The news this week was full of stories about how Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler were beside themselves about President Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement. They vowed to remain committed to climate change prevention.
Yet both of our local leaders support spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the single largest source of greenhouse gases in Oregon: emissions from cars and trucks.
“The Committee’s approach does not reflect and fairly allocate the full range of costs imposed by different vehicles, and will have the effect of slowing, not accelerating, the shift to low-emissions vehicles.”
— Angus Duncan, chair of the Oregon Global Warming Commission
Oregon has set clear goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, yet lawmakers are putting the final touches on a bill that includes over $900 million in earmarks to widen highways.
The most expensive project that would be funded by this bill is an expansion of Interstate 5 through Portland’s central city. Lawmakers want to spend $338 million on that project alone.
Everything else in House Bill 2017-3 pales in comparison to the resources committed to making it easier to drive personal motorized vehicles. This makes no sense, especially for a state that’s already failing to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. A report by Oregon’s Global Warming Commission released in February found that transportation emissions are the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases in our state. “Oregon will not meet its 2020 emission reduction goal,” the report states. “More action is needed, particularly in the transportation sector, if the state is to meet our longer-term GHG reduction goals.”
The Commission went so far as to recommend that the legislature use the transportation funding debate as a way change course. “Use the occasion to devise and adopt measures that will bring transportation GHG emissions under control and aligned with Oregon’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals,” they wrote.
But that’s not what lawmakers chose to do. They’ve thrown just enough scraps at biking and transit to provide them with media sound bites so they can act like this is a “balanced” package. It’s not.
Experts who are independent of the political sausage-making that has created HB 2017 can see the flaws in the bill very clearly.
Chair of the Global Warming Commission Angus Duncan submitted testimony to the Joint Transportation Preservation and Modernization Committee this week. He said the committee should think twice before adding highway capacity in the Portland Metro area. Here’s an excerpt from his letter:
“Highway congestion results in greater GHG emissions per mile traveled, as vehicles idle or inch forward in heavy traffic burning fuel and releasing emissions. Adding lane capacity is a dubious response, however. Committee Members understand by now, along with the rest of us, the concept of induced demand filling added highway capacity, often on the day the new facilities are opened for use. The Committee should examine carefully the cost-effectiveness of the proposed added capacity at the three major congestion relief targets in the Portland metropolitan area.”
Duncan also said that taxing bikes and charging more in registration fees for electric vehicles isn’t a smart policy. “These higher added costs on carbon-efficient modes of travel are counterproductive and reflect a misreading of relative costs imposed on the system.” Duncan worries that HB 2017 will hasten climate change. “The Committee’s approach does not reflect and fairly allocate the full range of costs imposed by different vehicles, and will have the effect of slowing, not accelerating, the shift to low-emissions vehicles. I encourage the Committee to reconsider these counter-productive signals.”
Joe Cortright, a Portland economist and founder of City Observatory, echoes Duncan’s views. “If we really care about climate change, we shouldn’t spend a billion dollars widening freeways,” he wrote on Twitter this week. And on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud radio show he said the highway widening projects in the bill won’t even reduce traffic.
“In urban areas there’s so much demand for travel – particularly when it isn’t priced — that if you add more capacity, more people drive. And no analysis has been done on any of these projects to show that they would have any measurable effect on congestion in the Portland area.”
Oregon Senator Lee Beyer was also a guest on that show. Amazingly, after Cortright eviscerated the rationale for the highway projects in the bill, Beyer didn’t even bother defending it. “I don’t completely disagree with Joe,” Beyer said, then went on to tell the show host about the bill’s investment in transit and the nods it gives toward a potential congestion pricing program in the future.
No matter how you slice it, Oregon’s transportation funding package isn’t what we need in 2017. Unfortunately, the only climate lawmakers and lobbyists seem to care much about is the political one.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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It’s almost as if you’re surprised that Democrats say they care about the planet yet when it comes down to it, still cave to capitalist gains.
Hold on there! Every republican in the legislature is backing this. It’s not just a democrat thing.
It’s a given.
Oh well at least Hales is breathing fresh air on his sailboat.
Nah, he’s probably running a generator 24/7 and watching his 60″ wide screen satellite TV.
Jonathan, your chart would be a lot more useful to me if you added a line showing our 2020 emissions goals. It would be nice to clearly see how steep the line needs to be in order to do what we’ve committed to doing.
I agree. With the population growth we’ve seen the last few decades, even keeping the overall emissions down is actually a per capita reduction. What are the 2020 goals, and how far off were we?
$338 million won’t buy much highway widening through the central city, and $900 million will hardly dent the state’s needs. Maybe fill a few potholes. Plus, the gridlock will follow close behind. This bill’s a handout to politician contractor pals. Bring on the Big One!
Having lived through a catastrophic disaster (a once-in-230-years-flood rather than a once-in-350-years-earthquake), the Big One will cause more heartache and climate-worsening than anything that any politician can dish up. Aside from the immediate residential natural gas fires and usual damage, the ensuing tsunami will cause the Willamette and Columbia rivers to back up and flood. The emergency will allow local and state governments to suspend various basic laws, not just human rights, but also air quality, taxation, and traffic. To avoid cholera and other diseases commonly related to disasters, most debris will be burned in large pits downwind from the city (rather than shipped to landfills as currently required), hauled by heavy diesel trucks rumbling through the city 24 hours a day. First things restored will be the water supply, railroads, and the interstate bridges, then the interstates themselves, since most people still drive. The state will impose a hefty sales tax which will take voters years to repeal and higher income taxes, by fiat if necessary, to pay for repairs. And you’ll be awake every night, listening to your neighbors smelly gas-powered generators running 24/7, powering their (and Hales’) 60″ TVs, ipads, fridges, and ebikes. Of course, by then you won’t really care, as you’ll be among the 50% who are homeless.
