Opinion: A biased look at Beaverton’s auto dealerships

Posted by on January 9th, 2012 at 11:14 am

The subtitle of the article, “City planners hope for more investment in urban renewal district,” is buried under the heading “Beaverton auto sales drive city economy.”

Full disclosure: I love bikes. I love riding them, talking about them, taking pictures of them, and just about anything else that involves them.

I live in the suburbs but my primary mode of transportation is a bicycle. I ride my bicycle nearly everywhere I go with only a few exceptions.

My love of bicycles probably makes me at least a little biased towards bikes and against cars, but I still drive on occasion. My wife and I use our car to visit family in rural areas of Oregon, and she has a 40-mile commute that would be impractical on a bike.

Screenshot of January 5th
Beaverton Valley Times article.

It’s hard to say how much my bike bias plays into my perception, but a recent article from the Beaverton Valley Times (owned by Pamplin Media Group) seemed a little strange to me.

The subtitle of the article, “City planners hope for more investment in urban renewal district,” is buried under the heading “Beaverton auto sales drive city economy.”

That bold claim made me raise an eyebrow. How exactly are auto sales going to drive a city economy?

Riding bikes in the suburbs is a lot of fun.
(Photo: Will Vanlue)

To start with, I’m not aware of any automobile manufacturers in Beaverton. There are plenty of dealerships, of course, which employ a hand full of people but a sizable chunk of the profits from car sales are sent away from Oregon (and sometimes out of the United States) to vehicle manufacturers.

Furthermore, after someone buys a car they have to pay for fuel and regular maintenance. There are a few local jobs involved in administering the maintenance on a car but a lot of money gets funneled to Saudi Arabia, Canada, and other countries where we get our oil and gasoline.

Every dollar that gets sucked out of our local economy is one less dollar families can spend on food, services, and entertainment from locally owned small businesses.

The small slice of car sale money that stays in local jobs may start to dry up in the future too as more and more teenagers are waiting longer to get their drivers licenses and are driving less when they eventually get behind the wheel.

Going back to the “urban renewal” theme hidden in the subtitle of the article, it is true that Beaverton is working on rebuilding its downtown to boost economic activity by making it friendlier to people on foot and on bikes.

The article in the Beaverton Valley Times tries to make the case that car dealerships fit into that vision of a healthy, active Beaverton. They put forth the idea that “[car] dealership concentrations can be welcoming and walkable, attracting both shoppers who want to compare different vehicles and residents running errands or out for a stroll.”

This is probably my pro-bike bias talking but the thought of strolling along acres of asphalt, next to cars with neon windshield signs, while the smell of tire polish wafts through the air doesn’t seem especially welcoming.

Other pieces of the article seem to agree with that sentiment too.

Southwest Canyon Road, current home to many car dealerships, is described as a “four-lane thoroughfare that clogs with traffic most of the day.” Is congestion on the road supposed to improve as car sales increase?

I started to wonder how car dealerships stole the headline in a story about Beaverton residents’ desire for better access for walking and biking.

Tucked away on the second page of the article, it’s finally revealed (emphasis mine):

“The planning is happening as area dealerships get ready for the 2012 Portland International Auto Show…presented by the Portland Metro New Car Dealers Association and co-sponsored by the Pamplin Media Group, which owns the Beaverton Valley Times, Portland Tribune and Community Newspapers.”

That might not have come as too big of a surprise if I had paid a bit more attention to the paid advertisements framing the article. Two of the largest ads encourage readers to enter to win a new car at the auto show (a car provided by “Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune.”)

Pamplin Media Group’s logo also features prominently on the website for the Portland International Autoshow, nearly as large as the logo for the auto show itself.

Am I alone in thinking this is a little strange? Is my pro-bike bias skewing my perspective on this article?

In some ways, I hope so. I hope that I’m way off base and my love for bicycles is causing me to be overly critical of a car-centric story. It’s either that or the demand for bicycle and pedestrian facilities is being spun into an advertisements for car dealers and an auto show.

You’re free to read the original article and judge for yourself.

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Steven Vance
Guest

That’s kind of funny. When I walk around town, I definitely stroll into car dealerships. I love walking through parking lots and just telling sales people I’m “just looking”.
/sarcasm

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

It’s kinda funny when I walk to the Beaverton Bike Gallery, I cut through the Ford Damerow dealership, and they and they ask me if I could use any help. 😉

Rol
Guest
Rol

“It’s either that or the demand for bicycle and pedestrian facilities is being spun into an advertisements for car dealers and an auto show.”

It’s worse than that: An entire publication being kept afloat by ad money from car dealerships is being spun as an objective news source.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

Pamplin…..

I read that name and was pretty much too irritated to focus on the rest of the article….

NW Biker
Guest
NW Biker

It reminds me of a TV news spot I saw many years ago, where the news anchor made a dramatic statement about whether there was new volcanic activity on Mt. Rainier. After a commercial break, there was a short video showing that nothing new was happening on Mt. Rainier, but after that video, the news anchor got all perky promoting a movie about some volcanic eruption that was airing that night.

News isn’t news; hasn’t been for a long time. It’s advertising from behind a desk. Same here. Mash some unrelated stuff together and put an auto dealer’s photo on the front page and call it news.

