Sprawl Will Trump Fuel Efficiency

Via Planetizen:

A new report (as reported in the Detroit Free Press) from the Urban Land Institute suggests that increased Vehicle Miles Traveled due to sprawl will increase greenhouse gas production faster than more efficient vehicles will reduce them.

Compare that to our region, where we are keeping VMT constant or reducing it slightly even as our population grows. Land Use planning is going to be critical to dealing with Global Warming.

49 responses to “Sprawl Will Trump Fuel Efficiency”

  1. From the Columbian.

    “Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to allow development on 19 square miles of rural Clark County , a major step in the county’s long journey from sleepy military and farming community into full-fledged metropolis.

    It was among the biggest urban expansions since the state of Washington started regulating growth in 1994, and might be the biggest ever, a state planner said.

    Businesses will line long streches of Interstate 5, state Highway 503 and the north shore of Lacamas Lake . Hundreds of acres of new residential subdivisions, apartments and row homes will be allowed on the outskirts of each city in the county except Yacolt.”

    The only more irresponsible thing that could happen is for folks on the other side of the river to agree to feed this sprawl with more freeway connections. If they want to build houses, they need to attract jobs first. Because the development they are planning can’t be supported by transit connections to the jobs in Portland. And Portland is crazy if it lets them flood the city with their automobiles.

  2. Clark County is growing because Portland won’t! I wonder how much economic opportunity Portland is losing with it’s “smart growth” or shall we say “anti-growth” stance? They’ve already chased away a lot of companies, let’s send even more packing (to Clark County, WA).

  3. Portland has actually been really successful at creating economic and job growth in the small to medium business sector. We’re generating tons of small but notable restaurants and retailers and the style of urban planning in Portland directly contributes to that.

    You don’t hear much about it because it’s not the sort of “job growth” that gets media play like the addition of a new plant that supplies hundreds or thousands of jobs in one fell swoop. But, overall, you get more bang (or jobs)for your buck developing the smaller business sector than trying to attract large corporations.

    Also, we have actually generated new industries in Portland… and the biggest economic and industrial grown has been in the creative services sector and the sustainable industries sector. But there are also other notable ongoing (MAX train manufacturing) and upcoming (Street car manufacturing) industries in the metals/transportation sector.

    Not to mention all of the trades and construction employment generated by the development in the URAs.

    We’ve also attracted Google, and numerous clothing/active wear manufacturing operations like Keen Shoes…and a couple of Women’s active wear companies whose name escapes me at the moment.

    So… if Portland is chasing away companies, they’re certainly filling the void that is left behind with some pretty forward thinking industries and small businesses.

  4. I wonder how many of your little botique style “small” companies would fill the void if, say, Intel packed up and left?

  5. Of course, in the real world, Portland isn’t “chasing away” any companies. With one exception, every company I can think of that “left” Portland did so for business reasons (such as Georgia-Pacific relocating to Atlanta because nearly all of its operations were in the south) or because they were absorbed by a larger company (a very long list).

    The only company I can think of that “left” Portland was Columbia Sportswear, because they’d outgrown their own space and couldn’t find a satisfactory replacement space. They had an eye on a riverfront parcel south of OMSI, but it wasn’t zoned the way they wanted it and the City didn’t jump to offer them preferential treatment. (Imagine that! Requiring businesses to play by the rules. Outrageous!) But while they moved — gasp — a whole two miles outside Portland to find a parcel of land that was right for them, the company remained in the area and still provides jobs locally and supports the region’s economy. They even have a “Portland” mailing address. So while they technically left the City of Portland, they didn’t go far.

    But go ahead, Greg (or anyone else): Prove me wrong. Name some businesses that actually were “chased away” from Portland.

  6. And let me add, Greg, you can’t use Columbia Sportswear as an example of a business that was chased away. You just defined “Intel” as a Portland company that might leave, meaning that you’re defining “Portland” as the entire Metro region. Columbia Sportswear didn’t leave the Metro area; they just moved from Portland to Beaverton.

    So I’m waiting. Real world examples of actual, named companies that have been “chased away” from the Portland Metro area, please? Any examples over, say, the past forty years will do.

  7. let’s just name a few….

    U.S. Bancorp
    Fred Meyer
    North Pacific Group
    (soon to be) PacifiCorp

    What does that leave as far as big companies? NOTHING! And don’t say OHSU because OHSU is the government. Portland is the only city its size that has NIL for big companies.

  8. And, the PDC actually works with the other regions when they are unable to locate appropriate properties for businesses inside the city of Portland. So, I imagine that they had a hand with helping Columbia find their site just outside of Portland, as well.