Oh, but they’ll always deflect, and say that electric autonomous cars are just around the corner. No need to build light rail or BRT, autonomous cars will solve all of our problems!
If those autonomous cars prove to be safe (detect and avoid peds and cyclists), and if a clean source of electricity can be provided, perhaps they might work out for us, no? Is it cars we hate or just unsafe, CO2 belching cars?
While they make affect our vehicle-emissions goals (assuming clean power sources), autonomous vehicles carrying one or two passengers won’t put a dent in congestion. In fact, they may increase congestion if owners send them home empty to avoid parking fees or deploy them as taxis when they would otherwise be idle.
It will be great, when it happens. But it shouldn’t be a reason to kill mass transit projects that have been in the works for decades. Not everyone will be able to afford vehicles, and they take up just as much space even if they are autonomous and electric. You don’t see the traffic flow efficiency gains of autonomous vehicles until every single vehicle on the road is autonomous. How many people are going to be willing to send their car to the crusher in 10 years? 20 years? Remember, this is America.
It is very likely that autonomous vehicles will be managed as fleets by “mobility” companies such as Uber and Ford. It’s not the future I’d like, but it seems by far the most likely way these vehicles will be deployed.
If that’s the case, and the price is sufficiently low, mass transit, with its inferior service, will be unable to compete.
There’s still a space issue having so many vehicles on the road, including Apple iCars, those drones taking Fluffy to the vet, and Amazon delivery drones. Mass transit will continue to thrive because it is the best use of our limited street space. However, it may get to the point that only the rich can afford to have an exclusive vehicle, while the rest of us schmucks will have to take various classes of mass transit based upon what we can afford, like taking the train in Europe.
>>> Mass transit will continue to thrive because it is the best use of our limited street space. <<<
Only if people still want to ride it. Since it's not point-to-point, mass transit (as we know it) is inconvenient for most people. That cost has to be offset somehow, either through greater speed or lower price.
Maybe we'll have larger capacity "group vans", kind of like dynamically-dispatched mini-buses, that make stops here and there as needed, but don't adhere to a regular schedule or route.
The thing is, we can sit here an identify a dozen reasons why it can't work, yet the economics are so compelling that a lot of very smart people will be highly motivated to prove us wrong. The only things I'm confident predicting are 1) It will happen; and 2) It probably won't look like what anyone currently thinks it will.
“Maybe we’ll have larger capacity “group vans”, kind of like dynamically-dispatched mini-buses, that make stops here and there as needed, but don’t adhere to a regular schedule or route.”
Such a system is called in transitese a “variable-routing transit system”, as opposed to the fixed-route system that most cities use. Many smaller communities already use such a system – you call up the transit agency telling them where you are starting from and want to get to, a bus makes a deviation and picks you up, then delivers you where you want to go. Same on your return. A bit like Lyft or Uber, but with public buses, usually in rural areas, paid for with money intended for interstates and highways. Already in use in most of the USA, has been for years, generally used by the elderly.
And what do the bottom 10% do for mobility? They can’t afford cars now, and they definitely can’t afford Uber, even with its artificially low rates (unsustainable). I realize that a huge operating cost is the driver, but do we really think that autonomous ride sharing will dip down to $2 per trip (inflation-adjusted, of course)?
I don’t know. It will be an issue, but I’m confident it will be addressed. I’m not advocating for this model, but I see it as highly likely.
Thank you, Jonathan, for this piece!
We read far too little in our media about how climate change is produced, and your piece offers a very useful glimpse. Unfortunately, the OGWC under Angus Duncan’s leadership has failed to come to terms with the severity of climate change, the need to abandon automobility wholesale, leave fossil fuels in the ground, in favor of minor tweaks to the system we already have. The day will come when we will look back wistfully at the missed decade(s), the opportunities to face this music missed.
Actually, the article says nothing about how climate change is produced. It does give a historical record of CO2 emissions (but gives no source so the data can be verified); but does not say how that produces climate change. That would involve quantum mechanics.
Interesting statements from the article:
“And on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud radio show he said the highway widening projects in the bill won’t even reduce traffic.” Then he says: “And no analysis has been done on any of these projects to show that they would have any measurable effect on congestion in the Portland area.”
No one claimed wider freeways would reduce traffic – the goal is to reduce congestion, not traffic, and it will to some degree – study or not.
And then there’s this: “No matter how you slice it, Oregon’s transportation funding package isn’t what we need in 2017. ” As Bill might say, that depends on who “we” is. If you’re a car driver (90% of commuters) then it may be exactly what “we” need. 😉
The science is accepted, and if you want to challenge it, you can do so in the appropriate forums. Whomever demonstrates why climate change is not happening or is a fraud will get a Nobel prize. The Oregonian doesn’t provide data when talking about evolution, as they don’t when they’re discussing climate change. The earth is not flat, even though any idiot can see for themselves that it is.
Actually, the science is not accepted at all. If it were, Hillary would have won and we’d be in a civil war today.
“Actually, the science is not accepted at all.”
The science is accepted in the same way that evolution is accepted. There are still some young-earthers about, but it doesn’t mean the question of evolution is open for debate.
More like 74% driving cars to commute. Not 90%.
Scroll down for interesting info on obesity/commuting.
“If you’re a car driver (90% of commuters) then it may be exactly what “we” need.”
I think you are confusing “need” and “want”.
“If you’re a car driver (90% of commuters) then it may be exactly what “we” need.”
It’s bad enough when we stick to the facts. According to the US Census American Community Survey, the greater Portland metro area ha less than 79% of its commuters doing so by car in 2015 (and not all of those are drivers since some of them are in car-pools).
Thankfully, that percentage is dropping, but at a minuscule rate.
I think the discussion was about “Oregon”, and not just Portland metro. The 90% figure is probably statewide, given the rate is near 100% in many counties.
