“Cars — in whatever their future form may be — are here to stay. But so are bikes, transit and walking.”
— Op-ed in The Oregonian
A strange thing happened after Metro released a major new household travel survey last month. Despite the survey showing big increases in the rate of bicycle and transit use for central city residents since the last time the survey was done in 1994, The Oregonian seemed to frame it as proof that cars are still king in our region. The O’s Commuting reporter Joseph Rose also accused Metro of trying to spin the story to further their, “smart-growth battle against the unhealthy, polluting, life-sucking automobile.”
And then, right on cue, The Oregonian Editorial Board weighed in with this headline, People like their cars, a fact that Portland planners must take into account.
To counter that framing of the issue, local transportation expert Chris Smith and real estate developer Randy Miller penned an op-ed of their own. It’s now several weeks later, but it was finally published in the opinion section of Sunday’s paper.
Smith and Miller wrote that Portland’s approach to transportation not only takes cars into account already (by spending billions on car-friendly projects since 1995), but that the approach is working. They outlined four reasons why our planners must stay the course and even expand their efforts — not just in the central city but in the entire region. Here’s an excerpt:
“First, this is an issue of equity… Cars are expensive to own, insure, maintain and drive. Not all Portlanders can afford to own, much less drive, a car.
Second, our multimodal strategy provides economic benefits… declining VMT results in a “green dividend” for the city and the region; money that would otherwise be sent out of state and overseas to oil companies stays in the local economy…
Third, it’s more cost-effective. Portland’s bicycle transportation investments have allowed the key bridges into the city’s downtown to operate as well for automobiles today as they did 20 years ago, despite an increase in population and economic activity…
Fourth, the future vibrancy of our central city depends on it… We cannot afford to expand our freeways, streets and parking garages to accommodate future growth in the heart of Portland.”
Read the entire op-ed here. They make some very good points that we should all keep in mind for future discussions.