Don’t think so.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

You ought to maybe do a little first hand research of just how many people in the Beaverton area have employment that’s in some way associated with auto dealerships new and used. I think you’ll find that it’s far more than a “…handful…”. Beaverton has a huge number of auto dealerships along Canyon and TV Hwy.

One of Beaverton’s longest term dealers is Bob Lamphere…Honda and who knows what all else in terms of brands. Lamphere’s businesses are so dominant in Beaverton, that for years, it’s occupied two or three consecutive blocks in Beaverton’s diminutive Old Town, right in the center of Beaverton’s designated Urban Renewal focus area.

Broadway, that runs past those businesses, is one of the very first areas to be planned for urban renewal improvements…the next meeting to invite suggestions from the public for improvements is on the 17th of this month, if I recall correctly.

Improvements in infrastructure that would enable people to get around Beaverton on foot and bike more safely, easily and enjoyably are extremely important. While the presence of auto dealerships within the city and in the local news may seem a contradiction of sorts, I don’t think it’s lost on city residents and city leaders, how important it is for Beaverton to have walking and biking become a more inviting way to travel.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the direct effect auto dealerships contribute to the extraordinarily excessive motor vehicle traffic on Canyon Rd and it’s evil twin, Beaverton Hillsdale Hwy-Farmington Rd, is probably rather small. The vast majority of that traffic is most likely people traveling between communities…Portland, Beaverton, Raleigh Hills and Hillsboro.

Jim Hook
Guest
Jim Hook

“Canyon Strip Auto Row, the only place to buy”.

So 1960’s.

Can you buy a car on Amazon yet?

Paul Souders
Guest

I don’t think you can buy a car on Amazon yet but we bought our last three cars over the Internet with no haggling … from a dealership on Canyon Road.

But seriously: car lots are following newspapers out of history’s EXIT door, I guess it only makes sense that they’re gonna leave holding hands. That doesn’t mean people have stopped buying cars or reading the news, it just means they’re cutting out the middlemen. Building your local economy around the middlemen … kinda stupid IMO.

Ed R
Guest
Ed R

Pamplin also had this article inserted into the Jan. 5th edition of his Portland Tribune. The slant of the reporting is revealed in the first sentence, which reads “While Portland planners are often accused of overlooking the needs of car owners in favor of transit riders, bicyclists and pedestrians, Beaverton officials are embracing automobiles as part of their efforts to revitalize the city.” Notice the adversarial framing? As if pedestrians, transit riders and cyclists are not also often car owners – and vice versa. Trying to pit “cars owners” against others is more a trick out of The Oregonian playbook.

Professional journalism might have it phrased more like “Portland planners are often accused of prioritizing transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects over road building/expansion.” But that might sound like something more reasonable, and is insufficient red meat to throw to those exclusive (and often suburban of course) car users and their sense of victim-hood and grievance now that less than 100% of transport resources are dedicated exclusively to car use. That a single digit portion of budgets is now going to something other than paving everything over for cars is an affront to these people, and the reactionary tone will increase as total auto hegemony is threatened even a little. Car culture will not recede easily, and for many even certain spiraling costs (in time and money) will not free their clinging to the steering wheel. The important thing is to minimize for the rest of us their delaying of inevitable progress. Do not expect them to see this. For them using a car for everything, even the shortest trips on the nicest of days, is a virtual birthright. Anything not perpetuating this is a threat and they will take on a mantle of a persecuted minority. Stay tuned!

PedInPDX
Guest

“Dealership concentrations can be welcoming and walkable, attracting both shoppers who want to compare different vehicles and residents running errands or out for a stroll.”

I lol’ed at this. Walking nearby businesses predicated on the display of stationary autos on mammoth asphalt expanses is about as pleasant as… well, walking through parking lots, which is precisely what they are.

The only time I go “for a stroll” near auto dealerships is when I’m cutting through the massive wastes of perfectly good real estate they represent on my way to where real activity, life, pleasant urban environs and actually useful amenities (that benefit multiple sectors of local employment, not just the retail sector) are located. Thanks to gigantic auto mall stretches like those on NE Broadway in Portland, that’s oftentimes much further away than is convenient or safe.

NF
Guest
NF

I read that article in the Tribune, and I think it’s an allright idea! Beaverton suffers from a scattered, broken downtown core, and if they can move all of the auto oriented businesses out of the downtown to somewhere else, that might help repair the damage they caused.

In a time where bike/ped investments are so-often seen as an “attack on cars”, Is it possible that this strategy could be a win-win for everyone?

This plan could actually be a pro-bike/pro-walk plan, hidden under the guise of supporting auto dealerships.

Mike
Guest
Mike

The economy is pretty global, even in regards to the auto and oil industries. It is pretty myopic to state that the money generated by auto or gasoline sales goes overseas. Sure, some of it does, but a substantial amount does stay right here in Portland; ie – my salary along with 330 of my co-workers.
As far as I know, we then use our pay to buy goods (food, housing and otherwise) from local vendors – thus providing their salaries. They in turn blah blah blah. Get the picture?

