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Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio is very skeptical of congestion pricing

Posted by on September 12th, 2019 at 12:29 pm

ODOT Assistant Director Travis Brouwer (left) and U.S. House Rep. Peter DeFazio at the hearing yesterday.
(Photos: C-SPAN)

It’s not easy to make an Oregon Department of Transportation official sound like a progressive on any transportation issue; but that’s exactly what U.S. Congressman Peter DeFazio did at a House Transportation Committee hearing in Washington D.C. yesterday where the veteran lawmaker’s skepticism around congestion pricing was on full display.

“You can’t just price people off the roads and say, ‘Hey, we solved congestion’.”
— Peter DeFazio, U.S. Congressman

A panel of experts and electeds from around the country offered testimony and answered questions from lawmakers at a House Transportation Subcommittee on Highways and Transit hearing titled, “Pricing and Technology Strategies to Address Congestion on and Financing of America’s Roads.” Among the panelists was ODOT Assistant Director Travis Brouwer.

Brouwer’s presence wasn’t a surprise since Rep. DeFazio chairs the committee and Oregon is actively working a tolling program. ODOT is also considered an innovator when it comes to road pricing. We passed the nation’s first gas tax in 1919 and ODOT has made significant progress on their pay-by-the-mile pricing program. What was a surprise was to see the stark contrast in their opinions.

In his opening remarks and during a tense exchange with Brouwer, DeFazio made it known that he’s not a fan of congestion pricing. This is despite the fact that ODOT and the Oregon Transportation Commission are currently working with the Federal Highway Administration on how to implement a plan on Portland-area freeways and the idea of pricing roads enjoys strong support from regional elected leaders.

More spending on infrastructure is what DeFazio is most well-known for on Capitol Hill. His proposal is to raise gas and diesel taxes and bond against the increase to create new revenue for projects. “We haven’t adjusted the gas tax since 1993 and it’s embarrassing we can’t do it,” he said at the hearing.

What’s notable about DeFazio’s position is that he believes the cure to congestion is to build more infrastructure that gives people options to avoid it; but he appears to be very skeptical of using congestion pricing to raise the money to pay for those projects. Listen to how he frames pricing at the end of his opening remarks:

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“Now, we’re going to hear some things today, you know, you’re going to say, congestion pricing. Congestion pricing with what kinds of alternatives for people? You can’t just price people off the roads and say, ‘Hey, we solved congestion’. That person doesn’t set their schedule to go to work and they don’t have a lot of options. Unless you build sufficient options you can’t just price people off the road.”

He then referenced tolls in D.C. that can reach $4.70 cents a mile and said, “That’s not even a ‘Lexus Lane’, that’s a chauffeured limousine lane. Who can afford that?!”

DeFazio continued:

“Some of the legislators and mayor of Portland have decided, well, maybe we ought to just toll parts of our freeways. But of course it isn’t even going to be like a HOT [High Occupancy Travel] lane. No one is going to have an option. You’ll either use it or not use it. What about diversion? What about people who have to go from the east side of Portland to the west side of Portland to Intel to go to work? Sorry, it’s going to take you two hours or it’s going to cost you a bunch of money you can’t afford.”

Instead of pricing, DeFazio wants more federal investment in infrastructure and he’s also a huge fan of “smart technology”. He made several references to “smart” traffic signals during his remarks (and since there are no signals on freeways, it was kind of an awkward point).

The exchange between DeFazio and Brouwer came later in the hearing when the congressman asked about how the public would react to tolls.

DeFazio:

“What kind of public acceptance do you think that’s going to have? And how high do you have to price it to get to your targets to reduce congestion?”

Brouwer:

“Our initial analysis shows we are at a point of hyper-congestion on the Portland system where we have so many vehicles during rush-hour that our system is breaking down and through-put collapses. Our consultants have told us if we move a relatively small number of vehicles off the system at rush-hour it will flow much better and we can actually see our throughput increase greatly.”

DeFazio (with a dismissive tone and body language):

“So you think there are a lot of people optionally umping into the curves, in backed up traffic, they’re not doing that because they have to get their kids to soccer or to work at a certain time? It’s just people who decide who go out and therefore they won’t come anymore and they’ll change their schedule? You think there are enough people out there optionally that that’s going to solve this?”

Brouwer:

“I think there are a relatively limited number of people who are in that situation; but if we can move a few of them off… We did opinion research and saw people said one of the best arguments in favor of tolling with variable rates is that there are some opportunities for people to change their schedules, to move by a different mode, or to telecommute or take other ways of getting to work…”

DeFazio (interjecting):

“Well some people may have that flexibility. The question is, how many.”

DeFazio then quickly changed the subject back to technology and smart traffic signals.

Watch the full hearing via C-SPAN.

In related news, the Portland Business Alliance will host a forum on congestion pricing next Wednesday (9/18) at 7:30 am at the Hilton-Atrium Ballroom (921 SW Sixth Avenue).

