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City telephone poll puts PBOT’s possible monthly street fee at $8 to $12 per home

Posted by on March 31st, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Sidewalk to nowhere-2
NE Broadway and Vancouver Avenue in 2011.
(Photos by J.Maus/BikePortland)

An 800-person phone poll that wraps up tonight is offering some new insight on the city’s leading ideas for raising money for transportation projects.

BikePortland reader Ethan Jewett, who received a call Friday on his family’s land line, said the “main options” presented by the pollster were an $8-per-month flat fee on each household to pay for road maintenance and safety improvements, and a $12-a-month fee that would also pay for better bus service in low-income areas.

Whatever the plan, it would need to be either approved by city council or referred to voters, probably this November. The Portland Bureau of Transportation has said both options are on the table.

Portland has about 250,000 residential households, so an $8 fee each month on every household ($96 per year) would turn up $24 million annually, minus costs for administration, collection and unpaid bills. That’s in line with the $25 million figure that longtime citizen budgeting volunteer David Hampsten estimated in January.

Another $12 million a year would be just about enough to create one new frequent-service bus line, or to upgrade a few infrequent bus lines to frequent service. (The 12, one of TriMet’s longest frequent lines, costs about $14 million per year if you don’t set aside money for future retiree medical benefits, which TriMet doesn’t.)

Jewett’s poll suggests that the city is also considering some sort of fee on businesses, though it’s not clear if that’d replace some of the fee on residents, or match it.

City spokesman Dylan Rivera confirmed Monday that this is the second of two planned surveys: “One of many ways we are gathering public input on what should be included in a transportation funding package.”

DSC_5563
Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick at a PBOT town hall in February.

Earlier this year, a different city poll queried residents on which improvements were most important to them, and turned up very strong support for walking and for maintenance of major streets, as well as a perhaps surprising amount of consensus about bike improvements across ages, geographies, and social groups. Now, the city is moving to test the public appetite for specific revenue measures.

Here’s Jewett’s full summary of the poll he received Friday evening, with his notes:

All the questions were framed as “road maintenance and improving walking and biking safety”

Main options polled:

  • $8/month flat fee on residents for road maintenance, and safety improvements
  • $12/month flat fee for residents to also include increasing bus service in low income areas

Within those, they wanted to know if the following things would change my opinion:

  • Oversight body for spending funds
  • exemption for low income
  • having business fees cover half
  • if leaf service fees were canceled as a result (all but one leaf area, St Johns, is is an affluent neighborhood)

They also polled funding options that were claimed to have been suggested by the public:

  • A few schemes pegged to income tax (Example was a person w/ $50k income would pay $15/month)
  • A couple were assessed with property taxes

Jewett added that he told the pollster that he’d oppose such a proposal, saying it seems to lack “a vision for walking and biking that is not about avoiding cars killing people, but actually encompasses the vast community and person benefits of active transportation.”

“This lack of vision is why we just get to look at other cities’ photos of amazing and creative ways to return the built environment being people-friendly (the new bridge notwithstanding),” Jewett wrote by email. “There was no information of what percentage would go to ped and bike stuff either, so it could be a total shaft and fund potholes and the City part of freeway projects for all I know.”

Opinions run deep on this issue, and Jewett’s views aren’t the only ones. We’ll see how other Portlanders think when the city releases the results of the poll, which Rivera said began making calls on Thursday and will wrap up this evening.

Meanwhile, the city is preparing for a second round of town halls, these focusing on the possible ways to raise the money it says is desperately needed:

  • Wednesday, April 16: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, 10301 NE Glisan St.
  • Thursday, April 17: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Kaiser Permanente’s Town Hall, 3704 N Interstate Ave.
  • Thursday, April 24: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 SW Capitol Hwy
  • Thursday, May 1: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Woodstock School, 5601 SE 50th Ave.

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Comments
  • Reza March 31, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    No to regressive flat fees.

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    • spare_wheel March 31, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      “exemption for low income”

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      • Reza March 31, 2014 at 3:55 pm

        Like the “exemption” that the Arts Tax has? Where technically people whose household annual income is just 1 cent above the federal poverty level and millionaires pay the same amount?

        Regressive.

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        • spare_wheel March 31, 2014 at 4:23 pm

          i’d support the 50K cut off mentioned in the article.

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          • Eastsider March 31, 2014 at 11:17 pm

            I think you misunderstood that – it gives the examples of $50k incoming paying $15/month. It is not the cutoff.

            Why does this regressive tax that subsidizes motorists seem like the only option being considered? Our false choice is between $8 and $12/ month. If you build a truly robust active transportation network, it pays for itself many times over. One way it does this is by reducing the amount of automobile traffic, which is the primary cause of degradation of roads.

            The current proposal creates a system in which the more a driver uses the roads, the less they pay per mile. This is completely backwards.

            Other ideas for revenue:
            -ticket anyone using studded tires when there is not ice present.
            -implement even minimal enforcement and ticketing of downtown bike lanes, which might as well not exist because they are regularly used as auto turn lanes, parking lanes, texting lanes and right-hook lanes.
            -small increase to gas tax
            -vehicle registration fee increase

            I hope BTA comes out strongly against this regressive tax that penalizes users of active transportation that have a disproportionately small burden on the road system.

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            • spare_wheel April 1, 2014 at 8:00 am

              creating the infrastructure to manage a highly progressive tax is expensive. for a small tax it almost certainly does not make economic sense. i personally favor increased taxation of the income (and wealth) of the middle, middle-upper and upper classes so i am hardly against progressive redistribution. i view this tax as a positive because it might in a small way redistribute some of the unfair spoils of the wealthier quintiles. i hope that they go with the $15 option but i support either. every little bit of redistribution of income helps.

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              • Mike April 3, 2014 at 8:49 am

                Do you really support increased taxation of the middle class?

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        • davemess April 2, 2014 at 12:28 pm

          I’m curious how you’d raise funds “progressively”? Because our current state income tax is hardly a strong progressive tax.

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          • Psyfalcon April 2, 2014 at 12:40 pm

            Thats a matter of tax brackets and rates. I think it is better than sales tax (at a low income you spend a greater proportion of your income) especially compared to states that tax food and clothing. Property tax is ok until home prices rise faster than income (almost always it seems).

