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Anti-transit vote in Tigard throws wrench in southwest corridor bike plans

Posted by on March 14th, 2014 at 3:09 pm

Riding Portland's urban highways-21

Biking on Barbur Boulevard.
(Photos by J.Maus/BikePortland)

An anti-transit vote in Tigard Tuesday could bite bike plans, too.

When Tigard voters narrowly approved a ballot issue this week designed to make it harder to build a light rail or rapid bus line through their city, they also threw a wrench in a different process: improving biking in the suburbs southwest of Portland.

Metro’s Southwest Corridor Plan, a 20-year effort to expand high-capacity transit down the Barbur Boulevard corridor potentially as far as Sherwood, has also been seen as a way to get state and federal funding for a related project: a flat, comfortable bike route through the area such as a physically protected bike lane on Barbur Boulevard.

As people who bike on Barbur Boulevard (or who would like to) have called for improvements to biking on the street, the state Department of Transportation has responded many times that major improvements would have to wait until the Southwest Corridor process was completed. Some have even speculated that the state’s rationale for not removing a northbound lane from part of Barbur, even though the effect on Barbur’s capacity would be negligible, was to avoid giving more ammunition to light-rail opponents who’ve warned of “Portland creep” that would make car transportation less convenient.

On Tuesday, those light rail opponents won in any case. So what now?

Metro Councilor Bob Stacey said Thursday that first of all, this week’s vote hasn’t derailed the potential for better transit through Tigard.

“I don’t see necessarily a big zig or zag here,” Stacey said in an interview.

Stacey said that the most important new measure required by Tigard’s initiative — a public vote to approve ordinances related to the siting of a high capacity transit route — is something that could be accomplished on the same ballot as a measure to raise money for such projects.

“A vote is likely in all of our futures to the extent that existing community revenue isn’t sufficient to put together the regional and federal match for a project,” Stacey said. “Not only Tigard voters, but other voters in the region, may face a choice on how we fund this, or our share of it.”

In other words, the “voter approval” now required by the Tigard ballot initiative might include a vote by all Washington County residents, or all Metro area residents, for a whole basket of transportation improvements.

As for the ballot measure’s requirement that Tigard send a letter to the state, regional and federal governments saying that it opposes any high-capacity transit projects that would reduce “road capacity” in or around Tigard, Stacey said the will of Tigard’s voters doesn’t seem to require Tigard officials (such as Mayor John Cook, who supports the Southwest Corridor plan) to withhold their input on such projects.

Obama - Kitzhaber rally in Portland-5

Metro Councilor Bob Stacey in 2010.

“I hope that Tigard officials will be encouraged to keep going in order to carefully implement the will of the people, in order that they be carefully consulted,” Stacey said. “I think this project needs the participation of every local government and as many community members as possible in the corridor to be effective. We’re not going to do that if we don’t have the City of Tigard at the table.”

Tigard’s city council is meeting on Tuesday to discuss how the city government should respond to the ballot issue’s success.

Still, Stacey said Tuesday’s vote might indeed make it harder to find money for major bike improvements in the Barbur Boulevard area.

“If we’re not going to have a federal project with a federal match, it’ll be harder to get those projects that we take forward as priorities funded,” he said.

But Stacey said he expects the Southwest Corridor process to continue, and said there’s a “very high probability” that it will include major biking improvements.

“When you have a route like Barbur, which has a grade that’s not even challenging to me at age 64, it’s a wonderful opportunity to make it better and safer,” Stacey said. “There’s a widespread understanding at the local government level, in the neighborhoods, at least as far as the county line, that safe bicycling is an essential part of mobility and livability. It’s a great way to get to transit.”

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  • q`Tzal March 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Car Head = (Distance from Urban Core)²

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    • Erin Schmidt March 14, 2014 at 5:52 pm

      If only regional politics was as tractable a problem as viscous flow in pipes.

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    • Mossby Pomegranate March 15, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      Yeah we don’t want people to have the power of their vote do we?

