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Guest perspective on the PBOT street fee: Kiel Johnson

Posted by on May 28th, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Bike Train Meet-up-9-19
Kiel Johnson, photographed in September 2011.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

Publisher’s note: This guest opinion is part of our ongoing coverage of City of Portland’s efforts to pass a transportation utility fee, and we think it’s a good counterpoint to the guest post earlier today.

Sometimes you have to make do with the world you have, not the one you wish you had.

In October of 2008, I was crying alone in a Chicago hostel. One of my good friends had just had her face smashed in by a car and was in critical condition at a Portland hospital. She required major surgery and still has a giant scar across her face to prove it.

In the months before her crash, I remember making the case to her that no one in the Netherlands wears helmets and if we want more people riding bikes we shouldn’t either. Thankfully she hadn’t listened to me.

“This street fee is not ideal, but it is the best opportunity we have to pay for things we are all agree need to be paid for.”

That night, alone, I grew up a little.

If Portland is going to reach its potential as a city it is going to be through tough compromises, large coalitions, and groups that stop thinking that their definition of “potential” is the only one.

Two weeks ago, Michael wrote that something has gone wrong in our city. He wrote about how bike advocates failed to provide political cover for Sam Adams and his proposal to help fund the bike plan four years ago. Two weeks later, our new mayor and one of our city councilors are sticking their necks out again for transportation funding, and so far the advocates who should have their backs have been arguing among themselves on the sidelines.


Kiel Johnson, Mr. Bike Train

The arguments against the fee are clear, and any thoughtful person could come up with a list of them (that this street fee isn’t the best funding mechanism, it should be collected through income tax, that bicycles don’t impact streets, or that the process by which this is happening isn’t right). Our city, and the roads that make up so much of our identity and community, will not be made better by waiting for a perfect solution that never comes.

We all read this blog because we want our city to be better. I would love to read stories about road redesigns that will change and reinvigorate neighborhoods, but lately there haven’t been any. The reason is not because we don’t have enough conversations about what should be done. The reason is that we refuse to accept that the world is not our ideal one, and we have been unable to compromise on our vision.

This street fee is not ideal, but it is the best opportunity we have to pay for things we are all agree need to be paid for. For the first time, Portland would have a dedicated fund for protected bike lanes, the money that was taken away from neighborhood greenways would reappear, and there would be a massive increase in Safe Routes to School funding.

It took a friend almost being killed before I realized that we don’t live in Amsterdam. I hope other Portlanders don’t need to go through the same experience before we realize that the conversations about transportation extend beyond these forums or freight committee meetings. Both of those can be powerful forces, but it is only with compromise that their power can create meaningful change. We all believe our streets can be better, and in order to do that we all need to pay for them. Michael wrote that our old story has been lost. Will the new one be that we disagreed on the details to keep the status quo, or that we all compromised and came together to pay for a better city?

At 2 pm on Thursday, our City Council will begin discussing taking leadership on this issue. I’ll be there to back up anyone who stands up for it.


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Comments
  • TonyJ May 28, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    I am all for implementing the residential portion of this fee, and I think a flat fee for businesses is also quite appropriate. Square footage based calculations of trip generation are quite inappropriate for determining fees for local and small businesses.

    $200 a month for a coffee shop everyone walks to is ridiculous, damaging, and will be passed through to consumers (like those of us who already don’t drive and will pay twice).

    I strongly believe we need this fee, but I am very afraid that the backlash from the current confusing business side will be severe.

    Council should implement a much simpler fee for businesses and find a way to appropriately charge for parking to account for trips generated by businesses.

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    • Blake May 28, 2014 at 4:48 pm

      Agree.

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    • kiel johnson May 28, 2014 at 4:56 pm

      I fear that your stubbornness will result in no additional money for transportation at all. Even people who walk are walking on city streets. sidewalks aren’t cheap! If a business can’t calculate their square footage than I’m afraid I don’t think they will stay in business long.

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      • 9watts May 28, 2014 at 5:02 pm

        Money is not the problem.

        We don’t need more money. We need fewer cars.

        The street fee does nothing to advance this.

        “Our city, and the roads that make up so much of our identity and community, will not be made better by waiting for a perfect solution that never comes.”

        The gas tax will come. Probably soon. This street fee, in the meantime, is a huge distraction, increases the subsidies to the automobile, and does nothing to advance the things we care about.

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        • kiel johnson May 28, 2014 at 5:09 pm

          Reminds me of one of my favorite saying, “we need government to replace cars with bikes and then we need bikes to get rid of government” A imminent gas tax? I don’t know what world you are living on. I care about having a safe and well maintained transportation network that includes all modes, this fee bring us much closer to that goal.

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          • 9watts May 28, 2014 at 5:19 pm

            Kiel,
            I admire all that you do and have done for bicycling. I love your energy and everything I’ve read about your work here on bikeportland. I understand that the street fee strikes you as the best we can hope for here and now. But you must understand that some of us have a different interpretation of this proposed way to raise funds for transportation; that we see this as a step backwards, based on a misunderstanding not only of transport funding but human nature, the climate challenge, and theories of taxation.

            I also appreciate that you don’t think a gas tax is very likely anytime soon. But lots of things that seem impossible today soon become urgent, even commonplace. Climate change is going to make 9/11 look like the Ben Hurt Chariot Wars. It is only a matter of time before we start facing the music.

            from earlier this week:
            Grim News From NASA: West Antarctica’s Entire Flank Collapsing Toward Southern Ocean, At Least 15 Feet of Sea Level Rise Already Locked-in Worldwide

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            • Nathan May 29, 2014 at 9:37 am

              I’m truly sorry to feed this tangent, but have you read the article from NASA? I think the sea level figure you mentioned is different than what was written.

              http://www.nasa.gov/jpl/news/antarctic-ice-sheet-20140512/#.U4dgKfldWM0

              9Watts, I agree with you on a lot of bigger picture ideas, but your habit of asserting things with no apparent source (things like as the gas tax inevitability above) derails some of the arguments you make.

