Author Archive | jedge

Take the survey on Metro-area bicycing conditions

Whether you bike a little or a lot, in the summer or all year long, BTA wants to hear about your experience.

Please take this survey on Portland-area bicycling conditions.

Every respondent is automatically entered in a prize drawing for a one-hour massage by Andrine de la Rocha of Beaumont Health Clinic.

Your input will help inform our advocacy and education work! It will only take 3-8 minutes, depending on how much you have to say.

This is a project of the BTA and the Lloyd TMA Bike Committee.

SMPS’s The Future of Transportation

What: SMPS’s The Future of Transportation in the Portland Metro Region

When: Wednesday, April 9 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Where: The Governor Hotel, 611 S.W. 10th Ave., in Portland.

Cost: $35 for SMPS members and $50 for nonmembers.

Registration: Visit www.smpsoregon.org or e-mail Jacquee Christnot at jchristnot@geoengineers.com.

For more information on this networking event, please click here.

Oregon is at a crossroads with the way it funds and plans for transportation improvements. Governor Kulongoski has made transportation funding a top priority in the 2009 legislative session. “There is no greater issue in this next legislative session than developing a long-term plan that addresses the needs of all of Oregon, urban and rural, and at the same time provides stable funding to achieve that plan,” Kulongoski said. Hear from four of the region’s top transportation planners and transit advocates as SMPS presents a panel discussion titled, “The Future of Transportation in the Portland Metro Region.”

The all-star lineup of speakers and their topics:

  • FRED HANSEN, General Manager, TriMet – Expansion of Portland’s Light Rail Transit System
  • CHRIS SMITH, Chair, Citizen Advisory Committee, Portland Streetcar – Streetcar Expansion Plans and City-Wide System Plan
  • REX BURKHOLDER, Metro Councilor – Development of the Regional Transportation Plan
  • JOHN WILLIS, Vice President and Area Manager, CH2M HILL – Public Private Partnerships
  • Moderated by ETHAN SELTZER, Professor, Portland State University Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning

Global Warming to Affect Transport

A National Research Council report released Tuesday states that America’s transportation infrastructure is at risk due to the effects of global warming. Severe weather and rising water levels will impact roadways, railroads, and airports. The report recommends cooperative efforts in transportation planning between federal, state, and local agencies, inventory and retrofit of critical infrastructure, and consideration of potential impacts of climate change on all future transportation projects.

Climate change will affect transportation primarily through increases in several types of weather and climate extremes. Climate warming over the next 50 to 100 years will be manifested by increases in very hot days and heat waves, increases in Arctic temperatures, rising sea levels coupled with storm surges and land subsidence, more frequent intense precipitation events, and increases in the intensity of strong hurricanes. The impacts will vary by mode of transportation and region of the country, but they will be widespread and costly in both human and economic terms and will require significant changes in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of transportation systems.

The past several decades of historical regional climate patterns commonly used by transportation planners to guide their operations and investments may no longer be a reliable guide for future plans. In particular, future climate will include new classes (in terms of magnitude and frequency) of weather and climate extremes, such as record rainfall and record heat waves, not experienced in modern times as human-induced changes are superimposed on the natural variability of the climate.

Decisions transportation professionals take today, particularly those related to the redesign and retrofitting of existing transportation infrastructure or the location and design of new infrastructure, will affect how well the system adapts to climate change far into the future.

Some specific areas of concern mentioned in the report include:

– More heat waves, requiring load limits at hot-weather or high-altitude airports and causing thermal expansion of bridge joints and rail track deformities.

– Rising sea levels and storm surges flooding coastal roadways, forcing evacuations, inundating airports and rail lines, flooding tunnels and eroding bridge bases.

– More rainstorms, delaying air and ground traffic, flooding tunnels and railways, and eroding road, bridge and pipeline supports.

– More frequent strong hurricanes, disrupting air and shipping service, blowing debris onto roads and damaging buildings.