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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101 Comments
  • Avatar
    Justin September 12, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    DeFazio has done a lot of good for transportation, and he’s coming from a good place here, but I’m surprised he can’t see the potential here, both in terms of managing demand and raising money for better transportation.

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      Chris I September 12, 2019 at 1:47 pm

      I’m shocked that someone who grew during a time period in our society with absurdly under-priced, unfettered access to all corners of the country via automobile doesn’t understand the benefits of, or reasons for congestion pricing.

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        John Lascurettes September 12, 2019 at 2:59 pm

        It plays well to constituents that he’s fighting for the poor guy — even though doing nothing locks them into the status quo of spending too much to always be driving. Also, he’s ignoring that there are financial breaks built in for lower-income people (aren’t there?).

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty September 12, 2019 at 4:16 pm

      I am curious how high the dollar price would have to be to get people to shift modes or times (or jobs) for people who already feel compelled to endure grinding, miserable, congested commutes on a daily basis.

      I can’t believe that most people who could change haven’t already.

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        9watts September 13, 2019 at 5:34 am

        “I can’t believe that most people who could change haven’t already”

        Maybe you and DeFazio don’t understand how price elasticity works.

        The point is, surely, that we are under-pricing the social costs of driving. This leads to very well-understood, uncontroversial overuse of the public thoroughfares, to the general detriment. If we then use a congestion charge to actually price this behavior nearer the social/ecological/economic costs this overuse of our streets represents then those whose price elasticity of demand is reached will switch, will not drive then. The way to find out what the elasticities are, how much to charge to reduce or eliminate the problem is to do it. Others already have. Why is this even being debated?

        The toxic and hard to understand penchant in so many debates in the US is that we seem only able to focus on the costs, the inconvenience, rather than acknowledging the full picture: the costs AND the benefits that flow from in this case charging people who are clogging up the works.

        DeFazio is (apparently) a fool who doesn’t understand the subject he is speaking to.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty September 13, 2019 at 9:38 am

          I understand price elasticity. I am arguing that the price function may not be linear, as it is in Econ 101, but curved, and that we may be on a part of the graph where incremental improvements are increasingly difficult.

          I am certain there is a price that will empty the roads. I am much less confident that ODOT has the will or backing to impose that price — the political blowback would be ferocious, likely ending congestion pricing in Oregon for a generation.

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            9watts September 13, 2019 at 11:21 am

            “increasingly difficult.”

            But that is silly, premature.
            We haven’t even tried it(!) and you are already predicting that it won’t work!?
            On what basis? Surely you don’t believe (Dr. Pangloss) that every solo driver clogging up I5 during rush hour must be there, can’t afford not to be there, couldn’t carpool, etc.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty September 13, 2019 at 1:06 pm

              I want to be clear that I continue to support implementing congestion pricing, but I believe that most proponents are overlooking problems and overstating the benefits of any program that is politically possible because punishing the sinners is a goal in itself.

              As I said above, I have no doubt there is a price that will achieve the goals of the program. But it’s worth considering what that price is, and whether implementing it is actually feasible. That’s not a silly concern, and if it’s premature to ask that question now, when will the right time be?

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                9watts September 13, 2019 at 4:07 pm

                Did you ask a question? I guess I missed it; I thought you were speculating that going down this road would be ‘increasingly difficult.’

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty September 13, 2019 at 8:38 pm

                Yes — is there a price that will achieve the goal that is also politically feasible?

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                9watts September 13, 2019 at 11:31 pm

                You are over-thinking, over-worrying this.
                Sometimes you just need to do it, start somewhere (pick a toll) and iterate your way forward. Mostly *you* need to relax your assumption that the current mix of autoists on the freeway includes no one who could painlessly carpool, shift the time he/she is on the road, stay home, etc. i am quite certain there are (possibly excellent) studies that estimate the share of rush hour traffic which can, would painlessly respond to a congestion charge.

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                9watts September 13, 2019 at 11:42 pm

                “punishing the sinners is a goal in itself.”

                This is weird. And I get the feeling that you deploy statements like these to blow smoke in our faces. Statements like this obscure the very real problem we are on the hook to solve, by always and predictably highlighting (imagined) individual costs rather than allowing the (far more assured) collective benefits from pursuing a policy such as this.

                For the seventh time… Why are we acting as if we were the first city, jurisdiction to grapple with this issue?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty September 15, 2019 at 3:29 pm

                “Just go for it!” is not a likely recipe for success. If we screw it up badly enough, we won’t get a second chance to get it right.

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  • Avatar
    pdx2wheeler September 12, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    Can’t afford a toll as they drive their BMW to Intel? Bad example Peter!

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      Glenn II September 12, 2019 at 4:12 pm

      And yet it’s actually a pretty good example, because the bus service to Intel’s two largest campuses in Hillsboro sucks hairy donkey balls. (Of the other two, one is just off TV Highway which is its own pedestrian nightmare but at least it has a decent bus line, and the other is on the light rail line.)

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        Chris I September 13, 2019 at 7:15 am

        I think his point is that the CAN afford the toll.

        They can also afford to look at options, like: carpooling, folding bike on MAX, moving closer to work, etc.

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        • Avatar
          Glenn II September 13, 2019 at 11:20 am

          Yeah I get his point. Opposing the toll based on cost for the worker is valid only for people for whom the toll is a considerable cost. My point is that anyone who drives will keep doing so until other options suck worse for them than paying the toll. For someone who makes a lot of money, the toll doesn’t suck very much, so transit has to be almost as good as driving, for them to switch.

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      Matt S. September 12, 2019 at 5:53 pm

      I knew someone was going to harp on this as I read the quote what about low wage workers at Intel? They have cafeterias, janitors, maintenance individuals, landscapers, etc.

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      • Avatar
        Buzz September 12, 2019 at 9:42 pm

        Technically speaking, these are the people transit systems and HPV networks are supposed to serve, but if you donate your old car to OPB, they will recondition it and give it to someone in the working class, and it will end up sitting and idling on I-5/84, Highway 26, MLK or wherever in rush hour traffic for another 10 years or so.

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          Justin September 13, 2019 at 5:08 am

          I don’t know how I feel about the idea that transit is supposed to serve “these people,” but I know how I feel about HPV and I don’t want it.

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            Fred September 13, 2019 at 8:31 am

            C’mon, Justin – you know HPV = human-powered vehicles.

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              Justin September 13, 2019 at 10:02 am

              I never miss an opportunity for a bad joke.

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  • Avatar
    dwk September 12, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    A quick look at who donates to Defazio.
    surprise, surprise….
    National Tank Truck Carriers Inc $10,000

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty September 12, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      Is that some sort of extreme weight lifting group?

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  • Avatar
    Allan Rudwick September 12, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    There are no large cities in his district (OR-4)

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      colton September 12, 2019 at 3:04 pm

      Other than Eugene, the third largest city in Oregon. By your measure, there’s only 1 large city in Oregon.

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        Todd Boulanger September 12, 2019 at 4:17 pm

        Actually Eugene is “#4″…Vancouver is “#2″…but “we” don’t get to sleep in Oregon…just work there. It is like the “work camp” labour scenario I saw around in the Middle East. 😉

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          Buzz September 12, 2019 at 9:46 pm

          People move to SW WA for three main reasons, lower taxes, cheaper housing costs, and still get to work and shop in PDX. Everything else is just collateral damage.

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          Justin September 13, 2019 at 5:27 am

          Todd, proposing that Oregon annex Vancouver and make it into the second-largest city in the state is intriguing, but it still wouldn’t be in Pete’s district.

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        Chris I September 13, 2019 at 7:20 am

        Correct. There is only one large city in Oregon.

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    Stephen Keller September 12, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    I’m skeptical of congestion pricing as well, but for different reasons. I want to keep cars on the freeways and off the surface streets as much as possible. Congestion pricing, especially when it isn’t wall-to-wall, so to speak, can encourage people to dodge payment points and take alternate surface routes. The current proposals look like it will encourage more cut-through traffic rather than discouraging SOV commuting in general.

    Frankly, I think an efficient rail network from west Vancouver to Hillsboro (along the Cornelius Pass corridor) would do far more to reduce congestion than any other measure on the table. The tracks are already in place for something like an Amtrak city-to-city or WES-style regional service.

    Stph

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      Chris I September 12, 2019 at 1:51 pm

      WES is a terrible example, because ridership is absolutely abysmal, and it is very expensive to operate. The only commuter rail corridors that make sense:
      1. SW Washington to Swan Island, Rose Quarter, and Union Station
      2. Salem/Woodburn/Wilsonville/Tualatin/Lake Oswego/ Milwaukee to OMSI and Union Station

      No other existing rail corridors have enough population density, or a direct enough rail route to make financial sense.

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        X September 12, 2019 at 2:27 pm

        What’s wrong with WES? Other than infrequent schedule?

        It goes from one low density place to another. There are big highways roughly parallel to it. Could it be that Trimet has stranded it with poor connections and/or no feeder buses? Do the regional commuter lines link up with it?

        Seems like we have to have one of every kind of transit whether it works or not. Sigh– I love trains too. Gotta go ride it before it croaks.

        Now all we need is a wood fired steam powered water taxi. With an 80 foot long bar. People will ride all night, and the overall average Portland commute will go up by 7 minutes.

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          gilly September 12, 2019 at 8:50 pm

          @X – Wes ends at the Beaverton Transit center. Easy access to the MAX line and multiple bus lines.