From the articel:
“According to WorkSource Oregon, the state’s employment department, more than 240 new car dealers in Oregon employed more than 10,400 people and paid more than $847 million in wages in 2010,”

10,400 people and $847M is not an insignificant amount – and that is ONLY the new car dealerships. Now add in repair shops, parts stores, gas stations etc. and I am sure you could at least double those figures. Hardly a “handful” of people and even if it is a minor portion of the profits, a considerable amount of people.

BTW – what is the profit margin on a new car and how much of that is actually sent back to the parent company vs. paid out in wages, rent, utilities, taxes and other local spending. Discover this and I think you’d be suprised and may have to revise your story.

9watts
Guest
9watts

You’re talking about the static view of car dealerships today and how much of the money they take in keeps circulating locally and how much leaves forever. This is easily looked up. I think *you* might be surprised how little of it stays here and keeps circulating.

But I’m much more interested in the dynamic view of this problem: will we even have car dealerships in a few years? I suspect you and I disagree about that, but let’s hypothesize for a moment that the automotive sector is not going to be with us forever. How useful is it to argue over the crumbs (whether it is 15% or 20% of the dollars that stick around and keep getting respent, when the car-based lifestyles we’ve built everything around are on their way out?

Why not spend our time thinking about how those people whose livelihoods are now tied to the car–no make that, tied to the continuous sale of NEW cars–could live well once the ubiquity of the car is no longer a given?

Mike
Guest
Mike

Regardless of your concerns for the future, the post written states that the auto industry benefits only a “handful” of people in the Portland/Beaverton area.

I personally don’t qualify 10400+ people a “handful”. My whole point was that the opinion was based on feelings instead of facts. Argue all you want that the facts may change when oil becomes prohibitively expensive, but it does not change what is currently going on.

As soon as someone comes up with a substitution for the multibillion dollar, 10’s of thousands of jobs industry, we can get on board. Until then, what? Tell Lamphere to shut down and fire hundreds of people because in the future things will be different? Tell those hundreds to spend their time thinking of a new industry? Stop selling cars because kids and people are fat? FYI- I own multiple vehicles and I am not overweight.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“Tell Lamphere to shut down and fire hundreds of people because in the future things will be different? Tell those hundreds to spend their time thinking of a new industry?”

That would be a rather clunky way of making policy, I think you’d agree. But pretending none of this concerns us is no better. This country is full of creative, talented, hard working people. Many of them used to build cars. Some now make computers or bikes. Others will do different things tomorrow.
But I expect exceedingly little from the car industry in this country but to take government bailouts when they’re failing and protest fuel economy standards when the foreign cars are kicking the domestic industry’s butt.

“Stop selling cars because kids and people are fat? FYI- I own multiple vehicles and I am not overweight.”

Come now. Most of my friends own cars and are not overweight. 🙂 Just because all people who drive aren’t overweight doesn’t mean we don’t have more cars per capita and more overweight people per capita than any other nation. You tell me if there is a connection.

-J
Guest
-J

What you say is very true – there is both a local and global component to every manufactured good and mode of transport. While the purchase, repair and fueling of automobiles involved a stream of goods coming from other countries, I think a similar argument can be made that a large portion of the total retail price of bicycle-related expenditures goes overseas as well. After all, few bikes, much less repair parts or components (Chris King excepted) are manufactured locally. When was the last time you bought a made in the US bike inner tube? So yes, the unsubstantiated economic assumptions in this article leave much to be desired. The only legitimate economic claim that could be made in my view is that as a matter of scale, bikes are going to have less total expenditures. But owning, driving, and maintaining a new car directly stimulates the local economy more in total transportation dollars than buying bikes and parts. The argument otherwise is only valid if the person saving the money on new car expenditures then exclusively purchases locally-made products. Let’s not forget that Port of Portland freight terminals are the third largest auto import terminal in the US, and there are tens of thousands of jobs there just in the loading, unloading, and prepping of those vehicles for delivery. Obviously this is not sustainable for the long term, but is the current reality. Whether City planners in Beaverton should be hitching their horse to that wagon under the banner of urban renewal is another matter entirely…

9watts
Guest
9watts

“But owning, driving, and maintaining a new car directly stimulates the local economy more in total transportation dollars than buying bikes and parts.”

(1) You could also say that having an accident/a crash in a car directly stimulates the local economy more in total dollars than having an accident/a crash on a bike. Or building a new bridge for cars stimulates the local economy more in total dollars than … you get the point.

(2) Cars are expensive & GDP is a terrible measure of the health/wellbeing of a society. The point I think is that the fraction of the dollars spent on purchasing a new car that stays local–gets respent here–is pretty modest, I’m getting the impression it is ~15%–but I’d love to see a study.

I’d even go so far as to say that the percentage of the money that stays local is lower for new cars than for just about anything else we might buy. And because it is such a big ticket item, this is doubly problematic. If anyone knows of a study that fleshes this out, or shows how I’m wrong, please share it.

matt picio
Guest

So, with 4M people in the state and only 100k of them in Beaverton, that works out to about 6 dealerships and 250 employees. We could be charitable and say they might have twice that, or 500 employees, plus another 500-1,000 supporting people with the gas stations, auto parts stores, insurance agents and other ancillary businesses. About 1,500 people total, out of an employment of 55,000. That’s hardly “a handful”, but neither is it the driver of the local economy. In fact, according to the Beaverton Chamber of Commerce’s own numbers, New and Used car dealerships are the 8th largest employment segment, below bars & restaurants, apparel, local government, “other” manufacturing, the Silicon Forest employers, “Personal Supply Services” and grocery stores.

