The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Gordon Price on the rise of ‘motordom’ and its urban impacts

Posted by on November 20th, 2009 at 10:02 am

Gordon Price addresses the crowd
during his presentation yesterday.
(Photos: Adams Carroll/BikePortland)

About 60 people gathered in the Portland Building last night to hear professor and former Vancouver B.C. city councilor Gordon Price share his insights on transportation, land use, and urban planning. Price’s presentation, which was part of the traffic and transportation course at Portland State University, detailed the problems of auto-centric planning in North America and offered some practical solutions from Vancouver.

Vancouver, a city that Price labeled ‘post-motordom’… The downtown population has doubled in ten years while the rate of car trips has decreased over the same period.

Price began his lecture focusing on the achievements of ‘motordom,’ an early twentieth-century coalition of auto businesses and interest groups who managed to bring about a “social reconsideration of the street.” At a time when most people got around on bicycles, streetcars, or by foot, these auto advocates succeeded in re-purposing streets primarily for car travel.

The pinnacle of motordom, Price said, was the creation of the interstate highway system, which allowed drivers to travel coast-to-coast without ever seeing a red light. Price also explained how our system is now being mimicked by China, a country with aspirations to build a 50,000 mile system even larger than our own. Although highways have never solved the problem of congestion – “efficient, free rapid flow of automobile traffic can’t even work on its own terms,” said Price – they have created a host of other problems.

Mr. Price.

Price said that proponents of motordom realized there was a simple way to make the car succeed: “Get rid of the cities.” Thus, our trajectory toward sprawl was set. But, Price added, this isn’t about being anti-car. “Motordom is not about the car, it’s about what the car makes possible: auto dependent urban form… the problem isn’t cars, it’s that we overdid it, drove out choice… we’ve made ourselves vulnerable.”

A proponent of dense, thoughtful development, Price called in to question traditional congestion mitigation solutions, asking his audience, “where is there a good example of an urban region that successfully dealt with traffic congestion by building more roads and bridges?” According to Price, the best way to solve the problem of congestion is to isolate it to bridges and highways while developing the appropriate densities and facilities needed to support transit, cycling, and walking in urban areas.

Story continues below


These solutions have been effective in Vancouver, a city that Price labeled ‘post-motordom.’ Vancouver has left the vibrant urban villages created by its original streetcar network intact, adapting them to support twenty first century population growth. The city’s downtown population has doubled in ten years while the rate of car trips has decreased over the same period.

Portland stands to learn much from Vancouver’s achievements, but also faces additional challenges.

Car traffic seen from Burnside Bridge-1

Freeways, as seen from the Burnside Bridge,
dominate Portland’s urban form.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Unlike Vancouver, Portland has major highways running through its urban core that feed congestion into the city’s grid and enable sprawl in suburban neighbors like Vancouver, Washington. Price, however, believes that the days of the suburb are numbered. Peak oil and the global financial crisis are “radical, unexpected changes” that have eliminated the cheap energy and land necessary for suburban growth. As a result, we can expect to see more suburbs reconfiguring themselves after an urban model, especially by redeveloping expansive parking lots into dense, mixed used neighborhoods*.

[*This is already happening in inner Portland neighborhoods. For example, The Oregonian reported this week about a new apartment development on N. Mississippi Ave. where 70% of tenants do not own a car.]

Price said that a specific challenge of the Portland Plan (which is holding a series of public workshops through December) should be to determine how to reallocate the space left behind by auto-centric infrastructure in the wake of the diminishing use of cars. He also suggested that serious accommodation of cyclists should be a high priority and pointed out his concern that the Portland Plan’s focus on “20 minute neighborhoods” doesn’t quite ring true. “That’s too much time,” he said.

In the past month, we’ve heard loud and clear from visiting experts that it’s time for Portland to focus on the elephant in the room — cars. From a European business expert, politician, advocate and engineer working in cities our Bureau of Transportation says they want to emulate, to a marketing expert who has done work for the City of Copenhagen, the message has been loud and clear: Building bikeways will only get us so far, we must begin to institute policies that discourage automobile use.

We know our city bureaucrats and elected officials have heard this message, the question now is, when will they start to heed the advice?

Gordon Price is the director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University and the author of Price Tags, an e-magazine on urban issues, and a blog of the same name.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Chris Smith November 20, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Jonathan, did I see in one of your tweets that Price said Streetcars were part of the solution? 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 20, 2009 at 10:15 am

    yes… and just to clarify, Elly Blue was tweeting for us last night.

