October 2011 Open Thread

It’s getting close to trick or treat time. Which of the items below are treats, and which are tricks is up to you.

  • Now that the urban reserves are settled, Metro is considering an expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary [Ed: Link fixed] and is looking for community feedback. Ten areas are being considered. Industrial parcels up for consideration are North Hillsboro, Forest Grove North-Purdin , and SW Morgan/Tonquin in Tualatin. Residential parcels under consideration are South Cooper Mountain, South Hillsboro, SW Advance/SW Stafford in Wilsonville, East Cornelius, South Cornelius, Roy Rogers Road/W. Bull Mountain, and West Sherwood. Other than the Wilsonville tract, all ten parcels are in Washington County.
  • The Technical Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) is looking for three new community members. The committee, which advises JPACT on technical matters, includes several community posts. Selection to the committee is by appointment, interested parties may click the link.
  • In two-wheeled news, the City of Portland this past week approved the 50s Bikeway project, a 4.3 mile bikeway (some bike lanes, some bike bouleavards) running parallel to 52nd//53rd, between SE Woodstock and NE Thompson. The $1.5 million project will also include crossing upgrades at eight major intersections.
  • A brief reminder: Quite a few public meetings on the Southwest Corridor in October.
  • As mentioned in last month’s open thread, several notable national transit critics (Tom Rubin, Randall O’Toole, and Wendell Cox) will be joining John Charles at a CPI-sponsored event in Vancouver, entitled the “Free citizen education forum on Urban transportation and the CRC Light Rail Project“. Apparently, there is a fair bit of opinion in the ‘Couv that the CRC is first and foremost about light rail and not about freeway capacity, and the freeway stuff is being added as a sweetener to make light rail more palatable for the folks across the Columbia. Whether or not the phrase “CRC Light Rail Project” is an attempt to encourage this point of view, or an attempt to portray light rail as a separate project from the rest of the bridge, I’m not sure…

And now ’tis time to turn, as they say, into a pumpkin.

45 responses to “October 2011 Open Thread”

  1. Speaking of UGB expansions, interesting MPAC meeting last week. 20 units per acre would be much denser then inner east side Portland. Does that make sense for fringe development? The audio is worth listening to, the first debate is at 28 minute mark and it reopens with fireworks at the 62 minute mark.

  2. I have to study it more, but I generally agree that most of the growth should happen in places like SE Portland that can support more density, and already have transit and bike options. The fringe should be denser than it usually is, but maybe not 20/acre. If they build an isolated dense neighborhood out on the fringe and don’t have the infrastructure, it will just generate more traffic and other problems. This seems very prescriptive–if developers don’t think there is a market for 20/acre out on the fringe, then there probably isn’t. They do their research.

  3. Metro is insane for proposing such high density.

    Most of the fringe development in the metro area is high density w/o any good transit infrastructure. It looks terrible and performs terrible, especially considering the % of people who rely on their cars.

    Basically, what’s been developed is Los Angeles in a smaller area. High density and people only using their cars…

    Metro needs a major reset in thinking.

    Walking downtown I see a LOT of surface parking lots and underutilized buildings. Why aren’t we maximizing density there first? Why aren’t we maximizing density along LR lines better? Why aren’t we trying to increase employment densities downtown?

    So many things we should be doing but are not.

    Instead we force such out of character densities on old farmland at the very ends of the metro area. Density can be good, but it needs to be done right, and this isn’t the solution.

    One funny note. I see a lot of townhomes around the metro area in the fringes. I often ask myself:

    “Where’s the town at again”?

  4. Do we really need to expand the Urban Growth Boundary, or do we need to start instituting a Population Growth Limit? I think the latter would be more productive, given the static nature of Portland’s economy over the last entire existence of the city.

