, often creating even more congestion.
Most people cannot equate costs like what congestion brings to the table.
The costs of congestion are entirely paid by those creating it. Its almost a perfect market.
One of the big problems with some of the current transportation thinking is that functional roads and highways can not be built by themselves any more.
You mean that the interests of people other than those in vehicles on the freeway need to be considered? Yes. Is there something wrong with that?
Overpasses, for instance, “have nothing to do with reducing congestion on the freeway”. So they shouldn’t be included in freeway projects?
The truth is most of the congestion in Portland is created by freeways. They channel traffic to a few “limited access” streets that have a connection to the freeway. These are often also the same places people go for groceries etc. And the more capacity we add to the freeway, the more congestion there is on the street network that connects to them. As ought to be obvious to anyone trying to get on or off Highway 217 in Beaverton.
Ross, if you’re referring to OTIA, they bonded future revenue from increased fees for licences and registrations, not gas taxes.
You’re right. My mistake.
Ross, I have grandchildren and I work at this point of my life to ensure that they have a good education, a lot of common sense and most important opportunity. My parents and grandparents handed to me a country that embraced the opportunities this country can provide. Please get off the net “The Cost of Congestion to the Economy of the Portland Region” print it out (the full version) read it and re-read it. This report prepared by the “Economic Development Research Group” is more of an academic effort to analyse with an independant eye what choices our region has. Vision to and of future requires that you have your head up, your eye open, a respect for your fellow man and their lifes dreams and aspirations, a open mind set to listen and learn, a respect for the environment that is equal to human life, and the full knowledge that it is this generation that is going to pickup tab and keep the wheel of this world turning so that you and I can live a good life after we retire. Out of my old neghborhood (north Montana St.) people are being killed by the planned congestion which has been a significant contributor in making this area the 3rd worse air quality zone in the nation. Many of my old neighbors have not been given a choice or opportunity with jobs and education to where they can move out of this zone that is poisioning them and their children with planned congestion. So when you say “The costs of congestion are paid by those creating it. Its almost a perfect market” please do not tell me that. A significant number of the people in north Portland rely on government assistance and that means that this congestion is costing everyone but more then the people getting poisioned by the bad air and in word thinking people who do not want to create opportunity. I do not know how affluent you are including others who read this but we cannot go on killing the people of north Portland with the current transportation plans and efforts that are now in effect. We must take responsibility, we must show leadership, we must tell the leaders that this planned congestion must be stopped and economic opportunites created to where equal opportunites for health and a family wage job. I would not want you on my school board. Investing into children is investing into the future. We do not teach the next generation out on some lawn we need infrastructure/building and that requires land and if you know anything about real estate they say its all about location. It is important for schools boards to have vision and understand changes in the planning and demographics and this means buying land way in advance of future growth. That requires often having money available to buy this critical land way in advance of houses getting built. There is no difference in buying right-of-way and zoning lands to ensure the ROW is available in future. Current politicians and planners have shown no inclination to plan and plot the next 50-years of our regions transportation needs. They cannot even figure out how to redirect people out of the transportation corridors that are killing the residents of our city. Social engineering efforts only go so far and then you need real changes. We are not of the urban mind set of the eastern seaboard, we are westerners. We are a lot more independant then people from east of the Rocky Mountains. Social engineering does not work on us like some would hope. That means that transit methods of moving people in our region will have a different level of success then in the eastern seaboard regions. We will never acheive greater then at high of 10% ridership and that is after employing most every Transportation Demard Ridership method available. Currently if we acheived a 5% to 8% transit ridership everyone would cheer. That means with current vehicle counts and projected growth in population we must double the current capacity of our roads and highways in lanes of travel or start killing more people. Transit and TDM methods cannot create enough capacity to turn around this problem created by Neil Goldsmith and his clones and social engineers that currently control the transportation process in the State of Oregon.
“In principle, do you support _any_ government subsidy of any particular program by non-users?”
This is not a one size fits all question.
“For example, do you support the notion of public schools, even when paid for by the property taxes of childless homeowners? (For the record, I do, but I’d like to know your thoughts.)”