    Also to clarify, you know I agree that streetcars can be part of the solution… i just think more critical thinking about cost/benefit and investment choices is worthwhile… ok… now hopefully this doesn’t de-rail the comment thread (no pun intended) into streetcars vs. bikes again.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Lenny Anderson November 20, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Time to tear down the East bank freeway and Marquam Bridge and start building the 21st century Portland.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Elliot November 20, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Interesting note about how 20 minutes for 20 minute neighborhoods is “too much time”. It’s a good point – people just don’t walk that far. I’d guess ten blocks is about the limit where the average person would switch over to perceiving the distance as too long to walk, which is half a mile or about 10 minutes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Elly Blue (Editor) November 20, 2009 at 10:43 am

    One thing that struck me in Price’s presentation is that he had two models for successful post-motordom cities — the walking city (eg, downtown Vancouver BC) and the streetcar city (the old streetcar suburbs that are well-preserved on Portland’s east side). I kept thinking about how expensive the former is, and how expensive the latter becomes if you do it right.

    What I was trying to imagine during the talk is what Bicycledom might look like. More grassroots and diy? More trees and fewer glass towers? Fewer rich developers but more small business loans? Spread-out, but more flexibly connected? If the bike infrastructure were equal everywhere in the city, could we all afford to have transportation options?

    On another note, I got the quote wrong in one of my tweets. What Price actually said:

    The car isn’t the problem, it’s that we overdid it. We drove out choice, and we made ourselves vulnerable.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Susan Kubota November 20, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Price did mention street cars as potential parts of a post-motordom solution. His personal preference is Vancouver’s electric bus system that runs along the old street car lines of the city. He alluded to the greater flexibility of the buses, less intial infrastructure development and the MAJOR PLUS OF NO TRACKS TO INTERFERE WITH CYCLIST TRAVEL.
    His recipe for Urbanity referred to a need for 5 practical choices: (not listed in order of priority)
    2.Taxi, car sharing
    3.Transit of all kinds, ie street car, light rail, electric buses
    Members of the CRC commitee need to hear his discussion on Motordom and congestion

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • 3-speeder November 20, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Due to the inevitable high cost of long commutes, the real challenge of the American suburbs is (IMHO) to prevent them from turning into slums.

    The “easy” (and painful) path is to just let urban areas invert. Jobs will move to central cities, and living in central cities will be highly preferred due to lack of reliance on automobiles for most activity.

    Without sound planning, this will make living in central cities expensive, meaning those with fewer means will have to move into the places being vacated – the suburbs. And this population will become even more disadvantaged because of the (potentially expensive) transportation options to get to the central city where jobs, shopping, and services will be primarliy located.

    To avoid this sort of scenario, our urban leaders need to realize that without wise urban design, this is the inevitable outcome. And I am not convinced that, on a national scale in the US, these leaders truly understand this at present.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Michael M. November 20, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Part of the problem with instituting “policies that discourage automobile use” in the U.S. is that too many people on the margins absolutely depend upon the automobile as their lifeline. It’s all well and good for Vancouver, B.C., or Copenhagen, or Munich, which are all in countries that have comprehensive, affordable health care and a comprehensive social welfare system, but Portland is in the U.S., which lacks these things. One thing that has really struck me lately about local bicycle advocacy is how much in isolation you seem to consider the problem of the automobile, and how willing you are to ignore the economic realities that so many people face. I think, for example, of my friend Marion, who is African-American, HIV+, and blind — she absolutely depends upon her sisters to supplement what she can get from TriMet Lift to help her get around. Her sisters can only do this because they have cars. One of her sisters lost her job and is barely holding on.

    It kinda gives me pause to read here how we must “discourage automobile use” (read: make it more expensive) without any realization that is simply no other viable means of mobility for a wide swath of the public — not, at any rate, without a total remaking of our economic system — and that putting more burdens on people who are skirting poverty will simply drive them into poverty.

    I attribute this, at least in part, to the lack of diversity among cyclists in this city. If you would step out of your almost exclusively white, middle-class bike bubble for a moment, you’d realize that people are really hurting. Maybe you’d think twice about advocating policies that hurt them even more.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • chris November 20, 2009 at 11:01 am

    I was recently in Vancouver, BC, and although I found it walkable and bikeable, it was a much more car-friendly city than Portland. The main thoroughfares are 4-6 lanes, thus enabling far faster driving speeds than what you would find on a narrow two lane arterial in inner southeast Portland (e.g., Stark or Belmont). The car was still the dominant mode of transportation, even though I didn’t feel the need to use one while there. I don’t think there was anything “post-motordom” about it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 20, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Michael M.,

    your concerns are a common response to any mention of discouraging car use, but I disagree your tone and parts of your argument.

    Again, there is nothing here about taking someone’s ability to drive away from them. Cars will still be able to be used… in fact, for those people who can only drive, they will have a much more pleasant, traffic-free, safer network to do it on.

    Have you considered how car overuse has impacted poor people in neighborhoods adjacent to freeways and huge arterial streets full of speeding cars?

    Have you considered how much cars cost to operate and how reliant we’ve become on them because of our misguided traffic engineering and planning decisions?

    Have you considered that if our state/city/country wasn’t spending so much money subsidizing car use and the car industry they could spend more money helping people… the exact people I think you’re referring to in your comment?

    And by “discouraging” auto use I don’t mean solely making it more expensive — although I do feel that’s imperative. We can also discourage it by not making parking so available (parking that could go toward affordable housing and services closer to low-income n’hoods), by doing more to reward people that use other modes, by building a network where biking and walking and transit are better able to compete against driving, etc…

    i understand our system currently makes it easier/cheaper/more feasible for some people to drive cars… but should we sit around and let the status quo continue, or should we, as Roger Geller said Wednesday night, design the city we want to live in? And, don’t we want to live in a city where the cheapest, healthiest, safest, and most fun mode of transportation is available to the most people possible?

    i hope this clarifies some things for you. if not, let me know. thanks for the comment.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Paul Cone November 20, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Michael M.,

    It sounds like you weren’t at the lecture. If you were, you would have heard Mr. Price say that no one is advocating policies that hurt minorities more. Susan Kubota’s post (above yours) details his recipe for urbanity, which is 5 practical choices, the car being the first. More generally speaking, he advocates transportation choices for all people, both in the inner city and in the suburbs.

    Auto use is going to get more expensive no matter what. It’s unfortunate that some people will still need it, but if we give everyone choices, that will help to balance things.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Paul S November 20, 2009 at 11:32 am

    @Michael M

    Your point about the “automobile lifeline” is correct, and whether you intended to or not you pin the culprit: a lack of alternative transportation infrastructure. Cyclists’ attitudes, good are bad, are irrelevant.

    Cars are expensive and require pretty good vision and a certain degree of physical mobility to operate. If you don’t have those things you have to depend on either the public infrastructure, or friends/family.

    I have a mobility-constrained acquaintance in Berlin who gets around very well on the U-Bahn, buses, taxis etc. Also, many cyclists in Germany are elderly: the German gmt. is more stringent about visual acuity in its driving tests so its not uncommon to lose your license in your 60s when you fail the eye exam.

    On balance, it’s easier to get around as a person who is [poor, disabled, unable/unwilling to drive — take your pick] in walkable cities.Why do you think retirement communities are often built for walking?

    I think this will become a big issue as the boomers enter the age when it’s just impossible for them to drive.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • peejay November 20, 2009 at 11:38 am


    While it’s true that increasing the costs and hassle of getting around by car will further disadvantage many poor people who depend on cars, it’s that dependence that really hurts them. If they’re not in position to benefit from a less car-centric landscape, it will be because there’s currently a limited supply of housing in the type of neighborhoods that benefit from those policies, so those neighborhoods will be too expensive for the poor. The solution isn’t to continue to facilitate their reliance on cars, but to change the housing patterns. Part of the reason housing in non-car-dependent neighborhoods is so pricy is because land-use laws prevent their construction in almost all of the country. If we can at least take away the roadblocks to more dense development — but more ideally actually encourage that development, the supply would be able to keep up with demand, and dense housing would be more affordable. But, to encourage the demand, you do have to discourage car use in the first place, so that the advantages of dense living are better realized.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jordan November 20, 2009 at 11:55 am

    I think 3-speed above has a good point. About the how the suburbs and outer areas will be come slums. We can already see the start of this in Portland with the leaders focusing their attention on the inner areas while ignoring large sections of east Portland.

    I think we need to find ways to connect these areas to the rest of the city so they are not left behind. I also think good design can help, as well encouraging development through-out the city not just in the inner urban core.

