Gravel - Cycle Oregon

PBOT budget proposal cuts active transportation by $1.5 million

Posted by on November 28th, 2012 at 3:07 pm


A budget proposal by PBOT would end reduce
the City’s support of Sunday Parkways.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

As PBOT grapples with a $4.4 million budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year, yesterday they proposed $1.5 in cuts that would directly impact biking and walking projects and programs.

Members of the PBOT Budget Advisory Committee heard about the proposed cuts at their meeting last night (the second of three meetings before the budget proposal moves into a public process phase). PBOT spokesman Dan Anderson confirmed the proposal with me today.

Of the $4.4 million in total needed cuts, $1.8 million will be slashed from projects and $2.6 million will come from operations/programs.

On the project side, PBOT is proposing to cut $1 million from their “Neighborhood Safety/Livability” category. That pot of money includes things like neighborhood greenways, “ped & bike safety” projects, Safe Routes to School, and more.

On the program/operations side, PBOT is proposing to cut $551,275 from “Active Transportation.” That cut would end PBOT’s financial support of Sunday Parkways, SmartTrips (a biking and walking encouragement marketing program), and more.

You might recall that last year, City funding of Sunday Parkways came under fire from Commissioner Dan Saltzman. Saltzman argued that it shouldn’t be funded with city revenue because it’s not a core service. “There are a lot of other pressing transportation priorities,” he said at the time. When it began in 2008 Sunday Parkways relied on the City for about half it’s funding, with most of its support coming from donations and private sponsorships. City support dwindled to just 1/3 of the total funding last year.

See the complete cut proposal here (PDF).

Keep in mind this is just the first proposal from PBOT. Specifics of budget cuts still need to be hammered out and there’s a public process yet to come. Also, the new mayor (Charlie Hales) will put together a separate budget proposal.

Even so, this is not good news for these precious programs that we all know need as much support as possible.

Bicycle Transportation Alliance advocacy director Gerik Kransky is a member of the PBOT Budget Advisory Committee. He’s obviously not pleased. He tweeted from the meeting last night that, “If this proposal moves forward we can kiss Sunday Parkways and large portions of Smart Trips goodbye.”

Stay tuned for more budget coverage.

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  • Nick November 28, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Yet another baffling decision that makes the city’s Climate Action Plan look like an inside joke.

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    • Jennifer November 28, 2012 at 4:01 pm

      Yup. Part of the Climate Action Plan had projections (wishes and prayers really) for active transportation. This is really hard to achieve when it one of the first and biggest things on PBOT’s chopping block.

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      • 9watts November 28, 2012 at 4:05 pm

        Another, more proactive, way to have gone about this if in fact the powers that be don’t think Sunday Parkways offers a good return on investment would have been to substitute something better (in Climate Action Plan terms), and cut something that does not further but in fact undermines the CAP objectives, like, say, the Rose Quarter unjamming.

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    • BURR November 28, 2012 at 5:36 pm

      Not to mention the state LCDC’s goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles traveled.

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  • 9watts November 28, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Saltzman’s interpretation of core service will turn out to be an anachronistic and regrettable interpretation. One more reason why we need to be scrupulous about differentiating
    biking – as diversion, what kids do, tourism, exercise = discretionary from
    biking – as transportation = core service

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  • Peter W November 28, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Seems like a disproportionately large cut to active transportation funding.

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    • El Biciclero December 12, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      Hm. Yeah. Looks like about 25% of the cuts are coming from active transportation–what percentage of the actual budget is/was targeted for active transport? Surely not 25%…

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  • Jon November 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    This sounds like a good prioritization of spending to me. I would much rather have the bike lanes striped and kept in good repair than fund a weekend bicycle tour (Sunday Parkways) and some marketing campaign called “Active Transportation.” I know in fantasy land there is an infinite amount of money so that public employees can retire with 100% of their salary at age 62 and we can build bike paths to anywhere. Sadly there is a finite amount of resources so we as a society have to choose how use the resources. Good for Portland for spending on the core first instead of the frills.

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    • 9watts November 28, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      Sunday Parkways is only frills to those who fail to see it as social marketing.

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    • Mabsf November 29, 2012 at 9:23 am

      Jon, nobody stops you from becoming a public employee and part take in those benefits.

