Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

As Portland’s biking stagnation continues, it faces an unfamiliar problem: more congestion

Posted by on August 19th, 2015 at 1:03 pm

traffic trends

A funny thing happens when you stop improving the alternatives.
(Job projections: Metro. Historical data: Census Bureau. Charts: BikePortland.)

In the last couple years, Portlanders have started noticing something they haven’t been accustomed to for a decade: Auto congestion is getting worse.

“Oregon Department of Transportation reports traffic has gone up 6.3 percent this year, about twice the national average — and it’s still going,” KATU-TV reported last week.

Unlike other fast-growing U.S. cities, Portland managed to avoid new cars on the road for the entire decade between 2000 and 2010.

“It is the sight becoming synonymous with Portland’s travel scene: packed freeways and frustrated drivers,” KGW-TV said two days later, bringing in a recent Portland Business Alliance report that found that 346,000 jobs in the state “rely on an efficient transportation system.”

But here’s something those stories didn’t mention: Portlanders have a perfectly good reason for being surprised by this trend.

Unlike other fast-growing U.S. cities, Portland managed to avoid new cars on the road for the entire decade between 2000 and 2010.

How’d we do it? More than any other factor, we did it with bicycles.

Bike traffic on Broadway-20

Traffic on Broadway near the Moda Center.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Of the 24,000 or so new work commutes that Portlanders added to the local economy from 2000 to 2010, only about 2,000 wound up in the driver’s seat of cars. Instead, 13,000 of the new commutes were bike commutes.

But around 2009, Census figures show, Portland’s golden decade without new rush-hour congestion ended. The percentage of people riding bikes to work stopped rising, the percentage of people using cars stopped falling, and (thanks to ongoing population growth) the number of commutes that happen in cars started to grow again.

Census estimates due next month will give us the clearest picture yet for how Portland’s six-year-long biking plateau is combining with the economic rebound to increase the number of cars on the road. (Other factors, the late 2014 drop in gas prices and the 2015 turmoil in local marine freight, won’t show up in the data for a while yet.)

If Portland doesn’t change course, its decade from 2010 to 2020 could look a lot like the decade that a fellow growing city like Austin, Tex., experienced from 2000 to 2010: a 17 percent surge in the number of drive-alone car trips.

With this at stake and so many people in Portland talking about traffic trouble, we thought it’d be interesting to ask a question.

How much would Portland need to improve biking and other options in order to prevent congestion in the future?

The chart above is the same as the one at the top of this post, except it includes biking, walking, transit and working at home as well as driving. To make it, we used Metro’s projections for job growth in Portland and assumed that those jobs will be held by Portlanders at about the same ratios that they currently are. (Important note: all the numbers in this post refer to the commutes of Portland residents, regardless of job location.)

The above chart shows more or less what would happen if Portland fails to make it any more attractive to get around on a bike, public transit or foot.

The percentage of Portlanders driving alone to work would remain at 59 percent.

Where would so many new cars go? Presumably we’d all be in densely packed robot cars, or maybe we’ll have raised taxes in order to destroy the buildings alongside major streets to add auto lanes instead, plus maybe we’ll reverse all our road diets and pay for the additional traffic collisions on our health and car insurance bills.

The chart below shows another scenario: what if Portland improved non-car transportation just enough to keep car traffic where it was in the 2000s?

The numbers here aren’t actually too hard to imagine. In the next 15 years, we’d have to increase bike commuting from 6 percent to 9 percent; transit commuting from 12 percent to 18 percent; walking from 5 percent to 8 percent; telecommuting from 8 percent to 11 percent.

There are multiple ways this could play out, of course, such as a bigger rise in telecommuting or a smaller rise in transit. The above chart assumes that each of those non-car modes improves in proportion to one another.

In a country where many cities are setting out to double bike commuting in the next five years, this transportation vision isn’t particularly ambitious. But it’d also represent much more transportation improvement than Portland has seen in the last five years, when the city, state and TriMet have been paralyzed by funding problems and by fears of political backlash if they’re seen as investing too much money in non-car transportation.

Finally, here’s a third scenario: what would happen to local car traffic if Portland built a full neighborhood greenway network and added protected bike lanes to all major streets, increased residential and job infill faster than it is currently planning to, put decongestion charges on local freeways and bridges and approved a huge new investment in TriMet (similar to the one included in this year’s failed state transportation bill), thus achieving the transportation goals in its Climate Action Plan?

The red bar is what the rush-hour auto traffic trend would look like in a Portland where 25 percent of residents bike to work, 25 percent ride transit, 20 percent drive alone, and 10 percent each get to work by carpooling, walking or telecommuting.

If you or your business wanted or needed to get around by car or truck, which Portland of the future would you prefer to live or work in? We’ll let you try and picture each of them.

This post was inspired in part by Portland bicycle planning coordinator Roger Geller’s related research on the subject.

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  • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    I’m glad you added scenario 3.

    And in my view (oft mentioned here) the modal distribution of Scenario 3 could come about either because we
    + do as you say, and increase the supply of human-transport infrastructure exponentially, or
    + demand for autos dries up and blows away due to a fatal-to-autodom mix of climate change and peak oil.

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    • Garlynn August 19, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      Or both.

      Thanks for posting this article now, BTW, Michael. This is an important piece of the conversation, because the timidity that is currently en vogue in Portland government is really self-defeating, and we are seeing the results on the streets and highways today. We cannot build new roads as a solution to congestion in this city; we don’t have the budget or the space. We can, however, build new bicycle and transit infrastructure, and put existing multi-lane roads on diets.

      We need to spark a new infrastructure-building renaissance in Portland, one where a mile of new parking-protected bikeway is installed on major boulevards each week, until it is safe to bicycle to and through every shopping district in the city, with children in tow. All of our greenways should be protected by diverters and alternating one-way street treatments, to protect our investment in that infrastructure. The new BRT line on Powell should ride in a dedicated transit lane along Powell’s entire length from 82nd to Tilikum; the Foster bus should turn onto it, rather than continue down 50th to Hawthorne. This would allow the Hawthorne bus to end at 50th & Powell, which would partially mitigate the slower speeds it would experience once a cycle track is installed on Hawthorne at the expense of a lane of traffic in each direction.

      These are the sorts of changes we must embrace, against the protestations of near-sighted nay-sayers — for our own good. For the good of the drivers who dislike congestion. For the good of the bicyclists who dislike being bullied by cars. For the good of the transit riders who want a stronger-performing grid network. For our children.

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  • Ben August 19, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    >More than any other factor, we did it with bicycles.

    And also with a stagnant job market for most of the decade. I imagine a lot of the worsening traffic we’ve seen of late has to do with rising employment.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) August 19, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      That’s true, but it doesn’t change the fact that we added 24,000 new jobs from 2000 to 2010 (9 percent growth) with basically zero new rush-hour car trips by Portland residents. Recession or no, you can’t do that without either (a) bikes or (b) way better transit than Portland has been willing/able to pay for.

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      • J_R August 19, 2015 at 4:42 pm

        Another possibility is that lots of those jobs are relatively low-paying service sector jobs that are less than full time and include shorter, evening and weekend shifts. These would not impact peak hour as much as traditional 8-5 jobs. I think you’ve got to be careful about your conclusions. I am certainly far from convinced that bikes and transit have fulfilled the travel needs of these new employees. The next round of the census journey-to-work data may be much more useful.

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        • Beth August 20, 2015 at 9:25 am

          Low-paying, service-sector jobs generally mean that workers live fairly far from work and are not always able to utilize transit. Also, in spite of the riding cost of living in Portland, People Keep Moving Here. And they’ll continue to do so. The best any of us can do is to keep riding bikes and using transit and hoping that our example will help turn the tide eventually. Along with a touch of Peak Oil.

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          • jeff August 20, 2015 at 10:18 am

            how do you ever assume that?

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          • middle of the road guy August 20, 2015 at 10:49 am

            Yes, but rents were also much cheaper in the timeframe noted, so people might have been living close in anyway.

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  • Allison August 19, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Imagine just half of those cyclist and transit commuters decided they no longer needed to own a car. $2k per car, instead of leaving the state in the form of insurance and car payments, gasoline costs, maybe getting spent locally. That’d be nice.

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    • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      A super important point. Thank you.
      And it may be between $2k-$9K/yr.

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      • Allison August 19, 2015 at 3:17 pm

        I just looked up the average cost of car ownership in Oregon. I imagine 2nd and 3rd cars cost more than the 1st one.

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        • J_R August 19, 2015 at 6:05 pm

          What would cause the second or third car cost more than the first? Of everyone I know with multiple cars, the “first” car is newer and is driven more miles on an annual basis than the “second” car.

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    • middle of the road guy August 20, 2015 at 10:51 am

      Bu owning a car greatly improves my quality of life. I can get to places in the car I can’t on a bike. I can also run errands more efficiently which gives me more time in my day.

      Cars are simply a tool.

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      • eddie August 20, 2015 at 3:02 pm

        Everyone behind the wheel of a car feels exactly the way you do, hence the pollution, the congestion, the deaths and the injuries on the streets. It’s that attitude – the idea that making one’s own life easier is more important than the environment, the everyone’s livability, and the safety and well being of others – that is the root of the problem.

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      • Martin August 21, 2015 at 10:29 am

        You have chosen to align your life in a way that necessitates a car for all the errands that you chose to take on. Not everyone makes the same choice. Quality of life isn’t the same as Quantity of life. Sometimes doing less and going slower makes people happier. Also “quality of life” is hugely subjective. There are people living in off grid cabins in Alaska with great quality of live and also people living in skyscrapers in tokyo enjoying their lives. I’m not judging your personal choices, I have a car too. I’m just saying that some people can achieve happiness without a car even in our car-happy culture.