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            Matt S. September 12, 2019 at 9:09 pm

            Easy hour commute from Wilsonville to downtown Portland…

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        Andrew September 12, 2019 at 5:28 pm

        Heavy rail service from SW WA would probably need a better station than what Vancouver presently has. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but I remember access being poor and not much parking. Figuring out how to build a station next to that fancy development on the river would be awesome and could help bolster the area. For rail to be effective for Clark county I really think there needs to be some service beyond just the downtown and Clark college area.

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          Chris I September 13, 2019 at 7:22 am

          This is the primary weakness of any Oregon/SW Wa commuter rail line, using existing tracks. The station is too far west of the population centers in SW Wa. The walk shed from the existing Amtrak station is horrible.

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    • Avatar
      Fred September 13, 2019 at 8:37 am

      I keep hearing this argument about how congestion pricing can never work b/c drivers will just detour onto local streets. This argument makes no sense if you consider two points:

      – As more and more drivers try to use local streets, they will become more and more frustrated as they sit in backed-up traffic, and will eventually give up – especially when they see the I-5 traffic moving along nicely. Traffic moving on I-5 will be worth paying for.

      – Tolling needs to be accompanied by a robust police presence on local streets who will ticket the heck out of drivers speeding through neighborhoods, which will raise even more revenue for local gov’ts!

      Congestion tolling is a win-win-win, though residents will suffer initially as cut-through drivers try to find faster routes before they give up.

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        Matt S. September 13, 2019 at 9:08 am

        Police presence — with over 100 job openings with PPB, good luck with that.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty September 13, 2019 at 9:23 am

        If everyone sees driving on I-5 as being “worth the cost”, the situation will not improve, because no one will switch to alternatives. For the project to work, some people are going to have to find alternatives, and using local streets will be one of those.

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          9watts September 13, 2019 at 11:18 am

          No. If everyone sees it as worth the cost then the toll is too low.
          This is not hard.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty September 13, 2019 at 1:08 pm

            Agreed — I was pointing out Fred’s circular logic about why people will not divert onto surface streets to avoid the toll.

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              Fred September 13, 2019 at 1:58 pm

              The logic is NOT circular: you just have to make sure that diverting onto local streets is not an attractive option for people, either b/c they get stuck in local traffic or they get busted when they speed to try to “make up” for lost time. Ultimately tolling will lead to a change in collective behavior, in the form of enough SOV drivers deciding that driving the SOV isn’t such a good idea, and they switch to carpooling or transit or bike/transit.

              Good point from Matt S. about PPB having too few officers. But I’ll bet a crack team of five motorcycle cops in NoPo could write enough tickets to pay their own salaries.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty September 13, 2019 at 2:24 pm

                The whole endeavor is predicated on people thinking it is not worth the cost to use I-5. If using local streets is cheaper, some, who have already demonstrated a willingness to sit in congestion, will do so, to the detriment of existing users of those streets (which includes bike riders).

                You are right that the tolling plan can be designed to avoid that, but the proposal on the table, as I understand it, doesn’t appear to have been so.

                It is my opinion that a bad tolling plan is worse than none at all. Doing nothing preserves the option for the future (when we can do it right), whereas a big flop that burns everyone involved does not.

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                Matt S. September 13, 2019 at 4:35 pm

                I believe there are fewer than five traffics officers on duty at any given time, and that goes for all precincts combined.

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        Concordia Cyclist September 16, 2019 at 8:05 am

        If we’re tolling at the bridge then there would be zero new cut through traffic on neighboring streets since one couldn’t use them to bypass the toll. Unless the toll point came somewhere between the Rose Quarter and the bridge, there is zero opportunity to bypass the toll via local streets.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty September 16, 2019 at 9:38 am

          We’re not tolling at the bridges, but I think we should be.

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  • Avatar
    Johnny Bye Carter September 12, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    “What about people who have to go from the east side of Portland to the west side of Portland to Intel to go to work? Sorry, it’s going to take you two hours or it’s going to cost you a bunch of money you can’t afford.”

    Exactly what we want. We want to discourage people from commuting across Portland, and reward those that choose not to idle in their cars on the freeway.

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    • Avatar
      Glenn II September 12, 2019 at 4:07 pm

      Exactly – there are no such people. Move somewhere sensible (near work) or work somewhere sensible (near home). It’s not my job to subsidize your commute with my dollars, lungs and bodily safety.

      It’s a little bit of a conundrum for DeFazio here, as people who actually know him and his legislative history can attest he’s basically been like the ultimate liberal, in the old-school Bernie Sanders sense. Including some pretty progressive voting on transportation issues. But a true liberal has to look out for the poor. And he’s sort of right that the better alternative has to be in place before you start pushing people away from the unwanted alternative. (Although in theory if the alternative truly is better, people will migrate to it on their own, but anyway…) But you can’t spend money you “don’t have” (supposedly) so it’s (supposedly) a chicken/egg problem. Obviously they do have the money, I mean just look how they keep spending on freeways. They think they need to keep doing that, and then ALSO ADD other things. Just stop spending money on freeways and then spend it instead on cheaper, better alternatives. Make it non-deadly to ride a bike for chrissakes. The whole problem will take care of itself. Driving would slowly become shittier and alternatives would quickly (because a dollar goes further) become better. “To dream, the impossible dream…”

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        9watts September 13, 2019 at 5:43 am

        “he’s sort of right that the better alternative has to be in place before you start pushing people away from the unwanted alternative…”

        And where is this done?! Don’t we know that in most countries with which we like to compare ourselves, who we admire, this sort of thing took time, experienced bumps in the road? This is a lot of wishful thinking, a way to blow smoke in peoples’ faces, in my view.