Automotive benefits less than 10% of Beaverton’s population (and likely less than 5%) – it’s not as serious as you’re making it out to be, Mike.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Lay off an additional 10% of any city and tell me it’s not that serious.

Your data is from 2000 – 12 years ago. Things may have changed since then.

9watts
Guest
9watts

They may have changed (in the direction you seem to be surmising) or they may not. Why don’t you find out and report back?

Mike
Guest
Mike

Why? It is so much easier to reference decade old numbers and downplay recent (2010) numbers as supplied in the original article. And when faced with those employment numbers and salaries you can use arguments about obesity and vehicle usage or that people die in car accidents.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Ehh … I’m all for a more walkable downtown Beaverton, and maybe getting more small businesses in there would be nice, but I don’t see how a car lot is any more hostile to that than a big box store. In fact I’d rather walk across Beaverton Kia’s lot than the nearby mega-lots at Fred Meyer or the shopping center just north of 8, constantly dodging clueless, distracted and often aggressive drivers fighting over the spot closest to the door.

“This is probably my pro-bike bias talking but the thought of strolling along acres of asphalt, next to cars with neon windshield signs, while the smell of tire polish wafts through the air doesn’t seem especially welcoming.”

No, actually that’s not your pro-bike bias talking; it’s your anti-car bias. Personally I love bikes but don’t hate cars, so that hostility to walking past parked cars doesn’t resonate with me. I enjoy biking and walking past Damerow Ford and counting the new Fiestas on the lot, or spotting the Insights on Lanphere Honda’s lot (formerly downtown, now east of 217) as I ride by. I even test drove a Focus at Damerow this spring — arriving at the dealership by bike, something that probably made some of those guys’ heads explode.

Both the Ford and Kia dealerships are in downtown Beaverton, immediately adjacent to Bike Gallery by the way, and I don’t see them as necessarily more antithetical to a pedestrian and bike friendly environment than a lot of other businesses in Beaverton. And as for the dealerships further east (beyond 217) on Canyon Road, that will NEVER be a thriving pedestrian district. If you don’t think dealerships belong there, it’s because you don’t think they should exist, period. Not a viewpoint that I share.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…Both the Ford and Kia dealerships are in downtown Beaverton, immediately adjacent to Bike Gallery by the way, …” GlowBoy

And The Bike Gallery is directly across Canyon from some of Lamphere’s business, so the the bike shop has staked out ground right in the thick of the auto dealership and related businesses.

Just to emphasize the irony…or what’s maybe the potentially complimentary aspect of different modes of transportation, I kind of wish BG had a showroom window fronting Canyon, boldly displaying its bikes just like Damerow next door displays its cars. A bit ironically, Lamphere’s building across the street isn’t even currently displaying new cars, but rather, part of his collection of vintage cars and early Honda motorcycles.

I’m urging people to pay very close attention to what Beaverton does with the authorization residents here have given the city to move ahead with improvements through the urban renewal designation. Over the next 30 year period allowed for the UR, there will be continuing opportunity for public input of ideas, as part of developing specific plans.

Despite a significant part of Beaverton’s business being motor vehicles, the direction the city is moving towards is to greater access within the city by means other than motor vehicles.

Andrew Seger
Guest
Andrew Seger

Speaking of which did you see the Beaverton Crescent Connection passed through to round two of ODOT’s flex funds? The oddest thing about Beaverton’s downtown is it has everything you’d want in a small downtown…except you can’t walk or bike between them. within a few square miles there’s a library, farmers market, powell’s, max lines, a small bakery, etc, etc. Yet good luck walking or biking after picking up a book at the libray, a loaf of bread at Beaverton Bakery, and then going to see a movie at Cedar Hills Crossing. Hopefully the Crescent Connection can fix that.

Brian
Guest
Brian

My wife and I have also both biked and walked from our house to New Seasons market near the theatres using a variety of routes often passing by the library and the bakery. On Saturday mornings, during the warmer months, biking to the Farmers Market also avoids the hassle of finding a parking spot. So, yes, that area of Beaverton is both bikable and walkable. Incidently, the area around the library gets a walkability score of 88. The Crescent connection will help improve connections to the Beaverton Transit Center, but it does not directly affect the route you outlined.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

I haven’t yet looked at the pdf, but forums member q’Tzal posted a link to it and the other flex fund proposals here:

http://bikeportland.org/forum/showthread.php?t=4109

Beaverton does have a range of nice amenities at points within a fairly close radius. It’s not so much that walking or biking between the points they’re located at isn’t possible. It is, but the experience isn’t such that many people would want to choose doing so over driving.

I and other people walk it anyway, but it feels like a big mario brothers obstacle course rather than a pleasant stroll. A pleasant stroll or bike ride is what it will have to become if there’s to be any serious expectation that people will travel that way.

matt picio
Guest

“significant” is debatable – autos are the 8th largest employer segment in the city. And jobs are the key, because much of the money they take in via sales leaves the area completely – 90%+ goes to the finance company, insurance companies, oil companies, etc. Only the job provided and wages, taxes and rents paid stay in the state.

