Archive | Statewide Interest

WPC Wishes You a Call-Free New Year

A suggested New Year’s resolution from the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition:

If you’re still racking your brain for New Year’s resolutions that will make you the toast of every neighborhood, allow me to suggest one of my favorites: “I resolve to share the road.”

It’s a simple resolution, really, but it has far-reaching consequences for everyone. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death in the United States for all age groups from 1 through 34 years, and almost half of these fatalities are alcohol-related,” according to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control. “New Year’s Day has the greatest relative increase in traffic fatalities compared with all other holidays.”

Your road-sharing resolution can begin New Year’s Eve, when you decide how to bring in 2010. If you know you’ll be drinking, pocket those car keys and take transit or a cab. Think there’s no such thing as a free ride? TriMet offers free service New Year’s Eve after 8pm, and Yellow, Blue, and Green MAX lines run until 3am. RideOn Portland (503.235.RIDE) is also a useful service from a great nonprofit for those who find themselves drunk and with car. They’ll drive your car and you for a bargain $10 from SE Portland or a number of sponsoring bars.

Then start 2010 off right by complying with the new cell phone. As you may have heard, on January 1st, 2010, Oregon’s new distracted driver law takes effect, which prohibits driving while dialing, texting, or talking on a cell phone, with fines starting at $90. While a person who is 18 years or older can use a hands-free device, studies have shown that hands-free provides the same mental distraction as holding a cell phone. Save the call for the destination.

Here are a few other resolution ideas from WPC:

If you drive:

  • “Stop and Stay Stopped” for pedestrians in crosswalks until they have cleared the driver’s lane and the adjacent lane
  • Remember every intersection is a crosswalk, whether it is marked or unmarked
  • If a car is stopped at a crosswalk, you must stop, too
  • Keep intersections and sidewalks clear so that people can walk safely by
  • Be alert for people walking during low-light conditions, especially in areas where they are likely to cross the road, or you might not see them until it is too late to stop

If you walk:

  • Allow cars time and opportunity to stop before crossing the road
  • Make eye contact with other road users, and continue to look as you’re crossing the road
  • Don’t assume that because one car stopped, the car in the next lane over sees you
  • Remember to cross only at legal crosswalks and with the light

Here’s wishing everyone a happy, prosperous and SAFE New Year!

Planning for the future as if we were serious

Rob Zako posted the message below to the OTRAN list and with his permission I’m cross-posting it here.

— Chris

This afternoon, I attended a portion of the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) meeting, in particular, the agenda item dealing with progress on updating the Eugene-Springfield-Coburg regional transportation system plan.

I was reminded that when it was first adopted in 1991, the Oregon Transportation Planning Rule (TPR) called for metropolitan areas such as Eugene-Springfield to reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) per capita by 10% over 20 years. Mind you the TPR uses the term "VMT" to refer only to automobiles and light trucks used for the movement of people, not goods and services, and only for trips that originate and end within the metropolitan boundary. And the objective was to reduce not the TOTAL number of vehicle miles traveled, which naturally increases when the population increases, but only vehicle miles traveled PER CAPITA. Thus one could achieve a 10% reduction, for example, by have some people trip chain, carpool, or use alternative modes some of the time. It hardly seems like that ambitious a target to meet. And yet the reality of modern urban development is that as a community grows larger geographically, and as destinations get farther away from each other on average, the typical person tends to drive more and farther, resulting in an increase in VMT per
capita.

Thus in the late 1990s, metropolitan areas protested that the VMT reduction standard was unrealistic. In 1998, LCDC amended the TPR to require only a 5% reduction in VMT per capita over 20 years, or to allow metropolitan areas to develop their own quot;alternative standards" to measure progress in reducing reliance on the automobile. LCDC amended the TPR again in 2006 (originally for a different reason related to "concurrency" and a hospital in Springfield) to completely do away with the requirement to reduce VMT, leaving only the "alternative standards." And at the LCDC meeting today, local governments were supposed to report on their progress in meeting their own standards for reducing reliance on the automobile.

I mention all of this ancient history from Oregon’s "old" planning system, because we are perhaps in the midst of creating a "new" planning system … or at least significantly revising the system we have. Among other things, Oregon House Bill 2186 (2009) creates a task force to look at how metropolitan areas can plan transportation and land use to begin to meet state targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in particular, as defined in Oregon House Bill 3543 (2007). As noted before, some subscribers to this email list are members of the task force, which has but two meetings left and is looking to finalize by December 4 its recommendations to the February 2010 special session of the Legislature.

While one can make the topic of reducing your carbon footprint from transportation complicated, it isn’t rocket science. As I have explained before to this email list, under reasonable assumptions, the expected increase in fuel efficiency over the next several decades can be expected to more or less offset the expect increase in population, resulting in no net change in TOTAL greenhouse gas emissions. In order to actually reduce TOTAL greenhouse gas emissions, in particular, to 75% below 1990 levels by the year 2050, we more or less need to reduce vehicles miles traveled PER CAPITA by 5% per year, year after year, from now until the middle of the century. To put it another way, over the next 14 years, people need to cut their driving in half. Then in following 14 years they need to cut their driving in half again. And then once more cut it in half so that by the time we reach the year 2050, people are driving but one-eighth as much as they do now.

The above is all review, and many of us are general familiar with these conclusions. So what?