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              • 9watts May 29, 2014 at 10:24 am

                If you read the headline I quoted carefully, the author is not attributing the entire 15 feet to Antarctica, but includes the prospective melting of the other glaciers around the world.
                “The total water composed in the moving and destabilized glaciers worldwide is now at least enough to raise world ocean levels by a total of 15 feet. But the inevitable loss of these glaciers tells a darker tale, one that hints that the 23 feet worth of sea level rise in all of Greenland’s ice and the 11-13 feet of sea level rise in all of West Antarctica’s ice may well be locked in to what is a growing daisy chain of explosive destabilization if human greenhouse gas levels aren’t radically drawn down.”
                https://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/grim-news-from-nasa-west-antarcticas-entire-flank-collapsing-toward-southern-ocean-at-least-15-feet-of-sea-level-rise-already-locked-in-worldwide/

                We can argue all day about whether it is likely to be 3 ft or 15 ft or 23 ft. Although it is important to get our facts straight, none of these minutiae are that material to the overall challenge we face.

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              • 9watts May 29, 2014 at 5:03 pm

                “your habit of asserting things with no apparent source (things like as the gas tax inevitability above) derails some of the arguments you make.”

                Although I think of a blog as different than an academic paper with lots of footnotes, I tend to footnote my posts here more than the average bikeportland commenter. But since I’ve not figured out the nifty hyperlink convention Jonathan and some of you use my attempts are clunkier. Any tips on how to do this in the comments box?

                As for my claim that I think a gas tax will come to town, we could debate this. I don’t have a source for that but would be happy to discuss this but perhaps not in comments to Kiel’s post here on bikeportland.

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              • 9watts June 1, 2014 at 8:03 am

                “I think the sea level figure you mentioned is different than what was written.”

                The people of Norfolk, VA, would agree. Normal tides there have risen 1-1/2 feet over the past century and the sea is rising faster than anywhere else on the East Coast.

                The following excerpt is from yesterday’s Washington Post:
                “Clearly, we’ve got more work to do,” said Ron Williams Jr., Norfolk’s assistant city manager for planning.

                Options for dealing with the water are limited, and expensive. The city could protect itself with more barriers. Williams lamented, for instance, that a new $318 million light-rail system — paid for primarily with federal funds — was built at sea level. With a little foresight, he said, the tracks could have been elevated to create a bulwark against the tides.

                As it stands, the new rail system could itself be swept away, the money wasted. “Nowhere do we have resiliency built in,” he said.

                A second option calls for people to abandon the most vulnerable parts of town, to “retreat somewhat from the sea,” as Mayor Paul D. Fraim put it in a 2011 interview, when he became the first sitting politician in the nation to raise the prospect.

                (emphasis mine)

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          • 9watts May 28, 2014 at 5:33 pm

            “we need government to replace cars with bikes and then we need bikes to get rid of government”
            A curious phrase indeed. I’ve never heard of it.

            How about We need to stop subsidizing the automobile? Seems easier to grasp.

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            • k. May 29, 2014 at 5:20 pm

              I’ve never heard it either. It makes no sense what so ever.

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      • TonyJ May 28, 2014 at 5:03 pm

        It is not at all about the biz calculating the square footage… read the second paragraph here http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/tpp/offices/ocp/sp_files/Trip-GenerationRatesForUrbanInfill_and_TODprojects_Dec2012.pdf

        Council should certainly pass a fee and soon, they just need to drop the crazy business calculations because square footage does not correlate to business traffic (often) AND ITE Trip Generation figures are not appropriate for urban calculations (according to ITE).

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        • kiel johnson May 28, 2014 at 5:12 pm

          interesting in regards to downtown but what is also also interesting is the last line, “Unfortunately, there is no source of trip-generation data for such projects currently available in the U.S.” maybe it is the best solution except for the alternatives which is nothing

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          • TonyJ May 28, 2014 at 5:19 pm

            But it’s not. A better solution is to flat fee businesses and use an actual usage generated fee to charge for usage. Like parking or gas.

            I am on your side here. We need this fee but we don’t have to accept tiis crazy business scheme. It’s going to cause more trouble in lawsuits and bad blood than it’s worth. We shouldn’t excuse the sloppy construction of this calculation and it’s not hard to come up with alternatives.

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          • Jayson May 29, 2014 at 9:29 am

            I wrote Amanda about my support for the fee, but questioned the methodology for businesses, particularly for downtown that generate far fewer car trips. She was not supported because she felt downtown businesses already have gotten so much transportation investment. I’m fine with a flat fee, any fee really, that gets even a limited pot of money available to step up needed maintenance and safety improvements. It seems like if the revenue capture and spending is transparent enough and the good work advertised to the public, the city could come back to the business community and ask for an increase at some point in the future.

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        • Blake May 28, 2014 at 5:14 pm

          Also, a trip estimated based on sq ft will basically equate to a revenue tax which affects businesses differently and makes no account for the business’ profit margins or the cost of what it sells (i.e. taxing a trip for a $2 coffee the same as a piece of clothing that costs $100+). Nor does it equate to the cost of maintaining the transportation network (who are customers? Do they drive in from WA and the suburbs or do they live in the neighborhood and walk or bike?)

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        • Glen May 28, 2014 at 5:20 pm

          This is pretty brief, but it shows what has been happening more recently: http://www.fehrandpeers.com/mxd/

          This is the method that gets used to lower the impact fees for urban projects in CA.