    I think we need to look at ways to re-purpose some the roads in otter areas to facilitate walkers and cyclists. I live off of Stark at 109th and I find even as a very experienced cyclist I am afraid of the speed and volume of traffic just down my block. We bought our house where it is chiefly because of cost.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jackattak November 20, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    What do “minorities” have to do with any of this? Honestly?!? How does “discouraging car use” have ANYTHING even remotely to do with “minorities”?

    I can’t believe some of the crap I’m reading in this thread.

    ON TOPIC…I’m very sorry I missed this lecture. I live on campus too! Thanks for the reporting from last night, Elly. I’ll have to catch it on Twitter.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Flying Dutchman November 20, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    And this is why a certain regional project is so important, and why building it will REDUCE traffic on local roads, making them SAFER for bikes and pedestrians:

    “According to Price, the best way to solve the problem of congestion is to isolate it to bridges and highways”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Sigma November 20, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    J. Maus: And, don’t we want to live in a city where the cheapest, healthiest, safest, and most fun mode of transportation is available to the most people possible?

    “Most fun” is completely subjective. Driving can be very fun, and is for a lot of people. And riding a bicycle on a cold, rainy Portland January day (or December, or February, etc) will never be “fun” for anyone but the most dedicated cyclists.

    The weather is the 800-pound gorilla in the room that no one is willing to confront. Being cold and wet will never be “more attractive than” being warm and dry for the vast majority of people. 25% of all trips by bicycle? It’s never going to happen. Why do you think the city takes bike counts in the summer and early fall? What would the data show if they measured in January? My guess is that it is not something they would want to advertise.

    I laud the city for trying, and I think maybe in the summer months we can achieve 25%. But never in the winter. (cue someone saying “I take my kids to school and piano practice every day on my Xtra Cycle.” Good for you. You’re exceptional. Most people are simply not going to do that on a cold, rainy, dark rush hour afternoon, when they could just hop in a car.)

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Anonymous November 20, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    After witnessing what I saw yesterday, yeah, 20 minutes is too much…

    On my way to pick up my daughter from school (walking 3 blocks, I saw a neighbor (1 block from school) get in his minivan and DRIVE to the school!

    Some people at my apartment complex (3 blcoks from the school) drive to the school to pick up their kids.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 20, 2009 at 12:54 pm


    i stand by my assertion that bicycling is the most fun. yes, i realize it’s subjective, but it’s true ;-)!

    and, without BILLIONS in marketing over our collective lifetimes far fewer people would think driving is fun.

    and i disagree with the weather myth that is so popular in america. if we had a really connected, separated, and safe bikeway network, the weather would not be a big deal. again, look at europe.. they are not a different species than us… and they still maintain high levels of biking all times of year.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Anonymous November 20, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    The St Cars have a great deal of potential that needs to be FULLY utilized. Have you seen the 1st plan supplied via SE Works and what it has been shrinked down to? It was damn exciting, now it is just well…OK.

    As mentioned, we need to reach further areas in need not only due to socio-economic need, but mobility issues, climate change, and perhaps most importantly…equity for all in every location.
    Older people on fixed incomes will live in Millwaukee. Not Hawthorne.

    Trouble I am having as of late is with talk about Copenhagenizing Portland or exceeding the infrastructure Godliness of Amsterdam. Sounds fantastic/bring it on!…but that would mean frequent transit that lifts people from business district to business district througout Portland (ALL of Portland, not just Pearl, future Gateway, the hipsters that only afford renting in Belmont, and other areas people cannot afford anymore anyway)…like every 3-5 minutes. One track takes you to the next covering the entire N, inner and outer NE, inner and outer SE, inner and outer SW, inner and outer NW, Suburban PDX region. Simple as can be, like hopping on a train in Copenhagen but on steroids. Requiring few other modes of transit transfers (busses) except for special hard to reach St car locations. Busses could serve outer areas like Beaverton and Gresham.

    When I start hearing about something like this, I will start seeing a very major reduction in Auto useage as a possibility.

    As Price mentioned…people NEED CHOICES. Cant just pop a fee for parking at Target or a $5 gas tax (which I am all for if we take everything to said level).

    Until then, you will never convince my sis in law to take her 7 and 9 year old on the bus that comes every 35 minutes in 32 degree January weather. Wont happen. Wont happen for the majority of semi middle class people, actually. We need more serious efficiency.

    We need to think much bigger and more equitably as well.

