Archive | Transportation Funding

In Support of a Street Improvement Fee

On Thursday, I’ll be joining what I hope will be a large group of transportation enthusiasts and activists in attending PBOT’s Our Streets Town Hall. Motivated by a series of missed opportunities that have made our 2030 bicycle plan look more like a naïve aspiration than a realistic, achievable goal, and appalled by a recent spate of pedestrian deaths, I’ll offer this argument in support of the street fee.

Winston Churchill once described democracy as “the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried.” Similarly, a per-household fee may be the worst way of funding our transportation priorities except for all of the other ways that we’ve tried. I say this mindful that I’m fortunate enough to be able to pay the fee without it being too burdensome. For many Portlanders, this fee will hurt, and I hope we can find a way to soften the blow to them while preserving the idea that we all have ‘skin in the game.’ I also would have preferred to see us first take the step of charging fair market rates to those who store their private belongings on our streets by reforming parking throughout the city.  But it is defensible, I suppose, to ask all Portlanders to contribute something before asking those who demand more to contribute more, so long as it’s certain that the latter step will follow.

There’s no doubt that implementing this fee constitutes an improvement to our current funding system. What we’re trying to do at present—fund a multi-modal transportation system with revenues generated largely by motor vehicle travel—is equivalent to trying to fund a methadone clinic with a tax on heroin. It’s a Catch-22 where our ability to provide a solution depends upon the continuing severity of the problem. This new fee is an opportunity to reshape that vicious circle. As such, I expect to see it immediately and drastically change our funding priorities, placing much less emphasis on preserving access and capacity for motor vehicles, and much more on projects that focus on safety, particularly for the most vulnerable road users.

Make no mistake: With regard to demonstrating a commitment to active transportation, we are stagnating. We are stagnating. We have no bike sharing program, nor any concrete plans to deliver one nearly three years after Council voted to do so. And as I write, we are squandering a chance to improve bicycle access on 28th Avenue—a key component of the 2030 bicycle plan. It joins too long a list of recent missed opportunities that includes SW 12th Avenue, NE Holladay Street, and the NW Park Blocks, to name just a few. The news of plans to improve crosswalks along some of our most treacherous roads is welcome, but it’s a modest step. Portland’s walking and bicycling networks remain frustratingly—and often dangerously—incomplete.

I support this new revenue stream because it presents our best opportunity yet to end the stagnation. However the name that seems to have taken hold—“street maintenance fee”—misses the point. The goal here must be to improve our streets. The name of the fee should reflect that. I understand that the finances around street maintenance appear daunting at this moment. But if we were to invest in making our streets excellent public spaces—by holding safety paramount; by prioritizing walking, bicycling, and transit in practice as well as we preach it; and by recognizing that our streets are, as Jane Jacobs so eloquently stated, the setting of an intricate ballet that “never repeats itself from place to place, and in any one place is always replete with new improvisations”—I’d bet that those numbers would start to look a lot more manageable in a hurry.

In fact, I’d bet twelve bucks a month on it.

City Schedules Transportation Funding Option Town Halls

From the Portland Bureau of Transportation:

Mayor Charlie Hales, Commissioner Novick and Transportation Director Leah Treat will welcome the public and discuss transportation needs and funding options at the Our Streets PDX town hall events: 

  • Wednesday, April 16: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, 10301 NE Glisan St.
  • Thursday, April 17: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Kaiser Permanente’s Town Hall, 3704 N Interstate Ave.
  • Thursday, April 24: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 SW Capitol Hwy
  • Thursday, May 1: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Woodstock School, 5601 SE 50th Ave.

 The town hall meetings will provide an opportunity for the public to speak with transportation staff, ask questions and make comments for the Mayor, Commissioner and Director.

 

 

For more information, see the project web page: www.ourstreetspdx.com.

Your Questions For Neil, “Round 5″, Part 2 – Ridership / Operations / Budget

Yesterday, we posted the first in a series of videos featuring Portland Transport’s interview with TriMet’s Neil McFarlane, based on your questions.
Today, here’s Part 2…

Today’s topics are Ridership, Operations and Budget:

  • Recent press about transit at historically high levels, but TriMet’s has not fully recovered to pre-2009.
  • Some service has recently been restored, how much is based on local economic recovery and how much is based on TriMet’s demands for the ATU contract?
  • How do TriMet’s unfunded liabilities factor in to how much service can be funded?
  • TriMet has recently put an agency focus on reliability, particularly with regard to MAX. What are the results?

Special thanks again to the Portland Opera for providing the venue with the great views.

Segment Navigation:

Life After the CRC, What Now?

The Columbia River Crossing in its current form is dead (maybe). What happens now? The 2015 Legislative Session has been touted to be the next opportunity for a big transportation package. What might that look like absent the CRC? Here are a few possibilities:

  • An urban transportation agenda. Mayor Hales has suggested that perhaps now the conversation could shift to the “orphan highways” – ODOT facilities in our cities (Powell, Barbur, Sandy and 82nd for example in Portland). These should be transferred to city ownership and management, but someone needs to pay to upgrade them to current standards.
  • The NE Quadrant/Rose Quarter “safety” project. A $400M freeway widening in the name of safety. But one that unlocks a lot of good land use policy in the process, so the City of Portland might get behind it.
  • The beginnings of the “common sense alternatives” to the CRC, including potentially rebuilding the Marine Drive Interchange to provide Hayden Island access from that interchange, solving a lot of problems with the current ramps on the island.
  • Nothing at all. After all, the $450M in bonding that the Legislature promised for the CRC didn’t actually have a repayment source identified.

What do you think? What do you hope for?

Here We Go Again

Back in 2008, I was part of the stakeholder committee for “Safe, Sound and Green” – an attempt to generate additional revenue for PBOT. It was partially successful, helping push a statewide gas tax increase forward.

But that slug of revenue turned out to be less than expected due to countervailing trends. And Portland dedicated a big chunk of that bump to the Sellwood Bridge. So Commissioner Novick and the Mayor are at it again, starting with a set of open houses like the ones we had in 2008. Here’s the schedule:

See you at an open house next month!