Having lived in Portland all my life, I went to K-12 in the Portland Public School system with class sizes from 32 to 40 students each. One exception was an elective photography class I took in high school that was limited to 12 students per class. Students had to instructor approval before taking the class. The classroom had no windows, was like a large oversized closet and was cramped with twelve students and an instructor in there. The photo lab only had three enlargers, so students had to share equipment. I gave you this information because it is a prelude to my answer. I support a basic education paid for through property taxes, similar to an updated version of what I received when others paid the bill. What I do not support is property taxes paying for things like the schools being everything to everybody, the schools providing after school baby sitter service for parents, mini classes of much less than 30 students, luxury McMansion schools and the high cost of taxpayer paid educator benefits. I think PPS wastes taxpayer dollars, teaches too much opinion rather than requiring students to think for themselves, has an overpaid superintendent and the system must make a decision to use books or computers for in each class, but not both. I however oppose closing neighborhood schools when they are a fabric of the neighborhood. I also oppose Portland’s tax abatement and urban renewal policies whereby TODs and high density complexes escape paying property taxes that support schools and other government services. Such policies shift too much of the tax burden for these services onto other property owners. The one exception I make to the tax abatement policies is for basic housing for truly low income people.
“Do you favor the implementation and results of past programs such as the Rural Electrification act, which taxed all electricity ratepayers for the subsidy and benefit of rural areas?”
I do not know a whole lot about the Rural Electrification Act, but from what I do know I say yes because it helped take America out of the horse and buggy era. Electricity like telecommunications has become a modern day basic need. As I understand it, the act paid for the distribution system, but consumers still pay for the product (electricity) supplied through it.
“If you _do_ support some government subsidies/redistribution, what in particular makes Transportation funding something which absolutely should not be redistributed?”
Everybody uses the sidewalks, so sidewalks should be equally funded by all users. Beyond that people make choices, to drive, use transit or bike. By making those choices, people need to financially support by a direct means the choice they make, and not expect taxes on another mode of transport to support the infrastructure for the choice made. No system of taxation is perfect, but with motor vehicles paying approximately 90% of the road costs, transit fares covering only 20% of the costs of transit operations and bicyclists directly taxed zero for bicycle infrastructure, the payment system for choice of mode is extremely out of balance. A paradigm shift is needed. The percentages between modes should be much closer to equaling each other for the examples given. So to answer your question, there are probably some minor exceptions, but in general transportation funding should not be redistributed.
Now let me ask you a couple of questions.
If you believe motorist paid transportation dollars should be re-distributed to other modes of transport, then would you support the users of other modes of transport also be directly taxed to pay for freeway expansion, and why or why not?
Would you support taxes on DSL & Cable providing any one that can not afford internet service or only has 56K taxpayer subsidized home DSL or Cable service? How about cell phone users being taxed to provide everybody who can not afford one a free cell picture phone and service? Are these basic needs?
…like the schools being everything to everybody, the schools providing after school baby sitter service for parents, mini classes of much less than 30 students, luxury McMansion schools and the high cost of taxpayer paid educator benefits.
Funny, that’s how I think we should set the standard for highways to accommodate SOVs and paid for with my income tax dollars… With an eye toward minimalism.
Electricity like telecommunications has become a modern day basic need.
Aren’t low-cost transportation options like cycling a modern day basic need? It fits your requirement of the distribution system (roads and paths) being generally subsidized while users pay directly for using the service (the bicycle itself, its maintenance and fuel costs).
If you believe motorist paid transportation dollars should be re-distributed to other modes of transport…
Isn’t it the case that (with the possible exception of some percentage of the federal funding) the only car-oriented user fees that get disbursed to Trimet are go directly to the LIFT program? The two largest sources of funding are payroll tax and direct user fees. Do fuel tax/license fees even enter into Trimet’s other services?
Everybody uses the sidewalks, so sidewalks should be equally funded by all users.
The Cost of Congestion to the Economy of the Portland Region”
I have read it, I don’t remember any analysis of the relative number of jobs. Some of those costs are almost certainly in the form of more jobs, not fewer. The fact is that other public investments are far more important to the economy of Portland than transportation.
Many of my old neighbors have not been given a choice or opportunity with jobs and education to where they can move out of this zone that is poisioning them
North Portland is now more expensive than Rockwood and an awful lot of other suburbs. No one is trapped there by economics.
the planned congestion which has been a significant contributor in making this area the 3rd worse air quality zone in the nation.
There is no “planned congestion”. But I did not consider the impact of air emissions in my statement on congestion being the perfect market. But the emissions come from traffic, not congestion, and I am not sure how adding more traffic helps solve that problem although it certainly needs to be addressed. EJAG (Environmental Justice Action Group) has been doing a pretty good job of raising this issue.
