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Sunday, February 26, 2012

The road to hell is multi-modal

It's hard to believe, but the O actually has a story running today about the City of Portland's insanely twisted priorities in the transportation arena. City Hall reporter Beth Slovic won't be getting any warm, fuzzy hugs from Amy Ruiz for this kind of copy:

Along with stopping major paving, the bureau plans to carve into services such as bridge monitoring, street cleaning and sidewalk inspections -- shaving $15 million from the proposed 2012-13 budget but almost certainly costing taxpayers much more down the road.

The bureau has other priorities, such as $900,000 to build 13.5 miles of bike routes, $665,000 to add eight permanent employees to oversee streetcars, $200,000 for Rose Festival prep work and $15,000 to help sponsor a "Rail-Volution" conference in Los Angeles. Just last week, the City Council redirected $250,000 from the current transportation budget to buy fancy planters and streetlights for the downtown retail core.

She forgot a few things, but hey, it's a rare day that the O tells it like it is. Oh, and Slovic really goes for it with this:

Miller was Adams' longtime chief of staff when the mayor promoted him last year to take over the Transportation Bureau. Miller now makes $152,000 and, like other bureau directors, is eligible in 2012-13 for a 4 percent merit raise and possibly a cost-of-living increase.

In his view, shaping Portland's future lies "at the heart" of the bureau's mission and requires it to play a central role in providing alternatives to cars and promoting economic development.

That philosophy is one reason Portland enjoys an international reputation for innovative public transit and bicycle savvy. It's reflected in bureau priorities: Office staffers in 2009-10 reported spending 32 percent of their hours on passenger vehicles and 11 percent on bicycles. In surveys of residents, however, two-thirds cite driving alone as their main form of travel and no more than 5 percent name bikes.

The thinking also helps explain why the bureau spent $5,000 last April for Miller to join Portland business leaders on a tour of thriving European cities, and why Adams spent almost $50,000 in 2007-08 to support handmade-bicycle shows and triathlons.

Why the sudden shift in emphasis at the city's usually toothless daily newspaper? Traditionally, this sort of reporting has tended to occur when an editor is personally affected by something -- in this case, there's probably a bad street or two along some O bigwig's daily commute. But whatever the reason, kudos to Slovic.

The bizarre priorities don't just stop at the transportation bureau, of course. Look at sewer. Look at water. Look at "planning." It's all just money for nothing.

Comments (42)

...but the chicks (interns?) are free.

PDOT/PBOT, like all of the planning zealots, has no concept of prosperity.

One crucial element of prosperity is fast, low cost transportation. And that is motorized on rubber wheels.

It is not waiting 10 min, in the rain, in then cold for a toy train.

It is not transporting merchandise on a bike.

It is seldom a bike in the rain or cold. (Bikers mostly come out in good weather)

Miller, like most planners probably believes all of the modern crackpot ideas.

Like we will all love to live in a 20 minute neighborhood (ie: condo bunkers)

We all enjoy walking in a cold rain.

Young creative class will save us (and they happen to love condo bunkers)

Of course he thinks we are running out of oil. As the USA has cut its imports from 60% to 45%. And some experts are hinting that we could be energy independent in a few years if the greenies don’t succeed in their efforts to block domestic energy as part of their jehad against our high standard of living.

Of course they all are all too illiterate to look at actual data that show transit uses MORE ENERGY than small cars. That transit costs many times what cars cost. And transit is slower than driving.

The planners actually think that making transportation slower and more costly will somehow be a benefit.

And he probably thinks he is saving the earth from climate disruption. As the earth's temperature has been stasis for a decade and the sun in resembling its state just before the little ice age.

But he is confident he is shaping our behaviors to make us into better people according to his crackpot concept of an ideal society. Someone should tell that fool that Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Castro all tried that before. The only thing that happened we that millions of people got killed.

Don't think it can't happen here -- we are in the middle of a close call: the crackpot urban planning philosophy was one of the primary causes of the housing bubble that almost brought down the world's financial system. (Housing bubble was mostly in places with severe constraints on building. And NOT in places with few controls. - you cannot have a price bubble with plentiful supply.)

Planners are destroying our city and state. They are a real danger to our livelyhood.


The interns are pricey...ask Beau Breedlove.