He was just making up a number. Census data has the statewide driving commute rate at 81.8%, with 71% driving alone. And other survey data (like OHAS) indicates that people drive at even lower rates for errands/non-work trips.
It’s still by far the dominant mode, but statewide driving commute rates have been falling. If we drove at the same rate we drove at in 2000 (85.4%), there’d be another 64,000 drivers on the road every day.
In general, you are correct. West Coast and Northeast states have driving rates well below 90% (55% in NY), while central region and Southern states are usually well above 90%. The national mean is about 83%, about the same as California. What is most interesting to me is the steady rise of people over 16 who don’t commute at all, over 5% in most states, 10% in Alaska – is it e-commerce, or persistent unemployment?
Probably a little of both.
Again we see the effects of entrenched, monied interests in our political process. I think there is some good vision, good energy out there, but we are stuck with maintaining the status quo of previous expenditures and priorities (widening freeways, payback to political donors, etc).
It’s sad, because a better future is staring us in the face.
I attended a community meeting about the Yamhelas Westsider Trail concept plan in McMinnville this week, near my town of Gaston. It would take a rails-to-trails approach to connect McMinnville to Hagg Lake, with the Forest Grove crowd already hoping to connect it to their town and thence to the Banks-to-Vernonia trail. There was such good energy and about a 10:1 proponent:opponent ratio to comments. Think about what could be achieved with some of that $900 million being reprioritized to non-automotive transport…and reinvigorating our rail system.
A better future is ours for the taking, but it remains a daydream to me…
This disconnect is manifest in the OGWC documents as well. The report (like all preceding reports) frames the issue as one for experts to manage; there is never a mention of people, of actions, of anything remotely practical that the public could learn here, could see themselves as constructively participating in solutions. It is maddening. We already know lots of bottom-up ways to tackle this but you’d never know it from reading these reports. Instead of advocating phasing out the automobile or even reducing VMT, we get tepid boilerplate:
“increased transit service levels, and wider deployment of Electric Vehicles”
“The formation of an ODOT Climate Change adaptation work group, and the identification of further research needs and data gaps.”
Maybe they realize that if they started advocating for a phaseout of automobiles, no one would take them seriously. It simply isn’t going to happen. Period.
This is a familiar stance, and of course on a political level self-fulfilling, but like with the sycophants #45 chooses to surround himself with, eventually reality intrudes and you have to adjust your position to the facts.
In the long run we all lose when a group like the OGWC makes political recommendations rather than articulating uncomfortable truths.
Calling for a ban on cars, and reversion to agrarian economy 2.0 will result in exactly zero environmental benefit or change. You’re much better off aiming for something aggressive but achievable.
“Calling for a ban on cars”
There is a difference between saying the days of the automobile are numbered and here’s why and calling for a ban on cars. I’m sure you can see that.
Perhaps this is the time to recall Cassandra. Her prophesies were not believed, but they were true.
I agree that the days of cars are numbered. We just disagree on what that number is.
People need to get through and around Portland also – not everyone stays in a bubble.
There is no commuting on a dead planet
I dunno about that – we’re talking about commuting to Mars, right?
San Fran and Seattle will meet their goals – they won’t die; only Portland dies because we didn’t meet our goals. Just hold your breath as you pass thru Portland on the Freeway at a high rate of speed. Bring an oxygen bottle just in case.
You might want to do the same as you pass through Sacramento, Tacoma, & Everett.
Or as they used to say (maybe still do?) at the University of Spoiled Children (USC), “To get to OSU, drive north until you smell it (Albany Oregon), then turn left until you step into it. (Corvallis)”
Funny that a university located just outside of downtown Los Angeles would have a joke that tries to take a dig at the environmental conditions of the Willamette Valley.
The planet will be fine and will be here a much longer time than Humanity. It’s people who should be concerned.
“People need to get through and around Portland also”
Sure, until the fuel and mode that facilitate this unprecedented level of movement ceases to be viable, and then we’ll be left scrambling to reorganize our lives – having listened to your ill-considered advice. Why not instead read the writing on the wall, figure this out now while we still have a spell of time in which to work out the kinks?
What if all cars were powered by electricity and were zero polluting? Same issue will still exist – people need to get through and around Portland.
You say this like private autos are the only option for getting through and around town…
They’re the most time-efficient in most cases.
“What if all cars were powered by electricity and were zero polluting?”
Those are two enormous IFs. So enormous that it is hardly worth speculating since we’ll never get there. I’m happy to go into why this is not achieveable.
“Same issue will still exist – people need to get through and around Portland.”
There is nothing fixed about this. The term you are looking for is elasticity of demand. People 100 years ago traveled a small fraction of the distances per person that we have grown accustomed to. Soon enough we will be back at those levels. There is nothing automatic about traveling 27.6 miles per person per day on average (or whatever the figure is); it is simply a reflection of how we’ve built up our cities, thrown all our eggs in the automobility basket, etc. Undoing this is not easy but it will happen anyway.
Tell us what can be achieved. Seriously.
“…I attended a community meeting about the Yamhelas Westsider Trail concept plan in McMinnville this week, near my town of Gaston. It would take a rails-to-trails approach to connect McMinnville to Hagg Lake, with the Forest Grove crowd already hoping to connect it to their town and thence to the Banks-to-Vernonia trail. …” ian c
That would be a recreational trail…nice…but not infrastructure that addresses global warming. It’s not going to do what people hoping for years for a westside bypass want a highway for what it can do to provide for people’s day to day travel needs, but that would unfortunately, be likely to junk up the air and soil worse than it already is.
Legislators can’t respond to state residents and taxpayers asking for better and more, roads and highways to be built, by saying ‘Tell you what we’re going to do: Instead of trying to fix up the freeways and roads to reduce congestion a little, we’re voting to build you a really nice recreational trail instead! For less of your money too!