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          • Tony May 28, 2014 at 8:32 pm

            Thanks for this. If we’re going to try to estimate, we should at least be using some models like this. I still think we should not bother estimating and use parking fees as a way to directly levy a user fee.

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      • Jeff May 28, 2014 at 5:10 pm

        Sidewalks aren’t cheap and are maintained by the property owner, not the city (for the most part).

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      • Eastsider May 28, 2014 at 7:57 pm

        It’s true that sidewalks aren’t cheap but they are usually paid for by the property owner when property is first developed and last many decades. So its not really the same as roads that need resurfacing much more often from the weight of vehicles, freeze/thaw cycle and damage from studded tires. To equate the burden of pedestrians with that of automobiles is just not accurate. That’s why this is a regressive, backwards tax that incentivizes all the wrong the things and perpetuates an unsustainable future for Portland.

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    • Glen May 28, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      Impact fees based on trip generation formulas are common around the country. There are also ways to reduce the impact fee based on location, use mix, proximity to transit, etc. San Diego CA does this for new construction – a new building in a walkable/bikeable/transit friendly area has a significantly reduced fee compared to the same square footage in an auto-oriented location.

      It’s really quite logical – charge more for those business that generate more car trips.

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      • TonyJ May 28, 2014 at 6:20 pm

        Please see my comment above. These formulas are used to disastrous effect around the country. The ITE itself states that they are innapropriate for this type of purpose. If Portland were a suburban city, it might be applicable.

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      • Paul May 29, 2014 at 3:24 pm

        On a related note, San Diego sucks. I live there :)

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    • meh May 29, 2014 at 9:12 am

      ” (like those of us who already don’t drive and will pay twice).”

      The whole “I don’t drive so I shouldn’t pay” is a false concept.

      That coffee shop received supplies delivered by truck.

      The shoes you walk in to get to the coffee shop got delivered by truck.

      Every item you purchase comes into this city by truck.

      Your being present in Portland contributes to the degradation of the transportation infrastructure no matter how hard you try to be zero impact.

      How to measure that impact on a person by person basis is difficult, but then again our entire tax system is based on the greater good not on individual usage.

      I don’t have children but I pay for the schools because a good school system benefits everyone. I telecommute, so don’t use public transit, but having viable transit benefits everyone and I pay taxes to Trimet.

      Do we really want to get into pay per use??

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      • TonyJ May 29, 2014 at 11:07 am

        Of course I think it is fair to pay. I am fine paying my flat fee which covers more than my share because I don’t drive.

        I advocate for businesses paying a flat fee for their own activities and the services they use (deliveries etc).

        I don’t want to pay pass through costs for trips made by other people in their cars. I think, if we have the first two fees in place, that it is reasonable to try to put the additional per/trip burden directly on the people making those trips.

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    • Mike May 29, 2014 at 9:12 am

      Increase the gas tax and where do you think the cost increase(of everything!!) gets past along to. Gas tax would affect everyone and not just those that drive.

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      • Blake May 29, 2014 at 9:15 am

        That is the point…it will get paid for but it will get passed through primarily in things that involve a lot of transportation/use of cars/use of the roads. That is better than just passing it through businesses without specific regard to whether their customers are heavy road users.

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  • babygorilla May 28, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    A highly regressive double tax (the city is actually taxing itself and other government agencies!) burdening lower income and low car households with a vague collection mechanism is not a solution that any progressive should be in favor of or advocate for.

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    • kiel johnson May 28, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      There is a discount for low income people. Staying being “progressive” requires opposing any tax that applies to low income people is foolhardy. Fees and taxes are how we pay for the things that especially low income people rely on. Our current transportation system is regressive, making it safer and maintaining it benefits everyone equally.

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      • 9watts May 28, 2014 at 7:35 pm

        “Fees and taxes are how we pay for the things”
        Yes, of course. But some taxes are clever, accomplish three elegant things at once, while other fees are stupid and accomplish very little at great cost. We are a lot smarter than this current proposal would suggest.

        I also don’t get the whole resigned/pragmatic thing:
        we need money,
        this is on the table,
        it is deeply flawed but,
        we’re not going to get anything better,
        so we must endorse it.

        If you listen to the State of the Union speeches, you’d think we were the best educated, wealthiest,most creative, can-do nation on the planet. But when the rubber meets the road around here, we get crummy, desperate, ill-considered policies served up that have poor prospects of raising much money, and then Council decides it is safer to skip out on the public vote. I am not proud to live in a country where we do things this way.

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      • Israel Bayer May 28, 2014 at 10:23 pm

        I don’t really understand your logic here. You’re saying low-income Portlanders, many of whom, are already being priced out of Portland should be responsible for this specific tax? Low-income people and non-profits should not being paying for this. Rushing this tax and not thinking about the consequences is foolish.

        Do you realize how much collectively that housing organizations will pay alone per square foot? That money, often times subsidized to support housing, will go straight from the housing bureau straight to the transportation bureau. No freaking way.

        Then, on top of that, you want low-income people to individually pay? I’m guessing most Housing and poverty advocates, low-income people are almost universally against this tax. If they weren’t, why aren’t we hearing their stories and narratives to promote it. We don’t buy it.

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      • davemess May 29, 2014 at 7:27 am

        Being “progressive” does not mean blindly voting for all tax increases though.

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        • jeff May 29, 2014 at 9:17 am

          it does for some apparently.

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  • babygorilla May 28, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Yes, there is a discount for low income households. It is still a highly regressive tax disproportionately impacting lower income households, low or no car households, and single person households. It will also be owed by Portland Public Schools (estimated at $400,000 per year) and other government entities and even city agencies effectively creating a double tax.

