Metro President Candidates: Vision and Policy

This week we’ll be publishing the responses to our candidate questionnaire, starting with the vision and policy questions today.

Unfortunately Mayor Hughes has yet to reply to our questionnaire. If he does respond, we’ll include his responses and update these posts when he does.

Meanwhile we’ll proceed with the responses from Rex Burkholder and Bob Stacey. The order of responses was determined by a coin toss, and we’ll use this order throughout the responses.

Other than formatting to fit consistently in the post format, the responses have not been edited, these are the words of the candidates. Where I thought adding a link to an external site provides useful context, I have have added links. If you question the choices of these links or have other suggestions, please provide comments on that.

There are some special rules for comments on these posts. As a 501(c)(3), Portland Transport cannot and does not endorse candidates. So please no comments of the form “you should vote for _______ because he said…”. Feel free to comment on the policies, their implications and your feelings about them, but refrain from turning that into encouraging votes in a particular direction.

DO feel free to pose questions to the candidates themselves. We’ll be alerting the campaigns as each of these post go up, and invite them to participate in the dialog.

Here we go…

1. Vision:

Assuming you serve two consecutive terms and are able to accomplish your goals, describe how mobility and access in the region will have changed.

[Burkholder] The Portland Metro Region will continue to lead the nation in active and healthy transportation infrastructure, including bicycling, walking and transit. In eight years I will have advanced practical strategies to most cost-effective integrate all modes of travel to move people and goods.

  • Complete the Active Transportation vision I have led, exemplified by the $100M TIGER grant application Metro submitted on behalf of the region. More communities will have safe, attractive options for walking and cycling because of this investment. This will provide a transportation system that is affordable to all.
  • Complete light rail to Milwaukie and be on the way to finishing the line to Tigard,
  • Focus on key intermodal freight districts to strategically advance our position as a transportation and shipping hub.
  • Work with federal government, and our bi-state region to advance intercity passenger rail and removing congestion for both freight and passenger rail.
  • Forge a substantial commitment to get higher speed rail to Eugene, with an alignment agreed upon and first projects in place,
  • Deliver key strategies for advancing transportation efficiencies in the region, including successfully piloting the first congestion pricing model project to better utilize our road capacity.
  • Complete a sustainable and practical new transportation corridor between Oregon and Washington that fits within the region’s financial constraints, that provides transportation options for all including a much needed light rail connection, world-class bike and pedestrian connections, and that targets freight improvements. Fund the non-federal component of the project through user fees, not regional funds.

[Stacey] By January of 2019 the Metro region will be in its fifth year of implementing major revisions of the 2040 Plan and the Regional Transportation Plan–revisions that successfully accommodate hundreds of thousands of additional residents without any increase in regional vehicle miles of travel over 2005 levels. The region will be on target to continue this pattern of robust growth without growth in driving, all the way to mid-century. Most new employment and housing will be located in town centers and on main streets, including such unconventional main streets as McLoughlin Boulevard, the Tualatin Valley Highway and east 122nd Avenue. Every neighborhood will be connected–or scheduled to be connected–to nearby town centers or main streets by a system of trails and pathways for pedestrians and cyclists, and a program of rebuilding main streets as green “complete streets” will be underway. Light rail will have reached downtown Vancouver and downtown Milwaukie, with the line to Tigard at least under construction; and bus rapid transit lines operating in dedicated lanes will move passengers on a growing network of main streets. The region will have realigned transportation spending to match policy goals, and will have developed new approaches to funding balanced transportation investments through a system of transportation user fees and fees on harmful impacts of some elements of the transportation system. Focused mixed use development and increasing availability of alternatives to driving will make it possible for most residents of the region to reduce their reliance on driving without reducing convenience or reducing their access to jobs, services or favorite destinations.

2. Policy Priorities:

The business community in conjunction with Metro has produced a “Cost of Congestion Report” that argues that congestion is a drag on our economy. Others would argue that safety or environmental concerns are more important factors. How do you balance these issues?

