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Report from transportation budget forum

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 14th, 2005 at 10:46 pm

by Jessica Roberts, Metro Area Advocate for the BTA

I attended last night's budget forum, hosted by Commissioner Sam Adams.

I'm pleased to say that bicycling was well represented. Over 30% of participants arrived by bike, and it was clear through the course of the evening that this was a crowd that loves riding a bike.

Sam's introductory remarks emphasized the importance of safety, mobility, and reliability of the transportation system, and how we continue to provide those in the face of transportation budget shortfalls.

PDOT (the Portland Office of Transportation) has $8 million less right now than they would need to meet their budget, and will experience a net shortfall of $42 million over the next four years. That's bad news for bikes, because in the past bicycling has been seen as one of those cushy "extras" that isn't critical, and has been vulnerable to budget cuts. Unfortunately, I'm sure this danger is still real.

It's also good news for bicycling, though because as we all know, bicycles are a good investment: bike facilities cost pennies compared to auto facilities (Earl Blumenauer once said that ""For less than the cost of a couple of miles of urban freeway, we could build a bike path in every congressional district in the United States") bikes cause little wear and tear on roads; and every person on a bike is not driving a car and thus is reducing demand for road space on the road.

Our challenge is to continue to say what we know is true: bicycling is not a special interest, but benefits everyone, and communities where people can bike are good places for everyone!

Finally, as we know, more and more Portlanders are biking every year--recall that in the last year alone, we've seen a 15 percent increase in bike trips over the Willamette River Bridges! 'Everybody bikes' in Portland (or at least we're heading there), and the people 'in charge' really can't ignore bikes anymore--increasingly, they're even on bikes themselves. Our participation last night truly was a visceral demonstration of what Oregonian columnist Jonathan Nicholas once called the "raw political power of bicycling."

Sam will be releasing the results from last night on his web site soon, and anyone who couldn't make it last night will be able to vote there as well. To give you a sense of the results in the mean time, though, here are some of the winners and losers.

Winners

  • Bicycle and pedestrian facilities
  • A good transit system
  • Reducing single-occupancy vehicle ("drive-alone")trips
  • Transportation choices for all
  • Traffic calming in neighborhoods
  • Rail transit (a participant question clearly aimed to discredit MAX and streetcar, but participants overwhelmingly voiced their support)

Losers (note: there were fewer of these; in general, people wanted it all!)

  • Building increased car capacity (that is, more and bigger roads)
  • Generally, building new things (as opposed to taking care of what we have)
  • Studded tires (a participant question showed strong opposition)
  • Street beautification wasn't a major priority to attendees

There was also clear dissension in the room about whether cyclists should pay some kind of fee, toll or tax to pay for bicycling facilities. (For the record, the BTA's position is that no such system has ever been shown to pay for more than its own administration, and we are opposed to such systems--but that's probably fodder for a post of its own.)

Read another report from last night from our friends at Portland Transport and don't forget to take the PDOT survey to let your opinions be known!

------------------------
by Jessica Roberts
Membership Director & Metro-area Advocate
Bicycle Transportation Alliance
503-226-0676x11

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  • BT December 15, 2005 at 8:38 pm

    I attended the meeting as well and was very impressed with the event - it was an eye opener for me in regards to not only the financial constraints that PDOT is operating on, but also the sheer size of the problems related to infrastructural upkeep and advancement the city will have to face.

    I give a big tip of the hat to Sam and the PDOT people for putting on the event, and for everyone that came out to voice their opinions. Hopefully the biking coffers can be kept a bit more full thanks to our participation.

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