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      • dr2chase August 21, 2015 at 5:46 pm

        It’s exactly backwards from that for me. I can go places on my bike that I can’t find a place to park my car. My “quality of life” includes my health, which has been hugely improved by dozens of miles on the bike each week. Blood chemistry is better, weight is stable, joints all work more smoothly, I can shovel snow till my arms turn to noodles (instead of “till I have a heart attack”). Because I can also find a place to park and am not stopped or slowed by traffic, I can run errands more efficiently.

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    • Brad August 24, 2015 at 9:52 am

      I decided I no longer needed to own a car, but all my savings go to the student loans. 🙂

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty August 19, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    I have to take these projections with a huge grain of salt. It is very likely that by 2030, our transportation landscape will be radically different than it is today. I fully expect automated cars to be common by then, which will create opportunities to increase safety and capacity for all road users without requiring lots of new roadways.

    That said, I do believe we need to move forward aggressively with new bicycle infrastructure. We’re really lagging on that front.

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    • Bill Stites August 19, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      I would add that the silver bullet of automated cars will likely fall short of logical expectations – even by 2030. I say ‘logical expectations’ because widening roads like we’ve been doing in America for many decades has been shown to not work long term [or even mid-term] – against the grain of intuitive logic.

      “You’re a dumbass if you don’t think widening the road is going to decrease congestion … I know, I know”.

      Not to mention resource consumption – oops, I mentioned it.

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      • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 1:38 pm

        I keep wondering what people think is going to power all these driverless cars? Where is the energy supposed to come from?
        And electricity is not an answer, as electricity is not a source of energy but a very expensive form of energy conversion.

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        • Allison August 19, 2015 at 3:33 pm

          I don’t think it’s impossible with the following considerations:

          1. After we get away from a private car ownership to a shared fleet subscription (which I think makes sense with a driverless car – why do you have to own it?) we can have the fleet reflect the transportation of each trip – the largest number trips are people traveling alone, so why do they need to be anything bigger than a smartcar? Most of the pickups I see drive around with empty beds, but you don’t see zipcar pickups driving around with empty beds- what if there were only enough pickups to cover the trips that need the cargo space? So there’s some amount of energy savings there.

          2. Driverless cars are going to able to hypermile – traffic patterns will not have the volatile variations in speed they have now. A need to decrease speeds can be distributed through out the system which means less braking and less accelerating. This will also mean the engines in the cars don’t need to have the same ridiculous 0 to 6 in .4 seconds or whatever, which is part of what makes internal combustion engines so inefficient.

          3. It’s true that electricity is not an energy source but an energy currency if you will – like money is a “goods” currency. It’s a common exchange method for all kinds of energy which gives it flexibility that liquid fuel systems just do not have. It’s much easier to produce electricity in a distributed fashion – and car batteries are a decent way to capture that energy for use later. Wind and solar energies aren’t lacking in abundance, only in the matching of need for production times. Good batteries are coming. Big batteries are coming. Big distributed battery infrastructures are coming. I am dreaming of Tesla battery in my basement and a solar cell on my roof. We can produce electricity the way we do now, build up that infrastructure and then transition over to cleaner energies with very little cost.

          4. (And this isn’t happening by 2030, but I think it’s going to be not-that-much-further-off) When we no longer all own our own cars and when the fleet is almost always in transit, just think of the hundreds of square miles that are currently dedicated to storing non-moving vehicles that can be used for other purposes. We can vastly expand our transit lanes, our bike lanes, even our car lanes by just emptying every parking strip in the city of its cars. And that’s before we start tearing up surface parking lots. That’s a lot of underproductive land that could be made into more productive uses.

          I’m a non-car owning transit-using cyclist. I’m going to keep biking. But I’m pretty excited about the possibility of driverless cars. I don’t know how long it’s going to take but driving is just the kind of behavior that humans shouldn’t have to do – it’s repetitive, takes huge amounts of focus, and failures end in deaths. It’s not the solution to everything but it’s going to shift everything about our transportation landscape and I’m pretty excited for it.

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          • Chris I August 20, 2015 at 7:00 am

            All of those things you cite require getting old, polluting, non-driverless cars off of the road. What are you going to do with the guy who just bought a $50,000 F350 as a “work truck” and drives it to his office job in the city every day. In 10 years, tell him to take his truck to a junkyard? How many decades will it be before we get the old vehicles off the road? I’ll be surprised if I see it in my lifetime.

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            • 9watts August 20, 2015 at 7:07 am

              My expectation is that this transition away from the car fleet we have now will not occur like that. Cars will not be traded in, nor will people be asked what they would prefer. This will come about unbidden, and due to external constraints on the supply of cheap fuel and a dawning realization that if we hope to keep living and breathing on this planet the automobile (as just one example) is no longer tenable.

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            • Pete August 20, 2015 at 8:33 am

              There will continue to be the impetus of auto manufacturers to trade in the older cars & trucks for newer models, as auto manufacturers profit by more frequent turnover. Unfortunately, it will take expensive gas prices for people to value alternatives (hybrid, electric), and that will take a while.

              The share model should make some impact, but don’t underestimate the emotional value of individual car ownership (and ‘cars as a reflection of self-worth’) on the population. For many people, a car is the biggest check they’ll ever write (home ownership is out of reach), and becomes their most coveted possession.

              My neighbors are immigrants who moved in with an older Toyota Camry. As the father got a big promotion last year and the wife got pregnant with their first child, he traded it in for a BMW SUV. A few months ago, she decided to take driving lessons (for the first time – they’re Muslims from a country she wasn’t allowed to drive in), and I recently saw her driving a brand new Camry.

              Ironically, he now works in an office up in SF so takes the train, and he approached me a few months ago asking about bike/bicycling advice because he bought one to ride to Caltrain due to the heavy traffic and direct bike lanes (it’s only two miles down one flat street).

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          • Buzz August 20, 2015 at 10:13 am

            Well, given that Ford still manufactures compact Ranger pickups, but no longer sells them in the US market, you almost have no choice but to buy a ginormous gas-guzzling F-150/250/350 if you ‘need’ a pickup truck.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty August 19, 2015 at 3:52 pm

          That is a completely different question; automated cars could be powered by electricity or gasoline; I expect the answer will depend on how well battery technology advances.

          So the answer to your question, in Oregon, is some mix of gasoline, coal, and hydro.

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          • Chris I August 20, 2015 at 7:01 am

            Coal will be mostly out of the mix within 10 years, when Boardman closes.

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            • 9watts August 20, 2015 at 7:17 am

              If you are a Pacific Power customer here in Portland, or anywhere else in Oregon where they are in charge, 67% of their electricity is made from burning coal (>80% from fossil fuels). I am well aware that you can opt for a wind package, but the point remains. PGE is slightly better, with 30% coming from coal (>50% from fossil fuels).

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              • Chris I August 20, 2015 at 10:05 am

                If you look at the map for Pacific Power, there are approximately zero coal plants in the northwest. It looks like their power mix is based on their entire service area, with all of the coal plants being at least 2,000 miles from Portland. Given the energy losses of long-distance transportation, it is highly unlikely that much of this coal-produced energy actually makes it to Portland. It is used to supply energy needs in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah.

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              • 9watts August 20, 2015 at 10:07 am

                Wishful, but that is not my understanding of how the grid works. You can be that Pacific Power *would love* to be able to claim less coal for their customers up here if they could.

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          • Pete August 20, 2015 at 1:09 pm

            …and wind and natural gas. As some of these plants are converted to NG, plant operators (and their supply chain) are wanting to offset their costs by now selling their coal supplies overseas (hence the coal train concerns in the gorge).

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        • soren August 19, 2015 at 4:35 pm

          hopefully wind, hydro, solar, tidal, geothermal, and biomass.

          even accounting for manufacturing and infrastructure, the CO2e of renewable-offset e-vehicle use can be surprisingly competitive with cycling. in fact, the LCA data i have perused convinced me that i should purchase a used e-vehicle (even though i personally have no need for a single occupancy motorized vehicle).

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          • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 6:20 pm

            Utterly wishful.
            Right now most of our electricity consumption (that has nothing to do with transport) still comes from fossil fuels. Going forward, we have to contend with two additional and competing demands on our grid:
            (1) the hypothesized shift of our transportation system from liquid fuels to electricity, and
            (2) the urgent requirement to phase out our reliance on fossil fuels for everything, not just electricity.

            To date we have exhibited a rather poor track record, as a state, for reducing total or per capita consumption of electricity (energy efficiency boosterism notwithstanding).
            Our ability to rein in our reliance on the automobile has been impressive if you’re focused—as Multnomah County and the City are—on holding down growth in total VMT/related emissions. But if we’re concerned, as we now should be, with phasing out this reliance on fossil fuel we have an abysmal record here too.
            Finally, our ability to shift from gasoline to electricity in the transportation realm has been no better than any other jurisdiction I’m aware of. What percent of our private transport now relies on electricity? One fifth of one percent? I don’t know the figure, but it can’t be very high.

            To accomplish what you’ve suggested above in the timeframe available to us (you pick the time frame, and defend it) is totally unrealistic. We have no experience to rely on for making any such claims.

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            • soren August 19, 2015 at 7:49 pm

              To date we have exhibited a rather poor track record, as a state, for reducing total or per capita consumption of electricity (energy efficiency boosterism notwithstanding).

              we have done an OK job of switching to non-hydrocarbon generation with phenomenal room for improvement (as the cost of renewable energy and energy storage continues to plummet). and 9watts, you are preaching to the choir when it comes to conservation — my inner SE household spends ~$25/month for our clean wind offsets.

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          • Eric Leifsdad August 19, 2015 at 8:36 pm

            Carrying 3000lb of living room around cannot be competitive with cycling. Riding an e-bike may have a lower carbon footprint than eating extra unsustainably grown food to power a push bike, but with short commutes, you’re probably still not getting enough exercise either way, so then we have to figure in the carbon footprint of health care. Sustainable agriculture is carbon-neutral.