“paid for with my income tax dollars”
Income tax dollars do not pay for highways. Motorist paid fuel taxes do, and SUVs and other light trucks pay a greater share proportionate to their use.
“an eye toward minimalism”
A good definition of the bicycling culture.
“Aren’t low-cost transportation options like cycling a modern day basic need?”
The lowest cost option is to walk. Bicycle infrastructure is not a basic need, even for bicyclists. There are plenty of streets that motorists pay for that do not carry heavy traffic that bicyclists can use. Bicyclists just want their own version of expressways (bike lanes), but want somebody else to pay for them. If bicycling itself fulfilled a basic need, the subsidy would be the bicycle, not bicycle infrastructure.
Income tax dollars do not pay for highways.
How many times do you have to be directed to the federal government’s own documentation to the contrary before you stop repeating this falsehood? Where do you think the “General Fund Appropriations” come from?
[Minimalism is] A good definition of the bicycling culture.
I think proudly so.
Ross & Other Like Minded,
The report “The Cost of Congestion to the Economy of the Portland Region” stated in the Executive Summary:
“Failure to invest adequately in transportation improvements will result in a potential loss value of $844 million annually by 2025 – that’s $782 per household — and 6,500 jobs. It equates to 118,000 hours of vehicle travel per day – that’s 28 hours of travel time per household annually”;
Additional regional investment in transportation would generate a benefit of at least $2 for each dollar spent”.
Ross, I do not want to say that you are not informed but when you read this Cost of Congestion Report, your apparent elitest bias of anti; roads, highways, jobs, and people of need stance shows through. This bias may have just prevented you from reading and understanding what this report provided the rest of us.
In refering to transportation investment Ross said: “The fact is that other public investment is far more important to the economy of Portland then transportation.” Yes Ross, education but when it comes to brick and mortar there is nothing else that compares to transportation. Most people do not realize how job dependant we are to having reasonable transportation infrastructure that allows our region to be competitive in the world marketplace. Approximately two thirds of the local jobs have a high freight-mobility dependancy. If our local congestion raises the cost of doing business in the Portland Region companies just uproot and move someplace where they can operate more competitively, its just common sense.
In refering to North Portland and the choices or opportunities given to gain JOB’s and an education to where they can move out of this zone (3rd worse air quality in the nation) that is poisioning them, Ross said:
“North Portland is now more expensive then Rockwood and a awful lot of other suburbs. No one is traped there by economics.”
We all know that it more then demographics and some comparision to Rockwood, this is about people of need where the highest level of government dollars are being redistributed to support social programs then any place in the City of Portland and the State of Oregon. The north Portland area has the highest level of airborn illness and the greatest number of residents with no health insurance and/or a total reliance on the Oregon Health Plan. The precentage of un-employed is one of the highest in our state and region. The fact that property values are going up is a statement of the plight of providing housing to people of need. Some people do not understand and that maybe you, but because my father had job (he created it) we got out. I remember, I care, I know that I was lucky and I am not going to forget. The type of family wage JOB’s that many of these reidents of north Portland need will have a 90% reliance on freight mobility and biasic rubber tire transportation methods and capabilities. The total health of a family supported by JOB, not government handouts cannot have a value placed on it.
“Planned Congestion” and the fll out and ripple from it needs to be understood and fully explained.