Zach
Guest
Zach

I agree with the main point of the article, but couldn’t you get a writer who doesn’t assume that his suppositions about the economic effect of particular businesses are more valid than actual facts and figures?

Zach
Guest
Zach

I mean, I have really appreciated the journalistic standards bikeportland has had since its inception. Although wonderful in many ways, Vanlue’s writing is a substantial step down in that regard – bad enough to reduce the credibility of this site as a whole.

Joe
Guest
Joe

I feel that Will is spot on and could go on and on but
will keep it short and simple. Cars do nothing for the local economy!

9watts
Guest
9watts

I agree, Joe. Especially if you think about all the things we might have bought with that money that now goes to tires, gas, cars, etc.
That money spent on other things almost certainly would have circulated more times, paid more people’s salaries over and over than sending most of it far far away to the Middle East, Asia, and other parts of the world where they still make stuff.
Elly Blue anyone?
http://www.grist.org/biking/2011-02-28-how-bicycling-will-save-the-economy

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…Cars do nothing for the local economy!” Joe

You really think so? Explain what you mean, because as is, what you’ve written is vague and almost certainly incorrect. Other people commenting in response to this story have already pointed out that cars in fact do a number of constructive things for the economy.

9watts
Guest
9watts

that is going to depend almost entirely on where you draw the boundaries. If as some would like to you just look at receipts and salaries you could say “the car is one of the major sectors of the economy, every tenth job is related in one way or another to the automobile” (something I’ve heard all my life).

But if you draw the net a bit wider, and count sprawl, crashes, injuries & deaths on our roads, climate change, destruction of neighborhoods, freeway construction, the automobile’s share of our obesity epidemic, etc…. it is hard not to see that the costs so tallied are enormous. Others have done a very credible job of calculating this. I’m just noting that ‘it will depend.’

Pete
Guest
Pete

Tell that to the people who work for Goodyear, Big O, and several other tire, muffler, auto parts stores, etc. in the immediate vicinity of where this writer refers to (and to the sandwich shops and other small local business around them).

I wonder how many Beaverton planners and engineers ride bikes? I used to live there and ride with a few.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Also the guy at Goodyear that last worked on my car there rides a bike to work that he bought at BG. Irony?

9watts
Guest
9watts

I don’t think it is so much irony as smarts. The precise kind of smarts that the car dealers who are expanding their capacity seem NOT to have, and that wsbob seems determined to not recognize as smarts. You could also call it opportunism. 🙂

kenny
Guest

Dependent economics based on cars? … sure, in areas like further E. in Beaverton where there is little choice but to use a car to get anything done. We have created the dependance with massive sprawl. The trouble is ahead, and we are doing little to prepare for the end of economic growth based on fossil fuels and personal automobiles.

esther c
Guest
esther c

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_B._Pamplin,_Jr.

I knew nothing about this man. Forbes 400. Also owns Ross Island Sand and Gravel. School of bidness at Virginia tech is named after him and his father. UofP too.

According to OpenSecrets.Org he’s given money to Earl Bluemenhauer but also Greg Walden. And to Republican congressional pacs.

Brian
Guest
Brian

The opinion is valid and thoughtful. For those of you who are distressed by such a plainly biased, and clearly identified, opinion piece, you might perhaps be interested in having your opinions served up fair and balanced. One does not have to agree, but merely consider the thoughts.

Having read the article in the Valley Times, I concur with the observation that the article was very favorable to the car dealerships, many of which advertise in the Valley Times. I am not surprised since advertising pays the bills in publishing much more than subscriptions. Just pull out all of the advertisement in the Sunday Oregonian, including the Home and Travel sections, and see how much paper remains. Overall, the Valley Times has been a mostly reliable source for local news.

But, I had not paid attention to the extent to which that article favored their advertising clients. In retrospect, they did seem to be a bit too enthusiatic in their praise and the tie in with urban renewal was a bit dubious. It is difficult to imagine how large swatches of parking lots could benefit human scale livability considering how rarely I see actual people in those lots. I have wondering, on occassion, if we could find more efficient uses for that land. So, good thoughts, Will.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Vanlue’s story has initiated some decent discussion back and forth in the comments, but some of the points he and people supporting his viewpoint in comments attempted to make were borderline silly, like for example, attempting to derive an excessively literal interpretation of the words used in the Valley Times story headline:

‘”Beaverton auto sales drive city economy.”

Read, ‘auto’ and ‘drive’ … . That’s a type of play on words that media outlets including bikeportland commonly use to engage readers attention. Reading the story is required to get the meaning of the headline as it relates to the story.

Later in his story, Vanlue makes another goof-up, which shouldn’t be a big deal in the cozy discussion setting of bikeportland, but which he might as well work to avoid repeating in future:

“…I started to wonder how car dealerships stole the headline in a story about Beaverton residents’ desire for better access for walking and biking. …” vanlue/bikeportland

What? The Valley Times story is fundamentally and unequivocally about Beaverton area car dealers role in the Beaverton area economy. Earlier in his story, Vanlue himself brought attention to the VT story headline, which makes this pointedly clear.