Imagine how that would go over in Oregon. Oregonians are likely going to support building the recreational trail you went to the meeting to learn about, because Oregonians place a high value on natural recreational resources. At the same time, I think it’s rather commonly recognized, that if some really good ideas for addressing the travel needs of people in this state, aren’t come up with, the public may inadvertently at a greater rate than ever before, start to cannibalize the great natural resources, much of which is available for recreational uses, that so many people in this state value.
Avoiding such a demise and still providing infrastructure to meet everyone’s travel needs, is a major challenge. It doesn’t do to insult the intelligence and commitment of people across the state, that are working hard to meet the challenge. We the people of this state, will gain far more by putting heads together, and trying to come up with some good ideas.
In order for any resolution to traffic on I-5 and I-205 to be reconciled I- 5 would need to be widened to 12 lanes each way from the Vancouver bridge through Wilsonville with toll stations at Terwilliger and the bridges and Mall 205. I-84 would need to be widened to 8 lanes each way from 182nd to I-5. 26 would need to be widened to 8 lanes from 405 to Northplanes, with tolls at Sylvan and 217.
Overall Pollution levels in the Portland area would be tripled.
The Trumpet’s would be thrilled!
Why not just round it up to 20 each way?
The left and the right are rotten these days. Big money talks, small issues walk.
Not much of a left these days, at least here in the US.
Now that is true. And the left that is left does not represent itself well.
Actually they represent themselves quite well. We see them every week now rioting, marching and protesting, bawling and squalling about Mr. T, climate change, displaying extreme, often violent, intolerance for opposing opinions, and in general making complete a**es of themselves. Even see them holding up the president’s severed head, stabbing him in plays, etc. They’re doing a real fine job of representing EXACTLY who they are.
They may represent who they are, but not who I am. You declare elsewhere on this page that had Hillary won there’d be civil war. That may say something about who you are.
Bringing up ‘stabbing in plays’ demonstrates your news bias.
“…bawling and squalling about Mr. T, climate change, displaying extreme, often violent, intolerance for opposing opinions, and in general making complete a**es of themselves. …” ivft
Do you mean ‘the sitting president’, the big businessman hotel mogul that obnoxiously puts his name on his big buildings…steals British coats of arms and uses them for his own profit, and that destroys a Scottish wetland and replaces it with an environmentally polluting golf course? Thank god, or anyone that is willing to believe it, that the sitting pres hasn’t done any bawling and squalling or generally made a complete bare backside of himself.
Don’t insult the ‘fine’ entertainment value of the real Mr. T…you know…the tv action adventure hero from 80’s, big, black, with a mohawk and gold chains around his neck, saving the day successfully in every episode.
The people rioting and busting up other people’s property on the street, are no more liberals than the people that took over and damaged public property at the wildlife refuge in Southern Oregon, are conservatives.
Our only hope is Bud Pierce’s term limit measure. These folks (Brown, Wheeler, et. al.), think of one thing, and one thing only….getting re-elected and staying in power. If we can stop the constant re-election of the same old legislators, maybe we can get a quorum that actually believes in real change.
Term limits have been tried in lots of places. Before we tried them here, I’d want to know if they’ve produced more responsive government, or if the constant flush of inexperienced blood just gives lobbyists (who are not term-limited) more power.
California has term limits. The second scenario you describe has resulted.
I would like to see
– Public funding of campaigns, for candidates who qualify by obtaining support from a certain percentage of registered voters.
– Public disclosure of contributions to candidates, easily downloaded in usable format (not a PDF).
– Public disclosure of contributions to every organization that makes campaign contributions, buys political ads, lobbies or pays lobbyists, or contributes to any organization that does the same. In other words, disclosure that allows following the money trail all the way to the individual source.
– Public hearings with adequate notice on all bills in the form in which they are voted on by any committee or chamber of the legislature. No more public hearings called on only 30 minutes notice, no more votes on a bill that has been amended since the last public hearing.
– Legislators paid a substantial salary, so that a normal person without independent wealth can afford to be a state legislator.
– Legislators and their staff, and all state or local government employees above a certain level, prohibited from engaging in lobbying for at least five years after leaving government, and also prohibited from any contact with their prior government agency or bureau for a shorter period.
– Individuals serving on advisory committees prohibited from any transactions with government entities relating to the committee’s work. No more businesspersons getting on committees, advocating for a rule or rezoning or other government action, and then engaging in commercial activity benefiting from that action.
– All data possessed by government to be publicly available, searchable, and downloadable, with narrow exceptions for confidential matters. No excuse that the data is on microfiche or paper, hasn’t anyone heard of OCR?
– No government real property (land and buildings) may be sold without a full accounting and investigation, with ample time for public input. No more selling the $60MM Wapato Jail to a developer for $10MM without knowing what it plans to do with it, and without a full investigation of why the taxpayer spent so much on the supposedly useless facility, which public official was responsible, and why it doesn’t have continued public usefulness (like conversion to a homeless shelter and social services center for 1,000 people, instead of spending $100MM to build a new shelter – surely it won’t cost $100MM to convert Wapato).
Trump has passed your 5 year prohibition of lobbyists at least for some federal employees.
Much of our building codes exist because suppliers and contractors push for this or that rule so it drives business to their company. Same with HOA rules – many of the rules are required by the state because construction companies and lawyers lobbied the legislature to make them requirements: this is particularly the case with required periodic “inspections” by experts – they always find problems and then the construction companies and lawyers get involved and many make a fine living off of it at the expense of the home owners thru constantly increasing dues.
When I do business with government as a private citizen I want it kept private particularly if it is business THEY required and that I otherwise would not want to participate in. For example, tax returns, job applications, concealed carry permit application, drivers license, etc; or anything with personal private data on it such as your name, photo, address, phone number, email, social security number, etc, etc. I would agree that they should make their internal government business transparent.
Agreed. Nice list. The absence of non-biased expertise in the state legislature is astounding. Most legislators are in over their heads and are easily influenced by monied interests.
Add multiple-choice “approval” voting so people aren’t forced to pick one and only one candidate to vote for and instead new and alternative candidates have a real chance of winning or at least making an impact. When a politician only has to be better than their closest opposition and can prevent people from voting for any other option, they get a leeway to do things that voters might not like. Whether it be transportation issues, homelessness or whatever, that’s why we have break downs in our society.
Maine is trying to implement this as we speak. I believe some American cities also have ranked choice voting. I wish we did too.
John Liu, Will you be my governor? Very nice list.
Term limits are always a popular idea, but one thing I’d ask is who can name another occupation where it’s considered a good idea to fire someone simply because they have experience and to hire someone simply because they lack that experience?
Since legislators are charged with making laws, you’d think most of them would be experts at law. But they’re not. A frightening percentage not only have no legal background whatsoever, but they don’t even know how things work. Seriously. So lobbyists that do help them out. Lobbyists literally write a lot of legislation — which the person introducing doesn’t even understand.
After their terms are over, these people are hired at lucrative salaries as lobbyists because they have direct access to key people. So if you think that keeping people out of office simply because they have a chance of getting the experience to be competent keeps outside forces from meddling, you’re kidding yourself.
Fair points, but in what other occupation are you supposed to represent a diverse group of constituents?
I think one of the biggest pluses for term limits for me is that it would give legislatures an urgency to get things (especially things they care most about) done. Also on the federal level it would stop requiring them to spend ridiculous amounts of their time fundraising and running for re-election.
Doctors, Teachers, Police Officers, Fire Fighters, Engineers? Most every other public employee?
They’re supposed to all do things for the public. Not the same as representing them.
I’m not sure why not being able to continue would necessarily instill a sense of urgency since there are no political consequences for failing to act. If it does instill a sense of urgency, it encourages short sighted policies that impose enormous costs on future generations since we can boost spending and cut taxes to pay for it.
Developing coherent economic, public health, public safety, etc. policies takes knowledge and expertise. We maintain this fantasy that anyone with the right character can somehow do this, but they can’t. It takes time to develop that as well as understanding the needs of constituents.
That so many people base their vote simply on whose name is plastered all over the place and a few sound bites from attack ads is a problem. But the solution is not to make sure no one knows what they’re doing because that truly sets the system up to be manipulated.
Because otherwise what is the point of running? For the notoriety? (If you take the chance of a lobbying job on the back end out, seems like most people would be running to actually try to do something).
Well said, no one can support this legislation and claim to be concerned about climate change. If they did, they’d demand the “Cortwright Plan”.
It’s not really true to say highways in Oregon are being widened, because except for various congestion points, they’re not being widened. Miles of highway and freeway, aren’t being widened. Only very short points along certain of them are being reconfigured for better traffic flow. I think this being the case, may be part of the reason Cortwright said, as reported in this story: “…And on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Think Out Loud radio show he said the highway widening projects in the bill won’t even reduce traffic …”.
The traffic congestion will still be there after project completion, though daily commute times may be reduced by nominal amounts…I’d guess five or ten minutes. Look at major commute route highways 26 and 217, west of Portland. How could any conceivably practical to build ‘widening’ of these highways actually be relied upon to increase their daily commute hour capacity by, say…30 to 50 percent? The population continues to increase, and all those people the increases represent, will have daily travel needs they will have to meet, somehow.
In terms of current highway capacity the transportation presumably hopes to increase upon, are any numbers being offered for comparison? As in: ‘present highway capacity numbers of motor vehicles in use/anticipated highway capacity numbers of motor vehicles the projects are expected to provide for.’.
For an example of capacity potential, Hwy 26 between Portland and Hillsboro, may be a fail example. When 26 was initially widened and opened to be used as a freeway, (which I think was around ’55), for maybe 20 years, it offered very fast, congestion free travel by motor vehicle, because compared to to daily use of the road over the last 30 years or so, its daily use was way under capacity. Look at it today:over the several mile distance from Cedar Hills to the Cornell Rd overpass, during commute hours, traffic is virtually bumper to bumper, sometimes moving at a fair pace, but often at a crawl, all the way down to stop and go.
By adding lanes to freeways, traffic congestion will temporarily go down. Traffic will be able to move again with less idling of car engines. This will reduce CO2 output. It will make no difference to AGW in any way – in fact if the USA stopped all CO2 emissions today it would make no difference because the rest of the world isn’t stopping.
Eventually, if Portland population continues to grow and if the economy allows, then congestion will return; but in the mean time, a temporary reduction of CO2 will occur.
Perhaps, between now and when congestion increases, some scientist, somewhere on the planet, will be able to explain in a concise and understandable way how CO2 actually causes warming and make it understandable to people who do have science and engineering backgrounds (but not climate science backgrounds). If you want people to believe a solution is needed, then show that there is a real problem. Don’t just say “97% of climate scientists say there’s a problem”; that will not cut it because of the political motivation many of them have, and because of the hiding and manipulation of data that didn’t fit the AGW narrative and other shenanigans that has occurred in the science community. There is a lot of evidence of AGW, but there is equal or greater evidence that we’re just in a normal earth climate variation.
In the mean time, if you’re a believer, get out there and do what you can to make a difference. Don’t complain and yell and scream and jump up and down and bash Trump. Go out, invent a device or method for people to reduce energy use, or invent cleaner energy that is affordable, etc, or just ride your bike. Start a company insulating homes and windows. Plant a tree or garden. Use beano. 🙂
“Traffic will be able to move again with less idling of car engines. This will reduce CO2 output.”
You are neglecting to notice that in that scenario there are now *more* cars driving down that stretch of highway, free-flowing or not.
