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BTA-led coalition seeks to restore active transportation cuts in City budget

Posted by on December 12th, 2012 at 11:26 am

BTA’s Gerik Kransky (L) and freight
advocate Corky Collier after the PBOT Budget BAC
meeting yesterday.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

In the face of severe cuts to active transportation in the PBOT budget that came to light last month, a coalition led by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) presented a proposal yesterday to restore nearly half of them.

With dwindling revenue forecasts, PBOT has had cut their budget for several years now. This year’s gap was estimated to be $4.4 million. Of that, PBOT proposed $1.5 million in cuts to active transportation — $1 million from projects and $500,000 to programs and staffing. The cuts would impact programs like Sunday Parkways, Safe Routes to School, neighborhood greenway projects, and more.

Not surprisingly, BTA Advocacy Director and member of the PBOT Budget Advisory Committee Gerik Kransky was not happy about the cuts so he went to work behind the scenes with other committee members to figure out a way to restore them. He recently got some good news when the City announced that, thanks to a refinancing agreement between Multnomah County and the City of Portland on Sellwood Bridge payments, the budget gap has shrunk to $3.8 million.

That refinancing deal means $700,000 in cuts can now be added back into the budget. Kranksy has put together a proposal with support from some unlikely suspects — including representatives on the committee from the Portland Business Alliance, the Columbia Corridor Association (a powerful freight interest group), labor groups, and others — to add all that money back into active transportation.

Kranksy’s proposal was well-received at the budget committee meeting. After the meeting, I asked Kransky how he got support from business and freight interests. “I think they’re amenable to the priorities in active transportation,” he said, “they recognize that $700,000 goes a lot farther in active transportation than it does in some of the street maintenance and bridge preservation programs.”

“Maintenance has typically taken the brunt of the cuts over the past many years; but this year, it seems active transportation is taking the brunt of the cuts. That’s why all of us kind of feel the pain there and would like to see some of that funding restored.”
— Corky Collier, Columbia Corridor Association

In other words, while $700,000 is a rounding error for a large repaving or bridge repair project, it’s a significant amount for PBOT’s active transportation programs. “Even they’re willing to say that there’s more value to be had in active transportation with this small amount of money than there is in other places,” is how Kransky put it.

Corky Collier of the Columbia Corridor Association, a freight advocacy group, said he and other committee members realize what a large cut active transportation is being asked to take in this year’s budget. “Maintenance has typically taken the brunt of the cuts over the past many years; but this year, it seems active transportation is taking the brunt of the cuts,” he told me after the meeting yesterday. “That’s why all of us kind of feel the pain there and would like to see some of that funding restored.”

What Kransky has done at the Budget BAC table is significant. He has built a coalition that — at least at this early stage of the negotiations — supports active transportation. PBOT Director Tom Miller, who referred to Kransky as, “the de-facto leader of the ‘add-back’ effort” yesterday also said that in his six years he has never seen a coalition this broad around the budget table.

The PBOT budget won’t be adopted until June of next year and there are a lot of negotiations and moving parts that could change this picture. For one thing, with money scarce and all other City bureaus feeling the pinch, some of them might look to raid that $700,000. But if it all comes back to PBOT (which makes the most sense, given that the savings came from the Sellwood Bridge project), there seems to be a general agreement at the budget committee that active transportation should be first in line to receive it. And that’s a pretty big deal.

Whether Kransky’s laudable work holds up under competing interests (labor and pavement maintenance being the big ones), remains to be seen. But as of right now, his coalition and his proposal are strong. Stay tuned.

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  • 9watts December 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    That is good news.

    …a refinancing agreement…$700,000 in cuts can now be added back …

    This reminds me how little we know about, how little we pay attention to, the thing called interest. A nontrivial fraction of all the money we talk about here on bikeportland ends up as interest floating away from our communities and into the hands of some far-off banks. Not only does the interest not make anyone on a bike safer, as far as I understand it the banks which the city uses for these purposes are not headquartered here in town, do not reinvest the profits as some credit unions reputedly do, or as a state bank might were we to pursue one. Time to take another look at that piece of the puzzle.

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  • Dick Schouten December 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Great work, Gerik.

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  • are December 12, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    bookmark this for the next time people come on these comment boards to slag BTA

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    • Dave Thomson December 14, 2012 at 9:56 am

      Absolutely; I don’t see any of them commenting on this one.

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  • Kiel Johnson
    Kiel Johnson December 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    I bet Gerik hypnotized them with his soul patch. No one can resist it’s power.

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  • Alex Reed December 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    This is super awesome! Good work, BTA, and let us know what we can do to help it go through!

    I think I’ll be starting up my membership to BTA again (I canceled it after they unilaterally declared that they wouldn’t oppose a theoretical all-ages helmet law). ‘Tis the Willamette Week season!

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  • Bc December 12, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    “This year’s gap was estimated to be $4.4 million. Of that, PBOT proposed $1.5 million in cuts to active transportation .”

    Do I have this right? Active transportation was slated to receive more than ONE THIRD of the cuts? Does active transportation make up one third of PBOT’s budget, or is that a fair coomparison?
    Now, active transportation MIGHT get $700K back. If that happens, what percentage of the cuts will be coming out of the AT budget, and how will that compare to AT’s percentage of PBOT expenditures?

    I believe AT should be getting far more money than it’s getting now because it has a higher return on investment, contributes to health, reduces gridlock, etc etc. Plus we need to make up for decades of underfunding relative to less efficient, less healthy, more environmentally damaging modes. But at minimum, AT shouldn’t bear a higher percentage of the impact of the cuts than the percentage of funding it gets from the budget. Can anyone supply these numbers?

    Thanks to the BTA for its efforts here.

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    • 9watts December 13, 2012 at 10:09 am

      I’ve been wondering the same. Excellent questions.

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  • Lois December 13, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Great work, Gerik!

    If anyone out there is considering donating to the BTA, Willamette Week Give!Guide is open now through Dec 31. You get free stuff and you are entered into prize drawings when you donate. If you donate $50 to BTA through the Give!Guide, you are entered to win a Hopworks Pub Runner from Bike ‘n’ Hike. http://giveguide.oaktree.com/Welcome.aspx

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  • 9watts January 8, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Time to move along. Nothing to see here.
    We were just kidding about those $700,000.

    But stop by the Rose Quarter sometime.
    Check out what $400,000,000 looks like. 🙂

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