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            • soren August 20, 2015 at 8:45 am

              E-vehicle charged with renewable offsets
              ~70 g CO2e/km for electric vehicle manufacturing
              ~3 g CO2e/km for charging

              ~100 g CO2e/km (assuming ~25 calories burned per km and the average american diet)

              I’d be glad to provide citations to additional “wheel to wells” LCAs offline.

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              • 9watts August 20, 2015 at 9:16 am

                So what I’m curious about is whether the biking CO2e figure you cite is truly meant to represent the *difference* between what a person who does not bike that kilometer eats and what a person who does bike that kilometer eats. Because if I’m biking 80 miles a day my consumption of food goes up, way up. But if I bike three or six miles a day at a leisurely clip, not so much. I’d venture that the extra calories to bike the few miles many of us here probably bike is going to be lost in the noise and be nowhere near the 100g CO2e/km figure.

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              • soren August 20, 2015 at 10:04 am

                I chose cycling at ~15 mph and took into account the ~130 kcals/hour burned while at rest or driving (3-5 kcals per km).

                My estimate does not taking into account the CO2e that cycling subtracts due to better health (which is likely large) and also assumes the average american omnivore-driver. A plant-based/veg*n cyclist would have a much lower CO2e per kcal. And, finally, a low-mileage driver would have a far higher CO2e/km for vehicle manufacture.

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              • 9watts August 20, 2015 at 1:49 pm

                Hm. I guess I’d like to see these figures with error bars.
                If this boils down to the carbon signatures of beef vs PV we should probably note that, and extrapolate from these (probably artificial) averages to something more realistic, like a handful of profiles that home in on this question.

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              • soren August 22, 2015 at 1:35 pm

                9watts, I used conservative LCAs for my estimate above. (shrinkthatfootprint is famous for publicizing problems with charging e-vehicles with coal-generated energy.) Other LCAs are more favorable. For example, the union of concerned scientists estimates that a nissan leaf charged with wind-energy offsets has a 3900 mpge. It’s a pity that many environmentalists have an anti-technology bias because I think technology is going to play a key role in moving towards a negative carbon economy.


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              • 9watts August 22, 2015 at 9:11 pm

                “It’s a pity that many environmentalists have an anti-technology bias because I think technology is going to play a key role in moving towards a negative carbon economy.”

                It’s a pity that so many people of all stripes are unable to let go of the dream that technical tricks will always save us, that experts will devise some scheme to let us keep all our goodies.

                What part of 5 planets is so hard to accept? Renewables themselves require vast resources to build, must be rebuilt every generation, need distribution networks to send the kilowatt hours from where the sun shines or the wind blows to where the people live in cities. The idea that our current high-consumption civilization can be shifted over to run on renewables and expanded to the rest of the 7 billion who don’t already enjoy air conditioning and cars and remote control TVs before the climate crisis has swept us off our feet is lunacy, is just one more example of the deathgrip with which we’re trying to hold onto our conveniences.

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              • Martin August 21, 2015 at 12:48 pm

                People who choose to bike commute often also choose to live closer to work than people who buy a electric cars. That puts a huge kink in your analysis. The lifestyle choice to live close to work, or find work close to your home is much more influential in how much carbon is polluted. Often people choose an electric car precisely because they want to live far from work and have a long commute because that is the case where the fuel efficiency causes the greatest benefit.

                You could go further and make the argument that electric vehicles *enable* people to live farther from work and still afford the energy while simultaneously giving them the benefit of feeling good about their lifestyle.

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            • middle of the road guy August 20, 2015 at 10:53 am

              You are right. I can carry much more stuff in my car.

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        • invisiblebikes August 20, 2015 at 9:38 am

          Your ignoring a trend of conservation coming from other sources and other states (with Money) are converting quicker than Oregon.

          My brother in law owns a home in southern California, has a pool and hot tub to maintain, large 3000 sqft lay out and has to run A/C at least 60% of the year now.
          he installed full Solar roof about 6 years ago, he has two electric cars that get charged and used every day.
          Not only has he not had to pay an electric bill for the last 6 years, he gives electricity back to the grid and gets credit from the utility Co.

          Solar, wind and hydro will easily take over for fossil fuel as the Utility companies are forced to catch up with technology, along with pressure from federal and state governments also catches up with demand.

          The true issue is that Oregonians are so set in their ways of anti spending and anti taxation that they’ve caused the governmental gridlock the same as the traffic gridlock that’s coming, until that changes we will continue to be left behind by the majority of other western states.

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          • 9watts August 20, 2015 at 9:48 am

            “Your ignoring a trend of conservation coming from other sources and other states”

            Solar power is not conservation. It is called fuel switching. And I am well aware of it. One trouble for us up here in normally cloudy Oregon is that we have a winter peak (we use the most electricity in the winter for heating). California’s grid peak coincides with the sun’s intensity as they use more air conditioning so solar works better for them not just in terms of load following but load balancing.

            As for the prospects of renewables to power our transport infrastructure, I start here:

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            • invisiblebikes August 20, 2015 at 10:20 am

              Your missing the point of the trend, Electricity is a commodity and is traded and managed as such.
              As the majority of western states convert to renewable energy and more self sustained energy which more than just California will be forced to do as they face major issues with environmental living conditions. The entire western grid will be forced to catch up with technology.

              you’ve really got to think outside the “bubble” of Portland and remember that a large portion of our state is arid and can easily use solar and wind energy through out the year, which Portland will benefit from. Also We are still in the very early stages of renewable energy sources, there is a lot of technological advancement to come.

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              • 9watts August 20, 2015 at 11:07 am

                “large portion of our state is arid and can easily use solar and wind energy through out the year, which Portland will benefit from.”

                Explain where you’re going with this. We produce and consume the renewable power over in Central Oregon?
                If you want to send it over here we need transmission capacity to get it over here. I suspect we’ll see lots of this. But my larger point is that the challenge of simultaneously doing all of this in a very short window is utterly fanciful. Ramp up total electricity production to encompass the transportation sector. Ramp down/eliminate fossil fuels as fuels out of which we make electricity. How do you propose to accomplish this, and on what time scale?

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            • middle of the road guy August 20, 2015 at 10:54 am

              So what? It still has a positive impact.

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              • 9watts August 20, 2015 at 1:51 pm

                You mean solar PV?
                It depends. Over what time frame? What lifestyles does the promise (or even the practice) of renewables shore up? Whom does it serve? Who benefits, who loses?

                None of these thorny questions, by the way, adhere to conservation, the idea invisiblebikes started with.

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        • jeff August 20, 2015 at 10:19 am

          you live in an energy rich piece of the world. BPA has so much they sell it to other states.

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      • Tom Hardy August 19, 2015 at 6:12 pm

        From where I live I can daily count the percentage of the out of state cars going on major arterials too and from a major shopping area. Nearly 20% are from out of state and nearly that number are also ESL. A large percentage are employees at Intel or their families. Very few have more than one person in the car unless they are kids. Projections of up to 1.5 million moving into the greater Portland area in the next 3 years are pretty close. None of the new people ride bikes. The reason being where they came from bicycles were their primary transportation. Mini vans are their primary transportation now.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) August 19, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      Opportunities, yes; outcomes, maybe.

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  • Adam H. August 19, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    I see the fact that we’ve hit peak highway capacity as a good thing. State and local agencies (ODOT, Metro, etc.) have stated many times that there is no way they’ll be expanding highways any time soon. Sooner or later, people are going to be demanding better ways to get to work – and that includes light rail and bikeways.

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    • Adam H. August 19, 2015 at 1:24 pm

      And ODOT does seem to at least understand induced demand, so there’s that.

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      • q`Tzal August 19, 2015 at 8:14 pm

        Yes, they’d like to induce some more demand.

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      • Doug Klotz August 20, 2015 at 12:27 am

        Except that I saw the Oregonian article that quoted an ODOT guy giving these figures, and he was using them to argue that we needed more road capacity. ODOH!

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        • Adam H. August 21, 2015 at 12:40 am

          That’s just the typical Oregonain spin. In the KATU article, they interviewed the same guy (Hamilton, spokeperson for ODOT) and he explained induced demand and recommended that people take public transport or ride their bikes.

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          • Dan August 21, 2015 at 1:34 pm

            Ha! That article quotes a woman who says she drives 7 miles from SE to downtown, and that it takes her an hour or more.

            Ride a bike and get there faster!

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    • nuovorecord August 19, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      Oh, I wouldn’t get too comfortable with that position if I were you. There is plenty of pressure to widen I-205 and OR217. ODOT would do it in a minute if they could find the funding. And don’t think they aren’t trying.

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      • Adam H. August 19, 2015 at 3:07 pm

        That bill already died in committee mainly due to the highway expansion provisions. We need to put pressure on Salem to push a strictly non-car transport bill (i.e. bikes and bus/rail). This will benefit people who have to drive as well, since more trips by bike/bus/rail means less people driving and less traffic congestion.

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        • nuovorecord August 19, 2015 at 3:11 pm

          I wasn’t referring to the bill at the state level.

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          • Allison August 19, 2015 at 3:35 pm

            You think Congress is going to suddenly start sending money out again?? When?? That’d be great, I’ve got a few things I need…

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        • jeff August 20, 2015 at 10:27 am

          Its a hell of a lot easier to build housing next to employment centers in this city than it is to build transportation infrastructure. Not needing new transportation sources in the first place is a lot cheaper. People who commute long distances to work need to start realizing their choices aren’t really sustainable in any way and our worthless city government needs to start quickly and actively promoting livable, cheap housing now, for both our infrastructure/transportation issues, our homeless issues, our environmental issues, etc. Our city council is completely worthless when it comes to addressing it all. Vote them out until we find someone who will.