    Given the current litigation the city is involved in with regard to water / sewer funds, its highly doubtful that the fee will be added onto the water / sewer bill so the collection mechanism / cost to administer / collect the fee is highly suspect.

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    • Peter R May 29, 2014 at 9:13 am

      Maybe I have a different definition of “low car household”, but how does this tax affect them more? You could have a family with 5 cars who drive a combined total of 20,000 miles are year, and you could have a family with one car who drive 40,000 miles a year. How does the number of cars you own have any impact on the proportional cost of the street fee? I am the first to admit I have not read the whole proposal, but how does having less cars or no cars make this fee unfair?

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  • John May 28, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    I’m with Kiel. Even though I’d much prefer a hike in the gas tax, 38 cents a day is a reasonable price to pay towards a dedicated funding source for bike infrastructure.

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    • 9watts May 28, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      “a dedicated funding source for bike infrastructure.”

      crumbs.
      2% of expected (net) revenues for neighborhood greenways
      4% of expected (net) revenues for protected bike lanes
      10% of expected (net) revenues for Safe Routes to School
      Meanwhile 42% goes to pavement maintenance.

      This reminds me of the bike amenities that were to accompany the CRC. Little carrots for the nonmotorized folk that shrivel and are composted before the money is even in the bank. Remember, Hales said those percentages were not the final word.

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      • Linda G May 28, 2014 at 11:27 pm

        42% for pavement. Yes – I ride my bike on pavement. When I drive my car, a pothole or bad pavement is a hassle. When I ride on bad roads, it can be quite dangerous. And it is not only cars that rely on our paved roads. Transit is critical to the equation, and buses make mincemeat of the roads. Trucks deliver my food to the grocery store and farmers market; my garbage hauler and UPS all make my bikey life livable. Pavement serves every mode…

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        • davemess May 29, 2014 at 10:50 am

          True, but i am pessimistic that many designated bike routes will be the ones getting this new pavement. Have to imagine it is going to be mostly (car-dominated) heavy use arterials.

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        • Spiffy May 29, 2014 at 3:27 pm

          I ride my bike on the same pavement that cars do, but I do WAY less damage to that road. I shouldn’t have to pay the same amount that somebody with a car is paying.

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      • Todd Hudson May 29, 2014 at 7:24 am

        It’s these sanctimonious and inflexible attitudes is why Portland’s cyclists won’t ever have a dedicated source of funding. “If it’s not how Copenhagen does it, we don’t want it!!”

        Instead of the street fee, I propose clapping our hands and believing in a cycle track on every street!

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      • Mike May 29, 2014 at 9:08 am

        I still don’t get why people are against maintaining or improving our crappy roads. Do you want bike lanes on substandard roads or would you rather have smooth pavement to ride on?

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        • davemess May 29, 2014 at 10:52 am

          I want the city to do this in a smart and effective way. I don’t think anyone here is against raising more funds for transportation, but the devil is in the details and this proposal appears to be hastily hashed out.

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      • John R May 29, 2014 at 10:43 am

        Question in the name of transparency and advocacy: is the funding for Safe Routes to School (great program, not questioning it) used by city staff, PPS, the BTA or a combo of all three?

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 29, 2014 at 11:04 am

          John,

          Funding for safe routes to schools comes from the state (via federal funds)… And then it is passed to PBOT. Then PBOT passes it onto the BTA as per a contract. It’s my understanding that the PBOT/Safe Routes contract is about 50% or so of the BTA’s total revenue.

          Just for the record, I was wrong about that. I’ve since heard the accurate details from PBOT:

          “While we do get some federal funds via ODOT, the majority of funding for the Safe Routes programmatic work is from the Traffic Safety Account, a local account dedicated to traffic safety programs that City Council created when traffic fines went up. PBOT gets a portion of traffic fines for moving violations in the City of Portland – this funding pays for safety programs like Safe Routes, High Crash Corridors, etc…”

          The amount of money the BTA receives to do this work is something I still need to clarify but it’s probably closer to 25% of their total annual budget (not 50% like I said above).

          I regret any confusion my comment might have caused.

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          • John R May 29, 2014 at 11:11 am

            Thanks for the clarification.

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            • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 4, 2014 at 10:11 am

              Hey John,

              Just wanted to let you know that I updated my comment above and made a correction after hearing details about the funding from PBOT. Sorry for the confusion.

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  • AG May 28, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    I support the street fee and increasing the gas tax. PBOT’s budget will not fill the gap even with the fee due to deferred maintenance so we need both and other revenue sources that incentivize active transportation.

    Let’s get behind this and then push the city to lobby for a gas tax increase, more paid parking, additional fees for car registration etc.

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    • davemess May 28, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      I do not think this is a winning strategy. If by some miracle this gets passed, I think that is going to be the last transportation funding increase the city sees for a long time. Many people in this town have a sour taste for the recent tax increases (I blame a good bit of that on the Arts Tax). Getting the things you mentioned passed after the street fee is going to be VERY difficult.

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  • MaxD May 28, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    “This street fee is not ideal, but it is the best opportunity we have to pay for things we are all agree need to be paid for”
    Thanks for your heartfelt post, but just saying this does not make it true. This funding mechanism was selected and advocated for by the City because they believe it will ruffle the fewest feathers. However, they did not actually attempt to spend months and $$ trying to sell the public on one of the myriad of superior alternatives. At its fundamental core, the street fee encourages the status quo, and misses the opportunity to inch the bar toward sustainability by encouraging mass transit, alternative transit, dense urban development. Instead it subsidizes suburban commuting (thereby sprawl) by not charging those users AND providing an exemption to surface parking lots!! It discourages transit by charging TriMET. This fee diminishes out quality of life by charging schools and parks.

