Archive | April, 2007

Business Week Highlights Fatal Flaw in Private Toll Roads

Business Week has a great article (“Roads to Riches”) this week on the sell-off or leasing of public infrastructure to private companies. Bottom line, it’s a GREAT investment opportunity.

The reason why it’s such a great investment is exactly the fatal flaw from a public point of view: the ability to increase tolls sharply. The idea is that the private companies can charge tolls that politicians who are accountable to voters could not get away with. So the political calculus is: current officeholder gets the credit for a one time revenue boost (or new projects in lieu of cash). When the chickens come home to roost, someone else is in office and says: “don’t blame me, I didn’t cut this deal and I can’t break the contract.”

This is what Peter DeFazio called “outsourcing our political will.”

Guerilla Streetcar Stop Activity

Taking a ride downtown on Friday I encountered some interesting sights at Streetcar stops in NW Portland. Did others see this? I’m curious if whoever did it covered the whole line. [They didn’t, I checked a few more locations on Saturday.]

I love the health/pedestrian activism, and I’d love to thank whoever put out the impromptu cigarette butt mitigation.

Are they related?

Anyone want to take credit?

Picture049_27Apr07

Picture050_27Apr07

Picture051_27Apr07

The Challenges of Governing

It’s hard to think of a more assertive alternative transportation advocate then Rex Burkholder.

Yet now in elected office and chair of JPACT, which sets transportation policy for the region, he’s getting criticized for not being bold enough by some advocates. This is highlighted in an interview in the Daily Journal of Commerce today.

My two cents: Rex is doing an excellent thing in making the Regional Transportation Plan “outcomes-based.” But it’s also true that the politics is the art of the possible. And I’m concerned that the “community building” track of the RTP is far too mobility-oriented, because of the influence of interests that are still in denial about issues like global warming and peak oil. I’m also worried that the RTP timelines will not allow for the detailed modeling and analysis of many scenarios that would really help us understand how to optimize the outcomes.

But I’m still rooting for Rex.

Feeling Empowered

I must say I am pleasantly surprised by the personal impact (on me) of the new crosswalks on NW 23rd.

Now I’m a fairly assertive pedestrian. I’ll walk out into a crosswalk if there is a reasonable gap and hold out my hand to stop the cars (as is my right under Oregon law if they are more than 50 feet from the intersection). Interestingly that gesture is now in the process of being encapsulated in Oregon law.

Anyway, what I find with the new crosswalks is that I’m doing this more frequently, and with the cars perhaps a little closer. It’s as though the crosswalks have shifted the balance of power between me and the cars.