            The big problem with a Portland tax is that it is not regional. Its going to be the Sellwood Bridge all over again. Multnomah residents paid an additional fee of $38 while Clackamas voters revolted over $5.

            The city can not and should not keep subsidizing the suburbs!

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          • Reza April 3, 2014 at 6:41 pm

            Dave, I posted about the MVET below. It’s one of the few truly progressive forms of taxation that Washington uses (otherwise it’s one of the country’s most regressive states in overall tax structure).

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            • davemess April 4, 2014 at 1:53 pm

              It’s a fee though and not a tax, so a person without a car wouldn’t pay it. If we’re talking about general taxation here (which a household fee would be) how would you do this progressively? (Regardless of whether or not you think only car owners should be paying it)

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              • davemess April 4, 2014 at 1:55 pm

                Sorry I’m getting semantical with “fee” vs. “tax”. But my question still stands, what do you do if you can’t just link it to auto owners?

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  • RH March 31, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Does this mean I’ll get a postcard in the mail every month to remind me to pay this crazy tax… I sense Portland is experiencing some growing pains going from a ‘large town’ to a ‘small city’. In 5 years, there will probably be 10 monthly ‘payment reminder’ postcards being mailed out….

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) March 31, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      I don’t know, but I suspect it’d be much easier to put this on the same bill as the water/sewer/garbage. Arts tax is per person, so it couldn’t work that way. This is per household, like w/s/g. (At least, that’s my understanding.)

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    • GlowBoy April 3, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      I’m not getting a postcard in the mail every month.

      Oh, maybe that’s because I actually paid the tax last April.

      (Not that I agree with the extremely regressive Arts Tax, but I did pay it whether I agreed with it or not. Kinda my responsibility as a citizen).

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  • Chris I March 31, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I hope the look at the Arts Tax when they consider this. What a cluster. Can’t we just raise the gas tax?

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  • Joe Cortright March 31, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Can we also tax each car $8 to $12 per month to help pay for subsidizing housing? (Or schools, or parks?)

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    • Reza March 31, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      A local motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) like in Washington would work, as it is based on the value of the vehicle, and not a flat fee.

      http://dor.wa.gov/docs/reports/2010/Tax_Reference_2010/42mvet.pdf

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      • paikikala April 1, 2014 at 9:57 am

        A flat tax has the fewest strings attached. As long as the new fees are attached, directly or indirectly, to any one mode, the users of that mode can justifiably argue for a larger share. A flat fee means the funds should go to what the people most want, and could be distributed based on smaller geographic areas. Sidewalks east of 205, cycle tracks at busy crossings almost anywhere, better safety at major intersections, bike priority roads in near NE and SE.

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        • 9watts April 1, 2014 at 12:24 pm

          “A flat tax has the fewest strings attached.”

          If by that you mean is administratively simplest, then might have a point. But your comparison is flawed. If you had included the obvious: raise the puny gas tax we already have you’d realize that the strings are even fewer for that option. Creating a brand new tax involves lots of ‘strings.’

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        • 9watts April 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm

          “As long as the new fees are attached, directly or indirectly, to any one mode, the users of that mode can justifiably argue for a larger share.”

          paikikala, you keep saying this, but your argument is based on the flawed premise that people who drive and buy gas currently are paying for all the costs their mode choice visits upon our public infrastructure. We all know (or should know) that this is not the case. So why do you keep raising this?

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        • Spiffy April 1, 2014 at 12:28 pm

          I absolutely do not want to pay into a fund if the general public is going to decide its fate.

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  • kiel johnson March 31, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Does Herman Cain run our “progressive” city? A flat tax might be easier to collect but it promotes a less equal society.

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    • spare_wheel March 31, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      As long as there is a generous income cut-off I think it could still be quite progressive.

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      • paul g. March 31, 2014 at 8:47 pm

        No it can’t. The definition of a regressive tax is that those earning lower incomes pay more on a percentage basis than those earning higher incomes.

        A 50,000 cut off means you are taxing the person making $50,001 twice the rate of someone making 100,000; 4 x the rate of someone making 200,000, etc.

        Even a flat tax–a fixed proportion of your income–is less regressive than this.

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        • spare_wheel March 31, 2014 at 9:00 pm

          a progressive tax simply allows taxation to be adjusted by income. clearly not taxing lower income is somewhat progressive. since, i personally favor increased taxation of the middle class (and penurious taxation of the upper quintile) i have no problem with a modestly progressive tax that only effect upper income brackets. and for a single person 50K is upper income.

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          • paikikala April 1, 2014 at 9:58 am

            But it’s a nightmare to collect. We can’t afford to keep waiting.

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  • andy March 31, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    I work in downtown Portland and live in inner SE PDX. However, of the 13 people that work at my place of employment 8 live outside the Portland border. Those 8 people all drive separately into the city yet would not pay any proposed tax listed in the article above. I don’t mind paying a $8 tax each month to improve multi modal transportation options. However I would also like to see a fuel tax.

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    • spare_wheel March 31, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      i don’t think portland can tax people who do not live in portland.

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      • Psyfalcon March 31, 2014 at 4:39 pm

        Tax parking spaces?

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        • Chris I March 31, 2014 at 7:56 pm

          It would be amazing if we just simply charged for street parking in all commercial districts. I can’t park on SE Hawthorne because the spots are always full, why not charge a bit so people that want to buy stuff can actually park?

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          • spare_wheel March 31, 2014 at 9:01 pm

            seattle has far more permit areas that require residents to pay for parking. this should be implemented in portland with exceptions for lower income.

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      • spare_wheel March 31, 2014 at 4:51 pm

        yes. and tolling.

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    • Poisonpony April 3, 2014 at 5:21 am

      Andy, My sentiments exactly. I think it would be better to take some of the tax burden of off the homeowners and the people that live in Portland that pay this type of tax all the time.
      There are tens of thousands of people that come into the city to work every day, and if they don’t buy gas in Portland they don’t pay any road tax period. One idea, there could be a transportation surcharge of $5 a month for every person working in the city of Portland. This would distribute the burden of the costs to many of the people that use the roads and pay nothing, and raise millions of dollars. It would also give bicyclists more leverage in getting save bike corridors, as we would be putting skin in the game.

