Whoops! Did I say that?

Update: 12/18/06

Rex’s piece ran as an op-ed in today’s O, with a response piece from Gregg Weston of OTAK.

Gregg’s comeback is that we should set “audacious goals” for transportation.

Hmmm… should our transportation goals be audacious? Or should our transportation goals be modest and our land use goals audacious? Or some combination thereof?

Original Post: 12/12/06

“Every penny we spend on transportation is wasted.”

Oregonian, November 27, 2006

Whoops! Did I say that? I guess it’s a fine line between provoking constructive debate and confusing people.

Admittedly, my remarks probably did more of the latter. If I have offended any of the committed, hard working transportation engineers, planners and construction crews, or my fellow policy makers and transportation advocates, I am truly sorry.

The point I was trying to make is that travel isn’t free. We need to see it as a cost to avoid or minimize. In this region, government’s annual tab is about $600 million. But even that is dwarfed by how much average families spend to own and operate the cars they need — more than $6 billion a year — ten times what the government spends.

So as we map out our transportation future, there are two ways we can get people to where they need to go and keep commerce moving reliably, and save us all time and money. One, design our communities so that people can perform everyday tasks without having to travel as far. After all, only one in five trips is work related. Two, provide more choices to get around efficiently: safe, appealing sidewalks, bike lanes, and good transit, all so that people can choose something other than sitting in traffic jams.

Granted, many people still live far away from where they need to go on a daily basis. And for others, circumstances change: ­ jobs may move further away or kids change schools. But this shouldn’t force people to leave houses and neighborhoods they like. We’ll all still take weekend trips and have to run errands in the car. Freight will still move on trucks.

Rest assured, I recognize we will need to invest in new roads as well as maintain the ones we’ve got so that car travel and business commerce remains viable.

But as we grow, we owe it to ourselves to build more old-fashioned neighborhoods like the one I live in, with jobs and stores close to home, good, reliable transit, and streets safe to walk and bike along — so that people have the freedom to live less expensive, less transportation-intensive lives. That not only equates to more time doing the things we value, like spending time with friends and family, but it’s also a direct benefit for those who still need to make daily car trips and for time-critical truck deliveries and business travel, because our roads will be less congested.

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