    It takes money….but what choice do we have?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • kenny heggem November 20, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    oops…did not sign in. the above. : )

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • kenny heggem November 20, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    not sure what happened to the lengthy post I just sent? hmmm? internets man!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mark C November 20, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    “look at Europe.. they are not a different species than us…”

    I’m not so sure about that sometimes. Friends who have traveled abroad quite a bit have told me that it’s striking how many more obese people they see at the airports and elsewhere in this country. Over the last several decades, Americans have become fat and lazy, thanks in no small part to over-reliance on cars and the drive-thrus that serve them.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jim November 20, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    in the old days people had horses. That would never fly with the greenies these days

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Kathleen McDade November 20, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Child-carrying Xtracyclist checking in… 🙂

    What it’s going to take is a recognition that driving gasoline-powered automobiles is like smoking cigarettes. We’re getting closer, but we’re definitely not there yet. Heck, I’m still driving my car at least once a week. I guess quitting cars is going to be as hard as quitting smoking.

    We also need to have the alternatives available for people with mobility issues, and people with infrastructure issues, and people who would like to travel outside the city. Electric cars (yes, I know they’re not fossil-fuel-free), electric bikes, better public transit, high-speed trains, etc. It’s all part of the picture.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Michael R November 20, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Another element to consider is interurban train. On a recent trip to Italy I was amazed and impressed by their train service – between cities at 15 minute intervals. Whenever we took a train there were plenty of locals also on board going somewhere.

    As an interim step imagine how less car dependent we would be if we had hourly service from Eugene to Vancouver BC in both directions.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • naess November 20, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    i agree with #20’s comment about the strett car system. until they stop trying to link all of the lines into downtown, both street car and max, they’ll never be able to cover enough of the city to make these modes a viable option for a majority of our residents.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mark C November 20, 2009 at 2:06 pm


    I definitely want to see us move away from a car-dominated culture, but cars are certainly going to have their place going forward. I try to leave the car parked as much as possible, but I do use it regularly, as do most here. I don’t think we’ll be “quitting cars” any time soon. Right now, I’d be happy if people would just consider walking or riding the 10 or 15 blocks to the library on a nice day, instead of automatically reaching for the car keys on the way out the door. That would be a start. The general public sees your comments comparing driving and smoking as “those bike nuts want to take away our cars.” I don’t think this will get us anywhere.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • AaronF November 20, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    I work about 1/4 mile (probably less) from the bank we get our change from, and I’m the only one here who doesn’t drive to make the trip, regardless of the weather.

    The infrastructure between my office and the bank is all sidewalks and crosswalks, and we don’t ever need to pick up enough change to really present a safety issue. People are just as lazy as they’re allowed to be sometimes, I suspect.

    These people I work with probably wouldn’t bike to work even if there were a path built just for them, that ran directly from their houses to the office. I mean, that would require a lot more effort than the walk to the bank they all pass on!

    Don’t get me wrong though… I’ll take every inch of bike infrastructure I can get! 😉

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tony Fuentes November 20, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Interesting information in both the post and the comment thread.

    I have seen some comments here and there on this site on the issue of equal access to transportation. I want to throw out a couple things to illustrate that issue.

    I have been involved in the Cully-Concordia Schools, Families, Housing Assessment as well as the related action plan, so my data draws from those initiatives. However, the experience in Cully is not entirely unique in the City.

    1) A large share of our street network is substandard: Over 20 percent of streets in Portland are substandard (at a minimum this is a lack of sidewalks, in many cases these streets are also unpaved).

    In some areas this issue is even more pronounced: 50 percent of streets in the Cully neighborhood are substandard.

    2) Substandard Street Infrastructure is often coupled with limited transit options: The concentration of bus and rail service tends to be in areas with complete streets. Bus service is rarely on street lacking sidewalks.

    For example, within the Cully neighborhood there is a lack of adequate transit service including critical links to downtown Portland where the majority of neighborhood residents work.

    3) In some neighborhoods there is a lack of commercial development and retail services, this often dovetails with a lack of transportation options and access.

    For instance in the Cully-Concordia area, only a little over 3 percent is zoned for retail development versus 10 percent on average for Portland neighborhoods.

    What does this add up to?

    For many households in Portland getting to work or shopping for food and other necessities requires leaving your neighborhood either via substandard streets that do not support safe walking or biking and/or accessing inadequate transit service.

