Author Archive | Rob Zako

Big Look and Transportation: Part 2

Taking a “Big Look” at Transportation and Land Use Planning in Oregon – Call To Action

Previously, I explained that there are two transportation and land use programs at work in Oregon: the regulatory program many worry about and the follow-the-money program that matters more.

As Alex Marshall puts it in How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken, “It’s a simple rule: How we get around determines how we live. But it’s a rule we still haven’t grasped. Transportation determines the form of our places.”

What makes sense and what can we do?

To begin with, is important to recognize that the Metro area is integrating transportation and land use planning and investments as well as anywhere in the country. The New Look at regional choices and the Regional Transportation Plan update are both promising efforts.

But the Portland area isn’t an island cut off from the rest of the state. The Portland area will likely need to absorb roughly 1 million of the 2 million additional Oregonians expected in the next 35 years. Moreover, the Portland metro area must compete with other parts of the state for scarce transportation investments, for example, directed to the Damascus area. The fortunes of Portland are tied to the rest of the state.

We simply can’t afford to have the left hand planning one thing while the right hand is investing in something else. We must view planning and investing together, just as we must view transportation and land use together.

Here are four simple things to do:

  1. Contact the “Big Look” Task Force: Tell them they should look at the effects of transportation and other public investments, as much as land use planning regulations, on how Oregon develops.
  1. Contact the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC): Tell them what Alex Marshall said: “It’s a simple rule: How we get around determines how we live. But it’s a rule we still haven’t grasped. Transportation determines the form of our places.” Tell them to push ODOT to invest in ways that better support the Statewide Planning Goals.
  1. Contact the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC): They are accepting comments on the draft Oregon Transportation Plan (OTP) through August 14, 2006. Tell them the $3 billion they invest every biennium affects how the state develops and that they have a responsibility for land use every bit as much as LCDC does. Remind them that in August 1995 former Governor John Kitzhaber directed ODOT to transform itself into a “growth management agency.”
  1. Contact Governor Ted Kulongoski, Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Karen Minnis: Tell them to call on the “Big Look” Task Force they appointed to take a big look at our future, one that looks not only at how the state regulates but as importantly how the state invests.

For example, what if the State eliminated all planning requirements but provided funding for planning and awarded public investments only to communities who planned well? Such an idea would turn the land use program from one viewed by some jurisdictions as a state unfunded mandate into one viewed as an opportunity to obtain state investments. This isn’t necessarily a serious idea, but does provide food for thought about what is possible.

Unfortunately, the truth is that probably little is possible if we wait for the current elected leaders to lead. The Governor and Legislature established the “Big Look” Task Force, in part, because they themselves have been unable to agree on how to reform the land use planning program or to implement Measure 37 in a sensible manner. As for the Task Force, in May they adopted a 3-year work plan that appears to be more of a “little look” at what have been the “rubs” in the land use planning program than a “Big Look” at what kind of future Oregonians want and how to best get there. Recently, the Task Force selected six key issues they intend to focus on. Issue #5 is on target: “How should Oregon’s system of infrastructure, finance, and governance influence land use?”

But the Task Force might have a hard time answering the question, “How can the State of Oregon best work with local governments, the private sector and the public to achieve that kind of future Oregonians want?”, if it doesn’t take the time to first ask, “Why do Oregonians enjoy living and working in Oregon?” and “What kind of future do Oregonians want to have for themselves and future generations?”

If we want positive change, we need to come together to figure that out and eventually our elected leaders will follow. The best thing you can do right now is:

  1. Participate in Envision Oregon: Oregonians are already starting to come together to envision the kind of Oregon we want to have and how to best get there. Join me and 300 other citizens who have already pre-registered for the next town hall forum to discuss the future of Oregon on Thursday, August 3, 2006 in Portland from 5:30 pm to 8:45 pm. The event is free and a light supper will be served to those who come early.

Citizens coming together to envision the future won’t make Oregon a better place overnight. But as Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Big Look and Transportation: Part 1

Taking a “Big Look” at Transportation and Land Use in Oregon – Introduction

Senate Bill 82 established the Oregon Task Force on Land Use Planning (OTFLUP), commonly known as the “Big Look” Task Force, to study Oregon’s land use planning program and make recommendations to the 2007 and 2009 legislatures.

But which land use program should the Task Force look at: the one people worry about or the one that matters?

