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Why House Rep. Tobias Read signed onto the bike toll bill

Posted by on February 22nd, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Tobias Read

HB 3152, a bill to toll people riding bikes across a new I-5/Columbia River bridge has reared its head in the state legislature. Surprising as the bill itself was to anyone with a reasonable understanding of transportation policy, what was even more surprising to us was that House Rep. Tobias Read (D-Beaverton) was listed as a co-sponsor.

Rep. Read’s unabashed and full-fledged support of the Columbia River Crossing project is worthy of our attention in and of itself; but why would he go even further and sign onto a bill that has even more dubious policy underpinnings than the freeway expansion project that inspired it?

Rep. Read reached out to me via telephone this morning to explain the context of his support for HB 3152.

“It’s important that the cycling community is not left out of these conversations.”
— Rep. Tobias Read

“I want to be very clear on this,” he said, before dashing off to the House floor to debate the big tuition equity bill, “The bulk of the reason I’m on this bill is to be a productive influencer on this concept.”

Read acknowledged what everyone should know — that this bill is very unlikely to move very far in the legislative process. But even so, Read said he feels it’s important to have “someone who’s a cyclist in the conversation.”

“My sense is that there are a lot of conversations [around this issue] where people have already made up their minds and that’s the end of the conversation. That’s not very productive.”

Read said when the bill’s author, Rep. Kevin Cameron, approach him for support, he immediately asked, “How would you even make this work that doesn’t cost a lot of money [to administer]?” While the bill is only a few lines long today, there has been some discussion of details and if it moves forward at all, it will have to be amended.

One of the details Read said they’ve discussed is that the bike toll would be voluntary. “It would be an ‘on-your-honor’ system, people could buy an RFID [radio frequency infrared device] for the bike, or maybe flip a quarter into a jar they wanted to.”

When I expressed my deep misgivings about his involvement with this type of legislative maneuver and that lending his name to it lends credibility to the false notion that “bikes don’t pay”, Read said he feels, “It’s important that the cycling community is not left out of these conversations,” and added, “I think it’s important that we combat the perception cyclists and people who care about cycling don’t want to be part of a conversation or a solution. Yes, I know a lot of that stuff [the bikes don't pay rhetoric] is bogus; but perception is often reality.”

“I want to fight that perception and at least send a signal that I’m willing to be part of a conversation.”

I suggested to Rep. Read that perhaps these conversations would be more productive if hashed out between colleagues and interested parties in private and public via town halls or other meetings. Trying to “start a conversation” by first launching a piece of legislation that is perceived by some as punitive and unfair is like trying to have a meaningful dialogue with a teenager after you’ve just yelled at her and told her she’s grounded.

In response to that, Read suggested I make a trip to Salem to meet for lunch with him and Rep. Cameron. I just might take him up on the offer, but right now I think we’ve got bigger fish to fry (and bigger vehicles to toll).

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Comments
  • Hart Noecker February 22, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    This is distractive nonsense. He’s trying to force the cycling community to say ‘We shouldn’t have to be tolled to cross the CRC’ to move the conversation away from ‘We shouldn’t build the CRC’. It’s one more move of desperation from the house to make this nightmare freeway project look like a done deal.

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    • Andrew K February 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      I could not agree more.

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  • Jagur February 22, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I once worked for Rep. Cameron when he was in the restaurant business. Cafe Today ( not sure if he still runs it) he was a nice guy but if you do meet up for lunch wear a collared shirt and slacks because I’m sure it will be a country club far from any bike lanes.

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  • Chris I February 22, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Given that this plan would fail to bring enough enough tolling revenue to cover administrative costs, perhaps we should support it?

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  • Hart Noecker February 22, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    We should demand that bikes and bikes alone be tolled immediately on the current I-5 bridge, and only when this source of revenue has reached $3.5 billion may then begin construction on the CRC.

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    • annefi February 22, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      That’s hilarious!

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  • Todd Boulanger February 22, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    I would be open to a public discussion of tolling bicyclists and pedestrians crossing an improved bridge facility; after all our grand/ great grand parents paid a toll to walk [and likely bike] across the original bridge.

    Right now, I pay gas taxes and other taxes and bike across a crappy dark car debris covered bridge with unsafe trail crossings and deck with rusty holes and booming cannons. How much worse can it get?

    Let me know if they are forming a committee on this, I would be willing to volunteer and work to make sure it was an equitable arrangement.

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    • Nate February 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      If by equitable you mean that we should “pay our fair share”, I might be into that as well.

      Bear with me here, but…I would understand that I should be getting equal value out of what I pay in through Property, etc. taxes to those that drive most of their trips. Sooo, I underpay – as a biker – by about $2000, and I cross over to the Couv about 4 times / year by bike. That would indicate that each time I cross the bridge, I should be cut a $500 check, right?

      SIGN ME UP!

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      • Todd Boulanger February 23, 2013 at 8:26 pm

        As for “equitable”, I typically suggest we start the discussion with a toll amount based on a percentage of our vehicle (+ rider) weight as a proportion of the rate charged a motor vehicle per trip – since this is a bridge facility. This would likely be 5% of a car toll.

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  • sd February 22, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Where is the pro-bike legislation?

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  • joe kurmaskie February 22, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Read is full of shite. This is a political tactic called disctact and deflect -the energy and heat of a block of voters, cyclists, away from the fact that he just voted to authoriz millions of dollars to be misspent on a bridge project that is operating on fantasyland projections, figures etc. To “start ” a conversation by trying to toll bicycles a quarter in a bucket tells me he has either experienced head trauma recently, or he is shining you on and steering the conversation away from the real issue – why in God’s name waste more money on consultants on a doomed project? He just went from politician on the wrong side of a bridge project issue to political tool.

