PBOT adding full-time staffer to help implement Vision Zero projects

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(PBOT graphic)

The City of Portland is continuing on their march toward Vision Zero.

After City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the concept back in June and followed it up with a spirited kick-off event last month, they are now hiring a full-time staffer to help make it a reality.

The Transportation Safety Program Specialist position will pay between $59,000 and $79,000 per year depending on experience and qualifications.

Here’s the official job description from the City’s jobs page:

This Transportation Safety Program Specialist position will join the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s safety team and assist in the implementation of the Bureau’s Vision Zero effort. The Program Specialist will be responsible for the coordination and management of small capital projects and operational improvements related to the Transportation Bureau’s safety efforts, with a particular focus on High Crash Corridors, Safe Routes to Schools, and Neighborhood Greenways. The position will coordinate with other Transportation bureau staff including Maintenance Operations, Project Management, and Planning on safety-related capital work. For assigned projects, this position will manage all aspects of project design, development, and implementation, including technical and cost analysis, scheduling, public involvement, project budgeting, and evaluation. This position will assist with the development and implementation of the City’s Vision Zero Action Plan, with public outreach on projects with a Vision Zero focus, and perform other related duties as assigned.

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This hiring move is a very good sign. It means that PBOT is putting money where its mouth is and they’re prepping to actually build some street safety projects.

Remember, there are two things going on around Vision Zero in Portland right now. On one hand we have PBOT who is already working on their two-year transportation action plan which includes Vision Zero-related work. Then we have the much larger effort launched in July to complete a comprehensive Vision Zero Action Plan. That plan should be done by October 2016 and it will engage a broad coalition of advocates, agencies and other partners. The idea is to move the Vision Zero idea beyond just our transportation bureau and into the realms of regional planning, public health, enforcement, and so on.

Stay tuned as we watch how Portland makes good — or doesn’t — on its Vision Zero promises.

— Learn more at the City’s official Vision Zero website or by browsing our archives.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Ted Buehler
Ted Buehler
8 years ago

Sounds like good news. Unless they’re cutting some other program to fund it…

If you want to see more action on the part of City Council, give them a thumbs up for taking this important step forward.

http://www.portlandonline.com/Auditor/index.cfm?a=191877&c=27481

Ted Buehler

Ted Buehler
Ted Buehler
8 years ago
Reply to  Ted Buehler

Commissioner Novick and Mayor Hales are the ones that have the ability to make it happen fast or drag it on.

Tell them “Yes to Vision Zero, No to Vision 289”
http://www.oregon.gov/odot/ts/pages/index.aspx
(289 highway fatalities in Oregon thus far in 2015, up from 221 for the same time period in 2014 — details in right-hand column of ODOT link).

Contact info for Hales and Novick —

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/mayor/
mayorhales@portlandoregon.gov

http://www.portlandoregon.gov/novick/
Novick@portlandoregon.gov

Talus
Talus
8 years ago
Reply to  Ted Buehler

As always, thanks for reminding our echo chamber to take action and communicate with our officials. Much appreciated, Ted.

Chris Anderson
8 years ago

Can we achieve Vision Zero without rethinking our process which is proven to allow any objection to stall progress? I know there are a lot of reasons to be thankful for Portland’s community governance model, but the power it gives conservative parking advocates is not its best feature. Leadership can unite people around a common cause, it would be nice to see that here.

soren
soren
8 years ago
Reply to  Chris Anderson

The opaque “stakeholder” process where a few business participants can effectively veto improvements overwhelmingly supported by the community also contributes to lack of progress.

Allan Rudwick
Allan
8 years ago

Money for planning & administering a program doesn’t equal money for actually putting down physical improvements. Time will tell

J_R
J_R
8 years ago

Great. Just what we need; another manager to facilitate the process along, attend meetings, write reports, receive training, go to conferences, share news bits via the new PBOT Communications Director, liase with the BPOT and PPB staff, make presentations to the BAC, Traffic Safety Committee, and of course make the annual report to the Council.

I’d rather have $150 k spent on traffic enforcement or one rapid flash beacon. (I figure that’s the cost of having a person when one counts in salary fringes, overhead, and the conference and travel fees.)

