Metro President Candidates on Funding

Part Three of our series on responses to our candidate questionnaire. Please remember the ground rules on comments for this series

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.

4. Funding:

How we pay for transportation has impacts both on the adequacy of funding and the way the transportation system is used.

Is the current level of resources sufficient to fund our transportation system? If not, how would you persuade voters and local, state and national leaders to increase funding?

[Burkholder] No. There are two big holes in the funding picture: one is maintaining the infrastructure we have; the other is to provide the transportation framework for high quality, compact and mixed use urban development throughout the region. I support increased funding at the regional, state and federal level. My leadership in the T4America Coalition and with the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations has given me the ability to push both greater funding as well as significant policy changes in the proposed federal transportation act including strong support for metropolitan role in planning and funding.

After serving for a year on the Governor’s Transportation Vision Committee, contributing to the most progressive transportation funding bill in this state’s history, I led a statewide effort through an organization I founded (Oregon Metropolitan Planning Organizations Consortium) to rally support for what became HB2001, raising much needed resources for local governments and creating new progressive policies such as GHG emission and least cost planning, mandating using federal transportation funds for non-road purposes as well as establishing a Urban Trails program for the first time at the state level. I was not happy with the earmarking (for the first time at this scale) of projects. Projects should be chosen based on clear outcomes and performance measures.

[Stacey] Our region has hundreds of miles of substandard streets and deferred maintenance. The Sellwood Bridge is near failure and many more bridges require seismic and other upgrades. Transit fares are rising as service hours are cut. At the same time, we expect our region to grow by a million people over the next 20 to 25 years, and the needs of that larger population will require billions for improvements in local street systems, transit, and cycling and pedestrian facilities. The region needs more resources for transportation, and needs to demonstrate to the public that those resources will be spent in accordance with a least-cost approach.

Any discussion of revenue for government service should begin with, and focus on, the service to be provided and the reliability of the estimated cost of that service. Transportation should be no different. Rather than seek the least objectionable tax, leaders should engage in a broad public dialogue about what transportation improvements the region needs, and then offer the public options for funding those improvements. I would start that process by framing it in terms of the scenario planning that Metro must do to develop strategies for reducing transportation greenhouse gases. This will enable the public to participate in selecting a desirable future development pattern and the transportation system for serving it, and then turn to the question of how best to fund that system.

Subject to that public process, my own views are that we should attempt to fund the transportation system with revenues derived from the transportation system. The “highway trust fund” (allocating all revenue from fees on fuels and vehicles solely to roads and bridges) has long been perceived to be a “user pays” system (despite the fact that local and state general fund resources have long supplemented highway trust fund dollars), and this has been a source of considerable popular support. The “user (or beneficiary) pays” model should be continued to the extent possible. Fees for services (examples include transit fares, charges based on vehicle miles traveled, parking charges, and congestion pricing tolls that ensure predictable travel times) can be combined with fees on undesirable aspects of the existing transportation system (e.g., surface parking spaces in excess of local requirements, greenhouse gas emissions, and peak-hour driving on congested facilities). Many of these approaches will be subject to the limitation of the “highway trust fund”: fees on vehicle or fuels must be spent only on roads. Accordingly, it will also be necessary to explore with the public its willingness to modify the “highways-only” limitation in the Oregon Constitution.

Many funding tools have been proposed that have greater or lesser impacts on demand management. How would you deploy tools like gas taxes, VMT taxes, street maintenance feeds or various forms of tolling (or other tools) to meet our region’s goals?

[Burkholder] User fees must become part of our toolbox. Congestion and parking pricing have great potential for raising needed revenue as well as reducing need for additional built capacity. In addition, traffic impact fees can effectively allocate costs to traffic generators as can system development charges. General property taxes are a good source for non-road investments as they are not limited by the state Constitution.

At Metro, I am working now on a potential infrastructure funding measure designed along the same lines as our successful Natural Areas Bond Measure to put before the voters in 2012.

[Stacey] See response to previous question. Charging fees for things we don’t want–excess parking, low density auto-dependent development, greenhouse gases and other pollution, or peak-hour driving–can send market signals to consumers of the transportation system that will help the system work better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *