(Photo: Dat Nguyen)
As we move into the 2009 legislative session, and with an update to our Bicycle Master Plan finally on the horizon, I’ll be covering the future of bikeway funding a lot in the weeks and months to come.
One of the over-arching themes that should seal the case for more aggressive funding of bike projects in Portland is that it’s such a “cheap date” (in the words of PDOT’s Roger Geller). For a tiny amount of financial investment in biking, Portland has reaped vast benefits. Biking offers the best return on transportation investment our city can make.
During a presentation I watched yesterday, one fact I heard really drove that point home.
Since the 1980s, PDOT estimates they’ve spent a total of $55 million (in 2008 dollars) on bike-specific infrastructure citywide (stuff like bike lanes, signage, etc…).
In comparison, the Portland Aerial Tram — which was built to shuttle commuters and patients between residences and offices on the riverfront to the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) hospital campus atop a nearby hill — cost $57 million (the Tram was built with 85% funding from OHSU).
If you don’t like the Tram analogy, how about; $55 million is the cost of about one-half of a standard freeway interchange.
I realize transportation funding is a complicated game — with pots of money from a myriad of sources — and I realize this comparison isn’t apples to apples. I also think the Tram is an important part of our transportation system (it’s considered a success by many) and this comparison is not meant as Tram-bashing*.
I share this this comparison in hopes that it provides a simple mental picture and context for future discussions about funding. Despite our Platinum platitudes and superstar-status in the world of bike-friendliness, our city has invested very little in biking (bikes currently account for only 0.7% of PDOT’s capital budget).
Hopefully the Adams administration will help bring more money to bike projects. It’s a great political strategy; there’s nowhere to go but up.
[*Note: As commenters below have quickly made clear, the Tram is a sensitive subject in Portland. Its cost (which was way more than initially planned) was a punching bag in the Portland media. I want to reiterate that I’m using the Tram merely as a tool to help draw a comparison between the cost of that one project and the estimated cost of Portland’s entire, 274-mile bikeway network. Also please note that Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) (a
private institution public university) paid for 85% of the Tram.]