    If the Mayor and City Councillors were not so worried about upsetting large-money interests, they could seek to raise money from parking lots, on-street parking, gas taxes, and raising fines for safety enforcement (speeding, red light running, distracted/drunk driving, etc).

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    • 9watts May 28, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      “At its fundamental core, the street fee encourages the status quo.”

      +12

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  • Dwaine Dibbly May 28, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    I can think of a lot of reasons to not do the street fee, and I can think of a lot of reason that we should do it. When I compare those reasons, the ones in favor of it seem important while the ones against it seem small. It isn’t perfect, but it is a lot better than the alternative of doing nothing, which is what will happen instead. Let’s not allow “Perfect” to be the enemy of “Good”.

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    • 9watts May 28, 2014 at 5:36 pm

      “but it is a lot better than the alternative of doing nothing”

      What about the more interesting alternative of doing something that makes sense, that simultaneously curtails the ill damage we’re trying to fix with the money we hope to raise?

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  • John Liu May 28, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    I agree with Kiel.

    We (Portland) can debate the rights and wrongs and minutae of the fee and its formula forever. Down that road lies no fee, no money, no bike infrastructure, and more “how Portland lost its bikey way” posts.

    I’ll pay the $160/yr or whatever it is, and then will judge the city on what we get for it.

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  • Mossby Pomegranate May 28, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Hmmm…whats going on behind the scenes to get BikePortland endorsing this.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) May 28, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      Respectfully, Mossby, I think you’re seeing things. Earlier today we published a similar guest perspective about the problems with the fee. Not publishing this post would have been an anti-endorsement.

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    • davemess May 29, 2014 at 10:55 am

      Is this the only article you’ve ever read on this site?

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  • Zaphod May 28, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    This tax will have a huge impact upon my small business. If I end up in one of the more expensive categories, my business will be at great peril. This is serious. Never mind the random musings on this blog. I 100% oppose it.

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  • gutterbunnybikes May 28, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    You’re entire argument presented here is that this is going to help bike riders….somehow.

    Bicycle improvements are a very small slice of the pie chart. Is it a boost?…perhaps. But that is part of my problem with this, it’s about road maintenance, much of it very loosely defined. How do we know this fund wont be the main funding vehicle of CRC part two?

    I don’t mind paying for infrastructure improvements, but this is just a lazy easy way out plan. Will I be able to deduct the fee from other taxes since it’s not a tax? Why do I have to pay the same on my flat street with 50′ of curb length as someone on Skyline Blvd. (or just off of it) who’s road requires bridges, shoring, greater risk of landslides and other road failures and they have perhaps three times as much curb as I do? Why are we taxing the Portland parks and Schools, but breaking deals for commercial interests and of all things parking lots?

    Best bet would be adding it as a property tax, and the assessment based on property value. Assessments would be more fair, since higher home values not only indicate those that can afford the most, but also those that are most likely to require the most infrastructure to maintain. And the structure currently exists to collect it.

    But you know as well as everyone else, if this was proposed as a property tax, that it would fail to pass the vote required to do so.

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  • davemess May 28, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    I’m sorry, but reading this just makes me thing of “It’s better than nothing”. And I think that’s a sad way to run our transportation dept. and a sad way to make a budget. We can do better as a city.

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  • TonyJ May 28, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Please see my comment above. These formulas are used to disastrous effect around the country. The ITE itself states that they are innapropriate for this type of purpose. If Portland were a suburban city, it might be applicable.

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  • gutterbunnybikes May 28, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    And on a side note, They say they can’t get approval for a gas tax? But what about a gas fee?

    After all if a fee can be applied to a property without a vote, why not approve a fee on gasoline and parking?

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    • 9watts May 28, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      Or studded tires, for crying out loud!

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  • Champs May 28, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    The Politician’s Syllogism: “something must be done, and this is something, therefore we must do it.”

    I’m in a lease that’s nicely insulated from the street fee, but I wonder how many supporters are paying (for) property taxes for anything near the market value of their homes.

    This is another example of Oregon’s broken revenue system being papered over with more nickel-and-diming fees, head-taxes-in-disguise, revenue shifts, and convoluted conservation initiatives. There’s a fortune being spent just to run them all.

    There’s a lot of good projects attached to this idea, we just need smarter ways to raise the cash.

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  • Scott H May 28, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    The biggest reason I don’t buy it, is that Novick seems to have gone the fee route and avoided the gas tax route in order to appeal better to the masses ( I think he might have said this directly or alluded to it, Jonathan mentioned that this was his thinking ). But Hales is trying to avoid a public vote on this and go right to city council, which to me says he doesn’t give two canadian pennies what the public thinks.

    So why not just to with the gas tax, the option that wouldn’t subsidize driving.

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  • zefwagner May 28, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Using the ITE trip generation manual is worse than just charging a flat fee or a square-footage fee. It assumes suburban conditions and has been heavily criticized enough that it is not reasonable to use it. As others have noted, it would have a huge and highly variable impact depending on the category of business, regardless of actual conditions. If we are going to have a business fee I think it should be simple and straightforward. Charge based on size, or sales, or profits, or number of employees, or anything but flawed estimates of trip generation.

    According to news reports today, the City Council is probably going to vote only on the residential fee right away, and delay the business fee for several weeks to rework it and address concerns. That would be a good move, and this is our chance for people to advocate for the fee while also working to improve it.

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    • 9watts May 28, 2014 at 7:47 pm

      “Charge based on size, or sales, or profits, or number of employees, or anything but flawed estimates of trip generation.”

      This is getting ridiculous. Why are we determined to make something simple overly complicated? There is literally no need for anyone with a PERS account to make a single calculation, estimate, or use formulas.

      Why are these people inventing square wheels when round wheels are available everywhere?

