Archive | Transportation Planning

London Transportation Bombings

I was relieved to find in my inbox this morning a message from my sister-in-law in London that she and my brother, who works in the financial district, are OK. I suspect my brother will be walking home this evening.

After the first sense of relief, my next two thoughts were:

– What steps can we take to make sure our own transit systems here in Portland are as secure as they can be?

– If we let attacks like this affect our modal choices, the terrorists win.


The Cost of Parking

Transportation advocates have long known that free parking has a high cost: it encourages drive-alone trips, ties up valuable land in acres of impermeable, pedestrian-unfriendly parking lots, and creates business districts lacking in “life on the street.” This fantastic article takes a closer look at the high price of free parking in our cities, including Portland:

The central city districts that have done really well in recent years aren’t the ones that have provided the most parking; they’re the ones that have provided the least. Portland, Oregon, instead of expanding its downtown parking capacity, has spent the past 30 years restricting it. There was less parking per capita in downtown Portland in the 1990s than there was in the 1970s. And Portland, as any visitor notices at once, has one of the most successful downtowns in America.

It’s not hard to do the math and figure out that if every person in your office block drives their own car to work, it’s going to eat up a LOT of land to store their empty cars during the day. Some cities now devote more land to parking in downtown than to all other uses combined! Parking reduction is one of the best tools we have to get people out of their cars, benefiting the environment, public safety, and local businesses, not to mention freeing up land for development.
As the author quotes,

automobile dependency resembles addiction to smoking, and free parking is like free cigarettes…it will take decades for cities to recover from the damage.

One Metro Councilor Challenges the Status Quo

For the last 30 to 50 years, transportation planning in the United States has been:

1. Carried out largely in isolation from regional, city or neighborhood land use planning, even though we know transportation investments shape property values and land uses and land use regulations play a major role in travel patterns.

2. Based on unexamined assumptions about what are the right questions to address. (For example, is the right question always “How do we reduce congestion on this corridor?”)

3. Shaped by an environmental impact statement analysis that often uses straw-men alternatives (especially the “no build” alternative) and that are organized around analyzing a single “corridor” instead of more sophisticated combinations of transportation investments, land use strategies and demand management.

4. Powerfully shaped in Oregon (and elsewhere) by state and federal mandates limiting the use of funds for only certain kinds of transportation investments.

5. At its worst, one of the last refuges of back-room deals and log rolling by a narrow group of interests, conducted out of the public eye.

Our state and region have made progress in changing some of these dynamics, especially #5. But the time is right to take new steps in this region to reform how we make these decisions that use so many tax dollars and have such a profound effect on our region and neighborhoods.

I would welcome other peoples’ ideas about what reforms are needed and how we can gain acceptance for change.