Yup. You will notice that those cars are moving at a higher speed, getting better mileage, thus reducing the CO2 used for the commute.
More cars with lower emissions is still more emissions.
That entirely depends on the definition of “more” and “lower”.
This is silly.
Show me a highway widening that yielded reductions in CO2 (for that stretch of highway/region/however you want to define it.
Not holding my breath.
Highway 26. Bumper to bumper stop and go traffic was horrible before it was widened – can’t remember when it happened – 10 years ago? 15? After it was widened, traffic was able to move along nicely. Same number of cars initially but they were able to cover a mile in 1 minute instead of 5 or 10. Thus, less CO2 was belched to move the same traffic. Over time, car numbers increased and now it’s getting congested again.
“less CO2 was belched to move the same traffic. ”
And also convenient that you are using the car as the denominator as opposed to a stretch of highway. The climate doesn’t care how many cars are moving how fast; for our purposes (since we are the ones who are going to be sorry when the climate we’ve grown accustomed to, rely on, is no longer present) the only thing that matters is the total amount of CO2 that is emitted above and beyond the diurnal and seasonal CO2 fluctuations.
Except when induced demand sets in around 3 years, the speeds will go back down but the number of cars will be greater than before. Focusing on widening just digs a bigger VMT hole to get out of in the future.
On top of that, while the freeway got more lanes, the connecting streets did not, so congestion got much worse before those three years at the bottlenecks.
Those “free flowing” 14 lane freeways in LA and Houston definitely pollute less than I-5 in north Portland at rush hour, right? Which one would you rather live next to?
You mean the 14 lane parking lots for 6-8 hours a day?
The Katy Freeway west of Houston has 20 lanes – they all still back up during the 3-hour rush hour.
More naive folks who’ve never heard of induced demand. Our work is never done.
Including nearly every politician I’ve ever met. I’ve tried to explain it to them, but…
Long as population is growing we’ll need more infrastructure to move. In this country we are pleased to be free to choose our method of travel and most choose cars.
“In this country we are pleased to be free to choose our method of travel and most choose cars.”
This is a commonly held belief, but it is not the whole story. I invite you to read Catherine Lutz sometime.
Catherine Lutz. 2014. “The U.S. car colossus and the production of inequality.” AMERICAN ETHNOLOGIST, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 232–245.
Here’s the abstract:
The contemporary world is one of restless mobilities, radically morphing physical landscapes, baroque technologies, new forms of governance and subjectivity, and onerous inequalities. The automobile provides vivid insight into all five phenomena as well as into their relationship. I ask how the car-dependent mobility system of the United States not only reflects but also intensively generates the inequalities that characterize U.S. society. I propose that “compulsory consumption” and the automobile’s centrality to the current regime of accumulation can help account for this. Theories of inequality and mobility, I suggest, can be adapted to account for the automobile industry’s capture of contemporary life. [mobility, transportation, inequality, automobile, regime of accumulation, political economy, United States]
And a paragraph:
“This material allows insight into the several significant pathways by which the car produces or amplifies inequality in the United States and, potentially, elsewhere. I argue that the car system not only reflects inequality but also actively produces it, massively redistributing wealth, status, well-being, and the means to mobility and its power. While declining wages, rising corporate control of the state, and rising costs of higher education and health care are also crucial to these redistributions, understanding the car system’s special and deeply consequential inequality-producing processes is key to any attempt to solve a number of problems. Prominent among the problems that the U.S. car system exacerbates are inequality of job access, rising wealth inequality, and environmental degradation and its unequal health effects.”
“…Perhaps, between now and when congestion increases, some scientist, somewhere on the planet, will be able to explain in a concise and understandable way how CO2 actually causes warming and make it understandable to people who do have science and engineering backgrounds (but not climate science backgrounds). If you want people to believe a solution is needed, then show that there is a real problem. …” dead salmon
Exactly how all of the factors contributed to the planets fluctuating temps over the eons, cant be reliably known. One factor likely contributing to the planets fluctuating temps that can be reliable known, is human activity. People do many wrong things in terms of minimizing contributions to global warming due to their activity on the planet. They chop down the forests, bring nasty stuff up from the deep reaches of the earth, and then release it into the air living things need to get oxygen from. And on and on.
We can’t really say accurately that human beings are ‘causing’ global warming, but we can say I think, that the waste that people are dumping onto and into earth, and into the air, is bad and needs to be at least restrained and as much as possible, eliminated.
Road congestion will be a tough goal to accomplish. Best case scenario: active transportation congestion, rather than motor vehicle congestion. People aren’t going to walk and bike though, or get on any light rail, heavy rail or rapid bus transit, unless those travel systems can be provided sufficient to meet people’s travel needs. Not talking about expendable travel needs like joy riding, cruising, or road trip vacations, but simply day to day getting to work, school, grocery shopping, and so on.
Don’t blame republicans or democrats, they can’t take voters seriously when we say ” Let’s stop climate change” while majority still drive their gas guzzling cars. Use a ton electricity, continue to want and buy inefficient energy appliances. And over consume.
Not quite. You are omitting the concept of leadership.
We obviously could all do more, stop driving, insulate our houses, plant gardens, stop patronizing Amazon.com, reduce our consumption by 90%, etc. But saying that our politicians can’t do anything meaningful because we appear on balance to be such uncommitted slobs isn’t really the whole story.
They point is that leaders won’t get elected (or at least definitely not re-elected) if they try to draw the hard lines that you are suggesting.
So I guess we’re past the days of “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.
Free markets will decide the best allocation of resources for transportation. Rarely does centralized control work efficiently. Not only that, but we are all free to choose to ride bikes, buses, trains, and walk. It’s all good.
“Free markets will decide the best allocation of resources for transportation. ”
This is only true when the ability to substitute as you run out of a key material is given. But our economy is set up around non-substitutable, finite resources. A (free – as you call it) market has no ability to allocate efficiently in a situation like that.