    This is not a small problem. Cully is 15,000 residents and they are hardly the only neighborhood lacking complete streets and the like.

    If you would like to learn more about the Cully-Concordia Community Assessment and Action Plan, you can find a wealth of information here:

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • joe November 20, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    the weather issue is exacerbated by the fact that you have to deal with cars most everywhere you ride. with the right gear, you only get a little wet. while the rain happens often, it rarely soaks you.

    I was in Sisters recently and, despite the snowy conditions, we rode everywhere we needed to go and rarely even had to think about cars or any danger from traffic because of all the cool bike paths they have built there.

    I also agree with the notion that we do not just need bus and street car lines to and from downtown. but I don’t want to derail(luer) the comments, either.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Richard November 20, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Echoing a couple comments above: 20-minute neighborhoods are not the solution and are not what the Portland Plan should be focusing on. They will create regions of fair-weather walkers and cyclists because a walking trip made in 20 minutes can be made into a 5-10 minute car trip.

    20-minute neighborhoods are really only sprawl plus a row of retail. They are only marginally less car-dependent than retail-less sprawl, and they are that primarily to those who make a commitment to car-independence. They won’t convert anybody and they will keep us confined to motordom.

    Why wouldn’t Portland want better?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] wasn’t able to attend (we had the second Portland Plan workshop last night) but BikePortland reported on the event: Price said that a specific challenge of the Portland Plan (which is holding a series of public […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Brad November 20, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Europe also enjoys:

    $7+ / gallon gasoline.

    A $9000 Kia in the USA costs $30,000+ there.

    High taxes (to support social spending) make car ownership a luxury for only the top 25% of wage earners.

    Frequent and dependable interurban trains, local light rail, subways, buses, and street cars servicing ALL areas of town.

    A history of small countries with limited room for expansion and very little need for large roadways.

    No overt “manifest destiny” mindset. (with the exception of two decades in Germany)

    A different definition of freedom and liberty than Americans.

    In general, a majority population of people who will live, work, and die within 50-100 miles of their birthplace.

    Generally speaking, a population of people that are very happy to be comfortably middle class and hold few pretensions about becoming rich.

    This is not to say that we cannot change our ways in America and embrace transportation improvements. It will just take a long time to do so. These are the things we need to confront and discuss. The “debate” here isn’t about creating a better and more bikeable Portland as we all agree on that. The argument is about just mimicking Copenhagen (or Amsterdam, etc.) or sculpting an uniquely American approach based in reality. The average American (75% of mode share in bikey ol’ Portland)won’t be converted by allusions to cigarette smoking, green fear mongering, or liberal shame tactics as you are asking them to ditch their core values and pay for things they don’t understand nor think that they will ever use.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Evan Ross November 20, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    That was a great presentation and a solid coverage of the event. Gordon might visit again next year so look out for that.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • matt November 20, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Great post adams. Keep ’em coming.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • levan November 21, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I’m a student at a university in Vancouver, but am originally from Portland. We should be wary about idealizing Vancouver for the accomplishments of a small section of its urban core. Don’t lose sight of the fact that there is a vast suburban periphery extending from the US border to Howe Sound to the north. Yes, this city has an excellent bus system, and part of it has successfully managed to transform itself into a dense, pleasant urban residential zone, but this still a massive, sprawling modern metropolis that is fantastically difficult to cross without a car, as is Portland outside of the 5 quadrants along the Willamette.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Vance Longwell November 22, 2009 at 11:12 am

    I would like to expand on what Michael M. has said up-thread. I’ve even briefly discussed this with J. I’d be more inclined to support many of the policies presented here, but I’m afraid that would leave me making yet more sacrifices as a poor-person. I don’t think it would do much good, but where is my support when I’m in an interview for a minimum-wage job that requires me to own, and operate a personal automobile?

    What is the plan to support me when I’m being fired from that job because of some unforeseen, almost daily, delay caused by my use of mass-transit? Where is my support to show up at that job wreaking of sweat and body-odor from my bicycle commute? What is the plan to find somewhere else for me to work because I can’t deliver same-day parcel anymore?

    All of the plans so far include long-term incremental change in the paradigm, and inherently leave out any notion of supporting those whom will be adversely effected by shifts in these paradigms. After all, we’re not talking about fazing out 8,000 farriers here. I’ve seen figures as high as 1/3 of our domestic GDP is auto-related/dependent.