The program many worry about is Oregon’s regulatory land use program, the one Governor Tom McCall established in 1973 with Senate Bill 100. The Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) plays a big role in the regulatory program. DLCD’s budget for the 2005–2007 biennium is $18 million. Through Goal 12 (Transportation) and the Transportation Planning Rule (TPR), the regulatory program requires the State, metropolitan areas, counties and cities to adopt transportation system plans (TSPs) that “establish a coordinated network of transportation facilities adequate to serve state, regional and local transportation needs.” As a result, governments spend a lot of time developing TSPs. Planning for the future makes sense, right?

But the program that matters more is the follow-the-money land use program—the one Deep Throat would point us to. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) plays a big role in the follow-the-money program. ODOT’s budget for the 2005–2007 biennium is $2.9 billion, i.e., roughly 160 times as much as DLCD’s. An additional $661 million is passed through to other agencies, counties and cities. The state transportation portion of the follow-the-money program is embodied in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The basic, albeit unstated, goal of the follow-the-money program is for jurisdictions to get as much money as they can for their projects. The rules aren’t always clear, but participants talk about “horse trading.” Special interest lobbyists play a significant, if often hidden, role.

In truth, both programs are important, but the follow-the-money program matters more than the regulatory program. Large sums of money trump weakly-enforced regulations, and larger agencies dominate smaller ones.

For example, the Damascus/Boring Concept Plan developed by elected officials, citizens and technical experts envisions how this part of Clackamas County can develop as the newest addition to the Portland metro area. But the plans will turn into reality only if there is funding to build the new streets and other public facilities and services necessarily to support the development that is planned.

For example, the Newberg-Dundee Bypass around the existing Highway 99W southwest of the Portland metro area has been “planned” for decades in the sense that the TSPs for Yamhill County, Newberg and Dundee list this as a desirable project. But Yamhill County, Newberg and Dundee have nowhere near the $300+ million needed to build this project. (For that matter, neither does the State, which is now considering allowing a private Australian firm to build the bypass as a toll road.)

For example, Bend is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the nation. With all that new development, you’d expect Bend to be building new local streets like crazy. In fact, Bend doesn’t get enough money from the follow-the-money program (and other sources) to build enough new local streets to meet the demand. Predictably, some of that new traffic is clogging up the state highway bypass intended for through traffic.

All around the state, local jurisdictions are “planning” to build transportation projects far in excess of the money they—or the state—can reasonably expect to have. According to the draft Oregon Transportation Plan (OTP):

“In 2004 dollars the transportation needs analysis found more than a $1.3 billion per year gap in the funding needed to adequately maintain and expand the publicly funded transportation modes.”

Goal 12 and the TPR notwithstanding, local jurisdictions have no meaningful ability to “plan” projects they have no money to build. But real development, as is occurring in Bend and elsewhere, is depending on these “planned” projects. This kind of “planning” makes little sense, right?

Alex Marshall explains in How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken:

“The structure of a human settlement rests on a three-legged stool of politics, economics and transportation. … If we seek to change our world, it’s these interconnected levers that must be pulled. … Of these, transportation is the most visible and active in shaping a place. It’s a simple rule: How we get around determines how we live. But it’s a rule we still haven’t grasped. Transportation determines the form of our places.”

In other words, the follow-the-money transportation program determines not only the shape of our transportation system but to a great extent the shape of our communities. If we are interested in how Oregon grows, we should take a “Big Look” at the follow-the-money program even more than the regulatory program. We should take a look at investment policy as much as regulatory policy.

Monday, I will talk about what makes sense and what we can do.

Designing Communities with the Pedestrian in Mind

Rob Zako passes this along. Perhaps we can organize a carpool from Portland to Salem.

Please join us on Tuesday, November 15, for a presentation on transportation-efficient development by Tom Hylton, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Save Our Land, Save Our Towns. Hylton will discuss land use and urban design techniques for reducing traffic congestion, expanding transportation choices, and revitalizing communities. The presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer discussion. This event is being co-sponsored by the Oregon Transportation and Growth Management (TGM) Program, the Department of Land Conservation and Development, and the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Sustainability Program.

Date: Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Time: 1:30 to 3:00 p.m.
Place: Room 122, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), 355 Capitol St., N.E., in Salem (next to the Capitol Building)

Since seating is limited, please RSVP to Thank you.

Peak Oil? Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita highlighted the vulnerability of the world’s oil supply to disruptions and the resulting price shocks.

