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Street Fee Proposal

5 lessons for Portland in Seattle’s big bike-friendly ballot issue

Thursday, March 19th, 2015
LevyMapFINAL

A few miles up the road, Portland’s big-sister city is doing something Portland hasn’t yet: charting a viable path to paying for its transportation goals.

The nine-year, $900 million “Move Seattle” property tax levy proposed Wednesday by Mayor Ed Murray would include (among many other things) 50 miles of protected bike lanes and 60 miles of neighborhood greenways over nine years. That’s about half of the projects that Seattle’s 20-year bike plan refers to as parts of the “citywide network.”

For comparison’s sake, Portland’s “paused” street fund proposal included, at one point, an estimated 14-20 miles of protected bike lanes and 40-50 miles of greenways over 10 years. But the possible lessons here for Portland aren’t just about scale (Seattle is bigger by most measures, after all) and the story here isn’t just that Seattle is succeeding where we aren’t (Seattle has a long way to go, after all).

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The street fee, bike share, and Portland’s Big Pause

Friday, January 16th, 2015
Street Fee Town Hall - non residential fee-6
Our streets: Still without bike share,
new revenue, and a host of other projects on pause.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

“There are some who say, ‘Why would you move ahead with bike share if you can’t pave the streets?’”
— Mayor Hales, August 2014

This story was co-written by Michael Andersen and Jonathan Maus

Now that Portland’s erratic search for new transportation revenue is on “pause”, it’s raised another question for the city: How long will the rest of our transportation agenda be on pause?

There’s no better illustration of this problem than the way Portland’s plan for a public bike-sharing system fell apart.

In a previously unpublished interview last August, Mayor Charlie Hales was characteristically candid about this. He and his colleagues have not prioritized bike sharing, he said, because it might endanger their push for new revenue.
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City ‘pauses’ Street Fund vote in lieu of legislative action

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales just announced plans to halt their upcoming vote on how to pay for new transportation revenue. The full press release is below:

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick today temporarily halted the paperwork necessary to take an advisory vote to the May ballot, regarding options to pay for city street maintenance and safety.

“Today, I am announcing a pause in our local efforts to fund our streets and safety projects within the City of Portland,” Mayor Hales said. “Over the past week, I have had conversations with Speaker of the House Tina Kotek and with Gov. John Kitzhaber. They have each assured me that a statewide transportation package is a top priority for them this legislative session.”

The Legislature is set to convene in February. The deadline for Portland to submit paperwork for the May election was 5 p.m. today.

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Guest article: How should Portland pay for streets?

Friday, January 9th, 2015
CRC Rally-151
Joe Cortright, economist in action.
(All photos by J.Maus/BikePortland unless otherwise noted)

This is a crosspost from City Observatory, the new think tank about urban policy led by Portland-based economist Joe Cortright. Many BikePortland readers will know Cortright as one of the loudest critics of the defunct Columbia River Crossing freeway expansion plan.

— by Joe Cortright

For the past several months, Portland’s City Council has been wrestling with various proposals to raise additional funds to pay for maintaining and improving city streets. After considering a range of ideas, including fees on households and businesses, a progressive income tax, and a kind of Rube Goldberg income tax pro-rated to average gasoline consumption, the council has apparently thrown up its hands on designing its own solution.

The plan now is for the street fee solution to be laid at the feet of Portland voters in the form of a civic multiple choice test: Do you want to pay for streets with a monthly household street fee, a higher gas tax, a property tax, an income tax or something else entirely?

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Lost track of the Portland Street Fund? Here’s our up-to-the-minute guide

Friday, January 9th, 2015
Portland City Council
Portland’s city council: Steve Novick, Amanda Fritz, Charlie Hales, Dan Saltzman, Nick Fish.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Ever since local transportation funding became one of the hottest topics in Portland media — hey, we’re not complaining — we’ve scaled back our coverage of the city council’s ever-shifting proposals for a new transportation tax or fee on Portland residents.

But it’s still the most important issue in local transportation, and this week’s developments suggest that it’ll continue to be for most of 2015. Though the Portland City Council has made predictions on this subject dangerous, it seems likely that some time this year, voters will get a chance to choose one of several options for different ways to raise money for pavements and safety upgrades on the city’s road system.

If you haven’t been following the latest twists, here’s what’s happened lately:

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Public health, environmental, and transpo orgs say street fee proposal is ‘good public policy’

Thursday, November 20th, 2014
Click for PDF

Portlanders have heard a lot from powerful voices opposing the City’s Our Streets Transportation Funding effort that looks to raise $46 million a year in transportation revenue via an income tax and fees on businesses. Now, a coalition of health, environmental, and transportation advocacy groups have released a letter in support of the plan.

The groups applaud City Council for creating what they call, “good public policy” that “addresses existing regressive transportation fees and taxes and the inequitable distribution of public resources by exempting our lowest income households, dividing the revenue burden equally between residents and businesses, and steering a majority of the revenue to the areas of the city that have for too long been neglected and are unsafe.”

Here’s more from the letter: (more…)

Study: Dollar for dollar, bike infrastructure pays off better than road maintenance

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014
Sunday Parkways North Portland-38
Prioritizing pavement and maintenance spending plays well in local politics — but what about investments that would lead to higher rates of bicycling*?
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

You’ve got to spend money to save money.

That’s the argument the Portland Business Alliance is likely to make when the Portland City Council hears from the public at 2 p.m. tomorrow about how much of the proposed Portland Street Fund should go to safety and how much to pavement maintenance. (more…)

Opinion: The PBA and The Oregonian are wrong about street tax impetus

Friday, November 14th, 2014
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They’ve never said “Our Streets” is only for paving.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” – Daniel Patrick Moynihan, U.S. Senator 1976-2000

It’s one thing to be opposed to something on principle or policy grounds, but when the facts are twisted to suit an agenda, that’s something else entirely.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what The Oregonian Editorial Board and the Portland Business Alliance have done. Both of these groups are staunchly opposed to the latest transportation revenue proposal unveiled by Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick earlier this week. I’m not entirely in love with the proposal (I think a paltry 7% of total spending toward biking-specific infrastructure isn’t enough); but that’s a different conversation. For now, there’s one aspect of the argument from the PBA and The Oregonian that really needs to be called out.
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City’s new ‘Street Fund’ proposal would raise $46 million a year

Monday, November 10th, 2014
streets-lead
PBOT Director Leah Treat, Mayor Hales, and Commissioner Novick at this morning’s press conference.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

At City Hall this morning Mayor Charlie Hales, Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick and PBOT Director Leah Treat unveiled their latest proposal to raise new revenue for transportation. The “Portland Street Fund” would raise $46 million for maintenance and safety projects through a mix of business fees and personal income taxes.
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Commissioners Fish and Fritz warm to income tax to pay for streets

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
council work session novick fritz hales fish
Portland’s city council speaks with staff Monday about the “Our Streets PDX” proposal.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Can Portland’s proposed transportation income tax count to three?

In the political tea leaves of Portland’s five-member city council, three is the magic number. And the tenor of Monday’s hearing on the city’s proposed tax suggested that consensus is building. But the vote seems likely to hinge on who would pay how much.

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