      Is anyone tracking the cost of all of this foolishness?

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  • bjcefola May 28, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Kiel, you suggest large coalitions will be necessary to achieve anything and I agree with you. But that makes it important to be aware of what broader purpose a coalition serves.

    I think in the big picture Portland is struggling with success, lots of people want to live here and that demand is pushing out those with the least resources. I think there’s a non-trivial constituency in Portland that welcomes that outcome. This fee in my view works directly towards that end, imposing costs on people substantially without regard to their ability to pay. The $8.09 may not seem like a lot, but for folks with low income that’s enough to matter.

    I think the best road in the world is one open to everyone, even if it has potholes.

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  • Babygorilla May 28, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    According to reports, the business side of this fee will be slowed for further refinement, but it’s full steam ahead for a residential tax (nice move to lessen the chance for a referral to voters). Portland, the city that fights for you, as long as you don’t have monied interests or a parking lot exemption.

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    • Israel Bayer May 28, 2014 at 10:40 pm

      Big business walks and senior citizens get robbed. Wowzers.

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  • Buzz May 28, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    Really? In this case IMO a crappy idea is a crappy idea. I live in the city and rarely drive and don’t want to subsidize the Clackamas, Clark and Washington County commuters who clog our roads on a daily basis. BS is BS and I’m calling BS on the street fee.

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  • t May 29, 2014 at 7:30 am

    From the Oregonian:

    >>Transportation officials and staff in Commissioner Steve Novick’s office said many of the details are still in flux

    >>Willamette Week reported that churches were worried they would pay thousands a year under the proposal too, but PBOT officials said Wednesday that the trip generation model excludes traffic on the weekend. That would save churches potentially thousands of dollars a year

    So damage to roads on weekends doesn’t count ?

    Seems like Hales & Novick are just making up their plan via tweets as they go along. “Gee, we’ll change the rates if some group squeeks loud enough, we’ll pick and choose the exemptions that we want.”

    Just charge everybody by square footage and trips generated, and put it to a public vote …Portland will pass most anything .. ie: Arts TAX

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  • geezer May 29, 2014 at 7:48 am

    fee
    fē/Submit
    noun
    1.
    a payment made to a professional person or to a professional or public body in exchange for advice or services.

    My house does not use the street. This is not a fee, it’s another tax on my house. Charging for on-street parking would be a fee.

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  • Barbara L. May 29, 2014 at 7:49 am

    I am so disappointed in the street fee since it continues to ignore the REAL issue blatant speeding & disregard on signals & stopsigns by motorists. Money has been spent on signs lower speed limits but they are a joke. Eveyone drives 10 miles over at least even on the 20 mph side streets. Until or unless there is some kind of continual giving tickets for speeding the safety improvements are useless & fixing the roads will allow even higher speeds. Regular traffic tickets more than make up for the new TAX. I’ve plently of examples of speeding I can site.

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    • paikiala May 30, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      Portland might get half of the citation amount that the person cited actually ends up paying, and the constitutional changes and cost would be too great to create a Portland court system. I would not want to live in a City that profits from law enforcement, it seems much more onerous than other taxes, and ripe for abuse. It also has the same issue as a gas tax, it eventually runs out as a revenue source because people stop misbehaving. The enforcement personnel still have to be paid for, but any ‘profit’ is consumed by those personnel costs.
      Enforcement of laws also only gets at safety, it does nothing for maintenance of the public rights of way. Enforcement is one component of a Safe Systems approach to transportation safety, but a stool with only one leg doesn’t do much good.

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  • JT May 29, 2014 at 9:14 am

    bjcefola
    Portland is struggling with success, lots of people want to live here and that demand is pushing out those with the least resources. I think there’s a non-trivial constituency in Portland that welcomes that outcome. This fee in my view works directly towards that end, imposing costs on people substantially without regard to their ability to pay. The $8.09 may not seem like a lot, but for folks with low income that’s enough to matter..

    Thank you for saying this! This is an aspect of this “fee” that is not being discussed nearly enough here on BP and other forums in general. In all honesty, I am personally starting to become very frustrated with seeing people who very much seem to be comfortably in the middle and upper middle class sanctimoniously telling everyone they need to suck it up and pay this “small” fee for the greater good. This fee may just be one less dinner a month at Pok Pok for some folks, but Portland has many residents for whom this is not an insignificant burden.

    Skyrocketing rents and other pressures are already pushing many of these folks out of Portland and this sort of regressive tax will only help accelerate that trend. It seems to me that some the residents of this board need to take a minute and ponder how this fee would look from a life with a little less privilege.

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    • Blake May 29, 2014 at 9:20 am

      In addition, the business fee is likely to be killed (it was bad policy as well) but that means a greater share of the burden will be placed on individuals directly. Businesses need to pay too, but the calculation used in the street fee is the wrong way to do it. The gas tax is the most effective in taxing actual users of the roads, and its has some flaws (that more fuel efficient cars will be taxed too lightly). But these flaws are much less severe than the street fee.

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  • Joe May 29, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Thanks for speaking up Kiel I feel the same and really have noticed a huge diffrence inside downtown last couple years, I feel car free city would only create jobs along with the fact become much greener area that thrives more towards the human aspect.

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  • Joe May 29, 2014 at 10:07 am

    ohh and solid transit solutions that move ppl more and often. * not broken set operating times *

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  • Deborah Schultz May 29, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Thank you for voicing this perspective Kiel. I know it is NOT easy to go against the vocal opposition about it-especially here in the BikePortland comments section where there are so many extraordinarily bright and highly driven individuals. It’s obvious that the fee is not a perfect solution. But I would rather take this funding opportunity, it in its current form, than stagnate and take no improvements at all.
    Just hoping for some political superhero to materialize that will slay all the gas tax opposition seems idealistic and even petty.