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          • Adam H. August 21, 2015 at 12:52 am

            I feel like our region does a decent job at TOD (look at Orenco and Intel) and more housing is being built downtown near offices. But not everyone has the luxury of living where they work, especially the poor. Low-income people are increasingly being forced into car-dependent neighborhoods who can’t afford the cost and upkeep of a private automobile. Building housing near employment centers is part of the solution, but a robust public transport network is vital as well. Plus, it’s not just about getting to work. People need to grocery shop, see friends, drop of kids, etc. and frequently need to leave their neighborhood to do so. Better to make those tripe by bike or train/bus than by driving alone.

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      • wsbob August 19, 2015 at 5:58 pm

        “Oh, I wouldn’t get too comfortable with that position if I were you. There is plenty of pressure to widen I-205 and OR217. ODOT would do it in a minute if they could find the funding. And don’t think they aren’t trying.” nuovorecord

        I think there’s less and less public will to do what would be necessary to, for example, widen Hwy 217. Some elements of business want to take the task on, but I’m not so sure the broader public is receptive to the idea. Look closely along 217 next time you travel it: part of the reason why is clearly evident; lots of businesses already built up along that road.

        It has seemed in past that sufficient support for the mythical Westside Bypass would develop, but anymore, there may be less support for ideas such as that as well. Hopefully, people in our area are learning from lessons having occurred elsewhere in the country. Are we in the Willamette and Tualitan Valleys, prepared to allow the heavily traffic congested conditions of major metropolitan areas elsewhere in the country, be expanded in our area? With any luck, no.

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      • rick August 19, 2015 at 10:41 pm

        It would take $1,000,000,000 to widen highway 217. They’d also need to stop the highway numerous times to build an all-new bridge over Fanno Creek.

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        • Adam H. August 21, 2015 at 12:56 am

          And that one billion would be wasted as soon as those new lanes fill up with even more people driving.

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          • wsbob August 21, 2015 at 1:37 am

            A key congestion problem plaguing Hwy 217 is ‘outflow restriction’. That is, motor vehicle traffic is backing up because the destinations to which traffic exits from 217, are not equipped with road infrastructure of a capacity sufficient to handle traffic volume exiting from 217.

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            • Adam Herstein August 21, 2015 at 10:11 am

              That just means that 217 is too wide.

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              • Eric Leifsdad August 21, 2015 at 9:24 pm

                Lay down some jersey barriers and we’ll have a nice bikeway there. Traffic is at a standstill at nearly every exit anyway.

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    • J_R August 20, 2015 at 7:51 am

      I don’t think we’ve hit peak highway capacity; we may be close, but there will be some additional highway expansions. However, we’ve clearly not hit peak “roadway” capacity. Many of our minor arterials, all our neighborhood collectors and our local streets could accommodate additional traffic. Especially local streets. Doubling or even tripling the volume on local residential streets easily within their capacity. Livability will suffer. Pollution associated with accelerating and stopping will increase. Local streets will be less safe for pedestrians and bicyclists. There is lots of “unused capacity” on local streets.

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      • Brian August 20, 2015 at 9:15 am

        I think you just convinced me to move towards the Coastal Range.

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  • Roger Geller August 19, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    This is the same type of analysis indicating that if we don’t reduce our drive alone mode split, then we’ll need 23 more Powell Boulevards to maintain a steady state. That analysis is found here: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/452524

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    • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      Growth, man! Growth is the root of all these problems, at least as much as the automobile is. When will we accept this? Stop incentivizing, rewarding, requiring growth?

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      • Allison August 19, 2015 at 3:35 pm

        …what’s your plan? Issue visas to Californians?

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        • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 5:59 pm

          I’ve identified a variety of possible ways to tackle this here in the past. Intervening in cross-border movement of people isn’t something the Interstate Commerce Clause even permits at this point (if I understand it correctly), but there are many ways we can tinker with the built-in incentives, subsidies, enticements that currently reward inmigration and growth of all varieties. Just having the larger conversation about whom growth serves and who is negatively affected by it and whether we as a community want to continue to subsidize it would be a huge improvement over the present fatalistic attitude many here exhibit.

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          • Eric Leifsdad August 19, 2015 at 9:41 pm

            Require drivers to pay their way and growth will regulate itself, especially where it’s causing the most problems. Gas tax, parking, congestion charge, tire tax, higher registration fees, stricter emissions testing, etc.

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      • soren August 19, 2015 at 4:45 pm

        growing “up” (density) makes a car-centric lifestyle increasingly difficult. moreover, a large increase in density is arguably the most effective thing we could do to reduce our environmental impact (absent population reduction).

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      • Adam H. August 21, 2015 at 12:58 am

        Growth is not inherently bad – especially considering we have an urban growth boundary. When all those new people bring their cars is when problems start. We need to build out a robust protected bike lane and light rail network while charging far more for parking to discourage people from driving everywhere.

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        • 9watts August 21, 2015 at 7:31 am

          You may be forgetting that driving isn’t the only thing that additional people do. Growth isn’t inherently bad. But exponential growth is inherently unsustainable, cannot physically be maintained for very long before you run out of space, resources, energy. This is simple physics. We’ve pushed the limits for a couple of centuries, and now the game is up. The sooner we face this music the easier it will be to change course. Postponing that day of reckoning is a fool’s errand.

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          • Adam Herstein August 21, 2015 at 10:13 am

            We still have plenty of developable lane within the UGB. We’ll have to densify even the suburbs. Plenty of cities around the country and world manage to pack more people in a smaller space than Portland does.

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          • lop August 21, 2015 at 11:03 am

            The carrying capacity of the earth is not static.

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            • 9watts August 21, 2015 at 12:52 pm

              You’re right.
              The idea of Overshoot suggests that the carrying capacity has been declining.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) August 19, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      Yes, this was definitely inspired by your research! I linked in the post to our earlier coverage of your 23 Powell Boulevards concept. I should credit this more explicitly, however.

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  • wsbob August 19, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    I didn’t read it except for the headline, but within the last couple weeks, the Oregonian did a story about Portland area highways having reached rush hour capacity.

    Motor vehicle congestion on major highways and lower scale streets is a major problem cities likely aren’t going to be able to build their way out of by way of somehow making more road space for motor vehicle travel. How much of any communities land area should it reasonably be advised to devote to motor vehicle travel, beyond what they have already provided?

    Not that motor vehicle travel will necessarily widely fall from favor, except perhaps for some of the relatively long distance (compared to bike commuting.) daily motor vehicle use commuting. Short distances, off peak hours, for many people in a range of situations not suiting them for bike travel, motor vehicle use is wonderful.

    Definitely though, it seems to me that cities in our area ought to be carefully planning, informing their public, and budgeting for the design and realization of better than simply bike lanes, biking infrastructure on key routes within their city limits, between homes, employment, services and recreation.

    Distancing the noxious aspects of motor vehicle use from routes useful or essential for practical bike travel, could do lots to address problems posed by practical limits to certain types of increase in motor vehicle use.

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    • dan August 19, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      Note that even in highly congested cities like Tokyo (which has great transit), Bangkok, and NYC, people continue to drive, even though the driving experience there is substantially worse than here in Portland. I think we have a long ways to go before congestion is so bad that people turn to other modes.

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      • soren August 19, 2015 at 5:16 pm

        private vehicle use ordered by urban density:

        PDX: 60%
        nyc: 33%
        tokyo: 12%

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        • hat August 20, 2015 at 7:31 am

          I think it’s important to note that, despite Tokyo’s large number of bikes (and different driving culture), the infrastructure for bikes is not that great. What both NYC and Tokyo have in common is excellent trains, and increasingly pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. Congestion only goes so far. For a lot of reasons Metro gave only lip service in considering a MAX for the Powell-Division project.

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          • jeff August 20, 2015 at 10:31 am

            pretty much. anyone who has visited those cities knows the train systems are what keeps that whole place moving.

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  • SD August 19, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Driving alone to and from work is similar to throwing all of your recyclables into the landfill. Yet, cyclist commuters who have cut back on their use of road space and non renewable energy are often characterized as a needy special interest group.
    Human perception is fascinating.
    Is it cognitive dissonance, in that motorists who could bike find it easier to view people riding bikes as an entirely separate group rather than bikers being someone who is a lot like them and is making a better choice?

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    • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      “motorists who could bike find it easier to view people riding bikes as an entirely separate group rather than bikers being someone who is a lot like them and is making a better choice?”

      Cue the Cleveland ‘We’re All Drivers’ campaign?

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    • wsbob August 19, 2015 at 5:43 pm

      “…Is it cognitive dissonance, in that motorists who could bike find it easier to view people riding bikes as an entirely separate group rather than bikers being someone who is a lot like them and is making a better choice?” SD

      I think there’s a growing awareness among road users that people on the road biking during business days, aren’t just playing hooky from work or training to fulfill their athletic aspirations. It’s an increasingly known thing that people increasingly regard bikes seriously, as a way to get to work, school, shop, etc.

      Biking doesn’t hold a greater mode share in our area than it does, likely because from a practical standpoint, community design including road infrastructure, does not sufficiently support biking as a mode of practical travel.

      With the exception of holidays, every single Monday through Friday during rush hours, for example, looking down onto Hwy 217 traffic from the Cabot St overpass, is bumper to bumper stop and go traffic: all motor vehicles. As to local traffic congestion conditions, that’s a very powerful statement.

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  • Buzz August 19, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    I’m voting for ‘this is what happens when your *bicycle friendly* city attracts scores of newcomers from other cities where driving is the primary and often the sole option’ – these people move to your city and just keep driving…

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    • Chris I August 19, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      We have a winner.

      Silver lining: perhaps eventually, some of these people will see the light?