        And if this were really DeFazio’s thinking, why didn’t he say what you said: congestion pricing is a great concept but in the short run before alternatives have been developed and built we must also be mindful of the poor, some of whom will get screwed by this proposed policy

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  • Avatar
    Johnny Bye Carter September 12, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    The only problem with the current levels of congestion is that they also trap buses with all the single occupancy vehicles. We’d do better to let people choose to sit in congestion and focus on fixing mass transit so that those that choose wisely aren’t penalized by those that don’t.

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    Johnny Bye Carter September 12, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    Why does he want to reward all those business on the west side that located there because they wanted to pay less taxes? And at the same time reward all the people driving across town to get there instead of relocating closer to work? Those businesses created this issue and it’s not on us to fix it for them.

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    Ethan September 12, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    Maybe we need to rename the Peter DeFazio bridge…

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    Ian September 12, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    Congestion pricing + increased gas taxes + incentives to live close to transit, work and services. Then make it possible to spend gas tax revenue on alternative infrastructure assuming we can’t already. Reduce the need and desire to drive a lot every day. For some it’s schools or property values for others it’s ‘where can I maybe afford to live?’ These factors shouldn’t carry the weight that they do.

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    bikeninja September 12, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    I think the auto industrial complex and its acolytes have passed the event horizon of sensibility. They are firmly in the grasp of delusional thinking that we still have the will and the capital to build out infrastructure that will meaningfully improve auto congestion, and that we could do it in time to matter before entropy takes its toll on happy motoring. At this point the only sensible approach is to let them stew in their juices. Lace up the bike shoes, and make life and transportation choices that keep you off the car clogged roadways.

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    maxD September 12, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    I agree with DeFazio that you should not enact Congestion Pricing without solid investments in functional alternatives. For Portland, that should include:
    1. HOV lanes on I-5 from 205 in WA south to 205.
    2. Transit lanes all over town.
    3. MAX to Vancouver, preferably on a separate bridge than I-5
    4. More frequent and later times for all transit
    5. Fill in the gaps of the bike network in the central city and expand to North Portland, East Portland and SW with direct, connected and safe routes.

    Maybe he could get Portland some $$ for these projects?

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      stephan September 12, 2019 at 4:35 pm

      I’d be curious to know if we were to consider a bond measure against future revenue from congestion pricing, then invest these funds in alternative transportation infrastructure, and *then* start the congestion pricing.

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        Matt S. September 12, 2019 at 5:59 pm

        Nope, wouldn’t vote for it.

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson September 12, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    Its important to note that relatively few people commute from Clark county to Intel, etc. in Washington county. I was certainly surprised when origin/destination data was presented to the Governors’ I-5 TF that clearly showed this. People are not that dumb…well most people.
    Most Clark county commuters are headed to Columbia Corridor, Swan Island , Lloyd District, Central Eastside and Downtown. Does someone have more recent O/D data from the Census?
    But I doubt things have changed as “nasty congestion”does its good work…encouraging folks to live closer to where they work!

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      Todd Boulanger September 12, 2019 at 4:22 pm

      Lenny, thanks for interjecting some data into this discussion. I mean, YES there are a lot of Vancouver drivers commuting to Portland (and Portlanders to Vancouver) but even “we” are not that crazy to live where we have to commute through both sides of Portland’s congested zones and the adjoining Washington County congestion too. [I mean the schools and “freedoms” are great north of the Columbia, but not great enough to balance out a “super” commute 😉 ]

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      Stephen Keller September 12, 2019 at 5:49 pm

      I would also like to see more recent numbers as well. It seems like there are a lot more WA plates up in St. Johns and out near Intel these days. When I bought my (then affordable) house in the SJ neighborhood, it was a pleasant 12 mile commute through the country to my work (not Intel, but close). Not so much any more. I’d love to move closer to work now, but cannot afford it. I want people out of cars as much as anyone, but DeFazio’s point that we need viable alternatives too is sound.

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    Huey Lewis September 12, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    A quick poll; is it everyone’s opinion in here that everyone can choose to live very near work or vise versa but they simply aren’t? It’s also true that if you live in St. Johns let’s say, you own a home, but you land a great paying job in Milwaukie, you’re required to sell that house and move to Milwaukie? Or obviously not take that job? What if at that same job, your company moves offices…do you then move again?