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      • 9watts April 3, 2014 at 7:03 am

        “One idea, there could be a transportation surcharge of $5 a month for every person working in the city of Portland. This would distribute the burden of the costs to many of the people that use the roads and pay nothing, and raise millions of dollars.”

        In all these alternative schemes, it is worth considering the associated administrative burden of collecting funds in this manner. I challenge anyone to come up with a way of raising money to pay for roads that has a lower admin burden (higher net-to-gross ratio) than raising the local gas tax by $.33/gal, and that simultaneously addresses equity concerns, modal fairness, and discourages/penalizes driving.

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        • GlowBoy April 3, 2014 at 1:17 pm

          “One idea, there could be a transportation surcharge of $5 a month for every person working in the city of Portland. ”

          (Raises hand) Oooh! Oooh! As a former business owner, I can tell you there is already a transportation tax for every person working in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas Counties. It’s called the TriMet Excise Tax, and it is 0.007137 times each employee’s gross income.

          I agree that it would be better to base the tax on employment rather than residence (or property ownership), since it also covers people commuting in from outside and clogging up the roads disproportionately (compared to people who live closer to work and are more likely to ride bikes or TriMet). So if (and this is questionable) we are even going to go down the rabbit hole of raising a local tax to pay for additional road work, let’s leverage an existing funding mechanism and collection infrastructure. Of course state law would still have to be amended to allow it.

          Or we could just raise the TriMet Excise Tax to pay for additional Frequent Service. That would be a lot simpler.

          Or we could just raise the gas tax. Duh.

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  • JV March 31, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Really, this is their solution? Instead, let’s just increase the vehicle registration fee or implement a carbon/gas tax in the City already. I do drive and would be happy to pay on that basis. This regressive assessment is counterproductive.

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  • MaxD March 31, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    This tax does too little to create incentives alternative transportation or discourage driving/parking. Why not:
    1. raise parking fees across town
    2. increase taxes on surface parking lots
    3. increase registration rates for vehicles pegged to size/weight of vehicle
    4. raise fines on DEQ failures (and increase stringency)
    5. Add huge fees to studded tires
    6. raise all fines for speeding and distracted driving
    7. raise gas tax (and tax per dollar not per gallon)

    In short, there are myriad ways to raise money and I would like to see an approach that asks the the most burdensome users to pay the greatest amount and use the fees to discourage trips by vehicle and promote safer streets.

    I think this approach is an unfortunate subsidy to suburban drivers and large-vehicle drivers.

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    • AndyC of Linnton March 31, 2014 at 9:12 pm

      You guys…Stop talking sense!

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    • paikikala April 1, 2014 at 10:00 am

      How many of those you list are actually under the control of Portland? maybe half. How do you counter the argument from motorists that fees collected from them should be primarily spent on making thier path easier, not yours?

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      • 9watts April 1, 2014 at 10:14 am

        “How do you counter the argument from motorists that fees collected from them should be primarily spent on making thier path easier, not yours?”

        By first taking a very deep breath.

        Second by suggesting they consult http://www.vtpi.org/whoserd.pdf

        Third by explaining that those fees collected from those who own and drive cars do not come close to covering the costs their driving imposes on our transport infrastructure, never mind everything else (water, air, soil, livability, climate).
        Those of us who do not buy gas or have registered a horseless carriage with the DMV pay taxes. Those taxes contribute (disproportionately to the wear our movements in the public right of way generate) to the upkeep of said infrastructure.

        Fourth, our attempts to get around (on foot and by bike) can be made easier by spending modest funds on, say, bike lanes, or green paint. To the extent that we do this, it is what I call a derivative expense. An expense that is 100% due to the overwhelming and dangerous presence of horseless carriages. Without these we would not need to spend a dime on bike lanes, or green paint.

        So much misinformation….

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      • MaxD April 1, 2014 at 10:30 am

        You show them that mass transit/bike infrastructure is safer, a better value, creates a better business environment, more livable place, etc. Why would PBOT/Portland be afraid of explaining why less driving and more mass transit/biking/walking is a good thing for everyone? Why shirk from calling out that weak, selfish, nimby attitude?

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      • Spiffy April 1, 2014 at 12:32 pm

        “How do you counter the argument from motorists that fees collected from them should be primarily spent on making thier path easier, not yours?”

        I tell them I don’t want their backwards ideas in my city and that they can leave if they don’t want to contribute…

        I certainly don’t counter their argument, because that would indicate that it was a debate… it’s not a debate, it’s simply what needs to be done…

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      • 9watts April 1, 2014 at 12:36 pm

        “should be primarily spent on making thier path easier, not yours”

        what a class act those selfish automobilists* are. As if their path were not already smooth and wide. Ha.

        *in your characterization

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    • Ethan April 3, 2014 at 11:22 am

      I love this list AND my main heartburn was that the entire “vision” was being articulated as a basic safety exercise. I get that a real visionary approach to Portland’s future transportation is a harder sell to some citizens, but I’d argue that is why we watch other cities lead the nation in capital-intensive active transportation infrastructure. Avoiding the bigger conversation about what we want the City to look like in a decade and hiding behind safer topics like “safety” is how we end up with projects that consists mostly of paint and a few speed bumps.

      Getting a phone call from the dept of transportation in “America’s #1 biking city” that does not actually have a vision for greatness is a #fail, in my book.

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  • J_R March 31, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Raise the damn gas tax already!

    What’s the administrative cost of this program? (Whatever it is, it would be lots more than increasing the gas tax.)

    Where’s the equity in having Portland homeowners fund the whole program?

    What’s wrong with having those who put most demands on the system (those driving lots of miles) pay their fair share?

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    • 9watts March 31, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      nothing is wrong with this, and you and I and many others here have detailed pretty exhaustively the idiocy of going down this road.

