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Tonight’s ‘Transportation Town Hall’ is big chance to share your priorities

Posted by on February 20th, 2014 at 9:19 am

Transportation Safety Summit-8

A PBOT staffer takes down a suggestion at a PBOT Transportation Safety Summit in 2010.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

A two-hour “town hall” this evening at SE 34th and Salmon will be the Portland public’s first chance to turn out in support of their priorities in the next decade of Portland transportation budgets.

What Mayor Charlie Hales, Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick and Transportation Director Leah Treat hear tonight and at two more planned town halls this month will undoubtedly shape the way they think about the looming political battle over both the city’s transportation spending and transportation revenue.

The town halls are also, to be sure, part of the city’s effort to build support for its big pitch to voters this fall: a new transportation revenue source, most likely including a per-household and per-business fee, that could bring the city tens of millions of dollars a year for new street projects and maintenance. But before the city asks voters for money, it needs to decide which projects will be on the top of its list.

Willamette Week quoted Hales’ spokesman Wednesday as saying the transportation revenue proposal is “likely” to go to voters in November. City leaders have said they’ll bring a specific project list to the public when that happens.

Tonight’s event is 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Sunnyside Environmental School, 3421 SE Salmon St.

Last month, the city conducted a telephone poll testing voters’ opinions about transportation. We first covered that poll Feb. 3; among the findings were that younger people, lower-income Portlanders and people of color are disproportionately likely to support investments in biking, walking and public transit.

At the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting last week, chair Suzanne Veaudry Casaus urged the city to heavily weight the results of that phone survey rather than feedback it receives at the public meeting. “I’ve been to a lot of public meetings, and the public meetings do not have a great deal of diversity,” she said.

Even so, there’s no question that political leaders tend to be influenced deeply by their direct encounters with voters.

We’ll be interested to see how Novick, Hales, and Treat frame the transportation problem. Messaging around this effort will be key to whether it succeeds or fails. And thus far they’ve talked mostly about preventative maintenance and “pedestrian safety” while shying away from strong words about the need for improved bicycling access.

Here’s the city’s official news release:

The Portland Bureau of Transportation reminds the public and news media to attend three town halls on transportation funding – the first to be held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20 at Sunnyside Environmental School.

“As we consider ways to meet the city’s transportation needs, we want to hear from as many people as possible,” said City Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees the transportation bureau. “Portlanders recognize that we need to invest more in preventive maintenance and safety improvements.”

Mayor Charlie Hales, Novick and Transportation Director Leah Treat will welcome the public and discuss transportation needs at the three events:

  • Thursday, Feb. 20, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Sunnyside Environmental School, 3421 SE Salmon St.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 25, 6:30 to 8:30 at Immigrant & Refuge Community Organization (IRCO), 10301 NE Glisan St.
  • Thursday, Feb. 27, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 SW Capitol Highway

The town hall meetings will provide an opportunity for the public to speak with transportation staff, ask questions and make comments for the mayor and commissioner to consider as they explore ways to improve transportation funding. A keypad polling exercise and written comment opportunities will provide other ways for the public to provide comments.

Hales and Novick convened a Transportation Needs and Funding Advisory Committee in January to advise the commissioner on a transportation funding package. The committee helped draft the language used in a telephone survey in January.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • MaxD February 20, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I wonder why there is nothing in North Portland?

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    • Chris I February 20, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      They only have 3 events, so 2 quadrants are going to be left out. Or are you thinking it is some kind of conspiracy?

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  • Bald One February 20, 2014 at 10:44 am

    I wonder if we can find out when they will clean up all this gravel from the bike lanes around town. The gravel remained in the car lanes for about 12 hours, then it moved over to become a pure bike lane problem – and will be for the next several months. I suppose it costs $300 Million to clean up ;-). I haven’t seen one crew working on this anywhere on the eastside, yet.

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    • dmc February 20, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      ugh. tell me about it.

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    • Alexis February 20, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      Please call or write in to 823-SAFE or 823-1700 about this. It is much more effective than commenting here and they need to hear more voices of people concerned. I have both called and written in now and I recommend emphasizing the unusual volume of gravel and the danger it presents.