Roads are centrally planned.
OGWC isn’t elected.
If we just appoint people who tell us what we want to hear (like our 45th) what is the point?
True, and they don’t really have any power either (except to make recommendations to people electeds who do have the power, but still need to be elected/re-elected).
I think you are missing 9watts’ point. Leadership is needed, but it isn’t that our elected or appointed “leaders” aren’t responding, it’s more that we ourselves need to take up leadership, that we need to lead, as advocates, lobbyists, appointed representatives, or even become electeds.
Believe me, they take voters very seriously. In fact, voters are the only thing they take seriously. They know that if they crack down on our way of life too harshly, which is what many enviros claim is needed, then that will be the end of their political careers.
Enviros? Who are these weirdos who care about the place where they live?
Those selfish enviros. It’s always “me, me, me”.
I sort of disagree, I think that corporate donors are what they take seriously, with voters a distant second.
“…when we say ” Let’s stop climate change” while majority still drive their gas guzzling cars. …” kittens
You don’t say who it is you think that “…we…” are. It’s definitely not myself and I think, many other people that are concerned about unrestrained use of motor vehicle travel and transport used to provide for so many people’s needs.
With travel structure that communities in cities, counties and states have today, people have to drive, so they drive. They’re not driving instead of biking or walking because, as some people here have dismissively and simplistically said…it’s “convenient” to drive. On the main thoroughfares, highways and freeways, and some of the feeder streets where most of road congestion likely is occurring, it’s not particularly convenient to drive. In fact, driving on those streets generally can be an ordeal rather than a convenience.
What percent of all road users, using with a motor vehicle, the types infrastructure I’ve listed, really have an option to this driving they’re doing, really may have a viable option to meet their travel needs? If the percent were say 30-50, that would seem to me to offer some hope that congestion relief through an increase in the provision of superior biking infrastructure, may be possible.
If more people than do today, had need of traveling less distance daily, that might offer the best hope for reducing congestion on the travel infrastructure. Currently, there is little to no broad vision across the public or leaders among the people, that some realistic concept for enabling daily travel needs of less distance than are typical today, is possible or even conceivable.
I think you are misreading this chart. Transportation is the smallest source not the largest.
No this style of chart is layered like a parfeit, not one mountain range in front of another, so the largest ( thickest) section is at the bottom, that is transportation.
I think you’re mistaken. Left side of chart scales metric tons of emissions. Transportation = 20+ million metric tons
Agriculture = 60+ million metric tons
there is no need to keep insisting on this curious interpretation of the graphic. For the #s, see Table 9 of the report:
Transportation 37%, Res & Comm 35%, Industrial 20%, Agriculture 8%
The value of each band is proportional to the amount of color you see. I hate this style of chart, but it is, sadly, commonly used.
The left side shows the metric tons, yes, but the value is the difference between the top and bottom of each color.
Transportation is 20-0 = 20. Agriculture is 56-50 = 6. Each portion (color) is part of the total, represented by the top of the top color.
It is a way to show proportionality over time, instead of a pie chart for each year.
Thanks for covering the climate implications of the transportation debate.
There’s a great chart people should see which shows how badly off-course we are compared to our transportation emissions goals; I included it in this piece I wrote in February:
everyone complains like it’s the legislation that is at fault, yet they go get in their cars the next day.
If only I could make better transit options appear by not getting in my car.
Can’t you? Ridership numbers help secure funding, which helps pay for expansion of service. On the cycling front (this is a bike blog, no?), there’s that whole safety in numbers thing, not to mention that many of us feel happier cycling around other folks on bikes than we do around other folks in cars, so you may well increase cycling numbers by choosing to ride, which should lead to increased amenities.
It’s a long, slow process at best with no assurances of success, but it still seems worth the effort, at least to me.
Our Cub Scout Pack carpooled in 4 cars this weekend to go hike at Silver Falls. Which of these transit options would you have recommended for our group?
(note: the shortest of these options is 5.5 hours one-way)
Carpooling is great! Way to go, Dan! What sucks is when people drive alone to work for distances under a few miles when there are so many other good options available.
Maybe you’re talking local transit?
I can drive to work in 16 minutes or take the speedy transit option of 73 minutes. Even at that distance, biking is faster for me, and much more enjoyable.
16 minutes for that commute during rush hour? That is a little hard for me to swallow…
16 minutes is faster than my average, but not by much — it usually takes me 20. When I drive in I go at 5:45am when there’s a lot more road capacity.
Find out how many on the global warming committee drive to work in cars. How many in single-occupant cars? Would that be a good campaign commercial or what?
It would be great because like so many political commercials it tries to make a point where there is none to make. I’d use menacing music and a baritone voice-over.
Don’t forget some slow-zooming on grainy B&W photos…
“everyone complains like it’s the legislation that is at fault, yet they go get in their cars the next day.” rf
True that some people make such a complaint, but most people in the state likely don’t hold the legislature entirely responsible for not easily coming up with an acceptable transportation funding package. Providing transportation infrastructure in the state, sufficient to meet travel needs of a public growing in numbers each year, at a cost people can afford, is a tough problem to solve. The public hopes the people they’ve elected to the legislature, can come up with some way to make it all work out, but it’s hard for the legislature to guarantee it can do that.
What are some general options? Some people reading here, obviously believe the form of travel infrastructure, i.e. roads, streets and the modes of travel they’re designed to be used with, ought to be subject to changes to somewhat of a revolutionary departure from what roads and streets are today. In simple terms: far less provision for use with motor vehicles…far more provision for use with mass transit buses, and active transportation, walking and biking. Question springing from cold hard reality: Is the latter…a big re-prioritization from road configuration for motor vehicle use, to active transportation infrastructure instead, actually what the public is expecting the legislature to find a way to providing?