      But Novick et al. seem pretty committed to doing it this way. I can’t fathom why, when raising the gas tax could easily raise significantly more money, besides hitting those whose actions generate the wear and tear on our infrastructure in the pocketbook, rather than this shotgun approach which makes no such distinction, and is going to be an administrative nightmare if they do try to avoid the charge of regressivity.

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    • paikikala April 1, 2014 at 10:02 am

      Because the money you raise from motorist gets first prioritized for motorists’ needs. A fee collected without mode bias, does not have mode bias.

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      • 9watts April 1, 2014 at 10:24 am

        Funny, paikikala. Motorist’s needs, huh?
        Then how do you explain why the highway trust fun is (apparently) broke, and our transport infrastructure decrepit?

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  • Granpa March 31, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    “Street fee”? A new tax for maintenance should be targeted to the users who cause the wear and tear, drivers! Gas tax or carbon tax might even be disincentives to driving resulting in less wear on streets. Charging households for street repair is just another ill conceived tax. This city really has a tin ear for hearing its citizenry.

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    • Citizen April 2, 2014 at 10:10 pm

      Cars cause no pavement damage. Ask any highway engineer.

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      • 9watts April 3, 2014 at 8:12 pm

        guns don’t kill people. cars don’t cause pavement damage. Which is why the paint wears off, potholes appear, etc. Are you telling me that the ruts in the middle and left lanes on I-5 are also from trucks? Cars I suppose also don’t drip fluids all over the place, which then proceed to attack asphalt?

        What about the standards to which we build roads? Width, roadbed thickness, material composition, etc. These have nothing to do with cars either?

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    • geri moll May 22, 2014 at 5:23 am

      I agree, does this fee include beaverton oregon? do you know?

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  • no more subsidies for suburbs March 31, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Seriously, this is just another subsidy for the folks driving into portland from clackamas county over the selwood bridge that we already bought for them. These funding models where we create whole new tax structures that end up wasting 10% of the revenue on the bureaucracy of collecting them need to stop, and this idea compounds the problem by subsidizing people who live outside the city and drive in.

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  • CaptainKarma March 31, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Meter all parking spaces that “can’t” be removed in the attempt to provide more safe bike infrastructure. Just a drop in the bucket, but why not.

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  • dwainedibbly March 31, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    This will make it even harder to remove parking spaces. People will think, “I’m paying the street fee, so I should be able to park on the street.”

    Businesses (or commercial property owners) should pay, too. What about rental housing? Would the street fee be paid directly by the renter or would the landlord pay (and then increase the rent)?

    The Arts Tax was a way to get the infrastructure in-place for a City income tax. Just watch.

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    • GlowBoy April 3, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      We already had a city income tax about a decade ago. Contrary to the dire predictions of the anti-tax crowd, it expired after 3 years, exactly as promised.

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  • John Lorentz March 31, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    I just received a call for this poll tonight. She started out by asking “How are things in Portland right now?” I explained that one of the bad things was the outrageously high water/sewer rates. She then went into this poll asking if I was in favor of adding to those outrageously rates the $8 or #$12 a month for this tax. I explained that I was strongly opposed to it and the fair way to pay for the roads would be to raise the gas tax.

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    • paikikala April 1, 2014 at 10:03 am

      If you keep taxing cars for road improvements, that’s what you’ll keep getting, bigger roads.

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      • 9watts April 3, 2014 at 8:14 pm

        that is not how it works in Germany. Their roads are in many cases much narrower than ours. Just kept up much better. And their bike infrastructure is nothing to sneeze at either.

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    • Oregon Mamacita April 4, 2014 at 8:01 am

      I am concerned that the poll is flawed, John.
      Did you feel like you got a chance to express your complete opinion? I am not aware that participants had an opportunity to suggest eliminating any programs. All sacred cow are still safe. We should have a discussion of what to scale back at the same time we discuss how to raise money.

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  • Matt March 31, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    “This lack of vision is why we just get to look at other cities’ photos of amazing and creative ways to return the built environment being people-friendly”

    You can apply that statement to all of the cities surrounding Portland, some of whose residents constantly look at photos of Portland for inspiration. The grass is always greener.

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    • paikikala April 1, 2014 at 10:04 am

      And almost all of those jurisdictions around Portland have street use fees.

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  • Rob Chapman March 31, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    My property tax went up about $50 a month this year how about yall’s? I’m only half joking when I say that I hope my neighborhood gentrifies even faster so I can sell out to a Bay Area yuppie and move to a sailboat in some warm country where the politicians have the decency to shake me down directly. Is it City Hall or Clown College?

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    • spare_wheel April 1, 2014 at 8:23 am

      and when you sell your *appreciating* property to a yuppie you will benefit from a massive capital gains exemption that is the very epitome of predatory capitalism. i think you should pay your $50 and not complain too much.

      http://www.startribune.com/opinion/252978061.html

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      • Rob Chapman April 1, 2014 at 8:43 am

        That article specifically refers to high income homeowners. I’ll keep complaining thanks. Especially when the city tacks on another $20 a month.

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        • spare_wheel April 1, 2014 at 12:10 pm

          Did you even read the article? For example, the capital gains subsidy for real estate sales has a limit of 500K.

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          • Rob Chapman April 1, 2014 at 1:59 pm

            I totally read it, see?

            “The vast bulk of housing tax breaks benefits upper-income Americans, as a 2013 Congressional Budget Office report showed. Some 73 percent of the mortgage-interest deduction accrues to the top 20 percent of the income distribution scale, and 30 percent of the deduction goes to the top 1 percent of earners.”

            Which is why I still don’t feel bad. If and when I sell my place you can try your guilt trip again. In the meantime, piling on fee after fee, year after year on homeowners is still a burden. Hell it’s a burden on everybody who’s landlords don’t have the largess to insulate their tenants from increased costs.

            The one beam of hope in this mess is that Mr. Novick seems willing to tip a few sacred cows (or at least police horses) on the way to some sort of sensible city budget. Looking for savings first beats shoveling money into a burn barrel.

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      • GlowBoy April 3, 2014 at 1:30 pm

        I’m paying a similar increase this year, and an increase in our house payments of hundreds of dollars per year was a big wallop to our household budget. It’s worth it for the benefits to the schools, and I recognize that we will eventually reap a big benefit in property appreciation when we sell 20 years from now. But that’s a paper benefit: the tax increase is real, and it is right now.