A small irony can be found in how much the potholes, gravel, leavEd, other debris and streetcar rails impinge on the safety, comfort and pleasure of using a bike.

I saw the sub-heads in the store this morning: priorities are bikes, conferences, and staff.

I was amazed to see that on the front page - above the fold - of the O.

Speaking of bike safety:
Does anyone know where to find bike accident and death rates? As in per passenger-mile?


This is all good - let Portland stay weird. Vote with your pocketbook. Don't go there unless you have to.

The state needs to just stay out of the way, let Portland "plan" itself into irrelevance, and let Hillsboro take over as the center of the region. The sooner the better.

"Why the sudden shift in emphasis at the city's usually toothless daily newspaper?"

The O is making an attempt to keep alive. I have been amazed at their conservative right shift news in the last couple of months. Too bad the editorial page still disgusts this paying customer. Not a good time to raise rates

I've always had an aversion to question headlines like, "Why can't Portland repave its rutted roads?"

My reaction is, "It's your newspaper. You're the reporter - you tell me."

Of course, there are times when a question is as close as you can get to the story, but this is not one of those times. In fact, the question is loaded. We could fix the roads but only if we wanted to spend less on bells and whistles for the ego-trippers at city hall.

It's funny really - the Oregonian is going off message here and actually reporting something, but they don't have the courage to do it all the way with the headline. The best they can muster is to present us with a mystery: "Hey, Has Anyone Noticed These Bad Roads? How Did This Happen?" This helps them cover their own asses since they've had their heads buried in a bio-swale for so long.

It should have looked like a famous headline from New York: "City to Roads: Drop Dead!" The Oregonian's owned by a company back East. Maybe they would have been impressed.

One of the many things that seems to be lost on City Hall is that for all of their talk of "equality", the bicycle first approach primarily benefits the young downtown/hipster class or fitness enthusiasts. And yes, I know there are those out there who do it because they are vested in "making a change", but they are the minority.

Ask the family of 4 living on 40k a year how valuable increased bicycle road access is to them. I guarantee there are more than a few atrocious and pot hole filled roads in their neighborhoods.

Probably not the first time this sentiment has been shared, but geez....

In other words, it could spend more on roads. Why doesn't it?

Miller, in the course of discussing overall bureau priorities, offered a clue: "It's harder to get people excited about maintenance."

Why are we paying Miller $150,000 a year?
Should not budget cuts include some salary cuts as well?

Now what is this about getting people excited about maintenance? These bureau people ought to be taking care of basics. If that isn't exciting enough, they need to go out into the private sector and do it! Our tax dollars should not be used paying them to get highs on fancy projects.

Should be noted that this is up to 128 posts on comments section. Pretty interesting to see how hungry people are for change in this town (or maybe 4 or 5 posters arguing about change).

"One of the many things that seems to be lost on City Hall is that for all of their talk of "equality", the bicycle first approach primarily benefits the young downtown/hipster class or fitness enthusiasts."

Better than that, according to the PBOT, over two-thirds of the cyclists are male. We are benefiting a rather narrow slice of society here.

I want to see an itemized total of things that used to be provided by the private sector that PBOT now funds out of what used to be dedicated to maintenance. I view those as no better than a stick up.

Some of those traffic calming bike friendly infections are being installed in my neighborhood.
I really have to question the utility of something that will inconvenience 90% of the people who live here for the benefit of a few commuters who may use it.
Much like the bike lanes on NE Killingsworth from 42nd to Cully.
I see more school children walking on them than cyclists. And why do the children have to walk in the bike lane you ask ?
Because for most of that stretch there are no sidewalks...
In looking at the things being funded I can find better than 1.2 million dollars that could better be used on maintaining streets.

Strikes me that folks who liked the article ought to E mail Slovic and let her know how refreshing it was. It helps to encourage the O's reporters when they make an effort. I've met Slovic several times in social situations. It would be a mistake to confuse Slovic with the editors at the O.

"Asked about the long-term costs of maintaining the new projects when the city already has a road-repair backlog, Adams didn't directly answer. He responded that the city's backlog has grown because the bureau improved tracking. 'I didn't inherit an accurate baseline,' he said."

I am SO going to use this line the next time my wife and I have a spat. The delivery will be everything about the inflection, as in:

"You are not hearing me and I need you to be more attentive to me needs"

"Well, I didn't inherit an accurate baseline, did I".