[Burkholder] What we have found through a focus on outcomes in the Regional Transportation Plan process that I led is that these are not mutually exclusive goals. Decreasing congestion through investments in getting people alternatives to driving alone has strong environmental and safety benefits, as well. The key is targeting investments smartly and using new tools to increase capacity.

[Stacey] I favor a “least cost planning” approach to transportation investment, in which multiple objectives (freight movement, commute travel time, growth management, climate change mitigation, equity, safety and others) can be optimized simultaneously and in which transportation demand and transportation supply are both assumed to be variables. A least-cost approach to congestion relief would look first to managing peak-hour demand (e.g., interchange and intersection management, ramp metering, and congestion pricing) before building highly expensive capacity expansions. Least-cost planning would next examine lower-cost accessibility improvements in a congested corridor (e.g., arterial and collector street improvement where expressways are burdened with local traffic that lacks surface-street alternatives; bike and pedestrian improvements; and increased service on existing transit lines serving the congested corridor). Finally, least cost planning would assess the performance and cost of various capacity expansion alternatives, together with the impact of such expansion on the full range of objectives being measured. In least-cost planning terms, capacity expansion includes construction of arterial or collector streets and construction of new transit facilities, not solely construction of wider or longer highways.

The Columbia River Crossing proposal provides a great laboratory for applying least-cost principles. See my responses to questions about that project below.

Adopted State and local policies have strong goals around vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) reduction in support of avoiding impacts from climate change. To a lesser extent there are also policies that recognize the risk of energy price or supply uncertainty due to peak oil. How should these issues be incorporated in regional transportation planning?

[Burkholder] These issues ARE incorporated into the updated, outcomes-based Regional Transportation Plan due to my insistence and advocacy. Through my leadership, the region has developed rigorous performance measures and investment criteria aimed at creating a transportation and urban fabric that is more resilient and less reliant on petroleum.

[Stacey] I authored and successfully lobbied for the legislation (2009 HB 2001, Section 37) creating the requirement that Metro undertake “scenario planning” to identify the transportation and land use strategies that will be needed to reduce global warming pollution from cars and light trucks to the levels prescribed by the 2007 Oregon Legislature (75% below 1990 emission levels by 2050). Under that law, Metro will receive federal pass-through funds from the state to fund a broad-based public involvement process to engage the people of the region–and Metro’s local government partners–in deciding the best package of policies and actions to reduce Metro area residents’ need to drive, so that we get sufficient cuts in vehicle emissions. This will involve reviewing the region’s performance to date in achieving the smart growth and transportation-choices strategies of the 2040 Plan, and identifying the improvements or changes to that plan that will enable us to do better.

The 2007 ULI-published report Growing Cooler, a nationwide analysis of smart growth strategies like those at the core of Metro’s 2040 plan, show that compact, mixed-use development can significantly reduce driving compared to the driving behavior of residents of standard suburban development. Cambridge Systematics’ 2009 Report Moving Cooler outlines a series of transportation management and investment strategies that can further reduce dependence on driving. Metro’s HB 2001 scenario planning can build on these reports’ findings.

We know from the current update of the Regional Transportation Plan that we are not yet on track: current transportation investment strategies will lead to increases in the amount of driving in the region between now and 2035–increases that are inconsistent with achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The region still plans and builds too many projects designed to increase highway capacity–including the proposed 10-to-12-lane “Columbia River Crossing”–that use scarce transportation dollars to move us in the wrong direction. We are also laying plans for future expansions of the regional UGB in the Urban and Rural Reserves process, without clearly understanding the greenhouse gas emission implications of such expansions. I will work to complete and adopt the results of the greenhouse gas reduction planning process before approving further UGB expansions or major highway expansions.