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      • AndyC of Linnton August 19, 2015 at 2:14 pm

        I like those “Welcome to Portland, now get on your f@^king bike” stickers.
        I want that on billboards.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 19, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      If I recall, that phenomenon is what happened to Davis during the run-up to the 2008 crash. So many Bay Area folks were moving into the area to gobble up “cheaper” houses they brought their driving habits with them and changed the political and street-level dynamic in Davis.

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    • Allison August 19, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      The growth in population didn’t result in a growth in drivers – which is the more likely scenario, those are all previously-driving, portland-native cyclists or some significant portion of the newcomers are cyclists?

      My office, for good or ill, is filled with cycle-commuting transplants.

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    • Joseph E August 19, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      Our family moved to Portland from California in 2010 and became car-free. Most of our car-free and car-light friends had moved to Portland from other states during the 2000’s or 2010’s as well.

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      • Chris I August 20, 2015 at 7:13 am

        Yes. Portland still attracts more cyclists than the average city. I think people are noticing a shift, though. A higher percentage of recent transplants seem to be driving more, at least in our perception.

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    • Mike C August 19, 2015 at 5:50 pm

      ding ding ding.. i think we have a winner. I’ve noticed a big uptick (my own perception completely) of residents and visitors who do not even consider biking or Trimet an option. They have grown up with cars, always used cars and cannot even fathom how they would get from point A to B without a car.
      Automobile use will have to be disincentivized far more than it is now for behavior change to come to these folks.

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  • LC August 19, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Welcome to South Seattle..

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    • Huey Lewis August 19, 2015 at 4:17 pm

      It’s New California. Dude.

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      • Huey Lewis August 19, 2015 at 4:22 pm

        A comment with the C word requires moderation?

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        • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 6:00 pm

          nope, it is the word d.u.d.e. that tripped the switch. I’ve run into it too.

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          • rachel b August 20, 2015 at 3:22 pm

            🙂 HAHA!

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          • Dan August 21, 2015 at 1:37 pm


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  • m August 19, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Cuts in bus service along with large fare increases was also a factor.

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    • Allison August 19, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      Glad to hear you say that… Portland’s rightfully proud of it’s high Choice Transit User ratio, but we’ll lose it if service deteriorates.

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    • AndyC of Linnton August 19, 2015 at 4:07 pm

      True. This does factor in a lot, I believe. I can personally stand a fare increase, but if I actually have no bus service, I cannot very well use it, fare increase or no.

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    • Mao August 19, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      I did some quick math a few weeks ago to decide if I should ride my bike at 7am to commute 7 miles away, buy a pass daily for 5 bucks, or buy a monthly pass for 110.

      I’ve saved over 250 dollars just on this. Also save an hour each afternoon on the return trip. This is the kind of thing that should be advertised.

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  • rachel b August 19, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    This is just personal observation and therefore highly subjective, but it seems like we attract a very different population now than we did in the early 2000s. More moneyed, more car-centric (not just as wheels but as identity objects and status symbols), more trend-oriented, less concerned with conservation and treading lightly. Very interested in getting out, going to the latest restaurant, festival mad, and yelping/tweeting about it all, on the spot. In the past it felt like we attracted a lot of makers of things, or wannabe makers of things (music, yarn art). 😉 Now it seems like we attract a lot of wannabe tastemakers of things, modern day amateur curators/reviewers, eaters: extroverts. They like to go out, a lot. And they drive everywhere.

    These people don’t give a crap about bikes or biking. I don’t think you can talk them into it or cajole them into it or bribe them into it. So I’d suggest the City just set hard and fast policies that shut down personal car ownership and use and make it necessary to take mass transit, cabs, bike, walk or share a car to get around. With personal automobiles gone, we’d have all the space in the world for mass transit and biking and ped paths and plenty of on demand shareable vehicles (a la SmartCar). With all the money we’d save on cars and the damage related to cars, we could subsidize safe, reliable and easy transit for lower income folks. I think people would be amazed at how pleasant it would become to get around. It’s something we’re all going to have embrace eventually. Too many people, too many cars. Might as well do it sooner rather than later. Lead, Portland–lead!

    A lot of folks would be attracted to a city set up in this way, or at least ok with it (esp. if they were assured transportation will be available and reliable for them, living out past SE 122nd and needing to get to Beaverton for work, i.e.). And these are the people we want to attract. We can set the standard, be bold and clear about it. And then individuals can decide if they want to move here and live within that standard, or move someplace else that’s more in line with their own ideals.

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    • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      = gentrification?

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      • rachel b August 19, 2015 at 2:42 pm

        Well, that ship has already sailed, unfortunately. And I think it evens the playing field at least a little to ensure equal (and excellent) transportation options everywhere–farther out as well as close-in. A major crippling factor for lower income folks who have to live farther out now is that their transit options suck and getting to and fro is thus inordinately expensive/inconvenient/time-consuming. With good transportation ensured, there’s a big freeing up of time, money and worry that might (ideally) then be spent on beautifying and improving the community where you live. Good transportation options would make living there less onerous, for sure–would make all the difference in the world. I’d personally choose to live farther out if our city was set up w/ cheap, easy mass transit and easy biking/walking. I’m not a people person and the press of humanity gets to me.

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    • Huey Lewis August 19, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      I want to say Rachel, that I couldn’t agree more with your first paragraph. Portland is not the Portland of 10-20 years ago. Of course. And I like a lot of things about 2015 Portland. But dang, I really wonder about some of the people that move here and what they thought of Portland when they were thinking of moving here. What I think of when I think of here versus what the outsider view must be can’t be the same thing.

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      • rachel b August 19, 2015 at 5:38 pm

        Hi Huey–the scariest thing is that its not even the Portland of four years ago! Two years ago! A month ago. The rate of change has been so swift and headlong. I never thought change could accelerate at the rate it has here. And I don’t feel like the City has a handle on it, either, which worries me further. Portland does feel like it’s being made over to reflect the ideals of the newest transplants (sorry to generalize, all you decent hard-working biking newcomers). And development just churns along, as though infrastructure/air quality/congestion etc. are problems that are somehow going to magically solve themselves while people keep arriving in droves, straining all systems further.

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    • soren August 19, 2015 at 4:37 pm

      opposition to density helps maintain and/or promote car-centric transportation policy.

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      • rachel b August 19, 2015 at 5:26 pm

        Hi soren. Confused! Nothing I said supported a car-centric transportation policy.

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        • soren August 19, 2015 at 7:39 pm

          there is a near linear relationship between urban density and private vehicle mode share.

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          • rachel b August 20, 2015 at 1:17 pm

            Density does discourage auto use….eventually. But only after we cram as many cars and their people in as possible and choke the air and destroy roads and anything that gets in the way of the increasingly desperate metal horde. I’d rather cities set firm policy and make city areas purely mass transit/cabs/freight/car sharing/biking/walking/skateboarding areas.

            We disagree on the ideal scale and intensity of density, I think. I’m not anti-density. Too much and you make a hell and destroy quality of life, though. In my opinion we’ve crossed that tipping point in Portland, which lacks the skeleton upon which to affix a major metropolis. I’m for smaller, self-sustaining denser communities in addition to those in cities that can truly handle more people. Why can’t we stay small? And by small, I don’t mean itty bitty. You know what I mean.

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      • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 6:04 pm

        This is absurd. Jeg used to say these things, too. Why so binary?

        After all, Portland’s density has, I suspect, increased of late. So have it’s emissions, and the air quality is hardly better, nor is the congestion. So right here we have ourselves a situation that is much more muddled and complex than a density good; all else bad kind of assertion would allow.

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        • soren August 19, 2015 at 8:13 pm

          a rounding error.

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          • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 8:38 pm

            Here’s how I see this problem, and the role of density in solving it.

            The world is full: too many people, too much consumption, too much entitlement on the part of rich elites (us).

            The familiar embrace of density as a policy goal is understandable but is out of phase with the problem, and by shifting the focus to the margins worsens our overall predicament. More people, whether densely housed or spread out over large areas, will in almost all cases consume more goodies, goodies in increasingly short supply, not to mention their increasingly uneven distribution.
            While there is some unsurprisingly salutary relative resource consumption benefit to density over it’s opposite, a focus on density distracts from the larger, and far more pressing matter of how to power down, wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

            If our world could absorb another billion, our region another million, then by all means let’s embrace density, shuffle things around to make the most efficient use of the limited space we have. But everything I know tells me we have, collectively, been living in Overshoot for a generation or perhaps even longer. We would need several (5?) planets if everyone were to live like we do here in Multnomah Co. But we do not have five planets, and so talk of density without these qualifiers, without this context is foolish talk. Pursuit of density just papers over the fact that we have waited too long to expect any smooth landings at this point.

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            • soren August 20, 2015 at 10:30 am

              dense urban areas have among the lowest rates of population growth — and this is especially true in the developed world. and even in the developing world, urban areas facilitate access to family planning and reproductive health services.

              focus on density distracts from the larger, and far more pressing matter of how to power down, wean ourselves off fossil fuels

              how so? from my perspective, density can only help wean ourselves off fossil fuels because it decreases demand.

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              • 9watts August 21, 2015 at 8:37 am

                “density can only help wean ourselves off fossil fuels because it decreases demand.”

                This is familiar but I think we have waited too long to pursue this course, rely on this logic.

                Let me ask you this. If we agree that we live in a full world; that we’re in overshoot; that our present patterns of consumption overtax the planet’s capacity to generate soil, clean air & water, not to mention energy, then what is gained by delaying the day when we concede that more people only makes all these problems worse.

                The embrace of density is like the pursuit of energy efficiency: it is a ratio, and as such elides the need for a cap.

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          • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 9:15 pm

            Here’s how I see this problem, and the role of density in solving it.

            The world is full: too many people, too much consumption, too much entitlement on the part of rich elites (us).