        Overall I accept the increase and I agree with spare_wheel’s point in general, but there’s no need to be quite so dismissive when a lot of families like mine have had to tighten our belts to manage our cash flow today.

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  • Todd Hudson March 31, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    In ten years, we’ll have 7 different “fee” taxes, each one due on a different date.

    DON’T FORGET:
    -Arts Tax due in May
    -Street Fee due in September
    -Every Child Should Be Loved Surcharge in February
    -Parks Jobs For Transgendered Homeless Teens Levy due in December

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    • Nathan April 1, 2014 at 9:21 am

      Not to mention the ever-rising water bills. I pay 3 times as much for fees as for water usage and waste and I live on a tiny lot.

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    • paikikala April 1, 2014 at 10:07 am

      When the citizenry no longer understand the connection between taxes and government services, user fees is what you get. Piecemeal funding (levies) has long been the way for schools, and look how well that works.

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  • gutterbunny March 31, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    I still like the idea of increasing traffic violation fines to the point to where they can actually pay for the traffic cops time for issuing the ticket and his/her court time (make it a bit more than break for to increase PPD’s traffic division exclusively), legal overhead, and an extra amount to fund transportation improvements.

    If a simple speeding tickets were roughly $400, ($800 in a school (fines here should be doubled like work zones)or work zone) I think you’ll see traffic calm quite a bit. How many traffic tickets are issued every day?

    It’ll slow traffic down, fund (and perhaps increase) all aspects of enforcement, and provide extra cash for funding other road improvement projects. Might not pay it all, but it’d be a pretty big chunk.

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    • paikikala April 1, 2014 at 10:08 am

      That would be nice, if the increase came to the City, but since Portland is not allowed it’s own courts by constitution, and doesn’t want the cost, the County will always get about half of any increase.

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      • MaxD April 1, 2014 at 10:32 am

        so raise them higher! Ar least you will get the benefit of safer and more livable streets! It is not a bad thing for the county to get more money.

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  • Terry D March 31, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    In Portland School District the property tax hike is due to a voter approved School rebuilding/ seismic upgrading measure.

    A street fee will only work if it is based inumber of trips generated…this must also include businesses. The streets should NOTbe maintained solely on the backs of residents. If businesses were charged as well, those with high bike and tri-met commute rates could get a discount.

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    • Poisonpony April 4, 2014 at 12:30 am

      Let’s not forget in all this that the Tri Met buses create a lot of the wear and tear on Portland’s streets, and they are exempt from paying the gas tax.
      Part of the solution to this problem is to stop spending the tax dollars paid by the citizens of Portland on things that don’t belong to the citizens of Portland. If we had all the money given to Tri Met for Max expansion, and to Multnomah County for the Sellwood bridge, we would have plenty of money for roads.

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  • Trek 3900 April 1, 2014 at 12:11 am

    Excellent! More taxes. Just what we need.

    Shoot, if $8/month can raise $24 million per year, why not make the tax $80/month and rake in $240 million per year? Hey, this is fun. Can I be a goobermint maggot and sit around and dream up ways to tax and gouge the citizens? And can I have a full retirement after 20 years and be exempt from being fired no matter how many young interns I poke in my office? Hey, this is sounding better all the time! And, if I work a lot of OT the last 6 months of my career can I get my full retirement boosted up to 1.5 times my last annual pay? Can I? Can I? Can I?

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    • paikikala April 1, 2014 at 10:14 am

      Government maggot, like the police, the fire fighters, teachers and engineers? You should get full retirement, but your 20 years concept is bizarre at best. Instead of dragging down those with strong unions, why not lift up those without? You’re going to need to be more exlicit regarding your sexual misconduct allegations. Lastly, retirement income is base on the three highest years of income, not 6 months. Ignorance is bliss. Go back to watching FOX.

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  • JEFF BERNARDS April 1, 2014 at 3:37 am

    Has anyone seen the $200 spent on the CRC? We could really use it about now.

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  • JEFF BERNARDS April 1, 2014 at 6:08 am

    That’s $200 million

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  • Jayson April 1, 2014 at 8:19 am

    I sure hope the businesses are ponying up as well. While $8/mo or $12/mo is practically negligible for the vast majority of residents, it doesn’t make sense to only go directly to residents. It’s time we see some serious improvements in this city’s infrastructure. I’ll gladly pay the $12/mo if businesses match it.

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    • 9watts April 1, 2014 at 8:33 am

      “While $8/mo or $12/mo is practically negligible for the vast majority of residents.”
      I think we should be careful about making these sorts of generalizations. $144/yr may seem like pocket change to you, but that doesn’t mean everyone feels that way.

      “I’ll gladly pay the $12/mo…”
      I think it is wonderful that some of you feel generous, but with all due respect I don’t see this issue as being about an individual’s willingness to pony up $100/yr, but about all the opportunities this particular approach misses:

      The benefits of raising the Multnomah Co. gas tax from $.03/gal to $0.36/gal, effectively doubling the (state plus county) gas tax ($.33/gal -> $.66/gal), and indexing it to inflation:
      (1) the prospect of raising serious money (up to 4x what is under discussion);
      (2) a lusty kick in the pants to those who are contemplating chucking their car and going with zipcar/car2go/getaround or just biking/Trimet;
      (3) less wear on our roads from the decline in total VMT;
      (4) an unmistakeable signal to anyone in the region and beyond that we’re serious about moving our transport system toward one that is less reliant on fossil fuels, on single occupant vehicles, more multi-modal, resilient, and best of all solvent.

      The street fee does none of these things. Plus it adds a new administrative cost that raising the gas tax would not.

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      • Terry D April 1, 2014 at 9:28 am

        This large gas tax hike would be a boon to suburbanites and commuters from Vancouver….Look how I can dodge Portland Gas Tax and yet use their nice new streets! Not that I mind, but it would only work if it was completely regional.

        Statewide Carbon Tax is what we need…..locally we could raise the gas tax a little, but 36 cents would only punish Portland drivers who stay in the city with suburbanites filling up at home.