As it turns out, Beaverton residents’ desire for better access for walking and biking is part of the VT story about Beaverton auto dealers place in the area economy, but not the central part of the story.

I take exception to some of the ideas hinted at in the VT story. The idea that Beaverton’s could improve the experience of walking Canyon Roads sidewalks such that walking from dealership to dealership could be a practical and enjoyable thing to do, is highly debatable. The story suggests that least some spirit supporting that mode of transportation for that purpose from area auto dealers exists. That auto dealers do support such improvements, that would benefit many people besides customers of car dealerships, is encouraging.

matt picio
Guest

It’s a play on words, yes – but people who see the paper in the box, on the bus, or the table in a restaurant see that headline, and if they don’t read it, come away with the mistaken belief that automotive is a major employer or business in Beaverton – and it’s not. At most, it directly and indirectly employs less than 5% of the city’s employees. 90% of the sales go outside the state to other entities. Intel is a far larger influence on Beaverton than the dealerships, even though less than 5% of Intel’s workforce works *in* Beaverton – because a sizeable percentage of Intel’s employees live and spend their money in Beaverton, rather than Hillsboro. A more accurate headline would be “Chips & Shoes, not Cars, ‘Drive’ Local Economy”.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…but people who see the paper in the box, on the bus, or the table in a restaurant see that headline, and if they don’t read it, come away with the mistaken belief that automotive is a major employer or business in Beaverton…” matt picio

And what people would that be?

Anyone that has had any occasion to travel Canyon Rd and the west end of TV Hwy in Beaverton, whether or not they’ve seen this copy of the VT or any copy of that paper, would see for their own eyes that auto dealerships are a major business in Beaverton that employs many people, and that plays an important role in keeping the economy moving along.

Portland Metro New Car Dealers Association of which Beaverton’s dealers are a big number, sell the cars that many of Intel’s employees drive to work, to shop, to church, pick up the kids, take grandma to the hospital. All of those activities involve money that’s part of the economy, which auto dealers continue to play a very significant role in supporting through the sale of cars.

brian
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brian

Mr. V: An excellent rebuttal piece. Thanks for the contribution. Would be nice to see discussion like this in the mainstream press.

Jason
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Jason

This article is crap just like most of bikeportland these days. Do a little research and see how many people these car dealers employ. It is a hell of a lot more than you are implying. I ride a bike, but damn, get over yourself.

9watts
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9watts

thanks for your contribution to this discussion.

matt picio
Guest

Jason – 8th largest employer. Perhaps you should also do some research. Try here about 2/3 down the page

Mike
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Mike

8th largest employer does NOT mean anything – ESPECIALLY when that data is 12 years old.

9watts
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9watts

Actually it does mean something: 12 years ago this sector was the 8th largest employer. That is far from nothing.

Instead of shouting why don’t you supply better numbers. My suspicion is that the auto sector has not grown much relative to the total economy over the past twelve years, but i could be wrong.

Mike
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Mike

8th largest employer could mean 1% or 10% of the population; that’s a lot of variance, no?

10,400 employed statewide (dealerships only) at the height of the recession.

The article mentions a lot of investment for a non-growth industry. Not sure Lamphere or other successful dealerships would be interested in expanding so much if there wasn’t going to be a payout.

Rather than argue anymore, I should get some work done.

9watts
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9watts

“Not sure Lamphere or other successful dealerships would be interested in expanding so much if there wasn’t going to be a payout.”

My sister and I have been marveling at the recent expansion of new car dealerships at the North end of Salem, along the Parkway. The owners, of course, are hoping for a payout from all that investment, but none is guaranteed.
This sort of business gamble is really in my view akin to putting one’s hands over one’s eyes and saying ‘you can’t see me.’

People make decisions for all kinds of strange reasons. Remember when, after Sept. 11, everyone rushed out and bought a new car? This was a massive and desperate attempt to orchestrate a collective hoodwink. ‘If we all buy new cars then we’ll be going all right because car buying is one of the chief indicators of economic health, right? !’ In October 2001, more cars were sold than in any prior month in the history of the US automobile.

wsbob
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wsbob

“…My sister and I have been marveling at the recent expansion of new car dealerships at the North end of Salem, along the Parkway. The owners, of course, are hoping for a payout from all that investment, but none is guaranteed. …9watts

Just what do you expect the new car dealership owners to do? Come to some absurd conclusion that the need for motor vehicles and personal cars has ended?

Motor vehicle function and the purpose they serve has evolved since the invention of the automobile. Cars have changed over the years according to the needs of the individual and society. Car dealers sell transportation. That’s a big business. The investment new car dealers in Salem you’re seeing make expansions to their dealerships, represents an important contribution to the economy.

9watts
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9watts

“Just what do you expect the new car dealership owners to do? Come to some absurd conclusion that the need for motor vehicles and personal cars has ended? ”
Why do you persist in framing this as a black and white matter? It isn’t as if you or I or anyone could decree that automobility (a) will continue indefinitely, or (b) will end tomorrow. Both are absurd. The interesting questions are just a little bit more nuanced.