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    • ScottB November 29, 2012 at 7:31 pm

      Active Transportation is the division within PBOT/Traffic Systems that does all the non-motorized transportation projects. Safe Routes, Greenways, Pedestrian Safety, Sunday Parkways, Transit, Trip Reduction, etc. Encouragement, yes, but also they have engineering and work with the Police on enforcement actions and evaluation of the programs and projects.

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  • Spiffy November 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    if they’re going to cut out Sunday Parkways then how about they spend a little money on paint and bollards and make a few streets completely car-free? this would give people a chance to ride in a car-free environment and wouldn’t be a recurring annual cost…

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  • Randall S. November 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    I know this is crazy, but why don’t we cut the salary of some of the highly-compensated city employees, like the police chief? There’s about 600 city employees making over $100k/year. If they all took an 8% pay cut, that would cover the entire budget shortfall.

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    • A.K. November 28, 2012 at 4:57 pm

      COMMUNISM! *brain explodes*

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    • Nick November 28, 2012 at 5:13 pm

      It’s not crazy, but it is complicated. When you pay too little, you get less competent workers, and bribery and corruption become bigger threats. Portland doesn’t get to decide what the market salary is for a given profession.

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      • 9watts November 28, 2012 at 5:19 pm

        But what about the opposite?
        When you pay too much, you also get less competent workers.

        Hard to argue that the overpaid CEOs in this country add so much extra value compared to their colleagues in other countries where salary scales are much flatter.

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        • Nick November 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm

          Well, this is all getting very hypothetical. I don’t really know whether we over-pay or under-pay our city employees. Do you?

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        • rider November 29, 2012 at 10:22 am

          There’s quite a difference between paying a manager in the public sector with 20 years of experience 120k a year and paying a CEO in the private sector tens of millions of dollars a year.

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          • 9watts November 29, 2012 at 10:32 am

            Point taken. But there are nevertheless efforts underway in the public sector to institute caps and/or take a hard look at the spread from lowest to highest salaries.
            No one, no matter their experience, their qualifications, is worth 25x what someone else, whose job has less status, earns.

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            • dk November 29, 2012 at 3:56 pm

              I respecttfully disagree in many ways, but not all. This thread, with the 5X 10X people aren’t worth more is a load of crap. I run a small business and if it ever hits big I think I deserve a whole bunch of money, as do my employees (which is why I’m starting an ESOPS), but I deserve a lot more. That said, if I ever have an employee that behaves like me, I’ll pay them the big bucks too. Let’s see, up until recently I was the lowest payed person in the company. For 3 years I payed anywhere from $12K to $35K for the privlage of working 80 to 90 hours a week. When the economy crashed, for three months my employees all made between $50K and 125K while I made exactly $0. Mind you, this whole time I have a skill that’s marketable for 140K-200Kish (this is just quick math, but in the 8 years that I’ve been busting my ass to build a business and employy a 12-30 people I’ve lost probably close to a couple million in earnings) So, let’s say I go big and the company is doing well, thank you for saying that if I give a shot to a recent college grad to prove themselves and offer them a salary of say, $35k that I shouldn’t be allowed to make more than $175 (around what I was making 8 years ago before trying to build something that would help more people).

              I gotta say, I get really pissed at the people that say the Healthcare Bill is going to keep them from hiring more people. That Obama’s election is going to cause them to layoff some of their staff, they’re just greedy (for the most part). But if you wwere ever able to pass a cap like you’re talking, I’d fire everyone on my staff and close the businessness the next day, so would 70-80% of other businesses (do you really think that the CEO of Kroger, that coordinates the strategy, guides the logistics and determines the direction for a multi-billion dollar compnay deserves 5 to 10X of their newest bagger? If you do you’re dumber than you look).

              I really think people confuse the sin of making money with the sins of the people that have made a WHOLE bunch of money. Lastly, if that had been in effect for Bill Gates, millions of people would still be dying of polio each year (I know, for every Bill Gates there’s a 100 jam ass rich dudes that don’t give a crap about helping anyone but themselves, but there’s still a Gates that emerges now and then)

              This is way longer and more rambling than I ever intended

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              • spare_wheel November 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm

                “do you really think that the CEO of Kroger, that coordinates the strategy, guides the logistics and determines the direction for a multi-billion dollar compnay deserves 5 to 10X of their newest bagger”

                10x seems like a perfect ratio to me. but then again i also believe a good percentage of american industry (banking, finance, telecom) should be shut down and reformulated as regulated public utilities.