        We need a balance of approaches:
        1) Progressive street fee based on number of trips generated including businesses AND non-profits..I.E. Hospitals. This knocks out the nonsensical but effective “bikes do not pay” argument in a fair way
        2) city wide gas tax until we have statewide carbon taxation, large enough to make some money, but small enough to prevent most
        “shopping around” to the suburbs
        3) Push congestion priced metered parking on as many gentrified commercial corridors as can handle them….a few at a time. Of course then neighborhoods around the meters would need residents only permit parking like any other large and dense city I have been to.
        4) Toll the Sellwood bridge to non-Multnomah county users. I will nag on this until the end of time or until Clackamas county pony’s up.
        5) tax to death studded tires if we can not outright ban them.

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        • 9watts April 1, 2014 at 9:36 am

          “Progressive street fee …This knocks out the nonsensical but effective “bikes do not pay” argument in a fair way”

          It does the opposite. It suggests that those who have been crowing about this all along were right. Which is nonsense. If they don’t understand that those of us without cars currently subsidize drivers, then there’s little hope that this boondoggle will set things aright.

          “36 cents would only punish Portland drivers who stay in the city with suburbanites filling up at home.”

          You focus on one admitted spillover effect, but which does not distinguish my proposal from the Street Fee, and forget that my suggestion would (a) discourage driving and (b) raise gobs of money, with (c) no additional overhead. Three things the current street fee fails to do.

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          • paikikala April 1, 2014 at 10:26 am

            So, instead of distancing new revenue from a single mode, you would triple down on the stereotype. How, exactly, does further connecting road maintenance and upgrades to automobiles shift how the money will be spent? It doesn’t. Remember, electeds have to get elected. You should try running on the platform of higher taxes for auto users so non-auto users can have a better transportation system.
            A new fee that is mode neutral is the ideal fee. It can be spent on safety projects. Safety means different things in different parts of Portland. sidewalks east of 205. Trails in the west hills. Bike priority streets in the inner east side.
            I agree that increasing the cost of driving will shift mode split, but there are other ways. As cars become more and more efficient, the cost of gas becomes less and less important. The convenience of driving needs to change. We need to put mobility below safety.
            Putting safety ahead of mobility would mean no street in Portland is posted higher than 30 mph. Putting safety ahead of mobilty would mean that no street with pedestrians or cyclist should be posted higher than 20 mph unless auto traffic is separated by barriers. These are the Safe System/Vision Zero ideals.

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            • 9watts April 1, 2014 at 10:34 am

              “So, instead of distancing new revenue from a single mode, you would triple down on the stereotype.”

              Please explain what you mean.

              “A new fee that is mode neutral is the ideal fee. It can be spent on safety projects.”

              I notice the word ‘can’ in your sentence. Nothing about the street fee is ideal. Ask Mary Olson:
              “The gas tax is a perfect tax. It’s not invasive on the person using it and it requires very little effort on the agency that depends on that money for providing services,” says Olson. “Trying to replace that is really difficult, because anything you try to do is so much more complicated than just pulling up to the pump and paying for gas.”

              Olson is Mary Olson, (former? ) Oregon Transportation Commission member

              I agree that increasing the cost of driving will shift mode split, but there are other ways. The convenience of driving needs to change.

              Agreed. But since you don’t like my way of accomplishing this, how about you tell us your, better, approach?
              Speed limits are great. I like them too. But reducing speeds does nothing to discourage driving, and contributes infinitesimally to reducing costs of maintaining our transport infrastructure. Quitting the car, driving less because it is too expensive relative to other well-known modes, all the while raising gobs of money–now that would get us somewhere. Don’t believe me? Visit Europe sometime (via youtube).

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            • MaxD April 1, 2014 at 10:36 am

              “A new fee that is mode neutral is the ideal fee. It can be spent on safety projects. Safety means different things in different parts of Portland. sidewalks east of 205. Trails in the west hills. Bike priority streets in the inner east side.”

              sounds ok, but it does not sound like what they are selling or planning.

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            • 9watts April 1, 2014 at 10:45 am

              “A new fee that is mode neutral is the ideal fee.”

              Poppycock.
              Given that right now only one mode (the horseless carriage and all its permutations) wears out our infrastructure, requires that it be built to such a high standard, why on God’s Earth would we want a mode neutral fee to set our present budgetary crisis brought on by a non-indexed and ridiculously low, hardly-worth-the-name gas tax aright?

              Simple thought experiments would dispel this foolishness immediately.

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              • paikikala April 1, 2014 at 11:43 am

                ‘Pay more taxes for less services’ doesn’t really fly. As long as the source of the revenue is tied to a single mode, the users of that mode can continue to justifiably demand most, if not all, of those fees are spent on their mode of choice. All other modes will be left to beg for the crumbs left behind, a lot like now. Most people don’t connect today’s choices with their lot in life one year from now, let alone ten to thirthy years. It’s the American way, NEW MONEY FOR THE NEW CRISIS!!!!, instead of careful planning to reach an agreed upon goal. Most of those that post on this web site can’t even agree on a common goal.

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                • 9watts April 1, 2014 at 11:50 am

                  “‘Pay more taxes for less services’ doesn’t really fly.”

                  If I can’t even convince you how our transport infrastructure is presently paid for, then I suppose there isn’t much hope.

                  “As long as the source of the revenue is tied to a single mode, the users of that mode can continue to justifiably demand most, if not all, of those fees are spent on their mode of choice.”

                  You have it backwards.
                  The source of revenue to maintain our transport infrastructure is not tied to a single mode. That single mode is what generates all the maintenance costs we keep failing to pay. If you read Todd Litman’s report I linked to above, this conversation would be much more interesting. Then we could debate his points, instead of talking past each other.

                  A faulty understanding of how our current transportation funding system works–who pays how much for what–is no basis for having any sort of argument about proposed, additional fees. => thanks for nothing, BTA.

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          • Terry D April 1, 2014 at 4:30 pm

            A street fee does NOT say that the “bikes don’t pay” argument is valid. All it does is set a baseline everyone pays….then cars pay extra at the pumps, restristration and parking. Tri’met users pay as you go (with a proper but large public subsidy). It only will validate that false argument for those who already believe it…then you can return with a simple “everyone is paying now, so get over it.”

