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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Portland's transportation plan: everything but cars

With the mayor's former Chief of Tweets in charge.

Please, Lord, only two more years of these people.

Comments (51)

The dream of the Nineties, indeed.

Mr Bog, the state has decided what the future is, so you really need to get your IQ up to speed to keep up with these geniuses.

"The dream of the Nineties"

1890s - I think you'll like your new oxcart.

"dream of the nineties"....that's a typo, right? It's "dream of the NINNIES"

Chief of Tweets, or Chief Twit?

I suppose there are plenty of people vying for that title in city government...

As for car travel, Miller said the focus needs to be on improving safety, not increasing capacity. Exceptions, he said, are easing freight shipments and building roads tied to employment areas.

Yes because freight deliveries are only made to big ugly industrial warehouses twice daily (which, thankfully, are rapidly being replaced by cool, hip and trendy hipster playgrounds like the Pearl and SoWhat). Anything direct can, of course, be delivered via adult cargo trike. In Portland no large deliveries are made directly to customers; nothing is time-sensitive; freight carriers have unlimited time/money/drivers and love taking as long as possible to make a delivery; flying truck technology is just around the corner which will render evil car-centric roads (and a crumbling weight-limited 2-lane bridge) obsolete for freight delivery; streetcars make excellent, sustainable substitutes for carbon-spewing trucks thus the trucking industry would prefer that tracks be installed wherever possible and further investments in smooth roads of sufficient capacity be deferred indefinitely; Time = 1/money.

Did I miss anything? Well, best to refer any further questions to the city's new law-degree wielding transportation director.

The long-term challenge will be funding, now tied heavily to gas taxes. The bureau's efforts to promote alternative transportation will only erode that by pulling people away from cars. "There's a disconnect there, obviously, that needs to be addressed," Miller said.

Wait: every "alternative" mode of transportation depends on gas taxes to fund construction and maintenance of infrastructure?

Tom, here's an idea: above that map of dreamy Amsterdam, post a breakdown of Amsterdam's tax structure. Here, I'll start you off:


What's frighteningly odd is that Miller is about to head up tne transportation bureau, but has no clue about how the "alternative" transportation he praises depends on the same polluting infrastructure that cars do.

In other words, those roads and other infrastructure are still needed for hip folks to ride their fixies on. No amount of bioswales are going to mitigate the larger problem, or provide the asphalt, concrete, and host of extractive resources needed to build and maintain it. Making that "sustainable" is a dreamy, gauzy myth, like most other empty words about sustainability coming from City Hall.

And Tom--Amsterdam largely runs on commuting workers who can't afford to live in the city. It has severe traffic problems, rising water and air pollution problems, increasing crime, and serious financial problems. Sustainable? No; it never has been. A tiny, flat city that doesn't resemble Portland in any meaningful way might be your fantasy, but reality is simpler: Portland exists here, in a different place, with different people. Air-dropping ideology and canned design philosophies never, ever works. The lessons are well-documented.

He might want to drop by the Walmart on 82nd. They provide a shuttle run by Blue Star for their customers.

Also check out what is going on a round the world. Lots of private companies in the transit business. Next review the city taxi ordinances and get rid of most of them.

Let me not forget Jack's home state of New Jersey. A large percentage of transit there is provided by private operators.

Number of good ideas around. And remember diversity is good, especially in the marketplace. It provides people with opportunities.

For example: Despite pushing high levels of bicycle use (some "reports" claim it's as high as 40-50% of all residents), Amsterdam's air and water pollution is getting *worse*. That's right--bicycle use is increasing, and so is pollution--despite heavier measures to curtail pollution.


In other words, alternative transportation isn't making Amsterdam more sustainable.

And it sounds like Miller wants to make the same classic logical mistake that Amsterdam makes--that if only they "ban" cars in the central city, pollution will get better. Forgetting, of course, that air and water pollution doesn't obey lines on a map. Amsterdam wants to push its problems outside the city, into the suburbs. How wonderfully sustainable.

It is interesting that Mr. Miller's "vision" includes more frequent transit service, considering that since Adams assumed office as mayor the transit system has been gutted to the point of being unusable. Four rounds of service cuts on buses, and the elimination of highly-used routes, have led this one-time bus rider to driving a lot more than I did prior to the Adams mayoralty.

"Frequent service" on Trimet now means 45 minute waits for buses at 8 PM, and on weekends.

Is it possible that they are lying again? Or just deriving sadistic pleasure from insulting our intelligence?

How do you improve capacity for freight shipments without simultaneously improving it for automobiles?