This report is a collaborative effort between the Transportation Research Board and the Division on Earth and Life Studies of the National Research Council. The sponsors of this report are the Transportation Research Board, National Cooperative Highway Research Program, U.S. Department of Transportation, Transit Cooperative Research Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Read the report summary; or

Read the full report.

Crashes vs. Congestion – What’s the Cost to Society?

A report was released this week by the AAA calculating the costs of car crashes in major American cities. The primary finding is that crashes on public roadways cost far more per-person than does daily congestion. The study provides statistics for all of the same cities covered in the TTI’s Urban Mobility Report, which is also the basis of comparison for the AAA study’s findings. This per-person cost in large urban areas (which includes Portland) is a surprising $1,063; the per-person cost of congestion for those same cities is only $376. The report goes on to suggest that we devote more resources to preventing crashes than we do trying to prevent congestion, because it is a much more costly problem. Indeed, when 42,642 people are killed during one calendar year (2006) because of crashes on public roadways in America, we have a serious problem.

“Nearly 43,000 people die on the nation’s roadways each year,” said AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet. “Yet, the annual tally of motor vehicle-related fatalities barely registers as a blip in most people’s minds. It’s time for motor vehicle crashes to be viewed as the public health threat they are. If there were two jumbo jets crashing every week, the government would ground all planes until we fixed the problem. Yet, we’ve come to accept this sort of death toll with car crashes.”

Their recommendations:

Leadership

  • Leadership and commitment are needed at the Federal, state, and local levels to make safety a priority in all transportation planning. Focusing planning and resources on safety improvements will not only save lives and prevent injuries, but can also reduce congestion.
  • Greater political will is needed to pass legislation and enforce laws that can have a positive impact on safety such as primary safety belt requirements, impaired driving countermeasures, and full implementation of graduated driver licensing systems.
  • Congress and the U.S. Department of Transportation should ensure states follow through on implementation of their strategic highway safety plans and evaluate the results to determine effectiveness.
  • National safety goals should be established and strategies implemented to cut surface transportation fatalities in half by 2025, as recommended by the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.

Communication & Collaboration

  • The transportation safety community needs to develop more effective ways of getting the public to understand the impact of traffic crashes, the need for effective countermeasures, and the role their own behavior plays in safety.
  • Increased collaboration among traffic safety professionals, public health specialists, and health communications experts is needed to incorporate the best available science on behavior modification.

Research & Evaluation

  • Increased funding for testing and evaluation of safety interventions should be a priority. Programs should be based on sound scientific principles rather than “conventional wisdom,” populist fervor, or political expediency. Systematic evaluation allows identification and expansion of successful programs and interventions so that limited resources can be applied more effectively.
  • Further testing and implementation of a road risk assessment tool, e.g., U.S. Road Assessment Program (usRAP), should be encouraged to ensure dollars are spent on roads and bridges with the greatest safety problems. Understanding road safety risks will help state DOTs focus on solutions that will have the greatest safety benefits and should result in broader public support for needed improvements.

Graduated driver licensing systems? Getting the public to understand…the role their own behavior plays in safety? Behavior modification? As a proponent of much tougher licensing requirements and mandatory driver training programs for new drivers this is music to my ears. But how will the public at-large interpret this? Much has been made of the cost of congestion, and that is certainly what the AAA is playing off with this report. Will this get the same play as the congestion report in the halls of congress, state legislatures, and city hall?

Read the executive summary; or

Read the full report.

Slumburbs?

An article on TheAtlantic.com, found by way of Planetizen, goes into great detail explaining the current pattern of housing demand across America, and how this will lead to a great exodus from suburbia and back into the central cities – and even into suburban cities and towns – so long as they are dense, walkable, and have access to good public transportation networks. At the moment, much of the lack of housing demand in the suburbs can be attributed to the subprime mortgage crisis, which has lead to a downturn in every housing market in the USA except for Portland, Seattle, and Charlotte. However, the roots of this shift in demand reach deeper than the current financial crisis and what we are seeing now is only the tip of the iceberg.