            It MUST however include businesses. We already subsidize big business enough.

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            • 9watts April 1, 2014 at 4:36 pm

              “then you can return with a simple ‘everyone is paying now, so get over it.’”

              Ah,Terry D, but that little word ‘now’ just sneaked back in.

              Todd Litman’s those who do not drive cars, it could be argued, are owed a refund of several hundred dollars a year given how much they typically overpay for roads is at odds with how you interpret this fee. These two perspectives on how we pay for roads are mutually exclusive.

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      • Mike April 1, 2014 at 4:18 pm

        What do you think would happen to food, clothes, building materials, etc? How do the they get transported? The cost will be passed on to the consumer. Raising the gas tax seems like a great idea but there are consequences. I just wonder what impact it would have on the economy

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      • GlowBoy April 3, 2014 at 1:39 pm

        “I think we should be careful about making these sorts of generalizations. $144/yr may seem like pocket change to you, but that doesn’t mean everyone feels that way.”

        I agree. For those of us in the middle brackets $12/mo might not be too onerous, but I know people at the lower end of the income spectrum who would find that to be a very painful burden.

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  • Beth April 1, 2014 at 9:26 am

    I am already on hardship deferrment for my student loans, and I qualified for the Oregon Health plan when the rolls opened in January.
    Oddly enough, I still have to pay an arts tax to help support arts organizations whose concert tickets I cannot afford to buy.
    I am not impressed with the idea of what would truly be a regressive (and oppressive) tax for anyone making less than $20,000 a year. Show me the math, make the arts tax more honest and fair, and maybe then I’ll get behind this thing. Maybe.

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  • MaxD April 1, 2014 at 10:14 am

    If the idea is to make every household pay for streets regardless of use, then I would like to hear some commitment to reconsidering streets as public places paid for and used by everyone for a wide variety of uses.
    If I am paying a monthly fee, I expect speed limits to be lowered and enforced, no more ‘beg buttons’ for peds/bikes, get rid of right on red, let me close my neighborhood street at will for games, parties, etc. I am hearing about the City fixing potholes, but I want to hear about the City ending the prioritization of on-street parking and moving single-occupancy-vehicles over safety. If everyone pays for streets, the streets need to be for everyone (not just everyone in cars with a few gutters striped for bikes)

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    • paikikala April 1, 2014 at 10:30 am

      How about, at the next set of meetings, demanding that the new fees are returned to the neighborhoods in which the fees are raised and divided according to mode split in that neighborhood. Imagine 16% for bike projects in the inner eastside.

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      • 9watts April 1, 2014 at 12:34 pm

        How about at the next set of meetings, demanding that our city puts its money where its mouth is and started really discouraging driving.
        Imagine not needing any $ for bike projects in the inner eastside because cars are no longer the overwhelming presence they still are on our public streets.

        Remember. Each mile not driven is one fewer mile of wear and tear on our infrastructure we don’t need to pay to undo.

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  • Jim Labbe April 1, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    I appreciate the effort by local leaders to find new funding to help foster a more balanced and affordable transportation system which gives people more choices. But I agree we need to address our extremely screwed up, and regressive system of local public finance first.

    That would start by putting energy into changing state laws that restrict local governments from raising revenue through more progressive means.

    Most the revenue raising options local governments have been left with are regressive. We need a windfall tax on real estate sales that allows local governments to recoup some of the increases in property values resulting from public infrastructure improvements. Most the bottled up wealth in Oregon is in the Portland Metro region. What about progressive regional income tax to invest in affordable housing and transportation options? Okay, maybe I am dreaming but that’s the first step!

    Perhaps a more modest step would be reforming the distorted and increasingly regressive property tax system to make it more progressive. For example we could go back to taxing market values (rather than distorted assessed values) and simultaneously restore homestead exemptions (higher taxes for investment property) or need-based property tax relief. Our property tax system has become so regressive it limits people’s ability to support needed public investment- even if they support that public investment. And most Portlanders do.

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  • 9watts April 1, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Whaddya know!

    Monthly Impact of Various State Gas Tax Increases on the Average Driver
    $.10 = $4.31
    $.20 = $8.62
    $.30 = $12.93

    Figure 4 from
    http://www.itep.org/bettergastax/bettergastax.pdf

    Hey Steve Novick, have you read that report? What do you think of it?

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    • 9watts April 5, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      So here’s the question, put a little more succinctly.

      Steve Novick,

      if the fiscal impact to the average driver of raising the gas tax by $.30/gal is estimated to be about $13/month,* and by my calculations a hike in the Multnomah Co. gas tax of that magnitude could raise up to 4x as much money as the street fee you are proposing,** while refocusing our fiscal acuity on the behaviors & mode choices that cause a disproportionate–not to say virtually all–the public infrastructure costs, and without any additional administrative expenditures that your street fee proposal includes, why would you skip right over the gas tax and focus the energies of your staff on the street fee?

      * http://www.itep.org/bettergastax/bettergastax.pdf
      **(which seems comparable to the monthly fee at the household level)

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  • jennifer April 2, 2014 at 9:37 am

    If the new tax has any type of income threshold, would PERS recipients be exempt (rather, would PERS income be excluded from the income calculation)? That would need to be clarified before any vote or recommendation.

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  • nwguy April 2, 2014 at 9:48 am

    No more tax. we pay too much already. Why dont we stop giving away free money and no taxes for 10 years to the new companies trying to lure them to build here.. everyone should pay the same.

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  • Jerry April 2, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Most of the comments here continue the myth that the transportation solution is more taxes/fees. The survey continues this path. The comments and survey leaves out the easiest to accomplish and probably most acceptable to most citizens primary solution: Allocation of existing funds.

    There is a long list of transportation dollars that have been appropriated from other tax dollar funds that haven’t fixed pot holes, or many of the other priorities of other special interest groups, like the bike/ped lobby interests.