    Thoughts on the trades? Where one moves from work site to work site. What about social workers that do home visits across all of east Portland and mid county?

    I think people should bus and bike waaay more than they do but some of you here are wildly unrealistic with your expectations regarding what other people can and can’t pull off in their lives.

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      Matt S. September 12, 2019 at 6:28 pm

      I’m in the trades and I’m all over the place. Currently I have been stationed at one place for sometime and I’ve been able to take the Max and even ride my bike from time to time. I drive occasionally but parking is so expensive that it has priced me into alternatives.

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      John Lascurettes September 12, 2019 at 7:33 pm

      If you listened to Brouwer: it doesn’t take much reduction in drivers to open up the throughput. That would benefit the trade drivers. And regarding job changes, yeah, chicken and egg. You have to have (good) alternatives for people to give up the car — but you can’t build them if they can’t be funded.

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      Paul September 12, 2019 at 11:21 pm

      There will be some friction sure. It will hurt people a little. But a lot of people will look a little longer and find just as good of a job closer to where they live. Or they will move closer to their great new job. Yes it will cost them something to spend more time looking for a job, or selling their house, but it in the end it will be worth it to society and probably even to the people involved.

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        9watts September 13, 2019 at 5:49 am

        Aren’t a lot of us forgetting the we (or I should say those who are currently stuck in traffic of their own making) already are paying a price? Monetizing the problematic behavior will of course have disparate effects that could fall more heavily on those who are poor and drive during rush hour, but the situation coming out the other end will also benefit many of those people (especially if they switched to the bus and would have been stuck in the same traffic…). So many ways to look at this that aren’t defeatist, mopey.

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        Matt S. September 13, 2019 at 6:25 am

        I lived car free my first six years in Portland. When I looked for work it was always within my biking radius of about eight miles one way. I had good jobs, but never good paying jobs until I bought a car and extended my job search 15-20 miles out. Ten years later, I make $18 an hour MORE than my first job in Portland. Granted this is mostly due to other variables, but one variable that’s helped tremendously is extending my job search radius. My housing remains constant, my work has changed many, many times.

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          Chris I September 13, 2019 at 7:31 am

          It’s all part of the financial calculation. If we have tolls, that will also be part of the calculation, and it will discourage some people from taking jobs in far-flung places. People will adapt, and our region will be better for it.

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            pruss2ny September 13, 2019 at 3:35 pm

            quick recap:

            person a: i was able to substantially improve my/my family’s quality of life by owning a car
            person b: yes, but with a targeted tax we can take those opportunities away from you.

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            Matt S. September 13, 2019 at 4:44 pm

            “…our region will be better.” I’m not so sure. Companies want to attract the best applicants and thus need to access talent pools outside a small radius from their site of operation. If people only worked by where they lived or vice versa then I believe our economy would be severely hampered.

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              Chris I September 15, 2019 at 9:47 pm

              I can’t argue with the economics. Cooking the world with carbon emissions and killing over 40,000 people per year is great for the economy. I just don’t know if it’s the right path for us to take in the long run.

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      Fred September 13, 2019 at 8:45 am

      Hi Huey: I recently had a conversation with a co-worker who bought a house in Vancouver and commutes to SW Portland. He said he bought the house b/c “I couldn’t afford one in Portland, closer to work.” But the more he talked about it, the more it became clear that he really wanted a BIG house in Vancouver. He could have bought a small house in SW Portland for the same amount and been able to bike or even walk to work. What he was really counting on was for I-5 to make it possible for him to have a BIG house – the commute was neutral in his calculation. And this is the central fact for most people: they assume that Uncle Sam will ease their path to work, and they are largely right, since the gov’t has built bigger and bigger roads since around, oh, 1920.

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    Jim Lee September 12, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    Remember that Pete is a great bike mechanic.

    Also, TriMet Max unit #204 is dedicated to him.

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    Tom September 12, 2019 at 9:40 pm

    To reduce congestion today we don’t need massive mode share change and neither could the current level of transit support it. There is no need to wait on better transit and bike infrastructure. It can be done now at no cost with just carpooling. 87% of car commute trips are done in single occupant vehicles. If the 87% are all incentivized to switch to 4 person per vehicle, it would be like instantly converting a 6 lane freeway into a 22 lane freeway. To actually widen all the local freeways by almost 4x, it would take hundreds of billions, 40 years, and require massive immanent domain. But the equivalent thing could be done now for only the cost of setting up tolling of SOVs at an appropriate motivational level. I don’t see the big deal in driving a few blocks to pick someone else up who works near you, but people will not act for the greater good unless it costs them money. Make it extremely costly to car commute alone, and people will find ways to carpool..pickup zones, park and ride, apps, etc. Its not a big deal to carpool.

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      9watts September 13, 2019 at 5:51 am

      Exactly.
      The magic of using a market price to sort this out.