So the challenge is to seriously consider what our communities would look like — will have to look like — if we take these numbers seriously and plan for people to drive significantly less and less over time, until by the year 2050 we are seeing people driving just one-eighth as much as they do now. You’d have to have a community where all streets have sidewalks that facilitate walking, and where businesses are built to the street to cater to pedestrians.You’d have to have a network of safe and fast bicycle routes that rival the network we have today for cars, and there would need to be secure places for locking bicycles and facilities for people to take showers. And you’d have to have buses running pretty much everywhere all the time so frequently that you would not have to worry about schedules but would just catch the next bus where you are to get where you had to go. Indeed, one could reasonable expect public transit to serve a big share of all trips, maybe even more than half of all trips. And you’d need to have fast and convenient options for intercity travel, such as frequent intercity bus service and high(er)-speed rail. What would such a transportation system realistically look like? How much would it cost to build it? How much would it cost to operate and maintain it?

And what about land use? The conventional wisdom is that public transit only becomes cost effective when you have densities of 12 units per acre or more. The idea is that at lower densities, not enough people live close enough to transit lines to fill up a bus and make running it economical. But such conventional wisdom is rooted in a world where most people own cars, gas is relatively cheap, and parking widely available and inexpensive. What if the primary options for getting around were pretty much limited to walking, bicycling and taking transit, with a private motor vehicle relegated to an
expensive and infrequent choice? Then maybe even lower density development could, in theory, support transit service. I don’t know for sure. But my point is that climate change is about … well, change, big change. And when we start talking big changes, we may need to change some of the things we think we already know.

Am I dreaming? Perhaps. But I don’t see how we ultimately will successfully be able to make the big changes we need to make unless we seriously plan for such a future. You don’t complete a cross-country trip looking at a map just one block at a time, do you? You need to begin looking at where you are starting and where you want to end up, and then plan a route to get you there.

And such planning need not be rocket science. One can go far doing what scientists
call order-of-magnitude calculations. For example, imagine half of all motor vehicle trips being replaced by bus trips. How many buses would you then need? How much would it cost to operate such a system in total, or per passenger? How much narrower could your streets be with the reduced traffic? If someone has not yet written a white paper spelling out such a scenario, it would not be so hard to do so, at least in general terms. The point is to in a realistic, if rough, way begin to look to the future and hence begin to talk realistically about what needs to be done to get there.

We need to do no less for our communities now. Let’s get started.

Rob

Should bikes pay the exact same registration fee as cars, and more than motorcycles?

Three Republicans and a Democrat (sounds like a “balanced” cable talk show) have introduced a new bill in Salem that already has a lot of people talking.

From KATU:

Under House Bill 3008, those 18 and older who ride on any highway in the state would have to pay $54 every two years to register their bike. They would have to attach a sticker to the frame of their bike.

That money would go toward a Bicycle Transportation Improvement Fund, which would pay for bikes lanes and paths as well as future projects.

Those who fail to register would face a $25 fine.

KATU has also posted the full text of the bill.

BikePortland beat KATU to the punch yesterday with a hotly-debated post, and they have a follow-up post which interviews one of the sponsors today, which includes the stunning quote: “if there were not bicycles we wouldn’t need bicycle lanes”, apparently unaware that bicycles predate cars, and that were it not for the hazards presented by heavy, fast moving cars, we wouldn’t have a situation where we effectively kick bicycles to the curb.

Rob Zako for OTC!

Occasional Portland Transport contributor and state-wide transportation advocate (Rob is the organizer of the Otran e-mail list) Rob Zako has applied for one of the two open positions on the Oregon Transportation Commission.

I will be writing to Governor Kulongoski to recommend Rob, and I would urge other Portland Transport readers to do the same. Here’s the contact point:

Executive Appointments
Office of the Governor
900 Court Street NE, Room 160
Salem, OR 97301-4047
Fax: (503) 378-6827

For more information about executive appointments, contact:

Assistant: Pamela Estes
Phone: (503) 378-3123
Email: pamela.j.estes@state.or.us

Main Person: Nancy Goss-Duran
Phone: (503) 378-8471
Email: nancy.goss-duran@das.state.or.us

Web: http://governor.oregon.gov/Gov/boards.shtml

Some of the points I will be making in my letter and that you may wish to reinforce:

  • Rob understands the connection between transportation and land use
  • Rob is committed to addressing climate change
  • Rob has a state-wide point of view (he is based out of Eugene)

Here is some additional info from Rob:

I suggest you do two related things:

1) Communicate NOW with Governor Kulongoski that you expect his efforts around transportation package to be integrated with efforts around land use and especialliy climate change, and that we need The New Direction for Oregon.

2) Indicate what candidate(s) for the OTC understand these issues and their interconnections and can help guide Oregon into a changing and uncertain future.

Thanks,
Rob

P.S. Someone else suggested the following descriptions could be helpful:
•Good listener
•Critical thinker
•Excellent strategist
•Commitment to consensus
•Awareness of pressing problems
•Understands the linkages between issues
•Ability to bridge traditional political boundaries
•Excellent at identifying creative solutions to vexing problems

Around the State Sans-car

One of the lesser-know efforts of ODOT is the publication of intercity timetables for various kinds of transportation in Oregon. Take a look and stimulate your thinking for ways to get around the state without your own four wheels.

Hat tip to Dave Brook for guiding us through the less-obvious-navigation to find this URL.