  9. U.S. Bancorp – bought out, not “chased out” by First Bank System in 1997

    Fred Meyer – bought out by Kroger, still headquarterd in Portland

    North Pacific Group – headquartered in Portland

    PacifiCorp – headquartered in Oregon

  10. Last thing I read, Columbia Sportswear was eyeing a move back into Portland. Seems all their “creative types” hate commuting to the ‘burbs. Go figure…

  11. I would note that Intel has an interesting problem. They rotate employees between sites as part of their career path system. But a lot of employees get to Oregon and don’t want to leave, even if it slows their career growth.

    It must be really awful out there in Hillsboro :-)

  12. Columbia Sportswear took a serious look at moving back into Portland, but decided it would cost too much, as compared to expanding their Beaverton campus.

    Greg, I’m still waiting for your list of companies that have been “chased out” of Portland. Companies that were bought out by larger companies (such as Willamette Industries, which was absorbed by Weyerhauser in a hostile takeover in 2002) don’t count. I’m talking about companies that actually got up and left because they found it too hard to do business here.

    Come on. This isn’t rocket science. You said “They’ve already chased away a lot of companies.” Your words. So you must know of some specific companies that got “chased away.” Do share this information with the rest of us.

  13. Ok, I was wrong (still not too bellicose to admit being wrong) anyway… I should have worded it “Portland has chased away many corporate headquarter offices”

  14. Again, Greg, “chased away…” who, exactly? There have been a lot of corporations that were bought out by larger companies. Georgia Pacific left for Atlanta because nearly all of its industrial operations were in the South. (And if they hadn’t moved, they’d still be gone today; the company was obliterated in 2005 by a buy-out.)

    But which “corporate headquarter offices” left becauseof the City of Portland or Metro? I’m willing to bet you can’t name any.

  15. Vancouver.s Plan: “Businesses lining I-5” Do we need more congestion on I-5? Better to have a different corridor. Infilling on I-5 will only worsen the existing congestion. I hope Vancouver seriously looks at concentrating development in the Columbia River waterfront area near their AMTRAK station.

    Re: Greg T’s businesses moving out: Freightliner is in that category isn’t it? Also some of the big ship repair yards have moved out. Cascade General, I think is one of them. Maybe Lenny Anderson knows….

  16. I second what Ross said.

    Metro really needs to sit Clark County down and have a serious discussion about this. There are already 60,000 people from Vancouver going to and from their jobs, Portlanders aren’t going to tolerate any more.

  17. Metro really needs to sit Clark County down and have a serious discussion about this.


    Why do you think Metro can bully a jurisdiction in another state? The only reason this phenomena is happening is because of Oregon’s backwards anti-growth laws. It’s no wonder the state, out of state special interest groups and the state workers union are bankrolling the yes on M49 campaign. They are fearful of losing what little control they have left. What’s it going to take for Portland to wake up? Clark County becoming more populous than Portland? We can only hope….


    You won’t be saying that when gas hits $8/gallon.

    I don’t think many Portlanders that live along the interstates would be too happy after finding out that their homes are going to get bulldozed so some schmo in Vancouver can get to his job in Wilsonville 2 minutes earlier.

  19. This region is not chasing businesses away; Greg has still not provided a valid example. I moved here in 2005 to get out of a true cultural and economic backwater–Spokane. Spokane has had strong job growth, but a large proportion of new and existing jobs are minimum wage or close to it. As a result, employers view them as expendable and most industries have huge turnover as people move from one minimum-wage job to the next.

    At the time, the 2004 Places Rated Almanac rated Portland something like the #10 metro area in the nation in projected high-wage job growth. That, plus the increased diversity and cultural and political sanity, is why we’re in this metro area. My salary here is triple what I was making in Spokane.

    Interestingly, I heard the same lame argument when I lived in Spokane. Spokane was “chasing away” employers, while North Idaho was attracting them, because Washington State has MILD anti-sprawl regs and a higher minimum wage than Idaho. The factual truth is that residential construction has been a frenzy in North Idaho, where there are no laws, but the percentage of North Idahoans who commute to Spokane County has also increased steadily.

    I believe the same is true here (correct me if I am wrong)–lots of residential construction in Clark County and a higher percentage who commute to Oregon.

    I haven’t looked at the new Places Rated Almanac, but the web site indicates that Portland is now rated #4 in the nation overall, up from something like #17 in the 2004 edition. And we get these types of ratings pretty consistently in magazine and newspaper “best places to live” lists.

  20. Why do you think Metro can bully a jurisdiction in another state?

    They can’t. But then officials in Clark County can’t expect Portland to provide jobs for a bunch of people who live in sprawling development which can’t be served by transit.

