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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Another fine mess: Adams's Burnside

We scoffed last night at the Portland mayor's latest delusional claims about traffic safety and infrastructure maintenance. Among his misguided comments were these:

I have worked for a long time to make West Burnside safer and less of a barrier to Downtown Portland and the Pearl District. Since my first weeks as an elected official, I have wrestled with the problem of humanizing Burnside.

A reader who shares our disgust at these statements writes: "Have you seen West Burnside recently? The crosswalks on West Burnside are in terrible shape." And the reader sends along links to some photos to prove it: here and here and here. Here's what it looks like these days crossing Burnside at Powell's:

A big reason that many Portland streets are in such bad shape is that the city transportation budget has been diverted for bicycle and streetcar toys. Among the many things the mayor can't do too well is lie about that. But that doesn't mean he'll ever stop trying.

Comments (31)

My thought as I drive on West Burnside is that the city hasn't wanted to fix those roads yet, as they wanted to do that W. Burnside Couplet. Maybe they just overspend on the bicycle and streetcar. Who knows how much money was diverted for the SW area and that Milwaukie train?

Also mention that it's near impossible to make a left turn there due to the baffling timing of the crossing lights.

But are they approved by The Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability?

It's near impossible to make a turn anywhere without running into "unlivable" city policies.
Have you decided where you are leaving to?

I have wrestled with the problem of humanizing Burnside

Read: "I just can't find anywhere for the tens of thousands of cars that use Burnside to go. No matter what, people are just going to drive - they aren't going to take the 20 bus, and besides - it's a BUS! Even the City's own "sustainability" and "planning" staff hates buses. Cars are better than the 20 bus. So, until such time that we can find an alternative for these people...and since we can't build the Streetcar on Burnside...we're just going to do NOTHING. Flat, out, NOTHING."

A big reason that many Portland streets are in such bad shape has nothing to do with bikes or streetcars; it is a fact that the road surfaces are seriously damaged by the small percentage of motorists who unnecessarily insist on using studded tires for months and months, and the users of studded tires pay nothing for the damage they cause to our roads.

Sign the petition to ban studded tires in Oregon:


I don’t know what y’all are talking about – look at all that repair work on just this one intersection. Look at those patches! And the paint stripes are still (mostly) visible.

Clinamen - a small town.

Randy, studded tires are a factor, yes. But far from the sole factor. In our climate, unless road repairs are addressed immediately, water has the opportunity to seep in the cracks. Winter freezing causes expansion and the weight of all traffic causes further breakage. Once the surface is compromised, the substrate is eroded in our wet climate, causing further and more extensive damage.

The only adequate control is proper maintenance, which happens to be one of the MAIN purposes for having a government. Unfortunately, our government is more about social engineering and looking good. A lot less actual work, a lot more to crow about.

Oh no, paint no longer works. Painting crosswalks and bike lanes is the old way of thinking.

Now, in order to be a pedestrian, you need curb bubbles and wider sidewalks. To ride a bike you need entire roads turned over to you so you can ride down the middle of the lane. And of course, we know what both walkers and cyclists need most of all: bioswales, bioswales, bioswales!

PDXLifer. I partially agree with you. However, it is also a fact that the gas tax hasn't been raised in many many years, cars have gotten more efficient, and the current gas tax raises nowhere near enough money to maintain the roads so additional general revenue funds must be used, and it's not that easy to find that money in today's economic climate.

The small amount of PBOT funding that goes to bike and other 'alt-trans' projects is nowhere near enough to make a dent in the backlog of road repairs.

What is really going on is that people continue to demand more and more services from government, but they don't want to be appropriately taxed so that the government can afford to provide those services.

Burnside is Portland's Main Street, and West Burnside is an embarrassment that I avoid when driving around visitors. It's a bumpy, rutted, potholed mess that should have been repaved long a go. I don't understand how the city prioritizes repaving projects. I rode on Sandy last week and see that parts of it that seemed to be in far better shape than W. Burnside are being repaved. I noticed the same on Columbia.

You left out the streetcars, Randy. Conveniently. And all the planners, Tweeters, "ten toe express" creators -- it's plenty to maintain streets. We don't want more services, we just want maintenance at current levels. Too much to ask.

Randy wrote: What is really going on is that people continue to demand more and more services from government, but they don't want to be appropriately taxed so that the government can afford to provide those services.

Tell you what Randy: if all gas tax revenues go to roads instead of bikes and trains, I'm happy to live with the result. And as for demanding more and more services and unwillingness to be "appropriately" taxed, I'm not sure you're paying attention. Many of us want the level of taxation to remain fixed and for the government to provide the services that can be afforded with that amount of money, prioritized based on importance. (As an added bonus, it would be nice if the government could provide those prioritized services as economically as possible).

I want the government to stop doing things to feel good and look good and instead focus on improving quality of life.

BTW, "RandyZ' is posting from a City of Portland IP address. Probably someone in the mayor's office:

Randy, I don't want more and more services. I want fewer services. I want all the extra bells and whistles to be dropped. I want local government to be as boring and routine as drying paint.

Instead, what we get is worse and worse basic services while fees go up every year.

A Multnomah County Judge ruled that politicians in general, and Sam Adams in particular, should be expected to lie.

I don't see what the problem is: he's lying about Burnside, just as he's lied about most all of his "accomplishments".