All vehicular traffic moves on the same roads: cars, trucks, and buses. You need look no farther than Barbur Blvd or 4th Avenue (running in front of City Hall) to find crumbling road beds and alligator asphalt. PDOT's solution: run a thin asphalt patch to cover up the problem. That's as quick a fix as there is. A comprehensive road maintenance program is more than patching failing surfaces.

I was disappointed that the guy hitchhiked to the Panama Canal. Where's the commitment to the skateboard or bicycle?
The good news, Tom, is that you can return to skateboarding now, even if you occasionally fall. Just keep a copy of this article in your back pocket and the fluff will protect you from injury.
P.S. To the Oregonian writer: You have to know when you're overdoing a puff piece to the point where it sounds ridiculous.
I loved the paragraph entitled "Phoenix imprint." Ooo. Dynamic. Okay, he grew up in Phoenix. Get over it.

In other words, those roads and other infrastructure are still needed for hip folks to ride their fixies on.

Not to mention polluting, internal-combustion-engine-using vehicles to pay the gas taxes to keep the infrastructure in good repair. Kind of like how states keep finding new ways to ban smoking but then turn around and fund essential services using cigarette taxes and tobacco-settlement funds. In the article Miller does recognize this "disconnect", but doesn't propose any alternatives. To replace the gas tax you're either going to have to jack up other fees and taxes or come up with new ones. We're already seeing eye-watering car-registration fees and proposals for congestion pricing and charging drivers fees based on how much they drive. I'm sure creative minds are already cooking up new tax ideas in City Hall and Salem. Unfortunately, these will in effect be regressive taxation, since (thanks in part to government-sponsored gentrification) working class and poor families have had to move out to the suburbs and depend on cars to get to work and run their errands.

On the other hand, I'm glad Miller seems to be making sidewalks and improved public transit priorities, as they are things that will benefit the poorer parts of town. However, the city has been pleading poverty the last few years when it comes to sidewalks, and Tri-Met is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Best of luck to him on those.

On the other hand, I'm glad Miller seems to be making sidewalks and improved public transit priorities, as they are things that will benefit the poorer parts of town.

I agree with that if only it would ever turn out to be true. As we've all seen over the years, even in fatter times those kind of improvements have tended to go where the disadvantaged aren't residing.

Luis -

What is ludricrous is the concept that the Mayor or PBOT have any direct influence over TriMet service decisions.

The only impact Cop has on TriMet operations is the unceasing flow of jobs and businesses, which would pay TriMet employment taxes, out of the City and the entire TriMet service district.

Bye bye jobs; bye bye taxes, bye bye service.

Very true, of course. When I make out my quarterly Trimet payroll tax check, it is not without regret over the decent transit service that once existed here.

I am certainly not antitax, though. In fact, I would be very much in support of a new property tax levy, aimed at sending Sam "Mayor Creepy" Adams off to earn his GED, and maybe an associates degree of some kind.

Aside from being an embarrassment, having the first openly uneducated mayor of a major US city is certainly going to cost us more in the long run.

I just got a deep sinking feeling after reading this and the comments. Where is reality?

Overall trips in our metro area is 95% vehicle. How are the 95% represented by Miller's thinking?

Miller's own PDOT said there would be 45% transit ridership in SoWhat while it's less than 7%. A trolley line was built through SoWhat. A tram was built. New bike paths, bioswales, wide sidewalks are throughout SoWhat. But trips besides vehicles is less than 7%.

According to TriMet statistics ridership in comparison to all trips are less than they were 10 years ago. This is after we've recently spent locally over $8 Billion dollars on mass transit, bike, alternatives, etc.

When will the voice of the majority be heard by our public officials like Miller? The majority isn't saying that bikes, skate boards, walking is bad; they want to be at the table and want equity.

having the first openly uneducated mayor of a major US city is certainly going to cost us more in the long run.

It's better than that:

Adams is both a high school and college dropout, but proclaims himself the "education" mayor and claims to be able to make plans for improving it.

Adams has declared bankruptcy and narrowly avoided foreclosure twice, but is responsible for creating and implementing budgets for hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money.

Adams has admitted repeatedly lying to the press, his staff, and to citizens, but is now in charge of upholding City laws and enforcing the City's code of ethics.

Adams decided that "making out" with a 17-year-old in the City Hall bathroom while at work was okay, and now claims to be looking out for the future of youth in the city.

This list might be too long for a blog post.

What does FEMA have to say about this barricading of travel and evacuation routes?

The city's essentially building its own weird version of a Berlin Wall. When the exodus begins, even if you wanted to leave it'll be hard to escape via moving trike.