    What Metro can do is make it clear that Portland is at the limit of the number of vehicles it can accommodate from Clark County. If they want an increase in capacity across the river, its going to have to come by increasing the number of people in each vehicle, not by adding more traffic to Portland streets.

    You won’t be saying that when gas hits $8/gallon.

    I don’t think that really matters. It costs close to $.50 per mile to drive now. Adding another $.20 /mile to the cost isn’t going to have a huge impact on people’s willingness to drive if that is the only alternative available to them.

    I don’t think many Portlanders that live along the interstates would be too happy after finding out that their homes are going to get bulldozed so some schmo in Vancouver can get to his job in Wilsonville 2 minutes earlier.

    Worse, when they find out that all its really doing is allowing people to get to their jobs in the Columbia Corridor and downtown Portland faster than the folks who live along the freeway in North Portland. And when, and if, they realize they are sitting in lines at ramp meters designed to speed up the trips for those folks who buy those new houses in rural Clark County.

  21. What Metro can do is make it clear that Portland is at the limit of the number of vehicles it can accommodate from Clark County.

    I would like to see them add an additional income tax on people who work in Oregon but live in Washington….. Plus, I think they should charge a sales tax to Washingtonians shopping in Oregon as well.

  22. re corporate HQs in Portland. I work with two North American HQs on/near Swan Island, Freightliner and adidasAmerica.
    Freightliner has moved production of the “Freightliner” brand trucks to North Carolina and are building a new plant in Mexico…both locations are closer to customers and suppliers. The second shift was layed off.
    “Western Star” trucks and trucks for the US military are still built in Portland. A new contract for the latter and/or more sales of WS Trucks could bring back the 2nd shift.
    Freightliner HQ is talking about moving a few hundred or about 10% of their white collar jobs to NC where most of their production is. Engineering for now is still going strong in Portland.
    From a business perspective one has to ask…”why are they in Portland at all?” Extra miles from customers, suppliers and their corporate HQ in Germany. Enjoy what you have while it lasts.
    re Clark county’s bail out on land use planning. Metro/Portland can simply say “no” to new freeway capacity across the River. Sam? Rex? are you reading this?
    Indeed, the Governors’ T-5 TF called for three thu lanes with up to two auxilary and/or arterial lanes in each direction; we currently have essentially two thru and one auxilary lane in each direction on I-5.
    Portland and Metro need to insist that any new roadway capacity must be on arterial bridges…one with Light Rail and another with heavy rail; a total of 4 lanes as called for by the TF. Remove substandard ramps from I-5 to provide the three thru lanes called for.
    And of course, provide high capacity transit, i.e. lightrail as well as a real bike/ped facility. The bridge is really our only leverage point; we need to use it to protect our neighborhoods.

  23. I would like to see them bring truly high speed rail to the Pacific NW including stops in Portland and Vancouver. They should have put this in for the Olympics. If they can put in a 6billion bridge, why can’t they get rid of Amtrak and replace it with something better?

  24. My company, (70 people,) “left Portland” to move to Beaverton. Of course, part of the justification was because we were on a mediocre (every half hour) bus line in the west hills, and you couldn’t really bike to the office from anywhere either, and now we are right next to a MAX station, and as such, 5 years after the move, we went from 93% SOVs commuting to 63%… So we might not exactly be the example you are looking for.

  25. I would like to see them add an additional income tax on people who work in Oregon but live in Washington….. Plus, I think they should charge a sales tax to Washingtonians shopping in Oregon as well.

    This will sound sacrilege on both sides of the river, but the first step should be tolling the Columbia River bridges. Clark County residents ought to pay SOME sort of taxes. This will be a baby step in the right direction. :-)

  26. Clark County is growing because their commissioners are corrupt; Washington has an urban growth boundary system in place and defeated their own version of measure 37; but Clark County is awash in private developer’s money – kind of what you find in Bend, Eugene and Salem (who are also massively sprawling).

    Vancouver, on the other hand, is embracing urbanism and densification of their city, but their efforts are coming into conflict with the county commissioners who are pro-sprawl.

    Luckily little of the $18 BILLION that the State of Wash is trying to raise in their Proposition 1 will go to Clark County; most will stay up north in Seattle – and much of that will go for mass transit (bus, lightrail, and commuter trains).

    We’re just dealing with little podunk-ville politics from across the river; hence the name: Vantucky.

  27. Vancouver, on the other hand, is embracing urbanism and densification of their city, but their efforts are coming into conflict with the county commissioners who are pro-sprawl.