By the time she figures out that this line is total B.S., I will have moved on to successfully fend off her accusations about my poor housekeeping.


"Don't think it can't happen here -- we are in the middle of a close call: the crackpot urban planning philosophy was one of the primary causes of the housing bubble that almost brought down the world's financial system. (Housing bubble was mostly in places with severe constraints on building. And NOT in places with few controls. - you cannot have a price bubble with plentiful supply.)"

What about Las Vegas? They don't have constraint on supply, do they? I've got family friends in Kingman, AZ that tell me that real estate there had a huge bubble burst (which Zillow backs up) and they don't have any sort of constraints on building either.

Chris: JK:

These stats aren't as deep as you are looking for, but are close
JK: Without passenger-mile the bike stats are worthless for comparison with other modes of travel. You don’t know how many people are exposed for how long. (I have seen some European data that implies that biking is about 10 times as dangerous as cars)


Biking ten times as dangerous as using cars?

But Jim, obviously thats because all those car operators have it in for bikers, and run the bikers down at every opportunity. Just like the pedestrians who suicidally charge into bikes. Just totally ban cars, and biking won't be 10 times as dangerous as car travel.

(Sarcasm mode off).

Nobody: The major reason why there is a housing bubble in Las Vegas is that over 30% of all the homes were sold to investors and speculators. There are in fact homes built in 2005-2006-2007 in Las Vegas that have never been occupied or lived in.

Now I see that Sam has changed his standard excuse phrase. It use to be that after a well constructed comment or question to Sam with facts, he'd slough you off with his typical "your premise is wrong" and then he'd construct what he thought was the premise in a demeaning way. Now he's down to "I didn't inherit an accurate baseline".
Sly Dog.

We're all figuring it out(many long ago). Now even an O reporter might be catching on, but I wish she'd just say so as Bill states.

I think the message from the city of pædophiles is obvious... "We're friendly to young people!"

"Miller, in the course of discussing overall bureau priorities, offered a clue: "It's harder to get people excited about maintenance."

So, public employees, even department heads, appropriate funds for fun, sexy projects that people can get excited about while cutting off funds for the structural elements that hold it all together? This ridiculous statement got me to thinking about how a generation got things so backwards. I am blaming this on age and lack of life experience since I see no other rational excuse for such rank stupidity. When the kids and planners get through with their experiment with putting fun things first, they'll wake up to find that they have an unholy mess on their hands. Will they have learned the correct lessons?

Folks who lived through the depression understand the value of saving and repairing what you have and not getting new things whenever you want. The future looks very rocky until Oregon gets people in charge who know that maintenance may not be glamorous, but it is far more important than communal bike rides and shiny trains. Guess you need to be an adult to understand that.

What also disappoints me is that the adults of our community that one would think of in terms of leadership and/or a sense of stewardship of our community have either taken a back seat in all of this or are going along for whatever reason.

Actually it is puzzling to me, that those who invested in our community would let the "house of cards" fall down so to speak.

Have those who have been or might become good leaders been marginalized?

I've been wondering that too. Seems like we keep getting people with agendas that are very personal and have very little to do with the meat and potatoes part of running a city well. Maintenance and civics went out of style when the word "vision" crept in. Everyone wants to be a visionary - but is there no one left who just wants a functional city? Or is that not enough fun?

"Seems like we keep getting people with agendas that are very personal and have very little to do with the meat and potatoes part of running a city well."

The zealots running Portland are trying to restructure out society to be ready for peak oil and climate disruption and enrich the developers that fund their election campaigns.

Unfortunately for them shale oil and fracking has put the lie to their first delusion and the sun's funk is putting the lie to their second delusion as the world is probably entering a cooling phase.

But the overwhelming motivation of enriching their campaign donors persists.

Go By Streetcar!


I'm glad there has been a momentary warp in the local media universe. I hope it continues. Maybe the next feature could focus on the local mind set that elected the "visionaries".

Slovic's article was a palate cleanser, read after I had endured the most recent Willamette Week, devoted entirely to bicycling (except for the Sunday NY Times ripoff "seen on the street" trends photo page). I find this fairly recent attempt to appear "hip", along with what WW considers to be titillating double entendre taglines on the front page, sad. Like grandpa insisting to the teens that, yes, he's really "with it."