  5. do we need to start instituting a Population Growth Limit

    No. Apart from being blatantly unconstitutional, it would be completely unenforceable.

    static nature of Portland’s economy over the last entire existence of the city

    I don’t even know what this means. The “entire existence of the City” saw us grow from a few blocks on the west side of the Willamette to a thriving city of half a million people. Not exactly “static.”

  6. I’d like to see more density, but adding to the UGB and putting the density out on the fringes does seem like a strange way to do it. Why not just not expand the UGB? If it’s tight enough, density should be built out of logical necessity, right?

  7. I agree. If they need to force density on developers to achieve the desired density goals, then there is clearly no need to expand the boundary. Land values will increase to the point where the density makes sense economically. This will also encourage infill.

  8. ws, understand MPAC is an advisory committee to the Metro Council, it isn’t the same thing. The current roster includes 3 members of the Metro Council, but another 16 seats are filled by other local officials. Among them are several mayors, including Sam Adams. He was the one to propose the 20 unit density, and it passed with a 12-6 vote.

    I’m not an expert on the politics but this sounds like a poison pill, intended to scuttle the residential portion of the current UGB expansion.

  9. Hey PJ , I like your line of thinking , I will offer not a Population Limit , but a REQ. that you have a job lined up before you can move here {=:

  10. Hey PJ , I like your line of thinking , I will offer not a Population Limit , but a REQ. that you have a job lined up before you can move here

    And not a food service job, either.

  11. Thanks, bjcefola, I didn’t know much about MPAC.

    Still, it’s concerning.

    I only argue we need more density in the logical places, I just don’t get this obsession with high density at the ends of the UGB.

    Maybe Portland needs to look at concurrency which is used in Florida. Maybe not copy their policy exactly, as they have not controlled growth, but the whole idea is there needs to be proper infrastructure and funding (water, schools, roads, etc.) in place before future growth can occur.

    That might be better as new development would need to pay for its growth impacts.

    We shut down old schools and open new ones.

    Yes, we can send a person to the Moon but can’t make logical decisions about growth.

  12. With the zoning now in place, the cities of the region could probably grow by a factor of four; retail would thrive, transit would flourish, and our carbon footprint would shrink. Beyond a couple of census tracts, Portland is not dense at all. The demand to expand the UGB is due in part to the fact that we give away valuable industrial land for commuter auto storage during the work day.

  13. With the zoning now in place, the cities of the region could probably grow by a factor of four;

    That sounds great! At least four times as many people fishing in the rivers, skiing in the mountains, walking the beaches, flying from the airport. Boating on the Willamette during fireworks or the Blues Festival would be awesome.

    Maybe even the Rose Festival Parade would have four times the entries. Of course, there would also be four times the religious fundamentalists.

  14. My Final Post I have ceased posting on Portland transport out of respect for the property rights of this blog’s owner. On Sept 20, 2011 Chris asked me to cease posting and suggested that I “find other forums for your position” (see below email) and earlier, Bob R. advised me to start my own blog. Therefore you can now find me at http://www.PDXTransport.com

    ————— Chris’s email: —————
    Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2011 20:13:23 -0700
    Subject: comments on Portland Transport
    From: Chris Smith *******
    To: *********


    After careful consideration of the pattern of your comments, the moderators have agreed that they are essentially an ongoing attempt to refute the point of view of the site, specifically, Rule 1:

    This site HAS a point of view, generally supportive of transit and compact development, and efforts to reduce VMT (vehicles miles traveled), including as a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is intended to be the general center of the conversation here. While opposing views are welcome, participation that is of a quality or quantity that combines to undermine the purpose of the site may be restricted or refused.

    1. Constructive disagreement is welcome, but simply repeating your disagreement is not. If your disagreement is simply to protest our point of view, you should find another outlet for your views.

    We respectfully request that you find other forums for your position and cease commenting on Portland Transport.



  15. It also appears that the incident on the 57 is getting some national play. It’s hit the wire services and getting covered in newspapers around the country, and it appears that an ABC News reporter has tried to contact Al–who referred her to TriMet for any questions.