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              • 9watts November 29, 2012 at 7:59 pm

                I strongly suspect the Kroger CEO does very little of all of that. Isn’t that is what the rest of the mgmt. is for. What Mr. CEO does eludes me, but it is unlikely to be worth so very much. Part of the trouble is that we’ve allowed ourselves to be snookered into imagining the world so complex that it requires exceptional people to keep track, all the while the search for these exceptionally smart, shrewd, skilled people proves elusive.

                Here’s a great article on the trouble with worshiping the smartest guys, rewarding them with power and status.

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          • was carless November 29, 2012 at 10:50 am

            We also don’t have 600 CEOs running the city of Portland.

            Middle managers, which these guys would qualify as, make between 60-100 typically.

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      • Randall S. November 29, 2012 at 11:34 am

        Well, when Hostess was in trouble, everyone thought it was okay to pass out an (additional) pay cut to the workers, and then blame them when the company collapsed. I’m not sure how a city government is any different.

        If there’s not enough revenue to run city programs, then there’s not enough revenue to pay people 2x the average household income to manage them.

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    • Mabsf November 29, 2012 at 9:27 am

      Randall, if you would like a high-paid job with the city, nobody stops from applying.

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      • Randall S. November 29, 2012 at 11:37 am

        I like the job I have already, but thank you for your pointless comment that adds nothing to the topic.

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  • Babygorilla November 28, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    If PBOT didn’t dedicate money to the Eastside Streetcar (developer subsidy, not a transportation project) and the Milwaukie light rail line (light rail is generally a good transportation project, but not at the expense of huge slash’s to the bus system and not this project in this economic climate), that budget gap wouldn’t exist.

    Local government doesn’t have much of a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.

    Kudos to Strunk and White for pointing out the Overcommitted article.

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  • Babygorilla November 28, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Sunday Parkways is only frills to those who fail to see it as social marketing.
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    A government’s “social marketing” project is probably the very definition of “frill” when it comes to the role of government.

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    • matt picio November 29, 2012 at 9:28 am

      If that’s true, then how do you explain “development”? Attracting employers and other people to the region is social marketing.

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  • spare_wheel November 28, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    I agree with Saltzman. How many pedestrians have died in PDX this year? 500K would buy a few hawk signals.

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    • matt picio November 29, 2012 at 9:30 am

      It would buy 2-3 of them. Not saying that isn’t a good investment, merely that “buy a few” is fewer than many people realize. It would also fund 10 full-time educator positions to teach drivers how to pay attention and hot hit pedestrians, cyclists, and other human-powered folks.

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  • J_R November 28, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    I’ve never been convinced that the Smart Trips, “the bicycling walking and encouragement marketing program” was cost effective. When I ordered a map, it was delivered by bike. Even if they delivered several to my neighborhood (a half hour bike ride from city hall), that made it a really expensive delivery. It could have been mailed for $2, but they probably spent at least $20 in staff time and benefits. That’s not smart.

    I’m all for spending money on physical improvements like HAWK signals, bike lanes, bollards, etc. I’d rank Sunday Parkways a bit below these but above the other marketing and encouragement efforts. How many people are employed in the Smart Trips program?

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    • matt picio November 29, 2012 at 9:33 am

      That depends on what you consider “smart”. From a climate perspective, delivering by bike is smart. You seem to be equating “smart” with “cheap”. Sure, mailing is financially saavy, but cost alone shouldn’t be the sole measure of effectiveness. (that said, in this particular instance, delivery via USPS would seem more effective)

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      • was carless November 29, 2012 at 10:53 am

        You have got to be kidding. The mailman already walks to my house every day. There is no reason that the city should be duplicating mail service, or, in this case, using actual messengers to hand-deliver single maps?! That are freely available off their website in PDF format that you can print yourself?