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  • Nick March 14, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    As a SW Portland resident, this Southwest Corridor process has been demoralizing. From attending town hall meetings where I hear mutterings in the crowd like “bicycles don’t pay tax, why should we build them bike lanes?” to getting nothing but lip service about improving Barbur for all users (except the Bike on Bridge lights that will be of questionable benefit), and now to this Tigard vote, I definitely feel a general stagnation in our transportation poilcies. Furthermore, the philosphies of our surrounding communities are distinct from that of the City of Portland and my hope is that rather than the SW Corridor project collapse, we simply distance ourselves from the car-centric communities of Tigard, LO, and Beaverton. Let the ‘burbs covet their cars and let Portland move unimpeded in bettering and embracing all transportation users.

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    • davemess March 14, 2014 at 5:01 pm

      The east side always welcomes new SW transplants! Come on over!

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    • gutterbunny March 14, 2014 at 10:45 pm

      Perhaps you should remind them that cars took the roads from bicycles and streetcars 100 years ago and that we are merely taking a small part of them back.

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  • Joe Adamski March 14, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    In time, the calculus of time and money will sway ideological positions.Simply stated, when the single occupant car is unsustainable, there will be a catch up program to get transit to the burbs. Until then, give them nothing, if thats what they want.Focus energies elsewhere.

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  • Paul Souders March 15, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    “the ballot measure’s requirement that Tigard send a letter to the state, regional and federal governments saying that it opposes any high-capacity transit projects that would reduce “road capacity” in or around Tigard”

    To an outsider this sounds more like a suicide note. Tigard isn’t like (e.g.) Hillsboro which can (theoretically) sprawl away its civic problems.

    Any project that increases “road capacity” on 99W through Tigard would mean demolishing tax-paying properties along the corridor.

    Which runs into Tigard’s OTHER growth problem.

    Tigard has borders with other cities on all sides except Bull Mountain. Unincorporated developments and the Tualatin river limit growth that direction. Developers have efficiently consumed most of Tigard’s infill with blah cookie-cutter housing and strip malls. Unlike other westside towns, it doesn’t have much of a downtown that can easily anchor high-value density a la Lake O (Somewhere around the WES station maybe? Fanno Creek Pub? Help me out here.)

    If I were a Tigard resident I’d be a little worried about these trends and fighting for creative ways to reverse them. Like every American city, Tigard depends on revenue growth to meet its *previous* bond obligations. Without a place to put new taxpayers Tigard won’t be able to maintain the infrastructure it already has.

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    • Pete March 15, 2014 at 8:52 pm

      Excellent points – this is where city staff and councilors need to grow spines and explain to their constituency that bike lanes are for motorists, not bicyclists, and the lack of safe infrastructure is a huge liability for the city in multiple ways (as you point out a few).

      Sure, Tigard’s “downtown” sucks, but I do miss Max’s Fanno Creek Pub (oh, that tasty “Reverend’s Daughter”!). The creek trail is a decent little connector, but unfortunately there are those who believe trails like that suffice for meeting city- and county-wide bicycle accommodations.

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  • JL March 15, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    From Tigard’s website

    There are a number of traffic signals within the City of Tigard’s boundaries. Many, though, are under the jurisdictions of the State of Oregon, Washington County or the City of Beaverton. With the exception of two flashing beacons in the City, none of the signals are maintained by the City.

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  • Pete March 15, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    Let the ‘burbs covet their cars and let Portland move unimpeded in bettering and embracing all transportation users.

    I understand your frustration but disagree with this viewpoint. There are many, many people who live in “the ‘burbs” for either affordability or preference, and they all have the right to safe, connected infrastructure that’s not dominated by the automobile. They (we) are not all interested in infrastructure that just heads us into big cities, either. It is indeed unfortunate that the ‘fear and loathing’ crowd is so vocal though – please don’t throw in the towel!

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    • nuovorecord March 17, 2014 at 10:42 am

      Then those living in the ‘burbs need to step up and DEMAND better infrastructure. When a high-capacity transit option is up for a vote in Tigard, they need to turn out and vote for it. People get the government they deserve, and Tigard residents partially brought this mess upon themselves by not voting down a really harmful ballot measure.

