Archive | October, 2008

NOW: Driven to Despair

I had several readers drop me a note late last week about the episode of PBS’s NOW magazine show that aired on Friday:

Driven to Despair
NOW on PBS

With gas prices spiking and home values crumbling, the American dream of commuting to work from the fringes of suburbia has become an American nightmare. Many are facing a hard choice: Paying for gas or paying the mortgage. How did it come to this? It’s not just about America’s financial crisis; it’s also about big problems with our national infrastructure. Overstressed highways and too few public transportation options are wreaking havoc on people’s lives and hitting the brakes on our already-stretched economy.

This week, NOW on PBS takes a close-up look at our inadequate transportation network and visits some people paying a high pricein both dollars and quality of life just to get to work. Do we have the means to modernize both our infrastructure and our lifestyles?

It didn’t disappoint.

Enviros Stake Out Oregon Transportation Position

The 50 organizations that make up the Oregon Conservation Network are gathering signatures for a letter to State elected leaders:

Dear Elected Leaders,

One year ago, gas was about $2.80 a gallon. Now, with gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, many Oregonians are struggling with increased transportation costs. And they’re looking for alternatives to driving everywhere they need to go.

Oregonians are also concerned about the impacts of global warming pollution. Increased greenhouse gas emissions threaten Oregon’s environment, our economy, and our cherished quality of life.

There is a way to help Oregonians grappling with rising transportation costs and – at the same time – tackle global warming.

Common sense transportation investments will give Oregonians better options to get where they need to go. More effective public transportation and safer streets for biking and walking will reduce our dependency on the automobile. These investments will not only ease the pinch on our wallets, they will also reduce the amount of global warming pollution we send into the atmosphere and promote healthier, more active lifestyles.

Alternative modes of transportation have significant benefits to the health of Oregonians. By promoting more active lifestyles with increased walking, biking, and public transportation, we will help to prevent obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions. This will likely save lives and save millions of dollars in health care costs.

As a national leader in environmental protection, Oregon has made a commitment to reduce our contribution to global warming. HB 3543, passed by the 2007 Oregon Legislature, requires Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to 10% below 1990 levels by 2020 and to 75% below 1990 levels by 2050.

The transportation sector accounts for nearly 40% of Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Technologies like electric cars and lower-carbon fuels will help reduce our global warming pollution, but to achieve our statewide goals, Oregonians also need more opportunities to reduce the amount we drive.

The best way to reduce our need to drive is through a combination of common sense transportation investments and more efficient land use planning. Allowing mixed use neighborhoods where jobs, schools, and shopping opportunities are within an easy walk of our homes helps reduce our reliance on the car.

Governor Kulongoski identified transportation as one of his top priorities in his March 21, 2008 State of the State address, declaring, “Oregon must have the greenest transportation system in the country.”

We agree. Making the appropriate transportation investments and creating more efficient land use planning would be a win-win for Oregon families:

• More money in the pocketbook
• Better options to get around by transit, walking or biking
• Reduced reliance on the automobile
• Reduced global warming pollution

We urge the 2009 Legislature and Oregon’s Congressional delegation to include the following concepts in any transportation funding or global warming policy package:

1) Funding for all Transportation Options – Any package must ensure adequate funding for greenhouse gas-reducing transit, pedestrian and bicycle facilities. Funding for these investments should be a legislative priority.

2) Establish Statewide Targets for Reducing Oregonians’ Reliance on Driving & Implement Metropolitan Land Use and Transportation Strategies to Reach the Targets – Adopt and apply a greenhouse gas reduction planning tool for transportation and land use decision making to meet the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals. The technology already exists to estimate likely changes in driving from changes in land use and transportation systems. This technology needs to be deployed in all six of Oregon’s metropolitan areas (Bend, Medford, Eugene, Corvallis, Salem and Portland).

3) Support Community Planning and Design for Reduced Reliance on Driving – Help cities and counties improve their land use and transportation plans to provide Oregonians more choices of where to live and how to get around, including: encouraging mixed-use development; investing in connections like bike paths, sidewalks, and local streets that make biking, walking, and short driving trips more convenient; and making Oregon communities more compact and efficient by limiting outward expansion and sprawl. Link these local plans to the metropolitan strategies for reducing transportation emissions.

4) Support Technologies that Reduce Global Warming Pollution – Improvements in fuel-efficiency, such as plug-in hybrids, and the development of lower-carbon fuels, such as second-generation biofuels, are critical steps towards reducing transportation’s impact on our environment.

Oregonians are trapped between rising gas prices and a future compromised by global warming pollution. Oregon families need more transportation choices. Local governments need the tools to make our communities more efficient.

Please address transportation-induced global warming pollution during the 2009 Oregon Legislative session and the 111th United States Congress.

Sincerely,

Coalition Members

Osborn Out, Brandman in at CRC – Sea Change?

From Willamette Week:

Metro’s Transit Program director, Richard Brandman, is taking a top job at the Columbia River Crossing project. While Brandman might not be a household name, the move may signal that the project’s two sponsor agencies–the Washington and Oregon departments of transportation–want to make the proposed $4.2 billion bridge to the ‘Couv more attractive to its many critics in Oregon. Metro and the DOTs typically have very different views, which could be described as planning versus paving. Brandman will be on loan for two years to the CRC and replaces ODOT’s John Osborn as CRC’s co-director.

Does this signal that Governor Kulongoski, ODOT Director Matt Garrett and Metro President David Bragdon have reached a meeting of the minds on what the project should look like?

Watch Out for Walkers

The City of Portland is seeking members for its Pedestrian Advisory Committee

Portland Seeking New Members for the City’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee

(PORTLAND, OR) – The City of Portland is seeking new members for its Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Portland’s Pedestrian Advisory Committee is a standing citizen advisory committee active since the early 1990s. Its purpose is to advise the Mayor and City Council and City departments on all matters that encourage and enhance walking as a means of transportation, recreation, wellness, and environmental enhancement.

Committee members meet monthly in the evening on the third Tuesday of each month. They review and make recommendations on the following:

*planning documents affecting pedestrians
*pedestrian projects
*projects with pedestrian facilities
*funding priorities for pedestrian-related projects
*activities of other jurisdictions that affect pedestrians in Portland
*maintaining and periodically updating the Portland Pedestrian Design
Guide and Pedestrian Master Plan.

The committee is composed of 9-13 members appointed to a four-year term. To qualify, applicants must meet the following criteria:
*be a resident or own a business in the City of Portland;
*have an interest in promoting the use of walking for transportation and recreation;
*commit to attend monthly meetings and participate in the work of the committee.

Individuals interested in issues that affect pedestrians and the pedestrian environment are encouraged to read the Pedestrian Advisory Committee Bylaws and submit their application. Forms are available online at www.portlandonline.com/transportation.

Interested individuals may also request an application and supporting materials from Caitlin McCollum at the Portland Office of Transportation, 1120 SW 5th Ave, Room 800, Portland, OR 97204. Email:
caitlin.mccollum@pdxtrans.org or Fax: 503-823-7576.

Applications must be received by mail, email, or fax no later than November 12, 2008.