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    • ME2 February 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      Well said Joe. I’m getting tired of being put on the defensive on paying. Maybe we should unite and propose motorists pay a symbolic “congestion relief” fee to bicyclists?

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      • GlowBoy February 22, 2013 at 11:21 pm

        ME2 is right. Motorists should be paying cyclists, not the other way around.

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    • zuckerdog February 22, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      I agree, this is a political maneuver to distract from the bigger issue.

      The biking community could either completely ignore this bill (spending no more effort thinking about it) and focus on the CRC and other important issues, or
      We could hands down support this (destine to fail) bill and focus back on the CRC and other important issues.

      The latter, of course, being a political calcuation.

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  • Andyc of Linnton February 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Let’s see. How about left-handed people? some revenue there…Hm, people that wear hats, there’s some revenue. Okay, maybe voluntarily throw in a dime if you own pets…there’s some more! Okay, let’s get this thing no-one wants built!

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  • Peter W February 22, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Read says, “I think it’s important that we combat the perception cyclists and people who care about cycling don’t want to be part of a conversation or a solution.

    I’m not convinced Rep. Read really wants to have a conversation about solutions.

    Consider the CRC process for example:

    The CRC bill (HB2800) was introduced and people could speak about it at the hearing on February 11th.

    Rep. Read made the “-14″ amendments available on Friday the 15.

    On Monday Februrary 18th, Rep. Read called first for testimony from people who didn’t speak the week prior. After they had spoken, he closed the discussion.

    So anyone who had spoken on the 11th about the project and wanted to have a conversation about the subsequently introduced amendments would *not* have been unable to. He shut down the discussion.

    If Read really is open to a conversation, he should bring HB2800 back to committee. That is the bill that we need to be talking about.

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    • 9watts February 22, 2013 at 7:42 pm

      Well put, Peter W.

      what gets me is all this talk suggesting that introducing a bill is a way to ‘start a conversation.’ Really?! As Jonathan pointed out, there are surely lots of other, more interesting, more plausible, less easily misunderstood ways of ‘having a conversation.’ I think bikeportland is one of the very best places to ‘have a conversation.’ Why doesn’t Representative Read come on up here and offer some suggestions? I can pretty much guarantee that a conversation will follow.

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  • dwainedibbly February 22, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Make the toll weight-based. I’ll pay a quarter, no problem. The people driving, paying $5, might decide that being on a bike makes sense.

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    • Bikeshare February 22, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      dwainedibbly, the average car weights 4,000lbs

      Lets assume the average bike (with rider) weighs 160.

      At .005 per pound, the average cyclist pays 80 cents.

      The average motorist would pay $20 per crossing.

      Sounds fair.

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      • dwainedibbly February 22, 2013 at 2:42 pm

        Ha! Can you imagine the screaming that a $20 toll would cause? (Looks like my $5 vs $0.25 was pretty close!)

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      • Granpa February 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm

        Yikes – that will run me $1.23. I gotta cut down on the beer

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      • Vance Longwell February 23, 2013 at 9:15 am

        I knew somebody would leave a comment like this, sooner or later. The toll, as proposed, on motorists crossing the bridge has been tabled as an excise tax. Or, a tax to control behavior. If I’ve seen the phrase, “induced demand”, once, I’ve seen it a thousand times. So, if restricting people’s movement is the goal, why single out bicycles for the benefit of not having to pay? Remember, if you commute to Vancouver for any reason, you are an Earth destroying Republican who should be regulated into the nuthouse. There’s no good, to me, reason to make this commute.

        Hypocrites.

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    • Vance Longwell February 23, 2013 at 9:21 am

      Point of fact: An automobile outperforms a bicycle, as personal transportation, on orders of magnitude. The only reason to use a bicycle, is personal choice. Cars and trucks deliver practically ever man-hour clocked, in this country, to their labor-markets. Not to mention the retail goods you all buy.

      The bicycle is a convenient supplement to one’s own personal transportation. It has been lionized to the point now, we have idiots like this, “drew”, kid, whom actually believe the mental-diarrhea oozing from ‘twixt their ears.

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  • Rol February 22, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    It’s not like talking to a teenager; it’s like trying to find out “How’s your horse doing?” by stealing it.

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  • Drew February 22, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Few people understand that driving a car sucks $$ from the general fund; gas tax only covers about half of road damage from cars and related infrastructure.
    Every mile we drive is subsidized by other taxpayers.
    When this false social construct ends (the idea that drivers “pay for the roads”) so will the silly ideas like putting an excise tax on bikes, or tolling them while cars ride free.

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    • Vance Longwell February 23, 2013 at 9:16 am

      Fallacy.

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      • 9watts February 23, 2013 at 9:20 am

        Care to elaborate, Vance?

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  • Paul Tay February 24, 2013 at 5:40 am

    Dude #2 owes Dude #1? Naaaaaaaaaaaaah. NOT a chance.

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  • Eric February 24, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    are they going to pay for this monstrosity of a bridge from gas taxes only?

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  • Joe Rowe February 25, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Read is great at slick distortions and saying one thing then doing the opposite. He lied in Salem so many times I could not keep notes going. He said that over the many years all activists had been listened to. WTF? Not a single question was answered. Read would just say “your time is up, Next” Say one thing, do another. I’m also pretty certain he’s also deep inside the BTA network. I think his wife is on the BTA board.

    Mr. Read, I will work very hard to see your time is up as a lawmaker, and you go back to the profit mongers at Nike.

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