This scenario planning process for greenhouse gas reductions will be–at a minimum–a major update of the 2040 plan, and will require major revisions to the regional transportation plan. Accordingly, Metro should pursue it with the ambition of exceeding the public engagement successes of the 2040 adoption process 15 years ago, when an estimated 19,000 citizens participated. Done well, civic engagement on this scale will be a major opportunity for regional government to establish and renew relationships with the people of the region and demonstrate its value as a government, by providing us a path toward a future that is more sustainable economically as well as environmentally, one that leaves us better protected from the inevitable increases in energy costs that our nation and world face. It’s an important job, and one that Metro should embrace as central to its mission.

The Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) currently in the process of adoption is the first to model for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. The modeling shows that all versions of the plan increase GHG emissions, even more so that then the no-build scenario. JPACT has taken the position that the plan cannot be conformed to GHG goals in this cycle. How and when should the RTP be conformed to GHG goals?

[Burkholder] This updated RTP is a key first step in a larger process that includes all local jurisdictions updating their transportation plans to reflect the regional plan. This iterative process will drive further progress and climate improvements. I will continue lead Metro on this issue; we will develop a more intensive climate protocol for transportation as is expected to mandated by the Oregon Legislature. We will also be using the new tools we are developing to recommend changes in land use, urban design and building technologies to further reduce GHG emissions.

As noted in the above answer, Section 37 of 2009 HB 2001 directs Metro to conduct “scenario planning” utilizing its transportation demand and land development models (with needed refinements to both), to generate two or more visions of how the region can grow as expected by a million more people while staying within its assigned VMT target. Metro, in coordination with local governments, is directed to engage the public in an evaluation of the alternative scenarios, adopt one that achieves the greenhouse gas reduction goal for the transportation sector, and implement any needed changes in transportation and land use plans to implement the scenario. The law sets out time frames for this work between now and 2014. In other words, Metro will be required by state law to conform the RTP to GHG goals by the next update, due about four years from now. In the meantime, I will press to ensure that the region does not build major highway expansions that could take us in the wrong direction with global warming pollution, absent the kind of project-by project emissions analysis that Portland Mayor Sam Adams requested and that JPACT and Metro have so far declined to require.

Jobs/housing imbalance has been identified as a component of VMT growth. What policies can/should Metro adopt to redress imbalance?

[Burkholder] There are three actions Metro can and is taking under my leadership: Adopt new local plans for increased efficiency in land use including increase of mixed use zoning (using Construction Excise Tax revenues allocated through Metro); targeting transportation dollars to projects that leverage jobs where they are short and housing where it is short; protect industrial lands near population concentrations with Regional Significant Industrial Land designation.

[Stacey] The growing number of two-worker households makes “jobs-housing balance” a difficult target for individual communities or even “sub-regions” of Metro. Our best strategies are maintaining a compact urban form within a relatively stable urban growth boundary and accommodating most future regional jobs and housing growth in the designated 2040 Plan “centers” and along the transportation corridors connecting those centers. Building more walkable mixed use neighborhoods that are well served by all transportation options increases the likelihood that at least one worker per household can walk, bike, or take a short driving or transit trip to work, and that a wide range of other household trips can also be served by non-driving modes

How can regional policy improve combined housing/transportation affordability for households in our region?

[Burkholder] Car ownership and use is a major, sometimes the greatest, cost to households. Continuing to promote safe, attractive and practical alternatives throughout the region and working to increase mixed use (including employment/housing balance) are the most effective approaches. One sign of the importance of my championing innovation is that the measures of housing/transportation affordability developed at Metro under my leadership are a key component of the new Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities at HUD.

[Stacey] Every part of the region should have access to convenient transit service and safe bike and pedestrian connections to nearby destinations. Every part of the region should also provide access to affordable housing at below market rental levels and at prices affordable to first-time home buyers. Regional policies should encourage public and private provision of affordable housing in all communities, conveniently located in or near centers, main streets and other corridors well-served by the full range of transportation options. If elected I will work to ensure that affordable housing is on the list of critical urban infrastructure for which public resources should be allocated, along with transportation, sewer and water service, parks and natural areas, schools, and other community facilities.

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