    This funding will make biking facilities safer. It will help provide for more sidewalks and cross walks. And it will help maintain the roads for busses, freight and cars too.

    Opposing it because it’s not funded by gas tax means that we still have unsafe crosswalks on Powell, still no sidewalks on the east side, and no bike lanes on Foster. Who do we blame when someone dies because we never had the money available to make these street improvements? The political superhero that never showed up to force a gas tax increase through? Really?

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    • davemess May 29, 2014 at 10:53 am

      Bike lanes on Foster are likely to come whether this proposal passes or not.

      I think some are indicating that ALL transportation funding will stop if this proposal doesn’t go through. That’s not the case.

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      • Deborah Schultz May 29, 2014 at 12:01 pm

        Thanks Dave. You’re right. I didn’t mean to insinuate that all transportation funding and projects would go away.

        I meant to illustrate that less funding means less safety improvement projects get implemented. A pothole will more than likely get fixed regardless. And of course there are some bikeway improvements that have secured funding too.

        But there really are fairly vast safety improvements needed that don’t otherwise have funding. For instance, the past several years have been devastating ones for pedestrian deaths. It’s hard to justify that the crosswalk lights that would have saved a number of these lives would only have been appropriate if funded by a gas tax.

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        • davemess May 29, 2014 at 1:07 pm

          I guess I just don’t have a lot of confidence in PBOT (and the mayor and city council) to get that done. I kind of view this fee as throwing good money after bad.

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        • 9watts May 29, 2014 at 1:09 pm

          “It’s hard to justify that the crosswalk lights that would have saved a number of these lives would only have been appropriate if funded by a gas tax.”

          Not sure I get your drift. A gas tax would be a perfect way to raise funds that go toward installing crosswalk lights. This is how it is done in all countries I can think of. Without the overwhelming and dangerous presence of cars we would have no need for crosswalk lights.

          Since we have already acknowledged here in these pages a dozen times that *we all already pay, and some of us pay extra to have nice transport infrastructure* it is not clear to me why we wouldn’t make people who buy gasoline pay for the crosswalk lights. Seems very fair and easy to administer. And every country we can list, that comes up in these pages as a country where transportation priorities are better than ours does this this way. Can you think of a country where this isn’t so?

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      • Sigma May 29, 2014 at 1:46 pm

        You know what PBOT could do if it had a dedicated local funding source? They could go out to Foster and rebuild all the sidewalks to a comfortable 12 feet, and put in a full fledged European style cycletrack. Instead, they have to go and beg ODOT for money for big capital improvements, competing with every other jurisdiction in the region, and so we end up with half baked plans like what they are going to build out there next year.

        Meanwhile, people will sit around here complaining about how PBOT doesn’t care, never does enough, doesn’t take biking goals seriously, blah blah blah. You can’t have it both ways.

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    • MaxD May 29, 2014 at 11:17 am

      This is a pretty disingenuous post , Deborah! We do not need a “political superhero”, but we are asking our political leadership to care about Portland’s poorest citizens, work toward improving mass transit and alternative transportation, and work toward sustainability goals and improving quality of life.

      “It’s obvious that the fee is not a perfect solution. But I would rather take this funding opportunity, it in its current form, than stagnate and take no improvements at all.”

      This is NOT our only choice, but it is being framed as our only choice by Hales-Novick. The gas tax may be part of the answer, and it could be complimented with parking fees and fees from enforcement. These are ways to get street users to pay that do not penalize TriMet, public schools, low-car households and Parks while subsidizing suburban sprawl and commuting. A good funding mechanism should increase safety, discourage single-person automobile trips, and encourage using mass transit and alternative transit; the street fee does the opposite.

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      • Deborah Schultz May 29, 2014 at 12:24 pm

        I actually was trying to be as gracious and accommodating as possible to those that have expressed disagreement and vehement opposition to this fee. But of course you are more than welcome to your opinion of my opinion Max. I’m not a business owner, or a city official, or even a transportation wonk. I’m simply a Portland citizen that bikes and walks daily and would gladly fork over ~$10 a year to make Portland city streets better and safer in the coming years.

        I agree (again) that there are a number of other funding options I would have preferred. I’ll be happy to voice my support for those other funding options when they are proposed. But at this point – this is the option being proposed. It IS far from ideal. But again, I feel that it will be a step toward safer streets that could offer traffic calming opportunities, more bikeways and much needed crosswalks and sidewalks.

        I’d rather see funding now than wait a couple years (if we’re lucky) for a better plan to be proposed by city leaders. And again, I thank Kiel for stepping up to the vocal opposition here.

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        • Blake May 29, 2014 at 12:35 pm

          $10 per month

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          • Deborah Schultz May 29, 2014 at 12:55 pm

            ah – thanks for the correction Blake. $10 per month.

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        • MaxD May 30, 2014 at 11:35 am

          Deborah,
          why do you think we would have to wait years for a new proposal? These came up with this one, did a quick dog and pony show around town for a a few weeks, and now they are trying to backdoor it into policy without a vote. If Hales and a couple of commissioners wanted to raise fees from some combination of gas tax, parking and enforcement, that could happen by the end of summer! Where there is a will, there is a way. I fear that there are big monied, special interests that would oppose this, and the Mayor/Commissioners do not want to reveal just how much power and influence these groups have.

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    • F.W. de Klerk May 29, 2014 at 11:51 am

      Please provide evidence things will improve and become safer for cyclists because of this unfair tax.

      Portland residents, your politicians have made it clear they don’t need or want your opinions. It’s time for change in city hall.