    Now, here’s where I agree, wholeheartedly, with the underlying sentiment. Which is clearly that auto-dependence has been artificially created and isn’t servicing our best interests. No argument from me there, anymore that is. While it’s crystal clear that we don’t have transportation alternatives, and I agree that this is not good, as we create, build, whatever, new options, some of us still have to eat.

    So far the, “tone”, here has been, “tough-noogies”. Deserved or not, that’s a hard pill to swallow for somebody scratching around down here in abject poverty.

    Jackattack I think this is where Michael M. is completely correct in raising the issue of minority status in this discussion. Beings as most of the poor in this country have brown-skin, and it can be asserted that many of the anti-car-abuse policies regularly discussed here will have an extremely adverse effect on the poor; is it not fair then to be concerned about how these policies will effect minorities?

    Plus, as much as we may subsidize car-abuse in this country, we also do things to artificially inflate the cost of driving. The chipping away you all do, and I’m growing to appreciate at least your desire to do so, has really not benefited alternative transpo types as much as it has adversely effected the poor.

    I’d so much like to see people whom appear to me as having it all, and whom are clearly calling the shots whether anybody likes it or not, could at least see fit to direct some of this momentum toward addressing how the job-market views and perceives those of us ready and raring to go, nay chomping at the bit. I need help folks, if by accident only you participate in the forces pushing my tether to class ascension further, and further out of my reach.

    I’m not saying don’t, anymore, I’m saying, “Please, if you are going to do this could somebody at least clue my boss in?”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Elly Blue (Editor) November 22, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Good points, Vance.

    Another thing Price talked about was the success of breaking down of the “silo effect” between transportation and land use.

    For the rest of his talk it was impossible not to think of the silo effect that still very much exists between transportation and housing/development.

    What’s the good of building a dense, walkable, beautiful neighborhood if it impedes the mobility of the signifact part of the population that is pushed by high rents and other costs into car-dependent areas where transportation costs are higher?

    Token “affordable housing” portions of these developments don’t cut it either.

    Vance, I think that’s where creating safe options for bicycling makes a lot of sense — it can be done cheaply and widely, expanding options rather than reducing them, and doesn’t raise property values in the same explosive way as streetcar.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Vance Longwell November 22, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Elly – Word. I am trying to tone-down a little, and my other comment sort of reads like it came from a Borg. I’ll get better.

    If I could have a wish granted I’d like to see some of the obvious political clout you guys have aimed at regulating small-businesses especially.

    We need showers mandated, and where that’s not feasible, some other consideration vetted. We need outreach so that those whom might discriminate against me because they view me and my bike as a political threat to their lifestyle aren’t so quick to dismiss me. That does happen you know? Even though I’m not on-board, I still suffer the stares, if I can have that metaphor. We need to get rid of at-will employment so that I may sue my employer if I get fired for being late on the bus again. And so on.

    To me, these are little things that don’t cost much, but have a real impact on the demographic who might choose alternative transportation. It’s also a very from-the-hip toe-dip into the pool of suggestions. I’m merely trying to get you to examine some of the nuts-and-bolts holding back the progress of your movement. If I knew this group had my back as I seek to implement this lifestyle (I did 25 years ago, but you know what I mean.) I’d be much more supportive.

    If that’s true in my extreme circumstance, what of those less extreme? You guys successfully guilt-ed Burgerville into servicing bicycles in their drive-up, a dense inner-southeast location: How about extending that to guilt-ing their suburban locations into not discriminating against the bus-bound, or bike-bound? ‘Cause they do you know? They’ll say it’s ’cause there’s no Tri-Met stops close by, but that’s a matter of doggedly requesting the service that overworked, salaried, managers have little stomach for. That’s a matter of outreach and diminishing the status of a car amongst the poor, and so on.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dave November 23, 2009 at 10:43 am

    We cannot reshape our transportation and continue to have an unrestricted free market in the matter of pricing real property. The price of housing has to be controlled to prevent a ghetto-ing of distance–society should not price the working poor into automotive bondage.
    The selling and renting prices of housing simply have to be limited by legislation. Jailing some realtors, developers, and landlords can’t hurt.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • kenny November 23, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Dave, I have often thought similar.
    this is a touchy one…I mean, people are no longer in the same ball game as they were years back when one person could work, another could watch a child…they could pay a reasonable mortgage.

    Now we have people, like myself, who are in a home that is “tight”…seriously considering being dinks because everything in society is just too much money now to make it a reasonable move to continue.