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    • GlowBoy March 17, 2014 at 11:48 am

      “many, many people who live in “the ‘burbs” for either affordability or preference, and they all have the right to safe, connected infrastructure that’s not dominated by the automobile.”

      There are also roughly equal numbers of people who live in the city but work in the suburbs because that’s where a lot of the good jobs are these days, and even if we don’t vote in the suburbs we have the right to safe, connected non-auto-dominated infrastructure too.

      This a regional economy, not a municipality-by-municipality economy!

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  • JL March 16, 2014 at 1:55 am

    From what I understand, ODOT chose a traffic signal software from a Tualatin company called Northwest Signal supply in 2008 over two of their largest competitors.

    A 2012 evaluation of that software (Voyage) vs what is called optimized time-of-day timing was done by Kittelson & Associates, Inc from Portland.

    it’s a .pdf can be found by searching– 99W Evaluation Final Kittelson

    If someone that is familiar with the stretch of 99W through Tigard could look at the numbers, and give a summary of what they gathered from that data, it would be great.

    I know the area well, (by bike and car) and the signal timing has really been bugging me in recent years…

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  • John D. March 16, 2014 at 8:02 am

    Just respect and implement the will of the people

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  • Ryan March 16, 2014 at 8:33 am

    TriMet lightrail is a major ripoff to the taxpayer. The MAX is extremely slow, averaging just 19.6 MPH. It costs $200 million per mile. I don’t want to see anymore MAX expansion in this area.

    Instead of sinking $1 billion + in MAX, TriMet should:

    1) Create covered shelters in Washington county
    2) Create 5-10-15 minute frequent service bus routes
    3) Stop authorizing $900,000 in annual pay raises to top managers

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    • GlowBoy March 17, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      I recently did an analysis of MAX vs bus average speeds on quite a few transit lines in the metro area. MAX is far faster than almost all bus services around here except for a couple of ultra-express runs like the 96X. Even in the suburbs, few bus routes average better than 15mph. And I’m betting the 19.6mph figure for MAX includes the agonizingly slow run through downtown Portland and the Lloyd district: the average speed of MAX through the suburbs is probably closer to 25mph.

      Hmm: coincidentally, the average speed for an automobile in an American metropolitan area is just 25mph, and that includes freeway traffic. Calling MAX “extremely slow” is the height of hyperbole.

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    • Chris I March 17, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      You must not ride Trimet much. Outside of the downtown core, MAX is the quickest way to get around on transit. I say this as someone that lives within walking distance of 6 bus lines, and 3 MAX lines. How many MAX lines can you walk to from your house?

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    • MaxRedline March 16, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      I disagree with the stance that the measure is anti-transit, because what folks in this area have been pushing is better bus services. That is public transit. And as Tri-Met has been cannibalizing bus services to pay for rail operations, a lot of folks in the far SW Portland/Tigard area have had about enough of that. This vote is intended primarily to let Portland/Metro/Tri-Met know that the days of just ramming more little two-car “trains” into areas without a vote are over.

      This doesn’t mean that area residents would automatically vote down anything light rail, but they will have a voice, whether P/M/T likes it or not. Present something reasonable and cost-effective (preferably not with acres of apartment bunkers included), and it’s likely to be acceptable. BRT is another option. Both require a vote, either option might pass IF they don’t mortgage our great-grandchildrens’ futures and IF they provide perceived value (think Rockwood).

      As for bikes: I’ve got noting against ’em; I have a Trek and periodically ride. Barbur, I agree, needs more than some flashing lights – it needs and expansion for safe riding; it’s a relatively flat, easy ride all the way into downtown Portland, and it needs to be made safer for everyone.

      Try riding Taylors Ferry/45th/Shattuck sometime. I’ve done it, and it’s white-knuckles all the way. I’ll probably never go to that Albertsons again on a bike.