I don’t own a car dealership, but if I did I would not be expanding my franchise. Think I’m crazy? Fine. We can check in again in a few months or years and see how well they are doing.

From this morning’s papers:
“we could theoretically be paying a national average on the order of $5.00 a gallon before the 4th of July. This of course assumes that nothing bad happens in the Middle East that restricts or seriously threatens the flow of oil exports and sends prices much higher…. If the price spike of 2008 obtains, $4+ gasoline is the breaking point for many Americans. Driving will drop, new car sales will plummet, trucks and airplanes will be parked, and with them a big piece of the American economy will grind to a halt.”

http://tinyurl.com/7r7gkpu

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

As gas prices rise, people may drive fewer miles, but they’ll still drive and they’ll still continue to need and want new cars even for short trips.

As I said earlier, car dealers are actually selling transportation. The form changes, but the constant is that car dealers sell transportation.

If you want to get some idea of why car dealers are expanding and upgrading their dealerships, do some searching on the web about car sales projections.

wsbob
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wsbob

It’s not a great secret that the U.S. auto sector has taken a major hit over the last 5-6 years or so, although it seems to be adjusting and working to adapt to required changes.

Whether the car dealership business in Beaverton, which the VT story and this bikeportland story is partly about, has grown much relative to the total economy over the past twelve years…I don’t have numbers for. Living out here and visually seeing what happened over the period of the big hit, I can say that some of the car dealerships on Canyon closed down.

Within the last year and continuing though, a turn-a-round is apparent, and the Jim Redden’s (consistently produces good writing.) story in the Valley Times attests to that. Dealerships seem to be either opening new or upgrading. Ride your bike out Canyon sometime and see for yourself.

Ed R
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Ed R

Probably not useful to carry this too much further and I already posted a comment early on, but still…
There seems to a view expressed here by many that if something is deemed “good for the economy” it’s automatic dispensation and justification for that thing. In this case the auto business – in Beaverton or elsewhere for that matter. I didn’t know we had so many GOP readers here!

While in the extreme short view this may seem justifiable, it is folly. Let’s go to Libby, Montana where for decades the economy was based on asbestos mining. Care to check in now to see where the arguments presented here (economic justifications) have led them? How about a region whose economy was based on nerve gas production? How about one based on clear cutting? How about strip mining? How about the economy of the American South until 1860? You heard the same justifications then regarding slavery. Now some will say this is exaggeration going into hyperbole, but my only point is that an industry’s contribution to the economy is not to be held in isolation as a pass/fail test for it’s viability. Car culture as we knew it was a 20th century phenomenon, and will disappear rapidly going forward. Evidence for this is plentiful and overwhelming, as well as obvious to anyone who is willing to step back from our culture a bit a look closely. I will not make the case here, though expect many are in denial of this.

To the extent that Portland is freeing itself of car dependence for the future will be the extent of how more readily adaptable it will be to a very changed future ahead. To the extent that other cities/regions cling to the 20th century car model will be the extent to which they will be left behind. In much of the rest of the world this isn’t even arguable, but simply understood, like climate change. There is much less delusion about the transience of car culture and its immanent demise.
I’m not saying the car industry is the spawn of Satan and deserves hellfire; it’s simply a consequence of our focus. And that focus is no longer viable, as will become increasingly obvious. It shouldn’t end cold turkey as that is too disruptive. No one is saying “stop all car use now.” That’s why we need to voluntarily begin to shift while we have the luxury of doing so. For places remaining in denial and building/planning “business as usual” the inevitable will land far harder. For those looking closer at this, author James Howard Kunstler is a great resource; try his “Geography of Nowhere” for a great overview of how we got here and how it could be different.

9watts
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9watts

very well said.

wsbob
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wsbob

“…I didn’t know we had so many GOP readers here!” Ed R

Oh that was funny. As if everyone recognizing the reality that car dealers play an important part in Beaverton’s and the Portland Metro area’s economy is a GOP.

You don’t have to be a Republican to realize upon traveling TV Hwy from Murray Rd some 3-4 miles east to West Slope to realize that Beaverton has a lot of car dealers. If you haven’t already, try it sometime. Partisan politics cannot camouflage that simple reality.

Comparing car dealerships sale of cars, which are actually transportation…to asbestos mining, strip mining and clear cutting is really grasping to make a point, whatever point it is you intended to make.

Car dealers sell transportation. Transportation in the form of cars is a fundamental need of many people living in many cities in the U.S. today. Even if and when cars no longer have internal combustion engines, or maybe any engine at all, many people’s need for some kind of car will likely continue to exist, and somebody is going to be selling them, just as car dealers today sell cars.

Ed R
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Ed R

Sorry my humor evaded you wsbob, and your faith in the auto industry is touching, but you miss my gist entirely. It was simply that short term economic returns are not sufficient alone to justify an industry presence. Your comments simply go right back into that trope. What “is” isn’t justification for what should be or what will be. Besides, all this is self correcting eventually, it’s just how wise and receptive we are to the inevitable.