I’d guess most people working everyday at something other than solving transportation infrastructure problems throughout the state, can’t spend a lot of brain power thinking much beyond getting to work and bringing home a paycheck, which so many must do by either driving or riding in a motor vehicle. With the road and street system the state has today, they’ve got to drive, or travel by motor vehicle. Could the people of this state, afford to make the kind of revolutionary change in travel infrastructure that would be necessary, to allow active transportation and mass transit to sufficiently meet the travel needs of a much greater percentage of road users than are using those modes of travel today? That’s the multi-billion dollar question people so quick to find fault with members of the legislature and ODOT should be asking themselves.
If you really want to address climate change hypocrisy, maybe someday you will dare to take on animal husbandry. Carbon reduction would not be noticeable for nearly 100 years while methane reduction will have positive effects within 10-20 years. Please watch Cowspiracy and educate your readers that buying your protein from a different place in the grocery store has a much greater positive environmental result than biking instead of driving ever will, my kids future depends on it.
“Factory farms emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere just as readily as industrial smokestacks and tailpipes. Globally, 37 percent of methane emissions come from livestock production. Methane can trap up to 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a five-year period. But methane is hardly the only damaging gas released by farm waste.
Topping out methane’s powerful global warming potential is nitrous oxide. This gas is about 296 times more potent than carbon dioxide. When nitrous oxide mixes with ammonia, it creates nitric acid, which causes acid rain. Acid rain not only causes statues to deteriorate, but it sucks minerals from soil, destroys forest ecosystems, and can cause massive fish kills.”
And don’t forget the 500 million tons of animal feces produced every year.
This was one of the best pieces Bike Portland has ever done. Thanks!
I’d guess the transportation share of the global warming impact was even higher given that many Oregon homes/businesses are hydro-electric powered.
If only all the people concerned about global warming could unite and kill the polluting, wasteful freeway pork bill.
This transportation funding bill seems to avoid the structural reform in transportation funding that David Bragdon argued Oregon needs do first before making another massive investment in the system:
I think the message to our legislators in opposing this bill needs to reform the beast or starve the beast… but whatever you do don’t feed the beast.
thanks for the comment Jim. That’s where I’m coming down too at this point. Activists should send a message that this bill is bad and not worth supporting — even with the funding that it gives to bike/walk/transit. The debate shouldn’t be about what/how much $$ bike/walk/transit gets; it should be about whether or not the bill takes our state in the right direction for 2017. Does it do enough soon enough to move the needle quickly enough in the right direction? I don’t think so.
Where is it in that Tribune article, that you feel Bragdon’s criticism of ODOT is validated by any example given to illustrate his belief that the state’s transportation agency is not addressing the states’ road construction and maintenance priorities according to public preference?
Here’s a quote from the article that succinctly expresses the interest of the public: “…but most people just know the streets need to be repaired,” says Hales. …” tribune
The bigger part of that quoted excerpt, is about the funding fiasco controversy for the Ross Island Bridge. The salient point though, from the public’s point of view, I think, is that people’s main priority is to have Oregon’s road system be sustained as a viable means of travel and transport, used primarily by motor vehicle. Working to keep this happening, seems to be what ODOT is doing.
Interesting mention at the top of the article: the trib reports that that the last transportation funding package failed in the legislature because of greenhouse gas figures ODOT submitted as part of a compromise package to the low carbon fuels bill, admitted had problems…however…the transportation agency’s objective with its figures in support of the public interest, was to reduce greenhouse gasses. It appears the package failed because oil companies and Republicans put their feet down and stopped the bill that would have helped to reduce greenhouse gasses:
“…The last transportation funding package died after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown was unable to negotiate a bipartisan compromise, in part because Oregon Department of Transportation officials admitted their greenhouse gas emission projections were faulty. The compromise had been put forward as an alternative to the Low Carbon Fuels bill the Legislature passed but which oil companies fiercely opposed. Republicans insisted the Low Carbon Fuels standard, which pushes the state to use more alternative vehicle fuels, must be scrapped if they were to support new transportation funding. …” tribune
WSBOB… Bikeportland.org’s beloved and reliable contrarian….
ODOT isn’t just maintaining and “repairing streets.” That’s the point. ODOT has been and continues proposes to propose new freeway lanes that we can’t afford to maintain and won’t “solve” congestion.
ODOT is biased towards engineering (socially and physically) large scale mega projects rather than the diffuse human-scaled solutions we need for the 21st century.
And that’s a particular problems since the bulk of transportation funds are arbitrarily allocated through ODOT. That was part of Bragdon’s other point: our antiquated laws arbitrarily allocate transportations funds by a dump equation: 50% ODOT, 30% to Counties and 20% to Cities. This is in part what leads to situations in which people in Multnomah County pay for freeways mostly used by people in Clackamas or Clark Counties.
I personally think we’d be better served by devolving more transportation funding to local communities. It is local communities that are in a better position to address the problems of health, safety, and social inequity that are increasingly exacerbated by the outdated transportation funding priorities that put the majority of resources into facilitating ever more single-occupant vehicle mobility.
It’s time to invest in infrastructure that can work beyond the vehicle and beyond a driverless vehicle. More lanes will never solve anything. With thousands of commuters coming into Portland every day for work or entertainment, one solution to really challenge car culture is through the development of a high speed rail system that serves the whole region from Eugene to Vancouver B.C. Modern countries have it and are investing in it because it works. The max is nice (but unsafe and inefficient) and it won’t save time for people coming to the city from Vancouver or Tualatin, which is a true challenge to our congestion. High speed rail could transport thousands of people per hour from Vancouver in just 6 minutes, while it would take only 11 minutes from Tualatin to get to the Rose Quarter.
Washington is investing a in a feasibility study for HSR, California is making it happen. It may take time, but with the right public / private partnership it can work. C’mon Oregon, think ahead.