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PBOT must slash $16 million to balance budget

Posted by on November 1st, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Transportaiton Safety Summit-22

PBOT Director Tom Miller says
“tough decisions” lie ahead
for his agency.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has projected $16 million in cuts to balance their 2012-2013 fiscal year budget.

As we reported earlier this month, the cuts are necessary due to a variety of local, regional, and national issues and Portland Mayor Sam Adams is asking all bureaus to do their parts to weather the storm.

In a statement issued today, PBOT said they’ve gotten even lower than expected gas tax receipt projections from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). State gas tax revenues are PBOT’s single largest source of funding and they’ve been dwindling as people decide to drive less and drive more fuel-efficient cars.

“The Bureau of Transportation must make permanent, significant cuts to match expenditures to revenues,” reads their statement. These cuts come after a decade of cuts at PBOT. Since 2002, they’ve cut $16 million and 83 staff positions from their discretionary budget (meaning funds that are separate from state and federal grants).

Here’s PBOT Director Tom Miller via a statement just released:

“Today we are faced with two interrelated challenges. We must provide basic transportation services even as we make strategic choices about Portland’s transportation future. And we are forced to do it all with an ever-shrinking number of dollars.”

We will no doubt see a vigorous public conversation begin about where and how to make these cuts. PBOT is already soliciting feedback via pbotbudget@portlandoregon.gov.

Investment that make bicycling more viable and attractive have the largest return for the City’s dollar. Advocates and City staff themselves have been polishing that argument for years and it seems they’ll have to continue to make that case in the months ahead.

As always, this will likely have a lot to do with politics and power. Stay tuned.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Kathleen McDade
Guest

I guess the good news is that people are driving less?

Jeff Bernards
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Jeff Bernards

Gas taxes aren’t keeping up because of less driving and fuel efficient vehicles, that’s great news. The water bureau raised rates years ago, people conserved so they still had a budget shortfall, so they raised them again. It’s simple raise the the gas tax, to get more money. It moves around 10-20 cents a week already, I personally would hardly notice it and would welcome it. Because we’d get still more of, less driving and more fuel efficient vehicles.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Raise gas taxes. How do automobile registration fees fit into the equation? I’d pay more there as well.

Nick
Guest
Nick

I emailed PBOT encouraging them to focus their funds on active transportation and make their cuts to projects which are automobile-centric.

Randall S.
Guest
Randall S.

Raise parking rates downtown. Problem solved.

Greg
Guest
Greg

I would like to see bike registration program. I would gladly pay $25-$50 every few years to register my bike to help pay for bike lanes, boxes and intersection safety improvements.

Rebecca
Guest
Rebecca

1.) Congestion pricing in the downtown
2.) Metered parking on the East side commercial corridors
3.) Increase the gas tax to levels that reflect the actual price of the product – at least a dollar/gallon hike.
4.) Hike the cost of speeding tickets and distracted driving citations.

Opus the Poet
Guest

PBOT needs to have a source of funding that is not dependent on cars and fuel usage (especially when more electric cars come online). As people shift their transportation from cars to bicycles and mass transit more and more funding will have to come from general funds, there really isn’t any choice. Taxing bicycles directly has been shown to cost more than it raises, ditto with licenses for cyclists or registering bicycles. So that leaves property taxes, sales taxes (not sure if you have sales tax in OR), income taxes (we don’t have income taxes in TX), taxes that don’t depend on consumption to raise money (with the exception of the sales tax).

Personally if there was a way to tax bicycles that would not cost more to collect than it brought in or exceed the value of the bicycle per year I would be in favor of that, but unless the tax could be collected through an already funded channel we are back to costing more than it collects.

Bill
Guest
Bill

make automobile drivers pay the actual expense of operating a vehicle! So, add more fees for registration and more on the gas tax. motorized vehicles have been subsidized for years in so many ways. for one, there is a cost to public health thats never added into the equation. I do drive a vehicle part time and I still feel that drivers dont pay their fair share even though a good portion of drivers think they are paying too much.

Seriously?
Guest
Seriously?

Are you frickin’ crazy? Who wants more taxes. Let’s just spend the money more wisely.

Joe
Guest
Joe

The City definitely gets the most bang for the buck on active transportation improvements. I would support a property tax bond of some sort to pay for citywide sidewalk infill and bike infrastructure.

John Mulvey
Guest
John Mulvey

Can someone who knows about the PBOT budget explain what bike and ped projects come out of the general fund? Most (or all?) of the bike-specific projects I’m familiar with are from other sources.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Absolutely correct, Jonathan, this will have everything to do with politics and power.

One aspect: does Michael Powell have enough clout to keep his two major funding and operational sources for Portland Streetcar, Inc., TriMet and PBOT, in line?

As of now he does not seem to have enough funding to complete the eastside loop, let alone the line to Lake Oswego.

Crunch time!

Evan Manvel
Guest
Evan Manvel

Of course, despite dwindling funds, ODOT still finds the funds for boondoggles like the costly, risky CRC. They’ve spent $70 million of ODOT funds on it already (and about another million dollars every month). Just to put this money in perspective.

It’s time the City of Portland tells the OTC and ODOT (and the legislature and governor) stop pouring money into the fantasy highway project that won’t get built, and to spend its money on cost-effective ways to improve safety, mobility, and transportation options.

peoples republic
Guest
peoples republic

16M in cuts.

sniff, sniff, that’s the smell of Idaho stop stings coming your way.

John Mulvey
Guest
John Mulvey

It should be said, during any discussion of general fund shortfalls at the City, that the hundreds of millions of dollars diverted to urban renewal is a huge part of why existing revenues are insufficient. Urban renewal projects are always presented as if they cost no one anything –even by members of the City Council who should know better.

Ryno Dan
Guest
Ryno Dan

The “DOT”‘s are the “vehicle” by which motor vehicle operators are fed their subsidy.
Easy solution – terminate all road widenings and “safety” improvements.

John Mulvey
Guest
John Mulvey

Has there been a recent mass migration of Oregonian commenters to Bike Portland?

Brian
Guest
Brian

I don’t disagree, but it is a bit naive to think that those car-centric projects are going away. We are still a minority in this representative democracy. We need to become a majority before we can wrangle those funds away. IMO, the most effective way to do that (and increase cyclist numbers) is to improve structures for us through revenue generated by us. I don’t agree that a license fee is a barrier.

Brian
Guest
Brian

When I suggest a license fee (we had one growing up in Wisconsin and it didn’t seem to be a barrier for any of us, and I did not grow up in a wealthy family), I am not implying that we still would not receive additional funds from ODOT because we are a smaller user group. Also, a license program could take many forms. Age 16 and up, for example. I don’t have the answers for the best way to make this work. I simple believe that a license fee is less of a barrier than a lack of separate bike facilities to get more people on bikes. I would like to see us generate additional, local funds that go directly to improving riding infrastructure for us.

Jeff Bernards
Guest
Jeff Bernards

I look at these comments and names, not one of these people have offered to volunteer for the Initiative Campaign to Ban Studded Tires, which will save us millions of dollars in unnecessary road repair. There isn’t going to be a lot of new money, we need to use the resources we have more wisely. It’s easy to sit in front of your computer and bitch how it should be, I suggest you contact http://www.preservingoregonsroads.org and volunteer to collect signatures, it’s easy. I got 200 at the farmers market last Saturday, that was 3 hours. We need 80,000 signatures, it’s a peoples initiative, that means you.
Thanks
Jeff Bernards