    I think it is important to distinguish between Vancouver and rural Clark County. The problem is the sprawling development around Vancouver, not growth in the city itself which can be served by transit.

  28. This obviously needs more complete study and analysis.

    Transit’s Role in Reducing Greenhouse Gases: No Big Deal

    To Capitol Hill fanfare, the American Public Transportation Association released its new study, Public Transit’s Contribution to U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions on September 26. The report is full of the usual big numbers for transit’s role in reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs). As is typical for reports covering the insignificant, the big numbers are never related to the much larger base of GHGs from personal transportation. If one believes the APTA numbers (which one does not, see below), transit use saves approximately 0.5 percent of GHGs attributable to personal transportation (cars, personal trucks or SUVs and transit).

    There are problems even with that number. More than 40 percent of the “savings” is an exaggerated estimate of the congestion reducing GHG reductions of transit. There is no doubt that, without transit use, there would be more congestion near the cores of the nation’s largest downtown areas (Manhattan, Chicago’s Loop, Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco, for example), but the impact would be slight in the rest of the county (places like Portland, Phoenix and perhaps Paducah), where the great bulk of the nation’s traffic congestion delay occurs. The Antiplanner and I showed a similar estimate to be highly exaggerated in a Heritage Foundation paper, The Contribution of Highways and Transit to Congestion Relief: A Realistic View, three years ago.

    All in all, a more reasonable figure for transit’s contribution might be 0.3 percent. Even that may be high. The APTA research only counts energy for propulsion (movement). Some estimates place the energy consumption at transit rail stations and maintenance facilities at a third above the propulsion figure.

    But that opens a whole new area of inquiry — full cost accounting of greenhouse gas emissions,. A full life-cycle accounting would include GHG emissions from construction of transit and highway systems, construction of vehicles, extraction of fuel for electricity generation and refining, disposal of vehicles and other materials, vehicle maintenance and administrative support.

    However, the news out of APTA is not that transit saves so much in GHGs. It is rather that, even with exaggeration and an apparent error, it saves so little. And things will get worse. The United States might be thought of as two nations in transit — New York and the rest of the country. In New York, transit plays a far more substantial role than anywhere else.

    Predictably, transit in New York is very GHG friendly. New York’s GHG emissions are well less than one-half that of transit elsewhere (and cars).

    Outside New York, the average automobile (not SUVs) is just about as GHG friendly as transit (see Greenhouse Gas Emissions: US Public Transport and Personal Modes).

    However, even New York’s advantage may be fleeting. Cars are becoming more fuel efficient, which is indicated by the hybrid and hybrid diesel data. Toyota’s Prius produces only 10 percent more GHGs per passenger mile than transit in New York. Hybrid diesel cars just entering the European market emit 22 percent less.

    So, as for transit’s contribution to GHG reduction — interesting, but no big deal considering that relatively tiny (and low-cost) improvements to automobiles will do far more to reduce GHG emissions without reducing people’s mobility or forcing people to change their travel habits.

    – writen by Wendell Cox…you can get links to the studies at http://www.ti.org/antiplanner/

  29. This obviously needs more complete study and analysis.

    I don’t know that another of Wendell Cox anti-transit screeds is even worthy of that much respect. He makes a long list of questionable assertions and then spins an even more questionable analysis.

    This basic claim, “relatively tiny (and low-cost) improvements to automobiles will do far more to reduce GHG”, may be true. But every time someone suggests regulations that set standards that would require those improvements, the auto companies all claim they are “large and high-cost”.

  30. “This obviously needs more complete study and analysis.”

    Clearly. Since they didn’t account for the number of parking spaces that would have to be built downtown in order to support more people driving if they didn’t take transit, they therefore didn’t account for the lower density that would be the result of those increase in parking, and therefor the further that people would have to travel in order to go to the same places at lower densities. As such, it looks like the 0.5% number is way too low for even places like Portland.

  31. Salem (who are also massively sprawling)

    zilfondel, you are dead wrong! Salem is not “massively sprawling”. It is growing, true, but not by leaps and bounds like the Portland Metro area is, which hypocritically prides itself in it’s “smart growth” garbage talk. I am 32 and I grew up between West Salem and Dayton on Hwy. 221. Salem today and what I remember it when I was a child is not all too different. Contrast that with the Portland Metro area. I can remember when Beaverton and Hillsboro used to have fields separating them now they are fused together. Portland, and especially METRO are complete hypocrites and liars when it comes to “smart growth”. They can grow, enlarge the UGB by several hundred thousand acres at a time but then they try to put a kibosh to any other localities growing. Just how many acres has Salem grown by over, say, the last 20 years versus PORTLAND? Do the research and let me know what you find out. VOTE NO ON 49 SO MORE PEOPLE CAN LIVE OUTSIDE PORTLAND!