If you go to a Fred Meyer Store or any of the other major well managed and planned other like type estiblishments you see a huge number of check stands setup to service the needs of their customers. They may not all be open but they know that with their business plan that they will generate these customers and traffic. It comes in surges i.e. peak periods. This is not un-like what we see on our roads and highways with AM and PM peak period rush hours of congestion. Businesses plan to accommodate these needs because they know that if they do not their customers will go someplace else to do their business. Its almost amazing when you go into a store and see this long line of checkstands and often more then half are empty. It is called scheduling and store management knows when he customer are going to need the level of service at their checkstands. Metro, City of Portland, and ODOT know and have known what our needs are and have prioritized other transportation investments. In doing so they knew what they were doing. They know and still know that for example that the I-5 corridor has traffic counts and project area growth between the Marquam Bridge and the Interstate Bridges to where the existing number of lanes available on the roads and highways is less then 50% of the needed real capacity. Well funded and planned social engineering efforts and what is called Transportation Demand Management (TDM) has had some minor success in moving people to alternate transit methods but at what cost and what has been the net effect on existing congestion? The answer is very little I am sorry to say. We need more people using alternate methods of transportation then rubber tire vehicles. So they tired to lead the hourse to water and make him drink and he did a little and when you quite reminding him and/or re-enforcing the reasons they go back doing what they have always done. Net result the I-5 corridor is at a measured level of congestion of LOS “F” for 6 to 80-hours per day and getting worse. That is as bad as you can get and Metro, City of Portland and ODOT know that and do not have a plan to change it. Some will try to tell you that replacing the Interstate Bridges with a new and large replacement bridge over the Columbia River will solve the problem. They want to even throw in a new bridge to extend Light Rail into Vancouver/Clark County Washington. A new wide Interstate Bridge (CRC Project) would invite in more traffic into the corridor and make congestion even worse because most of this traffic in the peak periods travels through the 2 and 3-lane that make up the I-5 corridor between the Columbia River and the Marquam Bridge in southeast Portland. I learned when I was young how a funnel works so it does not take a rocket scientist to tell me and Metro, City of Portland and ODOT what will happen when 6 to 8-lane of traffic coming off of this new CRC Bridge will find trying to fit into the rest of the 2 and 3-lane I-5 corridor getting two and from work. I think getting Light Rail Transit (LRT) extended into Vancouver/Clark County Washington will help, it has too. The problem is that I know and I know that Metro, City of Portland and ODOT know that the net effect of extending LRT across the Columbia River will only reduce congestion in the I-5 corridor by maybe 5%. Most people do not know that projections are that this line coming out of Vancouver/Clark County Washington will have a maximum ridership of approximately 3% to 5% of the commuters currently in the I-5 corridor. What that tells you and me that the current plans getting advanced by Metro, City of Portland and ODOT will have little or NO effect on solving the problems of congestion in the I-5 corridor. When you have the facts and don’t do anything to solve the problem and you know that their are alternatives that will solve the I-5 corridor congestion problems that is “Planned Congestion”.
I like the people at the Environmental Justice Action Group (EJAG) and they are a bright light. There is nothing that I have said, that I have not said to the leadership of EJAG and that they have confirmed as factual on emission levels/air quality in north Portland. Its terrible and it is poisioning the people who live there. This takes more then a village, it takes people who know that what is happening wrong and to press that alternatives MUST BE FOUND to this congestion that is a piece and part of a much bigger problem.
A new wide Interstate Bridge (CRC Project) would invite in more traffic into the corridor and make congestion even worse because most of this traffic in the peak periods travels through the 2 and 3-lane that make up the I-5 corridor between the Columbia River and the Marquam Bridge in southeast Portland. I learned when I was young how a funnel works so it does not take a rocket scientist to tell me and Metro, City of Portland and ODOT what will happen when 6 to 8-lane of traffic coming off of this new CRC Bridge will find trying to fit into the rest of the 2 and 3-lane I-5 corridor getting two and from work.
I agree with your conclusion, but I think you miss the reality. A lot of the traffic actually gets off I-5 and goes into the Columbia corridor and to Swan Island, as well as Downtown/Lloyd Center. The problem is not I-5, the problem is that the entire Portland street network can’t handle the flood of vehicles. The congestion being relieved in Washington will be quickly spread out across Portland before it reappears after another spurt of housing contruction in rural Clark County.
I think getting Light Rail Transit (LRT) extended into Vancouver/Clark County Washington will help, it has too.
I am not convinced it will if it is combined with a much wider freeway bridge. The problem is that you have to provide opportunities for people who want to use transit to live in Clark County including other transit and walkable neighborhoods with local services. But there is no political will to make the land use changes that would really encourage that. Why would someone want to live in a TOD in Vancouver and work in Portland unless there was a huge price difference?
Ross, I do not want to say that you are not informed but when you read this Cost of Congestion Report, your apparent elitest bias of anti; roads, highways, jobs, and people of need stance shows through.
I admit to a bias. My bias is for building communities that serve people including providing jobs, pleasant neighborhoods, safe streets and clean air and water. However, that is not the problem the Cost of Congestion report addresses. Instead it assumes that investments in brick and mortar will lower congestion costs. I doubt that is true, it just moves the congestion around. You add two more cars to the line at each of ten parking garages and add 20 seconds to everyone’s wait.
If our local congestion raises the cost of doing business in the Portland Region companies just uproot and move someplace where they can operate more competitively, its just common sense.