Adams has declared this city sustainable and green but is ready to pave over West Hayden Island for importing cars.

Adams has declared Portland as sustainable but has not stood up to keep our good drinking water and the most sustainable water system of Bull Run intact.

Adams has declared this city as sustainable and likes a yard and chickens but evidently thinks living in a ghetto style housing without is fine for other people.

Adams has declared the direction for bikes but remember he himself drove a pickup truck involved at an accident at Car Toys.

lw,I just got a deep sinking feeling after reading this and the comments. Where is reality?....

So did I.

Standing in front of about 200 Bureau of Transportation employees in late January, Miller explained that the city already has been thinking less automobile-centric. That's commendable, Miller said, but those efforts are just the beginning of his vision to provide Portland residents with what he calls "true choice" about how they commute -- from more bike lanes to new sidewalks and more frequent transit service.

Where is a "true choice" for the majority, as you stated 95% trips by vehicle?

Where is a "true choice" for the majority, as you stated 95% trips by vehicle?

Isn't that called "Newspeak"?

What we have so far...

-Stonewalling of the CRC and Sellwood Bridge replacements.
-Idiotic realignments that turn thoroughfares into mazes and deadends.
-Bricking off of lanes into mosquito pond "bioswales".
-"Bicycles Only" signs on more and more streets.
-Elimination of parking in front of your own home in more and more neighborhoods.
-Traffic congestion getting worse and worse while we're told it's getting better and better.

I'm sure there's more to see and more to come. Just get out and about the different parts of town and keep your eyes open.

It'll be interesting to see how a half a million people feel about not being able to get to their jobs, or even go look for a job, or get to the doctor, or the hardware store, or run errands for the infirm, etc, etc, and the disastrous effect it will have on the local economy.

Who has facts on the money spent to push "true choice?"

I'm old enough to remember the wave Neil rode into power.

The comedy just writes itself.

Adams is both a high school and college dropout, but proclaims himself the "education" mayor and claims to be able to make plans for improving it.

This explains why he chose Miller (who is described in the article as having "tired of textbooks" during his undergraduate days at the Bio-dome known as Boulder) for the transportation job.

Then there's this gem:

"I'm talking about real choice, the same way you go to the supermarket and look at the cereal aisle," Miller said. "That's what Portland needs."

Someone should explain to Tommy that at the supermarket you have to pay for your own cereal once you have made your "choice".

Go by adult tricycle!

Please read Metro's regional transportation plan 2035
There is a state plan as well as Federal version.

Both were approved very recently. Portland cues off of these.

Note that bikes have 1.5 pages on modality and cars 1/4 of a page. Says it all.


Hello!!! Attention all Aging Boomers!
Many of us are already not capable of riding a bike or even an oversized trike. Our joints either original or replaced cannot do this activity. And we can't walk very far either.
I doubt that the City Twits can admit that the population is aging.
We will just have to endure the insanity till their body parts start wearing out and falling off. Maybe then things will change.

Consider this: The Mayor is not sure he will be reelected despite our money he spends to promote himself.

He lands a job for his Chief of Staff just in case they both would land outside of city hall after the next election. Then our New Transportation Bureau Head can be in place to make room for a "fancy" job, such as bike czar within that bureau should our trusty Mayor need a job!!

Whatever other strengths he has, Miller has neither deep transportation expertise nor substantial management experience. He likes to bike, and he bossed around 20-odd twenty-somethings in the Mayor's office. In Sam's eyes, apparently, this makes Miller more than qualified to be in charge of 750 employees and $250 million. It will be interesting to see if the grizzled old PBOT engineers and pothole-fillers cotton to him.

Please read Metro's regional transportation plan 2035

Yep. Strangely, the Tram doesn't meet any of those transportation planning goals. But "PBOT" has often acted like a kid who's eaten too much candy and can't come down off his sugar high. No focus, no ability to accomplish much, but lots of justification of actions.

I doubt that the City Twits can admit that the population is aging.

The average age in the Portland metro area is just over 35 years old, and seems to be increasing. The reasons for that seem to be lost on the city, as you said. When a city tries to be a tourist destination and slowly obliterates its tax paying base (the middle class), things happen. There's a sea change coming in Portland as a result; the current attempts at formulating policy around "youth" are beginning to collide fully with the reality of the population.

The real roots of "sustainability" have nothing to do with bicycles, tricycles, Trams, glass condo towers, or density; they have to do with how we relate to the place we live. We're so out of whack with what the area can actually sustain that it's unlikely Portland will do much except decline in the coming century. Radically.