            The familiar embrace of density as a policy goal is understandable but is out of phase with the problem, and by shifting the focus to the margins worsens our overall predicament.
            More people, whether densely housed or spread out over large areas, will in almost all cases consume more goodies, goodies in increasingly short supply, not to mention their increasingly uneven distribution. While there is some unsurprisingly salutary relative resource consumption benefit to density over it’s opposite, a focus on density distracts from the larger, and far more pressing matter of how to power down, wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

            If our world could absorb another billion, our region another million, then by all means let’s embrace density, shuffle things around to make the most efficient use of the limited space we have. But everything I know tells me we have, collectively, been living in Overshoot for a generation or perhaps even longer. We would need several (5?) planets if everyone were to live like we do here in Multnomah Co. But we do not have five planets, and so talk of density without these qualifiers, without this context is foolish talk. Pursuit of density just papers over the fact that we have waited too long to expect any smooth landings at this point.

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            • Talus August 20, 2015 at 9:14 am

              Amen, 9watts.

              What breaks my heart is that I don’t see a meaningful response to this reality coming any time soon. Most folks won’t voluntarily give up their consumerist lifestyle until forced to by sudden and extreme scarcity issues.

              I moved to Portland (from San Francisco, no less) in 2008 because 1) I could ride my bike to work here and not fear getting run over by a bus 2) I could choose to “live small” here without feeling social pressure to build my income / constantly increase my level of consumption and 3) because for a long time now climate models have suggested we’ll at least have water in the decades ahead as the rest of the country depopulates.

              When I run into autodependent newcomers who say things like “driving is my personal choice” or “I have to drive, my job is out in Beaverton” I get their perspective, but then I wonder why they even moved here in the first place – to me what differentiated Portland was that it seemed to be moving towards being less car-centered.

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              • jeff August 20, 2015 at 10:39 am

                oh please, you’re part of the problem. Ask any native.

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              • soren August 22, 2015 at 1:49 pm

                I find it amusing that 9watts is arguing about the need to reduce growth with a bonafide climate refugee. (Welcome to PDX, BTW!) Absent a Trump-style wall surrounding Portland, this region is going see a huge increase in population in the coming decades.

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            • Beth August 20, 2015 at 9:32 am

              Now, can we please finally have an intelligent, respectful discussion about consciously slowing population growth? Please?

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              • 9watts August 20, 2015 at 9:33 am

                I’m ready any time.
                I have tried to initiate this when it seemed apropos, but I seem to always get rather few takers.

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              • soren August 20, 2015 at 10:18 am

                I’m definitely interested, 9watts. I give to Population Services International based on research conducted by “The Life You Can Save”.

                PSI estimates that with the services they provided in 2012, they added over 35 million years of healthy life and provided protection against unintended pregnancy for 21 million couple years.


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              • Martin August 21, 2015 at 12:58 pm

                I chose not to create any children and adopt instead. I think that is the most impactful personal choice one can make to reduce population it’s associated problems like carbon pollution. Makes the choice to bike vs drive an electric car a drop in the bucket.

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              • soren August 22, 2015 at 1:40 pm

                Your choice is laudable and impactful but the cost of few meals out can help prevent multiple unnecessary pregnancies in the developed world.

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    • wsbob August 19, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      “…A lot of folks would be attracted to a city set up in this way, or at least ok with it (esp. if they were assured transportation will be available and reliable for them, living out past SE 122nd and needing to get to Beaverton for work, i.e.). …” rachel b

      Could you point to one small community within Portland city limits, where such values and lifestyles have gained hold?; where people with decent paying jobs are living and working in the same area, and commute back and forth by means other than personal cars.

      Commute activity along Moody Ave, the tram station, bike parking, and the OHSU facilities may be an indication of one such example of this happening. Comparatively more bikes in that area, but would be hesitant to presume they represent anything approaching a majority of people working either on Moody or up on the hill.

      Typically, the trend still seems very much to be, that people getting a decent or good paying job, make a lot of effort to get away from the community in which their work is located, and they’re willing to, and expect to, be able to drive their personal car to do it, even if that involves many minutes and hours inching along in traffic on the freeways to do it; highways 217, 26, I-5 for example.

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      • rachel b August 20, 2015 at 12:50 pm

        H wsbob! If the system doesn’t exist yet, then how could I point you to an example here? I was speculating. We’re agreed that, at present, people will cling to their cars like limpets. I maintain that if they (esp. those living farther out) were offered safe, reliable, convenient alternatives, at this point of tearing-your-hair-out commutes, they would (many of them) gladly take them. Many already are, but are frustrated with the lack of service and safety. At present, the best examples of Portland communities/areas voluntarily opting out of autos and into biking/walking/mass transit/car sharing–despite the lack of “safe, reliable and convenient,” my Utopian vision–are indeed the close-in neighborhoods.

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        • wsbob August 21, 2015 at 11:24 am

          Isn’t what you’re referring to, the kind of thing it’s hoped the east Burnside bridgehead will come to be? Or the south waterfront area along Moody, surrounding the tram station?

          West of Portland in Washington County along the light rail line, Orenco was one one of the first communities I believe was designed with some idea in mind that a work-live-recreate population would coalesce there. Doesn’t seem to be strong data though, that a majority of people living in those areas, stay within them for work and recreation; more indication that a majority commute to and from.

          Ongoing thought: in Portland, large, perhaps majority percentages of the population with average or better than average income, want to live where? Apartments of condos in the Pearl, the bridgehead or South Waterfront? Or a tract or custom house out in the burbs or less dense lands of the counties? In our area, the latter, I expect, even though it involves substantial daily time spent in the increasingly comfy cozy environments of personal cars.

          For many years throughout its history, NYC has trains to trains to facilitate the daily migration of commuters between the burbs and downtown, which for people of some means and aspirations of a better than average place, is comparatively much more hectic…and expensive to live in than the burbs.

          Don’t know much about it, but South Korea may be an example of a place where high speed train systems have been developed to utilize the countries’ pool of low income labor by providing them with an efficient means of commuting from far outlying suburbs and rural areas into town. Too poor to own cars and drive. Roads maybe couldn’t handle the traffic volume anyway.

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  • MaxD August 19, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    This is a great article, and I really appreciate you highlighting the mix of transit, bikes and walking as providing a solution. Imagine road diets that replace a travel lane with a bike lane and a parking lane with streetcar!

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  • m August 19, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    “With personal automobiles gone…”

    Sorry, but this is Utopian BS.

    Cars aren’t going away in our lifetime. Yes, there may be more electric cars and more automated cars, but cars are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Instead of focusing on sticks, the better approach is to focus on carrots: encourage people to bike more by giving them SAFE alternatives. Car free bike roads and protected lanes are the answer. The Sunday Parkways crowd wants to bike more. They just need safe alternatives like the Sullivan’s Gulch Trail and more protected bike lanes. Silly stuff like the work on Williams ain’t gonna do it.

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    • 9watts August 19, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      “Cars aren’t going away in our lifetime.”

      How can you be so sure? If there weren’t a chance of this would we even be having this conversation/

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      • middle of the road guy August 20, 2015 at 11:00 am

        oh, the whole personal freedom thing this country was founded on, for one.

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        • 9watts August 20, 2015 at 1:18 pm

          Except when my personal freedom to keep driving comes up against your personal freedom to breathe and eat and drink in the future, for one. Limits, absolute limits, are when it gets interesting. Without limits, in a frontier setting, none of this matters much because I can usually just get away with doing whatever the hell I want, the others be damned.

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    • rachel b August 19, 2015 at 2:56 pm

      Hi m. Utopian, sure. BS, no. I’m talking about Portland–not the world at large. There are plenty of examples of cities where people have naturally opted not to drive because of the pressures inherent in driving in congested cities. We wouldn’t be eliminating all cars. When I mention shared cars, those are…cars. I don’t expect taxis to go, either. Freight will still need to be moved.

      A mammoth task it would be, but with the writing on the wall and the complete dunderheadedness of everyone owning their own personal gas-burning vehicle in this day and age of 7 billion + of us, I’m all for extreme measures. We need extreme measures if our roads here are over capacity and stalled and we’re expecting another million on the way and our infrastructure is a crumbling pile of poo–right? If the auto industry could kill streetcars in a day…

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    • Brian Willson August 19, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      Our lifetime is not very guaranteed for long when examining all the ecological feedback loops interlaced with the average rise in global heating, rapidly heading toward more than 2 degrees Centigrade, perhaps 4 degrees. At these temperatures life becomes uninhabitable. The poles already reveal temperature rises of more than 20 degrees. If we are not able to radically change our thinking, then our behavior in the next few years, or this year even, especially relating to our addiction to King car culture, we speed up our race to extinction THIS century, perhaps before 2050. No kidding. It is tough to be Honest when considering the consequences we are facing when examining the alarming trends. But if we not willing to be honest, who are we, and where is our integrity?

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  • WAR August 19, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    I love how the only two solutions were tightly packed robot cars or increasing taxes and destroying buildings for wider roads.

    Lets be real. Self driving cars wont fix anything. We would still be getting run over when the car has to make the choice to save the passenger or the “person in the way.”

    Maybe you should work at a car dealership in sales?

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  • paikiala August 19, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    What political will in Salem would there need to be to permit a city to toll state roadways?

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty August 19, 2015 at 4:00 pm

      Actually, it would be more productive to toll every road except the major roadways. Completely unfeasible, but at least the incentives to have drivers stay off the local streets would be aligned properly.

