Author Archive | rburkholder

The Real Cause of Congestion?

Jonathan Schlueter of the Westside Economic Alliance passed out some interesting information at this month’s transportation committee meeting, showing the increase in motor vehicle registration over the past 30 years.

In 1975, there were about 2.3 million people living in Oregon. They owned about 386 Thousand cars. That’s one vehicle for every 6 people.

In 2004, there were about 3.6 million people living in Oregon, owning 3.2 million vehicles. Just over 1.1 people per vehicle.

In 30 years, people population grew 56% and motor vehicle population grew 280%, more than 5 times as fast.

There are many factors that prompted this radical shift, including rising incomes, availability of easy credit, and women entering the workforce. But the greatest impact was freeway-caused suburbanization, which made driving a necessity. (I-5 plowed through Portland in the 1960’s).

(another interesting fact: each day there are 121 new motor vehicle registrations in Oregon: 14 in Clackamas County, 5 in Multnomah, and 21 in Washington County.)

Oil Supply Uncertainty

The rising demand for and declining supply of oil will likely have tremendous impacts on land use and transportation planning efforts in the Portland region for decades to come.

This will be an issue of ongoing concern to Metro as we work with the public, businesses and other governments to shape regional transportation planning and growth management policies in the years ahead. Increasing volatility in oil prices could have serious effects on every industry, from health care to agriculture to high technology, and it may impact citizensĀ¹ commuting options, home heating sources, and other uses of oil as well. How we as a region respond through our transportation and land use policies to the growing uncertainty in the supply and cost of oil will have a direct impact on our economy and quality of life for many years to come.

At my request, Metro policy associate Daniel Lerch developed a white paper outlining some of the policy challenges and opportunities the region faces if we wish to maintain our quality of life in the face of a more unstable and more expensive supply of oil. The white paper discusses how Metro may respond to future uncertainty in the supply and price of oil. It identifies oil supply uncertainty as a timely risk management issue and establishes a basis for the Metro Council to consider possible policy and program responses.

It is clear that we will need to be prepare for uncertainty in the supply of oil in our transportation and land use planning decisions.

I-5 to 99W Connector Project Steering Committee studies ways to improve traffic movement in the area

Excerpted from Rex’s April newsletter:

Regional and local transportation officials have recognized the need for a connection between I-5 and Hwy. 99W for more than a decade. Traffic demand in the southwestern portion of the region has grown substantially, leading to increasingly congested conditions.

Metro Councilor Carl Hosticka serves on the I 5 to 99W Connector Project Steering Committee with other elected officials from Washington and Clackamas counties and the cities of Wilsonville, Tualatin and Sherwood, as well as officials from the Oregon Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration. The committee is currently working to identify a corridor where transportation improvements could be located.

The Project Steering Committee recently adopted a purpose and need statement and a set of goals and objectives. These documents will guide the development of alternatives in the study. The adopted purpose and need statement and goals and objectives are posted on the project web site at

Though the project alternatives have not yet been defined, they are likely to include options that range from only improvements to existing streets and demand management solutions to options that look at new roadway connections. The project team will develop evaluation criteria, analyze future transportation needs and study the community and environmental features in the study area. The project will host an open house early next fall to begin identifying potential transportation corridors.

The project team will meet with community groups this spring and summer to share information about the project?s progress. Call 503.595.9915 or send email to to request a speaker for your group.

This is Depressing

Rex passes this along from the SHIFT list:

The scientific uncertainty in global warming isn’t about whether it’s occurring or whether it’s caused by human activity, or even if it will “cost” us too much to deal with it now. That’s all been settled. Scientists are now debating whether it’s too late to prevent planetary devastation, or whether we have yet a small window to forestall the worst effects of global warming.

Our children may forgive us the debts we’re passing on to them, they may forgive us if terrorism persists, they may forgive us for waging war instead of pursuing peace, they may even forgive us for squandering the opportunity to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle. But they will spit on our bones and curse our names if we pass on a world that is barely habitable when it was in our power to prevent it.

And they will be right to do so.

What Does Health Got to do with it? Metro’s Relationship to Health

The Portland region is often commended for it’s smart growth and planning. Benefits of our planning efforts have resulted in a range of transportation options, access to parks and greenspaces, and livable and walkable neighborhoods, to name a few. An often overlooked, yet important benefit is the positive impact that our planning efforts have on our health. Neighborhood and downtown areas have sidewalks and crosswalks that ensure people can walk safely, bike lanes have been installed all over the region, trails and greenways are being improved and expanded, and, because of the transportation options available, fewer people are driving–that leads to cleaner

Projects promoting pedestrian and bicycle friendly environments are becoming more common, responding to citizen demand and a greater realization that more walkable communities prosper economically as well. In addition, research shows a clear relationship between land use, community design, and transportation planning and health. One reason for focusing on community health is increased health care costs. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2000, adult physical inactivity resulted in direct medical expenses totaling more than $76 billion. In addition, more than a third of young people in grades 9-12 do not regularly engage in vigorous physical activity.

Much of Metro’s work promotes health. For example, we have worked hard over the years to preserve parks and greenspaces throughout the region, we have provided funding for trails that people can use to bike or hike on, and promoted the development of vibrant downtowns and livable streets that allow people to walk to stores instead of driving. In addition, we are leaders in providing transportation options. For example the Regional Travel Options Program (RTO) is a coordinated effort with public agencies and business organizations to promote and support transportation options in order reduce the number of drive alone trips in the region. Also, Metro produces the Bike There! map. This map provides a snapshot of bike lanes and multi-use paths in the Portland metropolitan region, rating selected through-streets where bicyclists share the road with motorists.

It is my hope that we can continue to integrate the health perspective in the current work that we are doing around planning for the future and updating our regional transportation plan. Take a look at the links below to learn more about the research and organizations that are taking a look at this issue.

Active Living Research: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is sponsoring a coordinated response to find creative approaches for re-integrating physical activity into American life.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Active Community Environments Initiative (ACES)
:  CDC’s Active Community Environments Initiative (ACES) promotes walking, bicycling, and the development of accessible recreation facilities. It was developed in response to data from a variety of disciplines, including public health, urban design, and transportation planning.

National Association of County and City Health Officials, Community Design project: This project’s goal is to raise the awareness of local public health officials so that they can proactively participate in land use planning decisions.

Transportation Research Board, a division of the National Research Council, has produced a number of publications addressing the relationship between the built environment, transportation, and health including one report entitled “Does the Built Environment Influence Physical Activity” (PDF, 1.5M).