For example, Portlanders averaged 35.2 years old in 2009 (about 35 in Multnomah County):

Almost 12% of Portland residents are 65 or older, and that's rising (here and nationally).

The number of Portlanders living at or below the poverty line is rising, too. No, it's not because "immigrants are having a lot of kids".

For another interesting comparison, look at Portland's median income ($50,203) compared to the median house price ($296,000).

Portland Native on the Road, you just aren't looking at Portland in the right way. If this scheme is going to work, all of you need to vacate the city to make room for the creative class. It's all fine that you've been here all of your life and your family can trace itself back six generations, but you've just got to make room for linguini-legged fixie enthusiasts who'll play in Portland for a few years before leaving their messes for someone else to clean up.

(Back in the Eighties, I remember an old "Doonesbury" strip where one of the characters was trying to explain the homeless situation to the matrons of Palm Beach, and one responded "That's horrible! Why can't they move to their summer homes?" It's rapidly getting that way in Portland. "You had to pay HOW MUCH for a hip replacement after you slipped on the ice? Can't you just ask your Mom and Dad to give you the money?")

This town is soooo ripe for a moderate adult politician to step in and just talk simple common sense.

I'm not talking about a conservative, but just a nice left-of-center moderate who's message is aimed at responsible people. People with jobs, kids. People who are older than 30.

Now that I have kids, its remarkable the extent to which families seem to be an afterthought in city policy. In normal places, families with school age kids are THE controlling voter demographic.

Will children have to be "carefully taught"
to accept this "true choice"?

Snards:This town is soooo ripe for a moderate adult politician to step in and just talk simple common sense...

This needs to happen. The names that have come up so far won't do in my book, as they are the same old insiders. I see some parallels with the Egyptian people. They want rid of the old regime and and a new system and that is what Portland needs to do as well.

I hate to say this, but since an out-and-out uprising is out the question, the triffid rancher is probably right.

Portland is being wrecked by "dreamers", most of which have little investment in, care little about, and know nothing about the community they've come build their dream on top of.

It will be interesting to see if the grizzled old PBOT engineers and pothole-fillers cotton to him.

We the grizzled old PBOT engineers are retired. The new motto of PBOT is: A Red for the many and a Green for the few.

How do you improve capacity for freight shipments without simultaneously improving it for automobiles?

You can't.

The city seems to think that most freight transport only occurs in industrial areas. If you read through most of the RTPs that have been issued by Metro thus far, the only areas that are deemed worthy of congestion relief are industrial while the LOS of all Portland-area freeways has been downgraded to F or E at best (F usually for "transit corridors" meaning an adjacent light-rail line) and many arterials "boulevarded" (lane reductions, traffic calming, etc.). This has caused freight delivery costs to explode; while a lot of truck-load (one truck to one customer) delivery goes to warehouses and distribution centers in industrial areas, the vast majority of freight VMT is less-than truckload (one vehicle serving many customers, e.g. UPS, building supply companies, medical supplies, grocery stores, etc., etc., etc.). Necessarily this traffic must go everywhere.

By 2020 PBA and Metro estimate that Portland-area congestion will increase freight delivery costs regionwide by about $1 billion .

And the Obama administration coming out today committing $53 billion to "high speed rail" when the country is broke only justifies this lunacy.

...and were we led to believe that our billions going to foreign aid were to help the people?

I would like to announce my family's pending departure from the City of Portland (serious).

With apologies to SamAdumbs and Tom Miller, I'll be using a standard moving van and not a cargo tricycle piloted by a sustainable worker (liberal arts college drop-out, but who's counting?) subsidized by City funds to ensure that his / her employer practices a gender neutral, carbon neutral, shade grown, free trade, no MSG, and "progressive" hiring policy.

Snards - Here's a bit of a demographics lesson:


"Out of 223,737 households, 24.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.1% are married couples living together, 10.8% have a female householder with no husband present, and 47.1% are non-families. 34.6% of all households are made up of individuals and 9% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.3 and the average family size is 3."

Less than 1/4 of Portland's households have minor children. So as a political block, lip service is good but action is not that necessary. However, those over 45 make up 1/3 of the city. So if someone could coalesce that group and some others, the city could be changed.

The real problem is finding someone who is willing to take on a campaign and to deal with the muck that comes of public life any more. And the weasels and media will surely go after anyone honest and decent. Just look at Bob Ball who I didn't always agree with but who really got screwed.

Mr. Grumpy - There are those of us who came here in the 70s as dreamers who have witnessed our dreams turn into nightmares. I used to have a very different view of this city after 5 years of living here, than I do after nearly 35 years of living here.