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      • Joseph E August 19, 2015 at 5:19 pm

        That’s not really necessary. Anyone who wants to drive more than a few miles will eventually need to get on a state highway. All of the fast routes out of the metro area, and all the main routes into downtown, are either bridges, state highways or freeways. Hwy 30, 43 and W 99 (Burnside) are the big non-bridge commuter routes, and they are State highways. The only exceptions are W Burnside, Cornell, Terwilliger and a couple of curvy streets in the SW hills. You could also put a decongestion cordon on Burnside and Cornell, and just add traffic calming on the routes thru the hills to prevent cut-thru traffic. 14 toll locations in total would be needed to cover 99% of the traffic into the central city, west of the Willamette. Add 6 more toll locations on the other river bridges (Columbia and Willamette outside of downtown), and 20 tolls would cover all of the long-distance traffic thru the Portland area and most commuters. It probably would not be necessary to put tolls on other roads, though perhaps the Washington county freeways would be another place that could benefit from reduced congestion.

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    • Joseph E August 19, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      I believe this would also require permission from the Federal government. Even though Oregon owns all of the State roadways and the interstate highways in the State, continued federal funding comes with some strings attached. On the other hand, the feds recently started a pilot program to allow tolls on more interstate highways. I believe the federal DOT would approve a tolling plan, if ODOT made a congestion-pricing plan for the Portland metro area, including tolls on the local bridges as well as on the interstate and State highway bridges and passes into town. But our local politicians have not shown much stomach for tolls as a way to pay for infrastructure and reduce traffic, so far.

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      • paikiala August 20, 2015 at 8:45 am

        Agreed. This is why, when carpool lanes are considered, new lanes are added instead of existing lanes being converted. There needs to be a change in Federal law.

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  • mikeybikey August 19, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    Traffic congestion has a negative effect on cycling and transit too. It makes it harder to cross busy streets. It means that you have to either cycle aggressively or sit in traffic on streets w/o proper infrastructure. It makes bus trips too long or too unreliable to be competitive options. All of these things add up to make non-car based travel less competitive. I would wager that if we continue down the path towards scenario one, the outcome will be even worse than the assumed constant mode split.

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    • Allison August 19, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      Much of the congestion they’re talking about is on freeways. It gets shoved out into the grid but usually by then it’s diffuse and goes on the (scary) arterials first. It’s not fun (I ride down Water Ave where the I-5 exit spits people out) but it doesn’t slow you down much. If there’s a bike lane, I breeze right past the long lines of cars. The only time bike traffic gets congested in my experience is on mixed use paths during special events.

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  • J_R August 19, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    The decline or stagnation in automobile traffic volumes in recent years appears to have been a “dip” akin to the early 1970’s rather than the start of a long-term trend during which the automobile heads toward extinction. The “dip” is exactly what I predicted.

    I think that what we’re going to see now is an increase in the number of hours of congestions. “Rush hour” will extend to 3 hours or more and we’ll see lots more traffic on our side streets, including neighborhood greenways. We’ll see more red-light running, more speeding as motorists seek to make up for lost time. We’ll see more road rage and we’ll see more, not fewer, fatalities. All highly undesirable.

    We’ll also see somewhat fewer vehicle miles of travel per capita and more “linked trips” with multiple destinations. We’ll see an increase in internet shopping and telecommuting. Overall, I rather expect that we’ll see an increase in traffic that is only slightly less than the “worst case scenario” described in the article. I fear that we’re all going to suffer and bicyclists, pedestrians, and people who enjoy “livable” neighborhoods may suffer the most.

    The only ways I see to avoid that dismal result involve substantially increasing the costs associated with private auto travel. For the short-term, that would be a massive increase in the gas tax. Mid-term, a carbon tax or maybe a vehicle miles of travel tax. Long-term, it’s a congestion tax. It’s not going to be pretty and it’s not going to be easy.

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    • wsbob August 19, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      “…The only ways I see to avoid that dismal result involve substantially increasing the costs associated with private auto travel. For the short-term, that would be a massive increase in the gas tax. Mid-term, a carbon tax or maybe a vehicle miles of travel tax. Long-term, it’s a congestion tax. …” J_R

      Won’t do it. People got to eat and provide a roof over their heads. They won’t like it, but to provide themselves and their family a living, they’ll pay whatever such costs are foisted on them. And the streets will continue to be just as congested.

      Improved community design though, could at least help people that are interested in getting to where they need to go by ways other than motor vehicle, practical and enjoyable ways to do it.

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      • J_R August 20, 2015 at 6:31 pm

        Absolutely, people will prioritize their expenditures and their trips to make certain that they can get to work and buy food – essential trips. With higher prices, they will make adjustments to eliminate or reduce the non-essential. Some will shift to other modes; some will shift to other destinations. Citizens of the US have much higher miles per capita than those of other countries where prices are higher. The lesser per capita travel in European countries proves absolutely that higher prices will work to reduce fuel consumption and distances travelled by auto. The economic term is elasticity of demand.

        With some exceptions, people’s desire is not to drive, but rather to accomplish what they seek (work, products, services, entertainment, socialization, etc.) The change we need to make as a society is to stop treating the travel, especially single-occupant motor vehicle travel, as desirable. Unfortunately, we not only treat driving of motor vehicles as desirable, but we also subsidize it.

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    • soren August 19, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      increasing the time of travel is also an effective way to discourage car use. road diets, a moratorium on road/highway expansion, and reductions in parking capacity all help increase the “time” cost of driving.

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      • Eric Leifsdad August 19, 2015 at 9:31 pm

        diverters diverters diverters diverters

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      • Martin August 21, 2015 at 1:08 pm

        True, but why spend money to install diverters or traffic devices to slow down traffic when we could gain money by taxing driving itself.

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  • younggods August 19, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    I’m wondering with all the increase in car use when the air is going to get dangerous? Walking and biking around town I’m constantly smelling exhaust fumes. I’d like to see Oregon to establish much stricter car emissions standards.

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    • ethan August 19, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      Pretty soon, smog will prevent us from seeing Mt Hood. It makes me very, very, very sad to know that these people are ruining our air so much and lowering our quality of life.

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    • rachel b August 19, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      Our air quality’s never been as good as generally thought. But certainly getting much worse. I used to be a so-so asthmatic. This past two years toppled me over into full on gasp and wheeze.


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    • Bald One August 20, 2015 at 9:59 am

      Exhaust fumes are a problem – #1 air quality issue in Portland Metro area.

      Salem’s failure to institute new gas tax is a major disappointment.

      Salem’s new experimental program for fuel tax to be paid by the mile instead of as a gas tax has the potential to be a boondoggle for gas-guzzling vehicles (a F-350 will pay the same in annual fuel taxes as a Prius assuming they drive the same distances).

      Salem’s continued reluctance to curb diesel emissions by adopting California’s new rules on heavy truck standards will not soon change. Their refusal to hurt “small business” by viewing most truck drivers as “small business owners” who can’t afford to upgrade their 1980’s rigs is just a slap in the face to every air-breathing Oregonian. This needs to happen and the costs for new equipment upgrades to these truck drivers will get passed on to the consumer.

      As congestion in the Portland area continues to increase, more and more heavy truck operators will look for surface streets to operate their pollution rigs on their around town jobs. So, those of us on bikes can expect to suck more black smoke from these trucks. Congestion from cars provide the other, invisible half of the air quality problem: unseen benzenes, heavy metals, nitrous oxides, etc.

      My legislators in SE Portland, although generally I support them, are not very interested in directly addressing these “environmental” and air quality issues, in favor of focusing on more vogue issues like social justice and economic growth. They are a further disappointment and show what a ridiculous political hot potato simple things like air quality can become when politicized (e.g. clean fuels initiative).

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      • rachel b August 20, 2015 at 3:20 pm

        Well said, Bald One. Hear, hear.

        “As congestion in the Portland area continues to increase, more and more heavy truck operators will look for surface streets to operate their pollution rigs on their around town jobs.”

        This is happening right now on 26th Avenue. The increase in heavy truck traffic in even the last couple of months has been startling. That’s why my heart sank to hear ODOT suggesting removing the bike lanes and ceding it to the unsafe, speeding, stinking cars and trucks.

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        • rachel b August 21, 2015 at 12:26 pm

          Hear, hear!
          Go, Gov. Brown! Hiss, AF&PM!

          “Three groups are suing Gov. Kate Brown and state environmental regulators to block the rollout of Oregon’s clean-fuels program….The challenge was brought by American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers — a Washington, D.C.-based coalition that represents some of the world’s largest oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Shell and BP — as well as American Trucking Associations and the Consumer Energy Alliance.”

          Considering the ridiculously sky-high hidden subsidies the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers et al are receiving from us all already, my heart does not bleed for them. Also, life and the ability to breathe > than cheaply transported goods, in the end.

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  • Andy K August 19, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    Great article!
    I feel bad for the “drive alone” crowd that is convinced it is their only option.

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  • Randy August 19, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Step one: get a mayor who understands more cars = more pollution = more healthcare costs

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    • q`Tzal August 19, 2015 at 8:15 pm

      I want someone who will directly tie reduced road maintenance costs and increased road safety to more effective public transportation.

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  • Eric August 19, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    I worked at OPB when I first moved to Portland. I worked with a lot of native Portlanders, or people that had lived in Portland for a decade or more. The vast, vast majority of them drove alone to work. Yes, the plural of “anecdote” is not data, but it’s my experience that Portlanders have highly favorable opinions of transit and biking, but mostly drive.

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    • rachel b August 20, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      I’m sure this is true! When there were a lot fewer people here, it was much, much easier to drive. I’m one of those ‘natives’ who–once the people poured in and our roads became impossibly congested–opted to ditch the one economy car my husband and I shared. Two years + now and I haven’t missed it at all. I’m a fortunate snot who lives close-in w/ great options for alternatives, though.

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  • Joe Rowe August 19, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    Great article. Thank you. This is the same message I painted on my car. Kill bikers and we drive.