As far as the future of the car industry, we have seen what contractions of even a few percent do to an industry or economy. (i.e. contractions of only a few % devastate, as in the current economy) When gas is 8 or 9 dollars a gallon here (as it is in now the UK for instance) our fantasyland car culture and it’s industry will contact a great deal more than that. And it’s more than just what kind of fuel we use. Look at the battles we now have to just maintain much less build more car infrastructure. CRC Crossing anyone? The costs of fire police, court, hospital care parking and on and on. Places that are still intending to use hundred of acres to display automobiles and champion this mode are like liveries doing extensive expansions 100 years ago. Folly.

wsbob
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wsbob

Ed, I caught your humor. I just didn’t think the partisan element of it was very funny or contributed constructively to the discussion. How about something from Mark Twain? (I tend to be quite a bit more optimistic than Twain is here.): “Learn to ride a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live.”

A presence or lack of faith in the auto industry isn’t much of a question for me. Business is subject to the vagaries of supply and demand, and it’s success or failure depends on how supply and changes.

As it turns out, people’s need for transportation, provided in large part at present by motor vehicles, is a constant and will continue to be until community planning substantially changes to the extent that people won’t be quite so obliged to use motor vehicles to get around.

Cars are the type of vehicle that continues to answer the needs many people have today. If that weren’t true, everyone buying cars would be buying bikes instead, and instead of car dealers occupying much of Canyon Rd for 4 miles, it would be bike dealers like Bike Gallery that would occupying their spaces. Instead of hundreds of acres of land storing new cars, there’d be hundreds more acres storing new bikes.

9watts
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9watts

Where to start? So many misconceptions all packed into one reply….

“people’s need for transportation, provided in large part at present by motor vehicles, is a constant.”

Which is why we saw a 4.3% drop in VMT btw. March 2007 and March 2008, right? Ever heard of discretionary travel? Induced demand? Cruising?

“Cars are the type of vehicle that continues to answer the needs many people have today.”
(a) a truism
(b) this is beside the point Ed R and some of us are arguing. The world is a dynamic place and likely about to become a whole lot more dynamic. Going back a few rounds, we were talking about the relationship between the wellbeing of a society and new car sales. A static viewer of this might say ‘Sales are up over last January, whoopee!’ A dynamic view might instead note that
* the continued availability of cheap gas is not promising,
* our economy is fantastically incapable of weathering shocks of any sort but especially energy price shocks,
* last time energy prices jumped as they are expected to car sales took a big dive,
* plenty of concerns unrelated to energy prices do not bode well for new car sales extrapolations,
* and the list goes on.

It is obvious that you see the world very differently–are in fact quite uninterested in what I’m calling the dynamic view of things–but in the meantime some of us will keep our high beams on, so to speak, to try to make out what is a little further up the road.

As Ed R said, this is self-correcting to a point (we will be fighting more oil wars in the future to try to stave off the inevitable, but that is another matter). What we’re trying to say, I think, is that it could be less traumatic if we stop pretending that everything is going to be alright, everyone is going to keep on buying cars; and start preparing ourselves to get around without cars, or without them as the default mode for everything.

Ed R
Guest
Ed R

< How about something from Mark Twain? (I tend to be quite a bit more optimistic than Twain is here.): "Learn to ride a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live."

For wsbob, as requested, here is a Twain quote:

"The radical of one century is the conservative of the next. The radical invents the views; when he has worn them out the conservative adopts them"

But perhaps this is too partisan too, eh? 😉

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Twain is good. A tried and true liberal from way back. But in that quote, he’s not referring to political parties, he’s talking about radicals, conservatives and the sharing of viewpoints between the two over time.

I’m responding in this comment to both yours and 9watts thoughts:

From 9watts comment above:

“… “people’s need for transportation, provided in large part at present by motor vehicles, is a constant. …” wsbob

Which is why we saw a 4.3% drop in VMT btw. March 2007 and March 2008, right? Ever heard of discretionary travel? Induced demand? Cruising? …” 9watts

Absolutely, on discretionary travel, but the need for transportation provided by cars still remained constant. Recent history has shown that when gas prices spike, people can and will cut their VMT, but many still traveled by car. Some trips get cut, but essential trips continue.

Less cruising in cars is a good thing. Being able to have ailing grandma step into a nice sedan for a warm ride to the doc, rather than hobble to the bus stop to wait in the cold for buses that all too often aren’t on schedule, is also a good thing.

jim
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jim

How many bike shops are there on auto row?

wsbob
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wsbob

jim…I think in an earlier post, I, and before my comment, someone else mentioned that The Bike Gallery has a prominently located shop right at the corner of Hall Blvd and Canyon Rd. Great shop in a beautiful, converted multi-story older house. Right next to the Ford dealer, Damerow Ford, established in 1958.

As far as I know, BG is currently the only bike shop on auto row. I’d like to see additional prominently located bike shops on Canyon. Performance is north up Hall a tenth of a mile or so, but in the strip mall, it has none of the visibility BG has.

Maybe Jay Graves is a kind of pioneer and a visionary to have sited a bike shop right on auto row. Visibility is key, which is why the auto dealers are on Canyon, one of two main thoroughfares running from one end of Beaverton to the the other.

I wish though, that he was doing a more effective job of displaying to people going by on Canyon, the fact that bikes as beautiful and well engineered as the cars next door, are what the shop sells. Instead of a show window into a showroom like the Ford dealer has, a window into the mechanics shop space is what faces Canyon.