  16. and it appears that an ABC News reporter has tried to contact Al–who referred her to TriMet for any questions.

    Excellent job, Al—glad to see our dutiful public employees understand their role, especially in a critical activity such as providing credible information to the national media. And I’m proud of our ATU members here in Portland.

    (Now, my other question is, is there a way as a union member I can actually go back and collect the income that I should have been earning, during all those years of “credited service.” Along with the nearly double pension I should be receiving? If you looked at my final SS statement—avg. of $17,000 per year ain’t all that great.)

  17. This may not be news to anyone but me, but Mapnificent is an interesting tool. The map has a slider for time and is available for a number of cities. It defines the distance one can travel by public transport in the chosen period.


  18. I think I am remembering this correctly…Barcelona, Spain has 4 times the population of Portland in 1/4th the land area. I hear its a great place to live.
    Germany has the same land area as OR & WA with 10 times the population…its not so bad.
    Yes, we would need more parks, more protected rivers, more trails, more wilderness areas, alot more transit and rail services and so on.

  19. I’d love nothing better then to see density increase in Portland, but I don’t know how effective the density goal would be in accomplishing that. UGB expansion is necessarily about fringe areas, no matter what standard is adopted I don’t see what impact it has on the vastly larger area inside the UGB.

    It’s like trying to lose weight by washing your face…

    During the meeting someone, I think Jack Hoffman of Lake Oswego, references an agreement from 2002 not to seek upzoning “within neighborhoods” presumably inside the UGB. Does anyone know what that is about?

  20. I suspect Jack was referring to a ballot measure from roughly that timeframe that set the rules for the process for Metro targeting upzoning of existing residential neighborhoods. I don’t believe its an absolute restriction, just a fairly high bar. Those rules apply to Metro, not to the local jurisdictions (so Portland could upzone on its own initiative – it’s just very difficult for Metro to tell it to do so).

  21. The O is reporting that LO’s pollster will conduct its streetcar survey next week.


    Three years ago, the generic “wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a streetcar to LO” got 81% positive. Last year, it dropped to about 67%. There’s been a lot of public discussion since then and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if it drops significantly in this survey. We don’t know how the questions will be phrased.

    We’re supposed to see the results next month.

  22. I don’t know why they don’t open up the tiny little slice from Sherwood down Rex Hill so Sherwood connects to Newberg. I think it’s just a “matter of time” before McMinnville to Sherwood is developed and continuous city to downtown. And there’s the “Newberg Dundee bypass” which keeps getting whittled down further. Why not just widen 99W through Dundee? It would be a lot cheaper and why is Dundee holding everyone hostage who goes through it? 99W is wide through Mac, Newberg, Sherwood, Tigard, etc. Why is Dundee “so special” they can’t widen it there, too? I go through that mess often and its so frustrating they STILL haven’t done anything to address it.

  23. Greg –

    The thing about that style of questioning is that the questions can easily be reversed, and other questions in that genre can easily be asked:

    “Why are all those who want to widen 99E who come from out-of-town holding everyone in Dundee hostage?”

    “Why are all those cars so ‘special’ that they get to pave over our town?”


    The result is a lot of arguing, and little progress by any party involved since a basis of respect isn’t implied in the original questions tossed in either direction.

    Besides, there’s plenty of precedent. Portland is the most famous for being “so special” that it stopped a major freeway project and relocated a waterfront expressway to make a park. Whether or not you think that was a good idea, it stands as an example to any Oregon community that if Portland can stop a big highway expansion, “why can’t we?”.

    Put another way, Dundee is “so special” in the same way that any Oregon community can be “so special” if that’s how they want to band together.

    ODOT has ways of being “special” too, and then you get a spectacle of “special vs. special”. :-)

  24. Besides, there’s plenty of precedent. Portland is the most famous for being “so special” that it stopped a major freeway project and relocated a waterfront expressway to make a park.