Mike (the other one),
Sorry about the departure. Am afraid the trail will be out of here leaving ruts as deep as the wagon trails that brought people in.
People can only take so much, those that have to pay more and more for less and less.

Ecohuman: Despite pushing high levels of bicycle use (some "reports" claim it's as high as 40-50% of all residents), Amsterdam's air and water pollution is getting *worse*. That's right--bicycle use is increasing, and so is pollution

It's also widely known that Amsterdam has the worst traffic problems of any major city in Europe.

For kicks I happened to explore Amsterdam using Google Earth. Yes, there's a lot of bike paths - that's for sure. The new bike path up along N. Lombard through Rivergate is a perfect example of what you'll find in Amsterdam. But here's what else I saw:

American style pick-up trucks on the freeways. American pick-up trucks are extremely rare in Europe.

Freeways. Lots of them. With lots of traffic.

Lots of smoke stacks, airborne pollutants, and coal fired power plants.

Nuclear power.

And...lots and lots of BUSES.

It's funny how the revisionists over at City Hall proclaim how wonderful Amsterdam is...it's like someone glowing about how wonderful Los Angeles is, while they spent all their time at Disneyland (which isn't even in the same city, much less same county, as Los Angeles).

"Happy Trails to you until we meet again..."

Snards, you make a good observation. But I think the person needs to be right of center than left, but claimed to be left.

It would be so refreshing if we had a candidate with clear positions; like:

We should and will reevaluate our total expenditures on light rail, on bike trails, on bike signage, etc.

We must reconsider the misuse of urban renewal.

We must not misappropriate funds in one part of our city budget to fund other budgets, especially those contrary to our charter and city statutes.

We need to reassess the plethora of fees, like leaf fees, and be more transparent that all these fees are really taxes.

We need to decrease the amount of regulations that has nothing to do with public safety but in large part is citizen behavior modification.

We need to recognize that a super-large majority of our citizens are still reliant on vehicles and that changing transportation modes is a very long process that can't be dictated in any short period of time, that cities are a slowly evolving evolution that many times have change factors unpredicted.

These some examples of the kinds of candidate points we need. Then with elaboration in a real campaign dialogue and not a Willamette Week Candidates Gone Wild night.

I feel like Portland has become a less pleasant place to ride a bike in due to deliberate attempts to increase congestion and motorist confusion. Rather than abandoning their automobiles in mass, motorists are simply driving more chaotically, which should be no surprise at all.

Although I transport myself almost everywhere (at least within the city limits) via bike, I recognize that I don't share the same preferences as most people, and I really dislike the politicization of my preferred mode of transport. For me, it was never intended as a self-righteous evangelical agenda. I do it because it serves my purposes. However, of all the people that I know -- exceptions being those that already ride a bike -- are going to continue to drive. It will be the last thing they abandon, regardless of how expensive it gets -- their house, possessions and city they live in will be given up first. They aren't going to be swayed by tolken half-assed Copenhagen style bike paths (which are actually quite dangerous if not built properly, and only really work because Danish and Dutch culture is different than American culture).

By the way, I've transitioned to thicker trekking style bicycle tires because of the dilapidated state of our road network. Shouldn't smooth streets be considered a benefit to bicyclists, or are they also to be opposed because they could conceivably also be a benefit to motorists?

We do need a real campaign dialogue.
Nasty business trying to get a good candidate in our system. Some candidate fairs will not allow all candidates, but determine which three for example are viable. Then there is the control factor at some of these fairs, citizens cannot converse with candidates but can write a question on an index card to be turned in and answered if that card is selected. Heaven help us.

half-assed Copenhagen style bike paths

Yes, and the truth is even starker than that: "bike lanes" actually *increase* injuries and fatalities for bicyclists, according to numerous longitudinal studies in Europe:


One key quote from that article:

In Helsinki, research has shown that cyclists are safer cycling on roads with traffic than when using the city's 800 kilometres (500 mi) of cycle paths.[43] The Berlin police and Senate conducted studies which led to a similar conclusion in the 1980s.[44] In Berlin 10% of the roads have cycle paths, but these produce 75% of fatalities and serious injuries among cyclists.

I see the problem with Miller and Portland's transportation planning as this: it's almost entirely driven by poorly reasoned ideology, not by a real desire to provide long-term ecological or human solutions. The genuinely scary part is--the people being given authority seem to value the appearance of standing for something over actually standing for something.

And yes, I know the difference between paths and lanes. Take a look at the article.

ecohuman:...The genuinely scary part is--the people being given authority seem to value the appearance of standing for something over actually standing for something.

Reign of Hypocrisy!

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