"Miller, in the course of discussing overall bureau priorities, offered a clue: "It's harder to get people excited about maintenance."

As I've been saying recently...the best person to run government is the guy that runs the sewage treatment system.

When you do your job right, nobody notices you. But when you screw something up, you better know what you're doing because EVERYONE notices.

The best course of action is to make sure everything is working, so nobody will ask what you're doing and nobody will care what you're doing.

Planners are the absolute last person that should be running government - and apparently who is currently running government. We need more sewage treatment plant engineers, and fewer people who get aroused by a streetcar.

I believe there are many employees inside PBOT, the rest of the City of P,and likely PDOT as well, who would love to do some basic maintenance, pave some streets, keep the water and sewer lines maintained, etc. Believe me, there is plenty of eye-rolling going on inside bureaus as there is on this blog at yet another "visionary, iconic project."

We need to put the "fun" back into functional.

It's all about Sam getting as much spandex on the street as possible.

We live in a celebrity obsessed society which is why we elect people who want to be celebrities to positions of power and not people best suited for the job. It's basically democratic suicide.

"merit raise"??? Can we vote on whether or not he merits the raise?

I can see it now (not). Tom Miller seeing his boss Sam for the annual merit pay, yearly personnel appraisal:

"Tom, you know that quote of yours in the O 'It's harder to get people excited about maintenance'.......ahhhh... that really set our agenda back. I'm sure you'll understand that we can't give you a $22,000 merit pay, nor any job performance bonus of $10,000. Sorry. And about getting to use vacation homes of people who do business with the city.....ah, not a good idea...since you're still doing it."

Most bike riders are young and fit males.

(would insert snide comment, but that is like shooting fish in a barrel)

Don't forget the city also needs millions and millions of dollars to replace old rotting water pipes, but they prefer hugely expensive and unneeded projects to keep the banks and engineer parasites happy.

There's a fellow named John Forester -- a guru of sorts -- who years back wrote a book called Effective Cycling. In a nutshell he says that cyclists need to ride as vehicles, and that separate bike lanes and paths do no one, especially cyclists, any favors.

I used to ride a bike a few thousand miles a year and learned everything about how to ride safely and well in traffic from that book.

Any road planner would do well to read that and probably another book he has written (which I have not read) called Bicycling Transportation designed for engineers.

The same good roads that cars need are what bicyclists need. Unfortunately Portland has gotten quite aways down the wrong (and separate!) path (whatever intentions it is paved with).

A lot of things (or most everything) people think they know -- and that Portland is trying to do -- about what bikes need is flat wrong.

The new paradigm in Europe is like that of Effective Cycling -- everybody is responsible to drive/ride defensively. After years of barking off in the wrong direction (i.e. If what you have is a striper, everything needs more stripes!), they have finally consulted some safety psychologists and engineers and discovered that, Well By Golly, the more visual traffic control clutter, the worse people's ability to pick hazards out of the clutter, and the more they'll assume (falsely) that they don't have to drive defensively if they conform to all the directions in the clutter. Duh! Moreover, they find that everybody gives ground more generously and drives/rides more safely if there are no special lines/lanes to follow because nobody gets a sense of entitlement when it is just the generic rules of the road in play. This is not to say that all traffic control is bad, just that more (and more and more and more) is not necessarily better.

Evidence based traffic engineering, anyone? Not holding my breath for its arrival here.

Sally and dyspeptic

Your posts make obvious sense. In the past months I found myself going down SW 5th and SW Broadway for the first time in over a year. I was totally overloaded with all kinds of signage, lane change requirements, new traffic control methods, stripping of all sorts that I actually went on "mind auto control". I actually though of how an out-of-towner would totally flip out.

Bikers aren't safer with these kinds of overloads. And I felt unsafe because sometimes I didn't even know if I had switched to the correct lane, and part of the time I was in the bus lane wondering how that happened. Dangerous.

nobody: (Quoting JK) Housing bubble was mostly in places with severe constraints on building. And NOT in places with few controls. - you cannot have a price bubble with plentiful supply.

nobody: What about Las Vegas? They don't have constraint on supply, do they?
JK: I am not really up to speed on particular cities, but in the case of Las Vegas, I hear that there was a shortage of buildable land because the Feds own most of the surrounding land and quit (or reduced) land sales.



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Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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