Maybe you'll like Streetcar Charlie's lies better. Or maybe he's going to distinguish himself by telling the truth.


RandyZ: That's an outdated analysis of the situation. People do want to pay taxes for basic things like roads, police, garbage service, and a decent library. That should be Line 1 of all services provided by the city. If there is any left, it should be returned to the taxpayers. As it stands now, taxpayers pay for everything but the basic things while the city burns their dollars on expensive train trinkets and food slop. The result is obvious here: crumbling roads, special tax/fee initiatives to try to prop up the sacred cows of libraries and education, and fantasy projects.

In short, tax revenues are not your problem here.

However, it is also a fact that the gas tax hasn't been raised in many many years...

The state portion of the gas tax was raised 6¢ in 2011 to 30¢ per gallon. Multnomah County also tacks on an additional 3¢ per gallon. Federal is 18.4¢ for a total tax of 51.4¢ in Multnomah County.

Here are some intrepid souls crossing in the non-crosswalk today:

At least you know that someone in city hall is paying attention.
Even if they are running a disinformation campaign here with their posts....

RandyZZZZ, are you sleeping at the wheel? "gas tax hasn't been raised in many, many years..."

Wrong, it was raised to $.30 cents on Jan 4, 2011, plus the $3 cents for Multnomah Co. That was a 25% raise!!!!..far exceeding cost of living.

Never enough taxes are there?

And regarding money for bikes, in the 2010-2011 year over $189 Million was taken in gas tax money just for the Portland metro in STIP dollars for bike programs, education, trails. And there is a whole lot of other dollars taken from other sources too.

I seem to recall the "Gas Tax Hasn't Been Raised In Years" line in a previous post on this blog, maybe yesterday? Are they trying to get that message out for some reason? Is a gas tax hike in the offing locally? Or am I just dreaming? It seems like I've heard that exact same statement really recently.

No, it's ODOT pushing for some sort of mileage based taxing.


Last time it was a dedicated GPS device, now it's a smartphone tracking app. How much money is being flushed down the drain on these projects? The simple answer to MPG going up is to raise the gas tax proportionally and to figure the similar amount into the registration fee for plug-in vehicles. Too easy and not enough make work for ODOT.

The fix is in! Mileage based tax to be fully operational in 2018 according to ODOT's timeline.


And look, CH2M Hill is involved. As Pyle says, "Surprise surprise surprise".

What I'd like to know is, when is Powell's going to replace that eyesore of a sign? (Their Beaverton store has a much more aesthetically pleasing one.)

Washington, DC's Capital Bikeshare: Tax $$$ for Rich, Educated, White Riders
Jim Epstein & Kennedy | June 20, 2012

Capital Bikeshare, which rents bikes at more than 165 outdoor stations in the Washington D.C. area, serves highly educated and affluent whites.

There's nothing wrong with that, of course, except that the program has received $16 million in government subsidies, including over $1 million specifically earmarked to "address the unique transportation challenges faced by welfare recipients and low-income persons seeking to obtain and maintain employment."

The program is part of a recent explosion in taxpayer-subsidized bike rental services, which have also hit the streets of Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston , Denver, Boulder, Houston, Minneapolis, Broward, Madison, Omaha, San Antonio, and Des Moines.

Capital Bikeshare's latest user survey finds that 95 percent of its regular patrons have college degrees, 53 percent have a Masters or Ph.D., and 80 percent are white. Fully 0 percent have only a high school diploma and just 7 percent make less than $25,000 a year. More than 90 percent were employed and 14 percent reported they were college students, suggesting that very few welfare recipients are using the service.

Capital Bikeshare is run by Portland-based Alta Planning + Design (http://www.altaplanning.com/) in partnership with four jurisdictions: Alexandria, VA; Arlington, VA; Montgomery County, MD; and the District of Columbia. So far, the program has received $15.9 million[*] in state, local, and federal subsidies.

That big sucking sound you hear around Portland is the draw down of PBOT’s budget being spent on Sammyboy’s skewed priorities: the Milwaukie fantasy train to no where, the replacement Sellwood (bicycle) Bridge where there is more deck space for bicyclists to use than there is for the stakeholder drivers who are bankrolling the project, and for the Eastside Streetcar that will require a millions of dollars in ongoing operating subsidies. Any money that is left is being drained to fund bicycle infrastructure for the pedaling slackers who don't want to pay for anything they use. The creep (Sammyboy) wants all the gas tax revenues he can he can get his grubby hands on, but not for their primary purpose to improve the roadways for the drivers paying the bills.

In addition and slightly off topic, but overbearing the photograph, is the huge out of compliance and ugly “Powell’s Books” sign. The best guess here is that being a strong advocate for the streetcar has benefits.

One other note. Leaked from the mayor's office a few years back. "TriMet's two-axle busses do the heaviest damage to city streets and roads." Yet TriMet passengers pay nothing to maintain them and only 25 percent of the operating costs for their ride. Drive less and there is no money for roads.

Taxes keep going up, but government workers' compensation goes up even faster, while these same workers' productivity is flat or declining. So, even if the current city government didn't have what looks like a fatal case of mission creep, we'd still be getting less government services per tax dollar.

This is what's known as Baumol's Disease. You can read a good summary of it by Charles Hugh Smith here:


Unfortunately, there's no easy cure for it.

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