I think you are mixing and matching here. We need to distinguish between traded sector businesses like Intel, Nike and Freightliner, that bring money into the region, and businesses which serve people who live here. The local Fred Meyer stores are not going anywhere, neither are the local wharehouses that serve them. The Fred Meyer HQ is more of a traded sectore operation, like any corporate HQ, and may well be closed by Kroger and moved elsewhere. But transportation costs won’t have anything to do with it.
Those traded sector jobs that really drive the local economy in Portland are increasingly dependent on things like education and livability. Intel is located in Portland because they can attract the best and brightest minds in the country. Nike likewise depends on attracting star employees.
Take away a vibrant downtown Portland, waterfront park and the west bank esplanade and those companies could plop down anyplace in the country next to all the other suburban campuses. That is an exagerration, because Portland has a lot of desireable qualities including its natural environment. But the point is it is not the costs of transportation that ought to drive this discussion, its what kind of community is being created and how attractive it is. A good transporation system is part of that, but not the most important part.
you see a huge number of check stands setup to service the needs of their customers. They may not all be open but they know that with their business plan that they will generate these customers and traffic.
I have yet to see a grocery store that did not have long lines at the cash registers during its busiest times. Most are managed to have a short line all the time. Of course the cost is really the checker, not the check stand.
You will notice most suburban stores also have far more parking spaces than they need. But that is not true of a lot of inner city stores where the cost of providing parking is much higher.
That is as bad as you can get
LOS F is not as bad as you can get. Its simply the lowest level acknowledged by traffic engineers. LOS E is still free flowing traffic. You can tell the difference between the different levels of level F as easily as you can the rest of the levels of service. Here is one description(PDF).
htey have confirmed as factual on emission levels/air quality in north Portland. Its terrible and it is poisioning the people who live there. This takes more then a village, it takes people who know that what is happening wrong and to press that alternatives MUST BE FOUND to this congestion
Its not at all clear that adding capacity to relieve the congestion will relieve the air pollution that you are referring to. Pollution from the added vehicles that use the freeway as a result may make matters worse even in the short run. And in the long run, the congestion will come back.
The way to deal with air pollution is to get people out of their autos and onto transit. Or working and shopping closer to home. The place to start on that is with congestion pricing on the existing bridges, using the proceeds to pay for alternatives including light rail or other transit.
uh – east bank esplanade.
Paul, where did you get this “third worst air quality” statement? I seriously doubt that is true.
The first time I saw it reported that north Portland had the 3rd worse air quality in the nation was in the Oregonian. We all know it is hard to believe most anything in the Oregonian, so I asked the EJAG environmental people and they confirmed that fact. It was stated that Oregon testing methods were far more accurate then other places and states. We maybe further down the list but in other places they do not want people to know how bad they have it and it might envoke some real constraints on their economy so it is better that know one knows. At least in Oregon most people care like I do and know that even if we are not the 3rd worse but close to it that is not good enough. It has also been stated that the bad air conditions in Portland are directly affected by the PGE coal power plant in Boardman.
As I recall, the federally required Environmental Impact Statement did not show any significant improvement to air quality with the construction of I-Max as designed. A friend of mine is drives/operates one of the Max trains on the weekday afternoon and evening runs on Interstate Avenue. To hear him tell it, congestion on Interstate Avenue is a complete disaster. The city made a big mistake by not retaining motor vehicle two lanes in each direction. I do not remember who exactly said it, but it either came from PDOT, Metro or elected official(s) that as a direct quote “some congestion is good”. That supports the hypothesize Paul made congestion is being planned.
“How many times do you have to be directed to the federal government’s own documentation to the contrary before you stop repeating this falsehood? Where do you think the “General Fund Appropriations” come from?”
Falsehood, I think not Clay. Look at the disbursement of those other funds and accounts. They go for mostly Non-highway Purposes and Mass Transportation. There is also a footnote in one of the columns note that reads “State funds that could not be identified at this time.” That does not apply in Oregon since Oregon does not use income taxes for motor vehicle improvements to roads. There is also a significant amount taken from the Highway Trust Fund Account for Mass Transportation, in other words gas tax revenues subsidize Federal Mass Transit Grants.
Income taxes do not pay for highways.
Yes falsehood. The fact is that the costs of highways are paid for with a variety of taxes, including gas, income and property taxes. Your real question remains, what, if anything, are motorists entitled to because they are burning gasoline that is taxed. Its not clear to me that is the correct question.
An even better, or at least more important, question is the same as it is for all taxes: what is the best use of tax proceeds to serve the taxpayers. Investing in transit, bike and other alternatives that remove vehicles from the road is far less costly than paying for more road capacity that is needed only at rush hour.
