BikePortland.org

The parking/biking trade-off: Q & A with PDC Director Patrick Quinton


PBOT wants to create a high-quality, two-way
bikeway on NE Holladay. One of the issues
with the project is how to deal
with on-street parking.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Last month, a representative from the Portland Development Commission (PDC) said they’d oppose any on-street parking removal on NE Holladay as part of a plan to create a high-quality bikeway on that street.

The announcement was a surprise, not just because the PDC is a City of Portland entity, but because parking removal is considered nearly essential to reaching the project’s goal of providing, “comfortable and convenient non-motorized access” from the Rose Quarter through the Lloyd District.

“The difference, in my mind, relates to how each of us would choose to spend our last dollar. We would spend it on trying to create a high quality job for a Portland resident and you might spend it on improving bike infrastructure.”

Following our coverage, we received an email from PDC Director Patrick Quinton. Quinton wrote that, given his organization’s, “support of bike-related businesses and the personal commitment of our staff” he found it “unfortunate” that we used the comments of one PDC staffer (Irene Bowers) to portray the PDC’s position in an “unflattering light.”

To give Quinton an opportunity to respond, we sent him a few questions via email. The Q & A is below…

A representative for the PDC said she opposes the removal of parking in the NE Holladay bikeway project. Is that the official position of the PDC?

No, this isn’t the official position of PDC. PDC doesn’t take official positions with respect to parking issues. We follow the lead of our colleagues at PBOT and trust their expertise and judgment on these matters.

Are you aware that parking removal is a key component to creating the type of low-stress bikeway that is the entire reason for this project in the first place?

As someone who rides a bike everyday to work and often through the Lloyd District, I am well aware of the stress that on-street parking can cause people on bikes. That being said, how I or any other cyclist feels about the street environment isn’t the only consideration in a project like this. A variety of interests have a stake in what happens, including legacy businesses and buildings that rely on street parking and are impacted by a decision to remove that parking.

The Lloyd District has 1,442 on-street parking stalls. The map above shows that it also has an ample amount of surface and garage parking capacity as well. The purple line is NE Holladay Street.
(See interactive Google Map here)

Does the PDC feel like there is a shortage of parking for motor vehicles in the Lloyd District?

No, we don’t believe there is an overall shortage but I think you understand quite well that all parking spaces are not equal. On-street spots serve a very different purpose than spots in surface lots, and aren’t that plentiful. From a land-use perspective, the Lloyd District does have a lot of surface lots and we and others would like to see more efficient use of the available spaces, and, ultimately, more dense development in this part of the city.

Whether or not the Lloyd District becomes more dense depends less on the need for parking and more on the demand for additional development in the district and the availability of investment to support that development. I should point out that the Lloyd District, through its TMA [Transportation Management Association], has been extremely effective in reducing the numbers of cars coming into the district and making more efficient use of the existing parking infrastructure. They’ve been fighting the good fight.

You say that, “Our mission is fundamentally about job creation and economic development, our priorities won’t always align with yours.” To some people, that perspective assumes that a high-quality, carfree bikeway is mutually exclusive to jobs and economic development. Does the PDC believe that the presence of a few on-street parking spots on Holladay will hurt job creation and economic development in the Lloyd District?

Saying that our priorities won’t always align isn’t the same as saying they are mutually exclusive. Priorities become mutually exclusive when one group demands all or nothing solutions. I think PDC has shown over the years that this agency can promote a more bike-friendly city while still pursuing what are fundamentally redevelopment and economic development objectives.

“I think PDC has shown over the years that this agency can promote a more bike-friendly city while still pursuing what are fundamentally redevelopment and economic development objectives.”

The difference, in my mind, relates to how each of us would choose to spend our last dollar. We would spend it on trying to create a high quality job for a Portland resident and you might spend it on improving bike infrastructure. Neither is right or wrong and both could be considered complementary.

To your question – of course the removal of a few on-street parking spots on Holladay won’t, in the long run, impact job creation and economic development in the Lloyd District, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be real short term impacts to the businesses and building owners on Holladay.

I don’t believe a supporter of biking in Portland is selling his or her soul by considering these impacts before weighing in on a project like this. When you encourage the kind of dense, human scale development that we have in Portland, you force a lot of activity onto a small footprint, and you heighten the need to balance the interests of the people and businesses that use our city. So while we are all working to reduce car use in our city, some business will continue to be conducted by people in cars for the forseeable future and we need to account for that in our projects.


Thanks to Mr. Quinton for the responses.

The next Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting for the Lloyd District Bikeway Development Projects is slated for June 16th. Learn more on the City’s website and stay tuned for more coverage.

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