    As one who was against the 1990 Transportation Plan (by the time of the Mt Hood Freeway issue I was well on my way to other interests) I would say that there already existed major thoroughfares in E. Portland that could substitute for the Mt. Hood. And then I-205 was added and that helped facilitate a lot of the traffic that would earlier have been eastbound from I-5 in central Portland. Thus the need for the Mt. Hood vanished, but not necessarily the individual choices to motor east out of Portland.

    My fear with Dundee is that Dundee is reputed to be a speed trap, though I have been lucky for quite awhile. I don’t mind slowing down for a few minutes….but wouldn’t some flashing warning signs suffice (unless they have already put those in)?

    But then it’s not a Portland transportation issue, anyway.

  25. Ron,

    I-205 was always a part of the Interstate expansion plans–indeed, the Mount Hood Freeway was planned to be the route of I-84 (or I-80N as it was then known), with 80N and 205 multiplexing between Rocky Butte and Kelly Butte. (The Banfield west of there would have been “demoted” to US30).

    True, as part of the deal to kill the Mount Hood Freeway, the anti-freeway activists agreed to not oppose the completion of I-205, but 205 wasn’t built as an alternate to the Mt. Hood.

    At any rate, ODOT still wants to build the Pinot-Casino Freeway in all its four-lane glory; the interim project (a 2-lane highway from south Newberg to the current OR18/99W interchange) is a compromise project being built with available funding. I’m surprised that there haven’t been a few lawsuits directed at the limited project, as the fact it dumps tons of traffic in South Newberg without reconnecting to 99W on the northeast end of the city, suggests the project fails the independent utility test, and is being designed to ensure that people start screaming for the remainder of the project to be built. Local streets such as Springbok Road aren’t going to handle the traffic of travelers trying to get to the bypass.

  26. For those following the Occupy Portland protests, there’s a bit of a dispute today between the protesters and the City (so far, peaceful) over the protesters occupation of SW Main Street between 3rd and 4th. At the present time, the protesters have refused to open the street for traffic–something which is causing quite a bit of disruption to TriMet’s operations, as numerous busses come over the Hawthorne Bridge use this stretch of Main to reach the transit mall.

    Several protesters have pointed out that “millionaires don’t ride the bus”, so at minimum blocking transit is perhaps a counterproductive act.

    There have been a few calls to close the street permanently, at least to vehicular traffic. I could easily support closing Main to through traffic between the 3rd and the park blocks (possibly permitting busses only) and making Madison a two-way street between the Bridge and the park blocks instead. (And Main should likewise be two-way street between the Park Blocks and I-405)

  27. I’d rather seen Main closed between Broadway and 10th. Create a nicer pedestrian space, and allow the Art Museum to more easily expand into the block it owns to the north.

    But I can’t see closing Main east of Broadway, because of the traffic that comes off the Hawthorne Bridge and the need for buses to easily reach the Transit Mall. Maybe it could be narrowed one lane at either Third or Fourth.

    And I wouldn’t want to turn Madison into another Burnside, which seems a likely outcome of making it a two-way street approaching the Hawthorne Bridge.

  28. Al,

    The National Post is a right-wing Canadian newspaper that loves to cheerlead for SOVs. If they had their way, you would be out of a job. The article’s methodology is piss-poor; in particular, the graph showing absolute gain/loss in trips without indicating percentage is Very Bad Form. (If you read in the article, you’ll notice that the mode share of autos is down by about 2%, with the biggest winner being telecommuting).

    But at any rate–the article is more of the same “people like to drive cars so they must drive them in the future” drivel that seems to pass for an argument. Argumentum ad inertia, however, is not a convincing argument when exposed as such.

  29. Regarding the “right wing” thing, I believe the facts were that more people are driving than other.

    That was a study by the census bureau I think.

    It had nothing to do with right or left “wings” and the link doesn’t work Bob.

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