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  • Todd Boulanger November 28, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    Is this transportation equity? Do these cuts proportionally fall in line with each program’s “impact” on the general fund or budget? If the bike and ped modes were getting funded to their 2030 goal mode split then this would be appropriate vs. taking a third of the hit while currently being underfunded per 2030. [Looks like time to stop telling the story.]

    I would suggest the new mayor dust off the Shoup tool and initiate a more paid on-street parking with a parking benefits district to share some of the new revenue (and ease some of the pain).

    Too bad the current Portland City Council seems to be adopting a page out of the Vancouver city council’s playbook – cut the active transportation and end the neighborhood livability capital projects. Not the type of leadership I expect on the south bank. Hmmm.

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  • SJE November 29, 2012 at 8:59 am

    I hope that they look at the big picture in the budget. Stumptown’s bike network costs peanuts compared to roads, and allows more people to move at less cost to PDOT. If all those Portlanders who moved here in the last few decades all drove, how much MORE would PDOT have needed to spend. How much is PDOT currently spending per car passenger mile, and is that covered by gas tax (answer: no).

    There is also the cultural issue. Portland could have been just another depressed post-industrial city like you find all over the USA, only with more rain. Instead, the bikes, the coffee, the culture etc attracts highly educated people from all over the world who bring in experience, money and jobs. If you want a comparison, look at Eugene. Despite having the University as the dominant employer, most of the rest of the economy seems stuck in the timber-milling past.

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    • Mabsf November 29, 2012 at 9:32 am

      …and if the bikers, the coffee and the culture make the difference, we should invest in them. It might also take some education to initiate the newbs into the fold. You can move here for the above qualities and then expect to go on living a car- centric life.

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  • matt picio November 29, 2012 at 9:26 am

    It’s not crazy, but it is complicated. When you pay too little, you get less competent workers, and bribery and corruption become bigger threats. Portland doesn’t get to decide what the market salary is for a given profession.

    Sure they do – what they don’t get to decide is whether they can attract top talent without the paycheck. Which I imagine is what you actually meant. The city can pay whatever it wants – the real questions are: do we *want* to continue getting the top talent, do we actually *need* the top talent, and what are we willing to sacrifice in terms of other services to set the pay where we intend to set it?

    I think it’s helpful to frame the discussion in terms of what the city actually has the power to do, and which decisions are the city’s to make.

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    • 9watts November 29, 2012 at 9:33 am

      I don’t think we have a clue about the relationship between stratospheric salaries and talent/competence/prospects of the person doing a bang up job here in Portland. I think it is just as conceivable that we could get even better folks for a given job by offering less. People who are in it for the largest salary aren’t necessarily who we want for job X or job Y.

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  • Terry D November 29, 2012 at 10:41 am

    This fundamentally is a question of equity and what is best for the city and climate as a whole. I can rationalize cutting Sunday parkways even though it has been a GREAT success and has probably done more than anyone can imagine to encourage bicycle use in the general population, if a non-profit is set up to take over the position of the city. Even so, at less than $1 per resident per year I find it to be a very cost effective program. “Smart trips” on the other hand I have never used. Maps are everywhere, tri-met trip planners are on-line and there seems to be a multitude of ways to get information on “alternative transportation.” Maybe it is time to let this program go. It seems that the money may be better spent other places….maybe moving more money into SRTS.

    Overall, our problem is that for a generation or two our society has become used to paying a subsidized rate for transportation. Instead of spending 1% of our GDP on infrastructure we need to be spending at least 3% (our historical post-WW II average), or even closer to 5% (like the 1950’s) for a decade or so to catch up on our back-log and to modernize to 21st century, climate change as reality, standards (China currently is spending 9%, arguably too high even for them….but the point is there).

    To this end “core services” needs to be defined in a way that every “urban node,” residential or otherwise, has quality access to the rest of the city by foot, tri-met, auto, AND bike. Cutting $1 million from their “Neighborhood Safety/Livability” category is the exact opposite of what needs to happen, since this is the category we have ignored for way too long, and is also one area where we as a city KNOW how to do well.

    I am sure they can find that million from somewhere else until the new city government gets it together and come up with a street fee and new parking fee proposals, which everyone knows needs to happen.

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  • Gerik December 12, 2012 at 11:03 am

    For folks still following this issue, we won $700K of this money back last night at PBOT’s Budget Advisory Committee. Details here:

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