      What I found offensive about your post was the portrayal of folks as “anti-transit” rubes. As an example: my developmentally-disabled daughter takes the bus regularly. Ramming a two-car “train” into Tigard will ultimately have the effect of further service reductions. Further, I object to running rails in streets – and if any of your fellow BikePortland riders have ever caught a front wheel between rail and pavement, I suspect they understand that sentiment.

      As well, I note that the vote doesn’t “throw a wrench” into improved cycling safety and amenities as claimed. Tigard actually has a number of pretty nice rides, such as the Fanno Creek Trail, and others (though less used), nothing about the vote prevents the city from continuing to participate in the SW corridor planning. I agree with your view that the SW Barbur route shouldn’t be held hostage in the planning process; the worst areas for cycling are in the Portland city limits, however.

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      • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
        Michael Andersen (News Editor) March 17, 2014 at 8:11 am

        Thanks for the thoughtful replies, MaxRedline.

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      • GlowBoy March 17, 2014 at 11:58 am

        Why should people in one municipality get to vote down a regional transit project? Local residents should get a say in how these projects are built, but whether they get built should be a regional decision, not veto power by one cantankerous municipality.

        And even a regional direct vote on transportation projects doesn’t seem to happen much in this republic. The only projects ever put up for a vote are transit projects. Did you ever get the chance to vote on a freeway project? I didn’t think so. Where was my CRC ballot?

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        • Chris I March 17, 2014 at 12:45 pm

          Maybe this sets a precedent? Can Portland pass a measure that would prevent Metro and ODOT from expanding any freeways within city limits?

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        • Ciaran March 17, 2014 at 12:55 pm

          I think the key is to make driving into Portland less attractive. Make parking more expensive. Make congestion worse. These conditions will create the demand needed to get better transit and bike options broader support. The comparative expense and inconvenience of driving are the reason most people commute into manhattan by transit. We aren’t manhattan, but the same principles apply.

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      • J_Madcow March 17, 2014 at 3:39 pm

        If the measure was not “anti-transit”, why did it include this? Sounds anti-transit to me.

        “…the ballot measure’s requirement that Tigard send a letter to the state, regional and federal governments saying that it opposes any high-capacity transit projects…”

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  • Lisa Marie March 17, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    The importance of transportation policy, not just in the city center, cannot be overstated. Voters need to hear from more than just the paid lobbyists that support nothing but road expansion and automobile transport, THEY NEED TO HEAR FROM MORE OF US.

    That’s why BikeWalkVote organized for this measure, setting up phone banking and canvassing. But we can’t do it alone: of over 300 people contacted for phone banking, our first night pulled in 10 volunteers. If these issues matter to our community, we need to show up.

    There’s a LOT happening right now with the city weighing transportation funding and allocation… What we need most? You all to get involved, and to come out to support shared interests and be heard. If they don’t see us, don’t hear from us, then we don’t exist. Please get involved! We’re happy to plug you in.

    (full disclosure- I’m the co-chair of Bike Walk Vote)

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    • Lisa Marie March 17, 2014 at 12:47 pm

      NOTE: We organized in OPPOSITION to this measure. THe devil is in the details, and this takes say AWAY from voters, despite what supporters say, and makes it incredibly difficult to bring ANY public or active transit to residents of Tigard.

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  • Kristen March 17, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    I am incredibly disappointed in my fellow Tigard residents, for falling for Clackamas County’s BS. The way this thing was written, was very deceptive.

    I was active for a long time in the bike-pedestrian subcommittee, and it was hard enough to get things done (and done correctly– see the improperly placed sharrows on Burnham Rd for example) without this. Now, I can only see gridlock, unmoving lines of traffic backing up from arterials to collectors to neighborhood streets, in Tigard’s future. And stymied growth on the communities to the South who depend on Hwy 99W.

    Tigard city residents who voted yes on this piece of crap don’t get to complain about people cutting through their neighborhoods, or how they can’t get where they need to because of all the traffic, or how the emergency services take too long to get to them when they need help. Those shills for Clackamas County should be ashamed of themselves.

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  • kgb March 19, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Driving Through Tigard totally sucks at almost any time of day. I guess they like it that way.

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