    Just in the past few years are some of these examples:
    1) The $20 Million Adams took from the modified Sellwood Bridge design savings and applying it to the underfunded streetcar.
    2) Adams taking Service Development Charges (of $millions) from South Waterfront URA for streetcars/bike/ped ways.
    3) PDOT using parking fees from South Waterfront URA for transportation projects.
    4) PDC/CoP rebuilding SW Moody three times in less than a decade costing over $120 Million while many millions of those funds could have addressed numerous transportation shortcomings.
    5) Building of many bio-swales that have no functional benefit because of their location. Example is the bios-swale in front of the Capitol and Catholic schools in SW Portland built at the highest grade point where little surface water is captured. It cost over $85,000.
    6) The list goes on……..

    It would be easy to achieve the estimated $24 Million (before administrative costs is subtracted, which average in Portland around 15% of total) with fair balance of allocation of present funds.

    We don’t need new taxes. And if Council mandates any taxes/fees it will likely be put on the ballot and defeated.

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  • Tony April 2, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Eastsider
    I think you misunderstood that – it gives the examples of $50k incoming paying $15/month. It is not the cutoff.
    Why does this regressive tax that subsidizes motorists seem like the only option being considered? Our false choice is between $8 and $12/ month. If you build a truly robust active transportation network, it pays for itself many times over. One way it does this is by reducing the amount of automobile traffic, which is the primary cause of degradation of roads.
    The current proposal creates a system in which the more a driver uses the roads, the less they pay per mile. This is completely backwards.
    Other ideas for revenue:
    -ticket anyone using studded tires when there is not ice present.
    -implement even minimal enforcement and ticketing of downtown bike lanes, which might as well not exist because they are regularly used as auto turn lanes, parking lanes, texting lanes and right-hook lanes.
    -small increase to gas tax
    -vehicle registration fee increase
    I hope BTA comes out strongly against this regressive tax that penalizes users of active transportation that have a disproportionately small burden on the road system.
    Recommended 17

    Ticket cars when there isnt ice present? thats what they can do now. No cars should have studded tires. But the whole point of studded tires is to have them when you need them not second guess yourself each day if you need them and spend 3 hours at the tire shop getting them installed and balanced.

    Ticket cars using bike lanes? great idea how about ticketing bikes that use sidewalks, car lanes (illegal when there is a clear bike lane to use), not signalling , running stop signs & signals and ignoring basically every single traffic sign in existence. Also its Not illegal to cut through bike lines but it is illegal to use them as lanes of travel (a shady area just as is it is for bikes to use car lanes when a bike lane is available, so cant argue one with out the other)

    I also think Bike riders should as a minimum be required to have a one time bike safety course (say at 16) where they learn the rules of the road. How to ride a bike safely, be required to wear helmets and use lights at all times. It can even be free. I dont care but bikes are supported by laws and riders should know and understand the laws. a small fee of 5 seems very fair though, less than the cost of any basic bike maintenance.

    Increased gas taxes dont hurt people who can afford it but those in outer SE who struggle with bills and have to drive to work it does hurt even more.

    In all i do agree that taxing people with a higher population density with taxes like this seems unfair since it falls on areas that tend to be less wealthy. While areas of portland with large homes and lower street density get a proportionally larger benefit. Basically SE will fund NW and SW portland.

    I get a bit irritated at the whole oh biking is better but those same people dont live in the areas that are most effected by this mentality. many people who are lower middle to lower income brackets have 2 or more jobs, kids and have to cram all this in on a bike or public transportation? it just doesnt work in any practical sense.

    I am all for bike riding and mass transportation but lets be realistic about it as well.

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  • Dustin April 2, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    How about a bike license tax or toll the new bridge? Raise the cost of mass transit fares, and do the $12/month tax. This way everyone pays to play. No income breaks, everyone pays.

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    • davemess April 2, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Then you’ve disproportionately increased the burden on bridge users/cyclists/transit users? How would that help? a $12/month fee alone would cover everyone.

      Have you read any of the other comments?

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    • 9watts April 3, 2014 at 8:14 am

      “This way everyone pays to play.”

      Dustin,
      I encourage you to read http://www.vtpi.org/whoserd.pdf which is a concise summary of how roads are paid for currently. I’ve quoted from this report here frequently in the past. Perhaps you will permit me to once more to whet your appetite:

      “Non-drivers tend to travel less, people who rely primarily on bicycling for transportation typically ride 3 to 6 miles per day or 1,000 to 2,000 annually. If their costs are an order of magnitude smaller than automobile travel (0.7¢ per mile), a typical cyclist imposes $7 to $14 in roadway costs, and pays $224 in general taxes toward roadways, a significant overpayment.”

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      • Mike April 3, 2014 at 8:54 am

        Could the “pay for what you use” philosophy be applied to other taxes? For example, people with out kids shouldn’t have to pay for the school levy? Or people that don’t use tri met shouldn’t be taxed for that. Just curious.

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        • 9watts April 3, 2014 at 8:20 pm

          We could do this, and I’m sure some have proposed just this. But in Todd Litman’s case I think he’s making the point about the non-auto-bound overpaying because the chorus demanding that people who bike ‘pay their fair share already’ need to understand that the present situation is tilted heavily the other way than what they seem to think. I don’t think he’s actually proposing to mail anyone an annual refund; just to stop with the nonsensical demands for bikers to stop freeloading.

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  • Jesus April 2, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    No more taxes. Make do with what you ALREADY GET. And then lower taxes.

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    • DJ May 18, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Taxes are, quite simply, the price we pay for living in a civilized society.

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  • Drew April 3, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Another subsidy for driving. All those cars charging about creates the need for biking and pedestrian infrastructure, which they want property owners to pay for.

    Might as well just hand over monthly payments to Exxon or Ford.

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  • AL M April 7, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    TAX TAX TAX TAX, its almost enough to turn me into a REPUBLICAN!

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  • MaxD April 8, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Other people are talking about taxing surface parking lots.

    http://www.portlandarchitecture.com/

    I think raising money from parking may be the best way to raise money from actual road users and discourage driving (save on maintenance). Raise parking fees, expand parking fee areas to other shopping streets, add new taxes on surface parking lots and new businesses that build them (New Seasons!). This would also incentivise more use of TRIMET and provide them with more money.

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