//ref=nosim/”> Link to book at

Link to book at Powell’s
Link to book at Multnomah County Library

List Price:

Matthew Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy, writes in the Time Magazine Bonus Section October 2005 on Global Business about “The Real Oil Shock.”

Simmons concludes: “The bottom line: the global oil supply has probably peaked. While the world expects to consume 120 million [barrels of oil] a day two decades from now, actual supply may be half that rate. This conclusion aptly portrays the potential magnitude of the energy ditch we are now in. It is impossible to calculate the odds of this supply-demand imbalance happening, but prudent planning argues that the world should assume the bleaker scenario. Then it follows that a global plan to use oil more rationally must be urgently developed and implemented.”

Simmons recommends: “Because 70% of the world’s oil is used as transportation fuel, that would be the place to start. We need to create new forms of transportation fuels as well as reduce the quantity of goods and people moved by cars and large trucks. If a high percentage of products now transported by large trucks were shifted to the global rail system, an efficiency savings of three- to tenfold could be realized. If those goods could be shipped over water rather than rail, even greater efficiencies would be realized. While such changes will take time, they have to succeed.”

Simmons also recommends: “A second change would come through embracing ‘distributed work.’ Most commercial businesses still operate on a concept that all employees need to work in the same office building to communicate. That was a necessity 20 to 40 years ago, but now faxes, e-mail, telephones and video conferencing allow people to work where they live, eliminating several hours of daily commuting time. And we need to manufacture more products and grow more food close to markets where they will be consumed.”

In closing Simmons says: “If a master plan is quickly adopted on a global scale, the world can safely cope with a peak in oil production and create a more sustainable and enjoyable economy at the same time. If we ignore these changes and peak oil does occur, the unforeseen consequences could create a far darker world.”

But other oil experts question Simmons’ dire predictions.

//ref=nosim/”> Link to book at

Link to book at Powell’s
Link to book at Multnomah County Library

List Price:

Daniel Yergin, author of the Pulitzer-prize winning book Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power, recently wrote in The Washington Post an article titled “It’s Not the End Of the Oil Age:
Technology and Higher Prices Drive a Supply Buildup.”

Yergin asserts: “We’re not running out of oil. Not yet.”

Nonetheless, Yergin concludes: “The growing supply of energy should not lead us to underestimate the longer-term challenge of providing energy for a growing world economy. At this point, even with greater efficiency, it looks as though the world could be using 50 percent more oil 25 years from now. That is a very big challenge. But at least for the next several years, the growing production capacity will take the air out of the fear of imminent shortage. And that in turn will provide us the breathing space to address the investment needs and the full panoply of technologies and approaches — from development to conservation — that will be required to fuel a growing world economy, ensure energy security and meet the needs of what is becoming the global middle class.”

The Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy features a year-old article titled “Long-Term World Oil Supply Scenarios: The Future Is Neither as Bleak or Rosy as Some Assert.”

The authors John H. Wood, Gary R. Long and David F. Morehouse conclude: “Will the world ever physically run out of crude oil? No, but only because it will eventually become very expensive in absence of lower-cost alternatives. When will worldwide production of conventionally reservoired crude oil peak? That will in part depend on the rate of demand growth, which is subject to reduction via both technological advancements in petroleum product usage such as hybrid-powered automobiles and the substitution of new energy source technologies such as hydrogen-fed fuel cells where the hydrogen is obtained, for example, from natural gas, other hydrogen-rich organic compounds, or electrolysis of water. It will also depend in part on the rate at which technological advancement, operating in concert with world oil market economics, accelerates large-scale development of unconventional sources of crude such as tar sands and very heavy oils. Production from some of the Canadian tar sands and Venezuelan heavy oil deposits is already economic and growing. In any event, the world production peak for conventionally reservoired crude is unlikely to be ‘right around the corner’ as so many other estimators have been predicting. Our analysis shows that it will be closer to the middle of the 21st century than to its beginning.”

While Wood, Long and Morehouse doubt Peak Oil is just around the corner, they nevertheless call for action sooner rather than later: “Given the long lead times required for significant mass-market penetration of new energy technologies, this result in no way justifies complacency about both supply-side and demand-side research and development.”

Thinking globally and acting locally, key questions are: What can the Portland metropolitan area do to plan prudently for a potential worldwide shortage of oil? Are current efforts to promote transit and bicycling sufficient, or should more be done?

Looking to the state, are the efforts proposed in the draft update to the Oregon Transportation Plan enough? Are the measures called for in the plan likely to be implemented?

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