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    stephan September 13, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Overall, I thought his points, while being aired in a dismissive way, were valid: we need to offer alternatives, and the effectiveness of congestion pricing depends on how many people can switch (which increases with better alternatives). He also seems to be in favor of increasing the gas tax and these concerns equally apply such an increase.

    Perhaps it would help clarifying to DeFazio that a congestion tax and a gas tax are quite similar. They both increase the price of driving gas-powered vehicles. The difference is that a congestion tax (i) applies to non-gas powered vehicles as well; (ii) increases in magnitude with the costs that driving imposes to others via congestion; (ii) and, at least in its current state, only applies to some roads.

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      Fred September 13, 2019 at 2:08 pm

      “the effectiveness of congestion pricing depends on how many people can switch”

      Put it another way: how many people *will* switch.

      I’ve been cycling, taking transit, carpooling, and doing all manner of crazy things for many years to avoid driving alone to work. But when I talk with co-workers about whether they are willing to change, it mostly comes down to sheer laziness. Sure, they *could* do more, but they just don’t wanna. Driving the car is just EASY for them, and the system as it’s presently configured makes it so very, very easy.

      Consider our Federal tax policy: If you drive to work and your employer charges you to park, your employer can deduct the cost of parking from your pre-tax pay, which is a huge tax benefit b/c you get taxed on only the money you earn, and the gov’t treats the parking fees as if you never earned that money! Tax policy should (and does) incentivize the behaviors that we, the people, want to see, so in this case we, the people, want to see employees driving to work – mostly driving alone.

      Ride your bike to work and what do you get from the Feds? Nothing! So which is a better deal overall? Why, driving a car, of course.

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    Ben September 13, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    Is there any surprise old guy clings to the past. Meanwhile young people are trying like hell to figure out solutions.

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      pruss2ny September 15, 2019 at 8:09 pm

      “Is there any surprise old guy clings to the past. Meanwhile young people are trying like hell to figure out solutions.”

      what a weak, miserable thought process.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty September 15, 2019 at 9:21 pm

      Divide, divide, divide, divide.

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    Jim Lee September 13, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    Ben
    Is there any surprise old guy clings to the past. Meanwhile young people are trying like hell to figure out solutions.Recommended 1

    Or perhaps we are just so much smarter than you that we figured things out very long ago.

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      Fred September 13, 2019 at 4:59 pm

      That’s right, Jim Lee. We old guys – you and me – figured out how to destroy the planet. Now that’s some accomplishment!

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    Jim Lee September 14, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    Fred
    That’s right, Jim Lee. We old guys – you and me – figured out how to destroy the planet. Now that’s some accomplishment!Recommended 2

    Actually, I figured out how to save it.

    Let me know when you can solve a physics problem,

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    Jim Lee September 14, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    Years ago I had a chat with Peter at the Lucky Lab during a political event. I expressed an idea that he immediately trumped.

    His position: we have an extremely serious and deeply seated environmental problem, which we must confront at the fundamental level. Transportation is an important aspect of this. The best solution to our woes is a major tax on fuels, both petroleum and natural gas. In addition to capturing excessive utilization of transportation, such a tax would capture overuse of petrochemicals, plastic bottles among many other things.

    Peter is very intelligent, highly dedicated, extremely experienced. He does not promote silly band-aids on deadly cancers, like those promoted by ODOT.

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      9watts September 14, 2019 at 10:57 pm

      Gosh, wouldn’t that be cool if a politician held all those groovy beliefs!
      I hope you are right, and would love to see some evidence presented. In the meantime, this still gives me pause:
      “What about people who have to go from the east side of Portland to the west side of Portland to Intel to go to work? Sorry, it’s going to take you two hours or it’s going to cost you a bunch of money you can’t afford.”

      Stated this way I can’t shake the impression that Mr. DeFazio just doesn’t get out much, lacks imagination. If he really were concerned about the things you say, why would he not offer a constructive rather than a pouty assessment of this situation? Highlighting the nascent alternatives people already use today, that could no doubt be strengthened with the money so raised. Because without a gesture in that direction I have a hard time distinguishing his words from most any other milquetoast who subscribes to a Car Head world.

      Intel!?

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      9watts September 14, 2019 at 11:00 pm

      And just to add one more thing:

      “a major tax on fuels, both petroleum and natural gas”

      If such a tax is going to improve the traffic situation, never mind avert the worst of what climate change has in store for us, it is going to hurt a lot more than a congestion charge. So that comparison you, Jim Lee, have set up deserves a bit more elaboration.

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        X September 15, 2019 at 8:24 am

        So, if we attempt to reduce use of motor fuels through more stringent state taxes, and the short term result is more revenue, does that mean ODOT grows in proportion?

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      soren September 15, 2019 at 2:10 pm

      So DeFazio is concerned about the distributional effects of congestion pricing but is totally OK with levying some of the most regressive taxes that exist.

      OK….then.

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    Jim Lee September 14, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    Also, Peter buys his own beer.

