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Streetcar or cycle tracks: Putting bike funding into perspective

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

900 miles of bikeways
or 15 miles of streetcar?
(Photo © J. Maus)

Here are some interesting numbers to help put the funding for bicycle infrastructure in Portland — as laid out in the Bicycle Plan for 2030 — into perspective.

According to estimates from PBOT, the full “build-out” of the plan (meaning to complete all 900+ bikeway miles) would cost about $500 million dollars. At the Planning Commission hearing this week, Commissioner Chris Smith put that amount into perspective by comparing it to other transportation infrastructure investments we could make.

For $500 million we could complete our entire bike network or get:

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$500 million for an entire bikeway network.

Smith — who’s on the board of Portland Streetcar Inc. and was a former Chair of the Portland Streetcar Citizens Advisory Committee — also said that if he had one dollar of unrestricted capital construction funds for transportation he’d spend it on bike infrastructure before investing in streetcar.

Why? Here’s what Smith wrote on his blog:

“In my opinion, the benefit to Portland for getting 25% of all trips onto bikes was greater than the benefit offered by any of those comparable investments (not that I’m saying we shouldn’t also make some of those other investments).”

Also, according to PBOT’s Roger Geller who heard Smith’s testimony at the hearing, Smith also said he’d gladly pay an annual levy to help pay for bicycle infrastructure. Comparing what his family currently pays for the annual library levy ($250 for a family of four), he said he’d be happy to pay for bike infrastructure because he believes investments in bicycle transportation “will provide a greater value to the City of Portland.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Hear more about the Bicycle Master Plan on OPB’s Think Out Loud tomorrow morning from 9-10am on 91.5FM in Portland or online.