  32. Easy – South Salem is sprawling like crazy. Everything from the new(ish) Highway 22 overpass over I-5 south to where Commercial meets the 5 did not exist when I was a kid 10-15 years ago. I figure within 15 years we will see continuous development along I-5 from Salem to Albany.

    Of course, I have also heard that West Salem is growing like mad as well, and I’m not the least bit surprised.


    Here’s a nice visual of the growth:

    As you can see from the data below, Salem has a density that is only 3/4 that of Portland, while also lacking the major parkland (like Forest Park) that lowers Portland’s pop density figures.

    Salem’s density*: 1,156.1/km² (2,994.0/sq mi)
    Portland’s density*: 1,640.30/km² (4,199.17/sq mi)

    Salem’s growth**: 7.5%
    Portland’s growth**: 10.1%

    *Density #s from wikipedia
    **From 2000 to 2006, by MSA, source:

  33. Good for Salem. Let Portlanders live in their luxurious pigeon holes and let reasonable minded people choose how they want to live. Vote no on 49!

  34. I figure within 15 years we will see continuous development along I-5 from Salem to Albany.

    I figure that in 15 years we’ll have one continuous city encompassing the entire Willamette Valley and extending all the way to Vancouver, B.C. We could call it the Cascadia Megalopolis! Resistance is futile – embrace growth and expansion!

  35. “What does that leave as far as big companies? NOTHING!”

    Funny how nobody mentions Portland’s largest private employer and one of two S&P 500 companies in the state, the other being Nike. Seems like all we care about are “label companies.” The bank, the shoemaker, the ski jacket maker, the chip maker.

  36. Irrelevant to my post. I am referring to Portland’s largest private employer and ONE of two S&P 500 companies in the STATE, the OTHER being Nike, which as you have noted (for what purpose I’m not sure) is in Beaverton. I am asking if you know what the other company is, which it seems you do not.

  37. while also lacking the major parkland (like Forest Park)

    Salem has just as many, if not MORE, parks than Portland does! I just love it how Portlanders are so closed minded and think their wonderful enclave is FAR superior than anything else.

  38. I am asking if you know what the other company
    is, which it seems you do not

    What, the government? OHSU is the government not a company.

  39. Portland’s largest private employer

    Are you referring to Precision Castparts? I don’t think they are a larger employer in Portland than Providence, although they may have more employees nationwide.

  40. No, the government is NOT listed on the S&P 500. Your answer to this question shows quite clearly how seriously anyone should take your argument about the lack of large corporate headquarters in Portland. I will give two hints: This is one of the fastest growing companies in the nation. Last September, the Oregonian carried an article about how their growth was bringing 400 new jobs.

  41. 45 Comments
    14 Greg
    5 Ross
    4 djk
    3 DE
    2 Psymonetta
    2 nuovorecord
    2 Ed
    2 Mark
    2 Matthew
    2 zilfondel
    1 Chris
    1 Ron
    1 Grant
    1 Lenny
    1 Dan
    1 nwjg
    1 Erik

    If our anti-sprawl measures are scaring away companies, shouldn’t Clark County have more jobs per person than Portland? And how come so many companies are headquartered in New York City anyways? It isn’t like they are in the suburbs of New York or anything, but actually downtown New York, even though land is expensive and there is no place to park. But, hey, life is just weird sometimes…

  42. A little more fuel for the fire (and piggybacking on Matthew’s remarks): it interests me that the the largest bulk of jobs in Oregon and southwest Washington are in the relatively liberal Washington county and the very liberal Portland. Clark and Clackamas counties, the conservative, small-government bastions of the area both have notable paucities of employment, relative to their populations. Naturally, you can find very conservative areas with strong job markets, too; to me, the implications are that political bias, growth measures, etc., have little to do with employment.

    As an addendum, I’d like to post my trollish questions of the day: what are the largest employers in Salem? How many fortune 500 companies are located there? This isn’t to knock it, of course; it’s a delightful place, in it’s way, and I’m very pleased for those who are happy there.

  43. Scott,

    Salem doesn’t have ANY fortune 500 companies based here. The State is the largest employer here — 13,000 work for the State. There are great things about both places. I really miss the nightlife and gastronomic choices in Portland. (I especially miss Pizzicato and Chipotle). On the other hand, Salem is more laid back, not nearly as expensive and isn’t as crowded.

    Matthew, I took your point about too much commenting. I’ll try to tone it down. Sorry :(

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