9watts
9watts
8 years ago
Reply to  J_R

I’m kind of with you, J_R.
Hiring additional staff person = bold not bold

Like Chris suggests above, this really requires a fundamental re-thinking of how we do stuff, how we prioritize funding, who gets dinged, etc. Vision Zero is not new, has been done in other places already. There is no need to take stabs at this with new hires, no need to reinvent the wheel. Why not just copy what cities who’ve successfully proceeded down this path years ago have done/are doing?

Chris Anderson
8 years ago
Reply to  9watts

I think a staff person makes sense, but I hope they see their job as pushing cultural change within the organization, and setting up new expectations of what success looks like. Defend Vision Zero from being siloed. It will take someone with a lot of grit to turn down their own dedicated budget with which to do token Vision Zero projects. If they are willing to fight to ask the hard questions and be the voice of pedestrian comfort and safety when everyone else at the drawing board is shadowboxing with the parking lobby, they could change the planning process and style from the inside.

Ted Buehler
Ted Buehler
8 years ago

I respectfully disagree with ya’all.

Hiring a full time staffer is how things get done in a bureaucracy.

Progress toward Vision Zero not only reduces and potentially eliminates fatalities, it also reduces the number of non-fatal injury crashes. Sure, there’s plenty of ways to derail it. But, progress toward road safety is more easily measured when counting fatalities than any other metric. It’s brutal, gruesome, tragic, and avoidable. It can be derailed, maybe derailed badly, but if it is derailed it’s easy to wave evidence of failure in the face of those that let it get derailed, and tell them we want better.

Regardless of your position on hiring a staffperson, I highly encourage everyone to send their comments to elected officials, whatever your position may be. Let them know you care about the outcome of their efforts, let them know you have opinions, throw out ideas of how they can do things better. Let them know you expect zero fatalities sometime very soon.

The more heat or love they get from constituents, the more attention & $ they’ll put into their decisions.

Ted Buehler

MM
MM
8 years ago
Reply to  Ted Buehler

Absolutely agree with Ted. If you want Vision Zero safety improvements on City streets, you have to have a champion at the City. Someone with a loud, clear voice and power to get things done. You need someone to push for enacting policy. Otherwise, Vision Zero will fall flat.

9watts
9watts
8 years ago
Reply to  MM

A champion, sure. But what makes you think we can expect this person to be that champion?

ODOT hired Jessica Horning for the position of active transportation liaison, but I’m unclear on how much of a difference to the goals implied by the title of her position her hiring has made.
http://bikeportland.org/2012/11/27/meet-jessica-horning-odots-new-active-transportation-liaison-79427

http://bikeportland.org/tag/jessica-horning

J_R
J_R
8 years ago
Reply to  9watts

Absolutely. How can a mid-level staffer be a champion? It takes someone no lower in the bureaucracy than the Mayor, the Commissioner, or maybe the Department Director to be the champion. Steve Novick was the champion for a street fee and that was a miserable failure.

MM
MM
8 years ago
Reply to  J_R

In a bureaucracy you need champions at all levels. I work in a bureaucracy. Trust me. Or don’t. Regardless, I think it’s a great move for the City.

9watts
9watts
8 years ago
Reply to  MM

Sure I get that.
But taking this hiring approach, how long is this going to take? 35 years?

J_R
J_R
8 years ago
Reply to  MM

I worked in bureaucracies, too. Public and private sectors. Absolutely, you need champions at all levels. However, lacking a champion at the highest levels guarantees that the initiative will fail. Simply appointing a mid-level champion is done so that the upper level leaders can point out that they are doing something even when they are not.

Michael Andersen (Contributor)
Reply to  9watts

I realize your statement doesn’t specify who to blame for the lack of change you perceive. But I can promise you Horning is trying. And reading along, for what it’s worth: https://twitter.com/jessica_horning/status/641709032990838784

9watts
9watts
8 years ago

I feel for Jessica Horning. I can’t imagine working in her capacity for an organization that (at least from what we see here on bikeportland) goes out of its way to give people who are not in cars the middle finger every opportunity they get (or, if that is not their intent they are doing a terrible job of communicating what it is they are in fact trying to do). Remove bike lanes on 26th? I laud the creation of positions with titles that sound promising; I just lament that this is the best our agencies appear able to do.