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    Rich Roads September 15, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    Part of me likes the idea of congestion pricing as a step toward people paying the true cost of freeways. But part of me wonders if it will just shaft the poor to get the riff raff the hell out of the way of the speeding rich.

    Imagine a really high toll on a road. For the rich, it would work great, for a relative pittance, the poor people would be shoved off the road so they could fly by in their Lexi and Tesli. But at any imaginable toll rate, would the wealthy few who could afford it really be paying the true cost of that giant ribbon of concrete torn through cities? No where near it. Even at $10 a mile or more, the freeway would be a huge regressive taxpayer subsidy for the wealthy. The best solution is to let the freeways choke on themselves and put all the money in super efficient public transportation. In DC, looking out the window of a Metro rail car zipping past cars stopped bumper to bumper is the best way to encourage sensible transportation choices. In Europe, if you ask people why they bike or use public transportation, they’ll say it’s the easiest way to get where they want to go. Here, we should make it so.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty September 15, 2019 at 3:33 pm

      Why not let the tolls fund the super efficient public transit, thereby letting the rich pay the bill? Without the tolls, where would the money to build the transit come from?

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        Matt S. September 15, 2019 at 4:45 pm

        The Max — at a million dollars a mile, we’re going to need a lot of rich people commuting to their Intel jobs…

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          Dan A September 16, 2019 at 8:08 am

          Is Max construction a million dollars a mile? That sounds like a steal to me.

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          Matt S. September 16, 2019 at 12:53 pm

          Per https://www.wweek.com/portland/article-21249-dr-know-light-rail-heavy-expenditures.html

          Looks like I was a little off…

          Orange line:

          “In truth, only $546 million—about $14,000 a foot—went toward the actual jackhammers, plumber’s cracks and interminable traffic disruptions that constitute what you would think of as actually building a light-rail line.”

          About $74 million/mile according to Smith.

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    9watts September 15, 2019 at 10:42 pm

    Hello, Kitty
    “Just go for it!” is not a likely recipe for success. If we screw it up badly enough, we won’t get a second chance to get it right.Recommended 0

    You funny.

    Your description describes our present moment.
    We ‘just went for it’ with fossil fuels, and have continued merrily for decades after we realized the folly of this course. The idea that we might not get a second chance with congestion charges–your interest in highlighting that–fails the laugh test.

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    jimmywoo September 18, 2019 at 4:06 pm

    How many trucks are on the highways because the Port of Portland lost shipping? About 2000 back in 2015. Who is paying for all of that?

    How many Nike employees drive to their giant new garages even though the Max goes right there? 90% of them. And each parking space cost $40,000k according to dir. of sustainability.

    How many kids are shuttled around all over for Sports in order to be “competitive” when there are kids and fields within walk/bike of their school and house?

    How many families won’t live in dense areas because of PPS school quality? What is that costing us? How many moved to other schools not close to home for same reason?

    We have some low hanging fruit here. Seems like maybe a cattle prod called congestion pricing is what we need to herd the cats.

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      Dan A September 18, 2019 at 6:30 pm

      I’m hearing that congestion pricing will improve PPS schools?

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    Mark Smith September 21, 2019 at 6:36 am

    Justin
    DeFazio has done a lot of good for transportation, and he’s coming from a good place here, but I’m surprised he can’t see the potential here, both in terms of managing demand and raising money for better transportation.Recommended 4

    Peter is over 55. Which means a natural tendency to be far more self serving. It’s something one has to fight every day in their own mind as we age. Sad to see now it’s in the public record.

    By Peter’s logic, we should all just pay a nominal tax and get every government service for free.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty September 21, 2019 at 11:56 am

      People over 55 have a natural tendency to be self-serving? Agist much?

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    Mark Smith September 21, 2019 at 6:38 am

    Yes, driving is a privilege. The quote rich have lots of that. I would be fine moving cars off the road. Rich and poor alike. Your thinking is too monosyllabic. A car is a cat no matter the income inside. And…I would counter rich people have higher rates of insurance anyway.

    Rich Roads
    Part of me likes the idea of congestion pricing as a step toward people paying the true cost of freeways. But part of me wonders if it will just shaft the poor to get the riff raff the hell out of the way of the speeding rich.Imagine a really high toll on a road. For the rich, it would work great, for a relative pittance, the poor people would be shoved off the road so they could fly by in their Lexi and Tesli. But at any imaginable toll rate, would the wealthy few who could afford it really be paying the true cost of that giant ribbon of concrete torn through cities? No where near it. Even at $10 a mile or more, the freeway would be a huge regressive taxpayer subsidy for the wealthy. The best solution is to let the freeways choke on themselves and put all the money in super efficient public transportation. In DC, looking out the window of a Metro rail car zipping past cars stopped bumper to bumper is the best way to encourage sensible transportation choices. In Europe, if you ask people why they bike or use public transportation, they’ll say it’s the easiest way to get where they want to go. Here, we should make it so.Recommended 0

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