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      • Tim Davis February 20, 2014 at 8:05 pm

        Thank you SO much for reminding us all of this critically important point, Alexis! I’m calling right now! But I also love reading great ideas from folks commenting here–such as yours! 🙂

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  • J_R February 20, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Increase the gas tax already.

    If gas tax had been indexed to the construction cost index in 1993 (the last year the federal gas tax was increased), the federal tax would be over 30 cents per gallon and the Oregon tax would be over 40 cents per gallon. Instead we’re at 18.4 cents and 30 cents, respectively. That’s why we’re short on money for ALL transportation projects.

    The gas tax is not perfect, but those who drive more pay more and those with gas guzzlers pay more. It’s fair.

    I’m already paying more than $10 per month in vehicle license fees, driver’s license fees, and Sellwood Bridge fees even when I don’t drive my car. My car, while sitting in the garage, is causing minimal demand on the transportation system.

    What’s the cost going to be to implement and administer a new fee?

    Increase the gas tax already.

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    • paikikala February 20, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Gas tax = Auto infrastructure. Airport fees = Airport facilities. Transportation Fee = Transportation Projects.

      Taxes on fuels will always have that string attached that says the majority that paid the tax should get the majority of benefits (fuel users). You would argue the same for bike license fees. If we are to move away from the continuous cycle of building more, wider, roads we need a tax that can be distributed differently.

      Geography is one such method to distribute a tax. Let Neighborhood Coalitions determine what it’s share of a per household tax is spent on in it’s district. Or, allocate funding based on mode share and need. East Portland needs more sidewalks and road grid. Inner east does not. SW needs more trails and sidewalks. Inner NW could use some parking structures. SW, North and NE have large pockets of gravel roads.

      It’s already being done in some areas of Portland with parking revenue.

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  • Tim Davis February 20, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    It’s not like the meeting is taking place in Camas or Wilsonville. SE 34th & Salmon is a highly accessible location, and it’s all of 3 miles away from the start of N Portland. I’m tired of hearing warfare between different quadrants of the same city. Conspiracy? Seriously?

    We’ve got to get past trivialities like this and on to the serious issues. First and foremost, the metro area has, from what I’ve heard, a $1.5 BILLION backlog in road, highway and bridge maintenance. This funding shortfall can literally never, ever be filled under our current transportation paradigm (or any “new” funding sources). We MUST get the bike mode share to rise to 25% at the very least–and VERY soon. It’s literally the only way to solve our cripplingly unsustainable waste of transportation spending.

    It will admittedly cost MANY $millions to improve our cycling infrastructure (and public outreach, etc) enough to get the 8-80 crowd (and ideally hundreds of thousands of suburbanites) out of their cars, but each $1 we spend on truly great cycling infrastructure (again, the kind that is approachable and enticing to the 98% of the population not represented by the wonderful, faithful readers of BikePortland.org) will result in a payback of at LEAST $10 when you take into account dozens of factors: reduced long-term spending on roads, improved health, improved quality of life, reduced stress, etc.

    It’s good that Leah Treat, Steve Novick and others are talking about all kinds of potential new transportation revenue sources, and people NEED to pay for the roads that they’re using, especially with cars & trucks. But it’s pure folly to think that we will ever come anywhere NEAR paying for road & bridge maintenance and construction, no matter how much additional revenue is raised. Plus, as the old saying goes, you can’t “build” your way out of (AUTO) congestion.

    Spending *whatever* is necessary to rapidly increase our bike mode share (or “split,” as some call it) benefits EVERYONE in Portland, whether they bike or not. It’s by far the best transportation investment we can make, and we absolutely cannot afford NOT to do this. My proposed first step: putting in dozens more traffic diverters! LOVE those things… 🙂

    Finally, don’t forget that Portland has quite possibly the *highest* percentage of non-park land devoted to ROADS of any big city (if not any city, period) in the entire country! If we took just 10% of our road space away from auto use, our problems could be practically solved overnight! Granted, no politician will EVER let this happen, but it’s still worth mentioning that we have a ton of extra road space just waiting to be rightfully handed over users other than those driving cars & trucks–and especially for people merely putting their vehicles to sleep on the road for hours or days/weeks at a time. At the *very* least, make people pay the true cost of these public spaces, and we’ll see a massive change in habits very, very quickly. Suddenly, biking will look like a WONDERFUL option. 🙂

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