The decline of places like Windy Ridge (Charlotte) and Franklin Reserve (Elk Grove, Calif.) is usually attributed to the subprime-mortgage crisis, with its wave of foreclosures. And the crisis has indeed catalyzed or intensified social problems in many communities. But the story of vacant suburban homes and declining suburban neighborhoods did not begin with the crisis, and will not end with it. A structural change is under way in the housing market—a major shift in the way many Americans want to live and work. It has shaped the current downturn, steering some of the worst problems away from the cities and toward the suburban fringes. And its effects will be felt more strongly, and more broadly, as the years pass. Its ultimate impact on the suburbs, and the cities, will be profound.

Arthur C. Nelson, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, has looked carefully at trends in American demographics, construction, house prices, and consumer preferences. In 2006, using recent consumer research, housing supply data, and population growth rates, he modeled future demand for various types of housing. The results were bracing: Nelson forecasts a likely surplus of 22 million large-lot homes (houses built on a sixth of an acre or more) by 2025—that’s roughly 40 percent of the large-lot homes in existence today.

[snip]

Pent-up demand for urban living is evident in housing prices. Twenty years ago, urban housing was a bargain in most central cities. Today, it carries an enormous price premium. Per square foot, urban residential neighborhood space goes for 40 percent to 200 percent more than traditional suburban space in areas as diverse as New York City; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.

[snip]

Sprawling, large-lot suburbs become less attractive as they become more densely built, but urban areas—especially those well served by public transit—become more appealing as they are filled in and built up. Crowded sidewalks tend to be safe and lively, and bigger crowds can support more shops, restaurants, art galleries.

But developers are also starting to find ways to bring the city to newer suburbs—and provide an alternative to conventional, car-based suburban life.

[snip]

Demographic changes in the United States also are working against conventional suburban growth, and are likely to further weaken preferences for car-based suburban living. When the Baby Boomers were young, families with children made up more than half of all households; by 2000, they were only a third of households; and by 2025, they will be closer to a quarter. Young people are starting families later than earlier generations did, and having fewer children. The Boomers themselves are becoming empty-nesters, and many have voiced a preference for urban living. By 2025, the U.S. will contain about as many single-person households as families with children.

While this information is not news to many regular readers of this blog, this serves as further evidence that the car-dominated cityscape and associated suburban lifestyle is on a downturn. This forecast is certainly not bulletproof, as nobody is perfect at predicting future events, but it suggests that the “old way” of doing things is no longer perceived by the majority as being in the best interests of our society. This, while we continue to endure having the largest public works project in Pacific Northwest history forced upon us, a project whose goal is to further the agenda of the old guard, the old way of doing things. If the forecast described above comes to fruition and nearly half of those large-lot homes in Clark County are abandoned come 2025, a scant ten years or so after the CRC is opened to the public, will we look back upon our $6B+ investment as a smart one? Will that much capacity even be necessary at that point? In the face of this possibility, how else could we spend $6B – on transportation infrastructure serving both states – that would be consistent with serving the needs of future residents?

Additionally, how do we address the looming challenge of ensuring mobility for our aging – and now retiring – baby-boomer population? Many of our suburban households are occupied by boomers who will either need to relocate to walkable, transit-oriented communities or have additional transportation options brought to within walking distance of their suburban homes. The latter of which is not exactly an inexpensive proposal given the low densities of modern suburban communities. At present, we don’t have the urban housing capacity to accommodate thousands of boomers electing to relocate to central city neighborhoods, nor do we have the resources to provide dial-a-ride services for those who elect to stay in the suburbs. What suggestions do you have for improving mobility options for the increasing number of elderly without breaking the bank and / or neglecting other required services and infrastructure maintenance and construction?

Continue reading “Slumburbs?”