I ask this about PBOT and ODOT here with some frequency: Given the propensity for their statements, priorities, compromises to look crummy from the seat of a bike, why can’t we get someone from those agencies to answer questions directly here on a semi-regular basis? Why would these organizations not be eager to nip our uncharitable conclusions in the bud by engaging with us here? I would love to learn how my grumpy inferences about their work are wrong. I’d like nothing more than to take it all back. But so far I’ve seen rather little reason to eat crow.

9watts
9watts
8 years ago

Rereading it I now see how my comment could have been more charitable toward Jessica. My intent was in no way to diminish her sincerity, her dedication, her work. I was responding to MM who suggested that a new position such as was created by PBOT to advance Vision Zero was somehow automatically going to give us an empowered champion who could make all this happen. I brought the example of Jessica Horning in as a comparison, not of her person but of the way bureaucracies work; that a title, even a promising one, does not in any automatic way lead to a champion at the City. Someone with a loud, clear voice and power to get things done. You need someone to push for enacting policy.

I suspect that both at ODOT and at PBOT there are dozens (probably hundreds) of passionate, dedicated people working to advance the kinds of issues and concerns many of us here at bikeportland have. The problem is that the bits of the priorities and thinking that we see here all too often obscure this work, give a very different and less charitable impression. I’d think that PBOT and ODOT would want to get out in front of the issue, show us how what they are doing is in fact much less depressing than Barbur or SE 28th or Powell Blvd or the Strawberry Lane bridge…
http://bikeportland.org/2015/05/15/odot-says-3-million-project-raise-overpass-18-inches-no-budget-add-sidewalk-143235
http://bikeportland.org/2013/01/08/odot-urged-to-consider-better-bike-access-on-barbur-blvd-bridges-81704

Ted Buehler
Ted Buehler
8 years ago
Reply to  9watts

9watts — you wrote:

“A champion, sure. But what makes you think we can expect this person to be that champion?”

Regardless of what we might expect, we can *demand* that the person be made a champion.

Send the boss an email, say “nice work putting out the job posting, now make sure you hire someone that has the teeth of a bulldog and a heart of gold.”

The outcome is only partly what the job descriptions says. To a much greater extent, it’s what the boss asks the staffer to do after they’re on the job. And what the boss asks for is to a great extend what political winds are blowing.

We’ve demonstrated clearly in the last year that if the bicycling constituency stands up and politely, clearly and articulately asks for reasonable improvements that Hales and Novick are listening and willing to move things forward to one degree or another. (& we’ve also demonstrated in the the previous four years that if people sit around, gripe, and cry in their beer, that not a lot will happen).

Every email, every letter, every comment at city hall, every phone call, etc., will increase their interest in pushing the roadway safety agenda forward. & every time BikeLoud does a die, a memorial or a protest and the TV news crews show up. & every time yet another neighborhood association starts asking for diverters because one of the members starts organizing the bicycling constituents.

&, if we want to up the ante, there’s pro-active things to step it up to the next level. Op-Ed piece in the newspapers, better “get out the vote” campaigns for the diverter open houses (Rodney in July, Clinton this month), getting them positive media coverage for bikes (rather than the thrashing they’ve usually gotten since 2010), more data, etc.

That’s why, even though I wish they’d just get on some of the easy answers like I posted a while back, I think we should give them a solid round of support for holding lots of press conferences and hiring a full-time staffer.

Ted Buehler

Ted Buehler
Ted Buehler
8 years ago
Reply to  Ted Buehler

This is what I posted in Dec 2013, when Novick asked Santa for more $ — I said there was plenty they could do without much $ at all.

Sure I wish they’d just force a culture change from the top, but what’s happening is a good start.

My list for Santa is about 4/5 down the page.
http://bikeportland.org/2013/12/19/novick-asks-santa-for-1-3-billion-for-streets-and-talks-of-per-property-fee-98918

Ted Buehler

Kristi Finney Dunn
8 years ago

I am very happy to report that the Vision Zero Task Force has made known it’s plan to include a victim/family member on the Task Force.