For those who choose to stay in their vehicles and drive during rush hour, paying for transit is the best way to spend taxes regardless of their source. In short, it is cheaper to pay to help people stay off the road, or use a bike lane, than it is to pay for more road space.
Again Terry, the FHA’s own state-by-state breakdown disagrees with your undocumented assertion, showing that over 43% of funds collected in Oregon for highway pusposes came from non-user sources including appropriations from the general fund and property taxes.
(Note these are the latest 2004 stats. The link I provided above went to 2003.)
In short, it is cheaper to pay to help people stay off the road, or use a bike lane, than it is to pay for more road space.
That’s an excellent point, and one that helps clarify intent. Is one’s intention to get as many cars as possible onto the roads? Is it to get as many non-car vehicles as possible off the road? Is it to conform to some idealogical motive with little regard to pragmatic concerns? Or is it to expend the least amount of capital to facilitate the movement of those who must/insist on driving cars?
… Is it to conform to some idealogical motive …
It seems to me the purpose of a transportation system is to give access to services, jobs, recreation, etc. This is why it is intimately tied to land use. But, like all collective decisions, the decisions about how best to meet that need have to be balanced against other community values: Clean air, safety, esthetics etc.
I do not understand how some of you guys can reference one Federal Highway Administration document, but refuse to accept another document from the same source. Is it just self motivation? I have repeatedly quoted one such Federal Highway Administration document that states: “As a class, automobiles pay the same share of federal highway user fees as their share of highway costs, but pickups, vans, sport utility vehicles, and similar light trucks pay substantially more than their share of highway costs.” You can not just close your eyes and pretend the Feds did not make such a statement. Criticizing the FHA document I provided is no less than criticizing your own FHA source document too. Transportation budgets are made up from various sources. Financial contributions made to those budgets from motorists (fuel taxes, license & registration fees, taxes on other automotive products, etc.), when compared with disbursements – motorists as a mode of transport for the most part pay for the roads on which they drive. Some of those costs for roads even include hidden costs for things like sidewalks and bike lanes that are not necessarily separated out on some charts and graphs. Some projects also include as part of the road costs everything from stream restoration to recreational trails. It is motorists that will be paying the bike and ped trails planned for the Columbia Slough that have become part of the Delta Park I-5 widening project. That is a direct 100% subsidy to those modes by motorists, but considered part of highway costs.
Personally I am not going to spend my time researching documents on the web to counter the position of hardcore non-believers when others like JK have already done so, and demonstrated motor vehicles cover 90% of road costs. That is a far higher self-efficiency rating than TriMet’s own computations that show transit fares cover only 20% of transit operation costs, nor does it change the fact the bicyclists are not directly taxed or pay a direct user fee making bicycle infrastructure 100% subsidized.
As a class, automobiles pay the same share of federal highway user fees as their share of highway costs, but pickups, vans, sport utility vehicles, and similar light trucks pay substantially more than their share of highway costs.”
As a class of what? If you want to debate whether heavy trucks pay their fair share that statement might be relevant. But we aren’t talking about the distribution of taxes and fees among different classes of motor vehicles. We are talking about the best way to spend tax dollars to meet transportation needs.
That is a far higher self-efficiency rating than TriMet’s own computations that show transit fares cover only 20% of transit operation costs,
As I pointed out above, “it is cheaper to pay to help people stay off the road, or use a bike lane, than it is to pay for more road space.”
Even the 80% cost of a transit trip not covered by fares is still a savings over the cost of paying to create the capacity for an auto trip for that same person during rush hour.
motor vehicles cover 90% of road costs.
Given the cost of roads, that means there is a pretty hefty bill being paid by someone else.
And I suspect the 90% claim is an exaggeration if you look at all the costs. So the real bill is probably even larger.
I don’t believe motorists have any special entitlement just because they are burning gasoline which is taxed. I think we ought to be spending those tax dollars in the most efficient way possible. Its silly to spend tax money on road space for someone who is willing and able to take transit, walk or ride a bike at 1% of the cost or carpool at no extra cost at all.
Yes Terry, you have repeatedly referenced this report which has nothing at all to say about the overall funding structure of the highway system. The report presents the results of a comparison of equity ratios between the costs of supporting specific classes of vehicles and the average amount each class pays in highway user fees. That’s it. The report does not account for non-user funding sources not because they don’t exist but because they’re not germane to the study.