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      • paikiala May 30, 2014 at 3:14 pm

        Can you provide evidence of something that hasn’t occurred yet?

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        • 9watts June 4, 2014 at 10:34 am

          probably not, but with time one gains a certain amount of experience about how things tend to play out, who wins, which items get axed from the list by the time the funding is approved, available, etc.

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  • TJ May 29, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Many car commuters are victim of a transportation system that does not afford reasonable public transit or bicycle options from affordable family housing to jobs. We need to first make cycling an option where it is not. Then we can talk about incentivising cycling without punishing drivers. A gas tax only adds annoyance and rift to the cause.

    Cars will continue to be apart of society in greater Portland. Aside from escaping to the woods and rivers via cars, which I’ll accept as a luxury, many do not have the privilege of living in a neighborhood where the case for cycling can made as a reasonable option to all.

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  • Joe May 29, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Sure we have need for cars, but WHAT if we used energy that is was renewable it is a win for all. ( oil is slowly being sucked dry from earth )
    so invest in better designs

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    • TJ May 29, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      Agreed. Sadly, some of the arguments for cycling infrastructure are lost when cars start running on “magic”. This furthers the point that cycling needs to be an attractive option and not an only options based on your pay check.

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  • Bald One May 29, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Residential Street Fee PLUS higher gas tax PLUS city freight/commercial trucking/delivery fee. Spread the tax around.

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  • 9watts May 29, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Steve Novick has a blog!?
    And he’s sort of addresses some of our questions.
    http://www.portlandoregon.gov/novick/article/489266

    Overall kind of a disappointing effort, though.
    “Yes. A flat street fee is thoroughly regressive. That’s why I insisted we poll numerous other funding option, including income-based options. None were as popular as a flat street fee.”

    Hiding behind the polling which, to my mind didn’t even include a gas tax, does not exactly satisfy.

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    • chrisaz June 1, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      thats not what i consider a blog-ive got questions id like to ask mr novick, or anyone else on that board. theres no place to ask question/write replies.

      ill put my questions here, instead.

      #1 why not just have the city purchase an asphalt plant? i assume this would be cheaper in the long run-if not fairly shortly. i say this as a former Pittsburgher & in the 1970s we were in the same fiscal straits as pdx. our mayor purchased an asphalt plant & paved a substantial amount more of streets for bout the same $$$ we had previously spent contracting out. pardon me if the city already does this, im not an insider. the county, metro, & other cities could buy a share of this as well, possibly?

      #2 we need to stop relying on contracting out to do things that were constantly doing-wed save money, have more direct accountability. were always going to have built, modernize, repair our transportation/infrastructure-we might as well do it in house.

      #3 btw in pittsburgh (a city very similar to pdx btw) that same mayor flaherty also had the city public works dept start collecting garbage & ended the corrupt & overprices private collection. to this day (i believe) residential collection is still free. businesses pay but much less than they would with private firms.

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  • matt picio May 30, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    kiel johnson
    Even people who walk are walking on city streets. sidewalks aren’t cheap!

    Sidewalks aren’t cheap, but they’re typically only constructed with new development and last decades. It would be nice to see a user fee which did not impact cyclists and pedestrians, or businesses with zero parking. The biggest impactors (literally) on Portland street infrastructure are cars with studded tires, and commercial trucking. Trucking impacts more than anything. I’m guardedly behind supporting a modest tax on everyone including cyclists and pedestrians since we all benefit from the *use* of commercial trucking, but honestly that would be more fairly represented through a sales tax. (yes, I know that’s political death for the suggester)

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    • chrisaz June 1, 2014 at 4:49 pm

      i for one would support an income tax, i mean lets get real-all TAXES are INCOME TAXES. i mean, youve got to pay taxes with money-this is america after all. where does money come from-income. and its a progressive tax-or at least not regressive like all these other options. and this isnt a fee-its a tax. a fee is like bus fare, tuition at a public college, parking in a public park, etc. its something that is a choice-not necessarily a necessity & is for a direct purpose/cause. just charging people based on square feet, etc is wack, too.

      just levy a levy based on your oregon state income tax liablity. if you live in pdx or do biz (biz license) here-this amount will be added to your tax.

      and id also like to say i want a list of what will be done & what the priorities are. id also like to say that this fee-novick admits-will not solve the problem. we need to solve the problem comm novick-and if it costs more, than so be it. im not interested in not even really trying to accomplish this task.

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      • GlowBoy June 2, 2014 at 12:13 pm

        Politically, the problem with a local-option income tax is that we already had a temporary one in Multnomah County in the early 2000s in the wake of the post-9/11 economic implosion. Of course the anti-tax crowd screamed that there’s no such thing as a temporary tax, so in response local politicians made a Big Deal out of pledging that it really would be temporary.

        And in fact, the tax really did expire after 3 years as promised. So a new local-option income tax would provoke a huge “I-told-you-so” response, and would likely prove a bigger “third rail” than instituting a sales tax.

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  • Alan 1.0 June 1, 2014 at 9:44 am

    9watts
    But since I’ve not figured out the nifty hyperlink convention Jonathan and some of you use my attempts are clunkier. Any tips on how to do this in the comments box?

    Like so…

    <a href=”http://url.goes.here/”>hyperlinked phrase here</a>

    …hope that works! :) (if it doesn’t, it’s just normal HTML ‘a href’ tags)

    Only a few other HTML tags like bold, emphasis and italics are supported. Images aren’t allowed.

    Also, just mentioning, the Name and Email fields of the comment form aren’t retaining their values on my devices as they used to before BikePortland’s recent design changes.

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    • 9watts June 1, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      Thanks very much Alan 1.0. I’ll give that a try.

      “the Name and Email fields of the comment form aren’t retaining their values”

      hear, hear!

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