    Everyone is feared into save so much for college, so much for retirement…where does it relax?

    I would prefer we just all pay taxes and know in the end we will have a decent life and be OK with that.

    What do we do about people in a mortgage from these times of excessive pricing? I mean, they are stuck with the cost of the homes as they have been set.

    Regardless, I agree with you.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • spare_wheel November 23, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    “The selling and renting prices of housing simply have to be limited by legislation. Jailing some realtors, developers, and landlords can’t hurt.”

    I’d add shutting down the PDC to that list. Empty streetcars revolving around empty condo towers in SOWA is a daily illustration of how this city has used “public transportation” to subsidize real estate development.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • wsbob November 23, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    “I’d add shutting down the PDC to that list. Empty streetcars revolving around empty condo towers in SOWA is a daily illustration of how this city has used “public transportation” to subsidize real estate development.”

    Or, how about making at least some of the units in those empty condo towers be affordable for people on $20,000-$30,000 incomes? Some studios for people on $10,000 incomes? Creating conditions that enable a normal cross section of people to live in those towers, rather than only well paid professionals and generally wealthy people, would mean there would actually be people in that part of town to ride the streetcar.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Brad November 23, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Priced real estate within 3-5 miles of downtown? Unless it is a dilapidated fixer-upper, you can’t find much for less than $250K-300K. How much household income to qualify for a mortgage on those “bargain” properties? Roughly $75,000+. Then factor property taxes and HOA fees (for the condo owners) adding up to several hundred dollars each month and only the top 10-15% of wage earners in Oregon can afford a dwelling inside the easy bike commuting ring. Rents within that circle are the highest in the region as well. Ahhh…the gentrification of inner PDX thanks to PDC and the Portland hype machine! Looks great in Sunset magazine but is bad for working people.

    Where does that leave low income and middle class wage earners? In the suburbs and too far for bike commuting to be viable. Why? Because there are few employers offering shower/dressing facilities and the average person doesn’t possess the fitness to make the round trip journey (especially on the westside). In my opinion, this is the epic failing of “new urbanism” as it caters to those of means. Location is everything and this area has been developed around art galleries, coffee shops, and chi-chi dining establishmnets that attract(surprise!)affluent white people with money. But hey, we’ve benfitted from all that San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York sophistication moving to town! They drive really nice cars.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dave November 24, 2009 at 7:40 am

    I repeat–there has to be a drastic rethinking of the idea of a free market in real property.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dave November 24, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Vance, there need to be laws preventing employers from firing for any reason related to reduced fossil fuel energy use. Employers need their hands forced, as do consumers–there needs to be an overarching law that places reduction of fossil fuel use as a super-amendment to the US consititution, affecting and directing the making and enforcement of all other law. Start with applying it to zoning locally–a project that will reduce car use is allowed, a project that will increase car use has severe conditions placed on it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Back from Portland – 2 « Price Tags November 24, 2009 at 10:40 am

    […] Thanks to promotion by BikePortland, a larger crowd than usual showed up to hear the lecture.  And BP blogger Adams Carroll did a nice job of summing up the talk here.  […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • rob anderson November 24, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    “What is the plan to support me when I’m being fired from that job because of some unforeseen, almost daily, delay caused by my use of mass-transit? Where is my support to show up at that job wreaking of sweat and body-odor from my bicycle commute?”

    Here is some truth from north of the border… I manage to beat the car drivers to work when there is a snowstorm and they are all gridlocked for 2 hours in the morning. Since snow rarely stays in Calgary due to chinooks we have many “first” snowfalls each winter…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Filmman November 27, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    It seems to me that this whole neo-hippie bike commune things is just so unrealistic. No matter how much cyclists hate car’s and wish they would disappear, its just not going to happen. This is the reality.

    This idea of eliminating car lanes for bikes is going to encourage people to stop driving and ride bikes isnt going to work. Its going to make traffic worse, and create a far greater animosity towards cyclists.

    As for these Euro-Utopias people keep referring to, have any of you ever been there? These cities are 100’s of years old and super dense. Inside the city itself, there are no trees, no yards and minimal parks. Every building is so densely packed, almost no one has a yard. Traffic there also sucks.

    The bike community doesnt get respect from the car community because there are never any realistic answers. And demonizing drivers certainly doesnt help.

    If cars are the new smoking, then bikes are the new acid.

    Recommended Thumb up 0