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  • Jeff Bernards August 19, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    At my age, the decision to move to a walk able, great transit and bike country is looking better all the time. It will be 20 years till Portland solves this problem and I don’t have the time to wait. Good Luck with all this, your gonna need it.
    Jeff- loving it in Slovenia.

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    • Robert Burchett August 20, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      Nothing about e-bikes? (;-)

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  • rick August 19, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    What do people expect when ODOT and Wash Co. funnel $45,000,000 into the Helvetia Road / Highway 26 overpass project instead of fixing crash corner in Raleigh Hills by SW Scholls / BH Highway / SW Oleson?

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  • Andrew August 19, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    One thing to keep in mind if scenario 3 happens to come true… Similar to building more lanes on a freeway, the potential exists for ‘induced demand’. If traveling by one mode becomes easier and more convenient than another, then the mode share would go up. In the case of lessening congestion, capacity is essentially added to the freeway network. Road diets are great for roadways that aren’t grade-separated and limited access. But a ‘highway diet’ would be a much different story.
    Paying the true cost for the privilege to drive would get more people out of there cars faster than you can say ‘nipple wrench’.
    The US oil industry is heavily subsidized for some odd reason, they seem to have enormous profits. Cheap gas will keep people driving and keep people buying needlessly large vehicles.
    Driving in Europe is incredibly expensive. I was in the UK and it was 1GBP/L… at the time the pound was nearly 2:1 against the dollar so that worked out to nearly $8/gallon. If that doesn’t keep people out of cars I don’t know what will.

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  • Ted Buehler August 19, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    Folks, Scenario 3 is very impressive.

    The Oregonian did a story on increased car congestion last week. You can bet that civic leaders took note.

    If you want to see Scenario 3 become Portland’s future, you need to let people outside of the BikePortland comments section know about your wishes.

    Start by emailing your elected officials a .jpg of Scenario 3 with a link to this BP article, and say something like:
    “This is the Portland I want to live in — let’s prioritize active transportation!”

    Start here:
    Steve Novick, Commissioner responsible for PBOT

    Charlie Hales, Mayor

    Ted Buehler

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  • dan August 20, 2015 at 1:14 am

    Average speed of vehicular traffic in the metro area (freeways+surface streets) ordered by urban density:

    PDX: 36 mph
    NYC: 26 mph
    Tokyo: 15 mph

    See, anyone can put out numbers with no attribution 😉

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  • Mike Quiglery August 20, 2015 at 6:09 am

    Have patience. The Big One will eliminate Portland’s car and congestion problem for decades, if not forever. Let Mother Nature deal with it her way.

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    • paikiala August 20, 2015 at 8:48 am

      6 months to a year, at most.

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    • Chris Anderson August 20, 2015 at 9:57 am

      We can start planning now to eg, not rebuild I-5 and turn it into valuable central city waterfront real estate. Who’s idea was it to pave that area in the first place?

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      • paikiala August 20, 2015 at 11:50 am

        Perceptions of right and wrong naturally change over time as more knowledge is gained. Some ideas you consider sacred will be ridiculed by your great grandchildren. Those who supported the construction of freeways did so for reasons they believed to be correct. The increased safety of such roads and expansion of commerce have certainly benefited those of use who have come since then. Some of our decisions today will also have unintended consequences.

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  • Eric August 20, 2015 at 9:46 am


    I know one thing for sure. I HATE SITTING IN TRAFFIC. So I ride my bike as much as I can to/from work. If road capacity increases and congestion is temporarily relieved, I believe it will encourage more to drive that new “faster route” and bam! we are back where we started with congestion, just now on newer, nicer roadways. Induced demand.

    I have not seen bike congestion from induced demand be an issue on new bike infrastructure. But it would be cool if bike traffic started to become a prevalent issue. Its a win-win.

    I do hope that 50 or 60 years from now, our grandchildren (or whoever) will look at us in amazement and say “You used to drive a $35,000 4,500 lb gasoline burning car by yourself to work EVERY DAY!? and sit in traffic for hours each day, looking at your Facebook feed on your ancient iPhone!? Wow, that sounds really dumb Grandpa”

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  • middle of the road guy August 20, 2015 at 11:02 am

    Well it sounds like we have new incentive to build the CRC!

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    • dan August 20, 2015 at 7:43 pm

      I wouldn’t even build it with your money 😉

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  • invisiblebikes August 20, 2015 at 11:02 am

    The reality is the entire population of the US is growing and it has been predicted as such for decades.

    if you really want to improve congestion then positive incentive is the way to go, all the negative (borderline Misanthropic) attitudes coming from the so called native Portlandians that like to Spew here will only single out and force them (portlandians) out of Portland. (which wouldn’t bother me a bit!)

    Along with Safer streets and safe and complete bicycle infrastructure, Oregon needs to incentivize the people who drive to change their habits, not beret them because they drive single occupancy, people have many valid reasons for having to drive and the majority of them are safe drivers.
    If we give them very positive incentives to only drive when necessary and chose to drive efficiently we will easily jump out in front of the rest of the country.

    Positive incentives could be;

    -trade in/trade up to more fuel efficient vehicles with tax incentives
    – increased emission controls like C.A.R.B in California
    – big electric vehicle incentives, again California dominates this with a huge tax incentive for buying an electric car.
    – ride share incentives like gas credits or employment credits
    – Tax incentivat the leading edge of bicycle infrastructure we should have many financial incentives for people that commute by bike!

    And just simple positive reinforcement towards drivers to make changes to their driving habits. Make people feel good about even the smallest changes and be positive and inviting to people that are uncomfortable with change.

    There are many reasons for people to commute by bike but have you ever listened to the reasons not to commute by bike? Really listened?
    #1 reason I hear time and time again is Fear, not inconvenience but fear of being hurt. Its not even that they fear it will happen but just the looming possibility of being hit by a car.
    The Fear outweighs the majority of other reasons by a huge margin and until we confront that… we’ll just keep treading water.

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    • Eric August 20, 2015 at 11:46 am

      Completely agree. When I lived in Brooklyn, I had a bike for, oh, about 5 minutes. Between nearly getting pancaked between two trunks, and a livery cab driver who felt it was necessary to goose me on a wide Bushwick street going home one night (with front and back lights!) I gave it up.

      Portland is better than that (drivers here are A LOT more polite, despite the general attitude in the comments sections here) but I still don’t know that I would feel comfortable biking around the city. So I take transit.

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      • AndyC of Linnton August 21, 2015 at 12:31 pm

        You should try biking on a Sunday or find a person near you who bikes to bike with to work/school or whatever errands. After a while, at least I’ve found, when you get more and more used to riding, the fear will diminish and the joy will accelerate. It might not ever be the most idyllic ride, but you might be surprised how much joy you could gain from it. Plus, depending on where you live, it can more often than not be faster than public transit.
        Anyone want to be Eric’s bike buddy?

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        • anna g August 21, 2015 at 12:35 pm

          whre does eric live and work ?

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          • Eric August 21, 2015 at 6:21 pm

            I live downtown, but I work from home. So I’m not adding any congestion, of any kind! 🙂

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    • Martin August 21, 2015 at 2:00 pm

      Yes but all those positive incentives cost $MONEY$. Should the money come from schools or should it come from a higher gas tax? I’m all for positive incentives but when the issue of how to raise money for them comes up, I say why not fund the carrot with the stick?

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  • Jayson August 20, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Parking charges and neighborhood parking permits will certainly help in discouraging car ownership, particularly for all the new apartment building residents that have sprung up along frequent transit routes in the city. I think we’re already well on the path of seeing this trend cut short. Of course, real improvements to bike and transit infrastructure (separated bus and bike lanes outside of general vehicle lanes) would be a huge help to move to scenario 3.

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  • Robert Burchett August 20, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Carpooling is taken as a constant, not even increasing with population? Dude! If you’re having a war on congestion, or pollution, or SOVs, there’s your low-hanging fruit. I’d trade my share of so-called bike infrastructure for some comfy car sharing wait stations, some industry incentives, a Metro-sponsored website for matching drivers and riders, what else?
    –This from a car hater. Ban cars, OK for me! But meanwhile, fill some empty seats. I think you could fix the congestion on I-5 N with a $10 million investment in carpooling. At least you could study and plan the heck out of it.

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    • Robert Burchett August 20, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      And, I care about congestion on I-5 N because, if that goes away, NE 7 is a neighborhood street, MLK gets unstuck, grass grows on Rodney, and finally dude, N. Williams starts to work.

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  • Robert Burchett August 20, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Confirming that the D-word sends your comment to moderation. Heehee.

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    • Pete August 20, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      Yes, “Driver” is a four-letter word here. 😉

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  • B. Carfree August 20, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Congestion can have a silver lining. An earlier post noted that PDX has only 16% of all trips being done by other than a car while congested L.A. has 25% of its trips being car-free. As congestion increases, people will naturally look to faster ways to get around. Sure, most of them will use public transit where it is available, but increased congestion may be the key to PDX finally moving past 6% on bikes.

    It’s a pity that we will have all the other not-so-silver aspects of congestion like road rage, toxic air, noise pollution and roadway deaths.

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  • Rich
    Rich August 20, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    There is no question that we need to keep improving our cycling infrastructure – more connectivity, protected bike lanes, greenways in towards the central city. The cost of improving cycling per rider is a small fraction of doing the same per driver and the quality of life is much improved.

    But even with these improvements, some people won’t ride until cycling is made a little easier. Europe and Asia are expanding bike modal share with e-bikes. Carbon footprint is still a minuscule share compared to single occupancy vehicle. With much of our electricity coming from hydro, e-bikes have about 1.5% of the carbon footprint of an SOV.

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  • AndyC of Linnton August 21, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    (Simply subscribing to followup comments via the button- keep forgetting to check it)

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  • Randy October 2, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Ya’ll remember: Congestion is a euphemism for significant air pollution. No clean air = no cycling

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