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City task force will explore how to make drivers pay true cost of road use

Posted by on October 9th, 2019 at 11:45 am

Driving is way too cheap.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“We have limited road space in the city… We need new ideas to help people and goods get where they need to go more reliably, sustainably, and equitably.”
— City of Portland

Not to be outdone by the Oregon Department of Transportation, the City of Portland is assembling a committee to develop new policies that will make it more expensive to use automobiles.

The Pricing for Equitable Mobility Community Task Force will be a joint effort headed by the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS), “as they consider how new pricing strategies could potentially be used to improve mobility, address the climate crisis and advance equity for people historically underserved by the transportation system in Portland.”

PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly is a major fan of congestion pricing so it should come as no surprise that she’s looking for policy and public backing to strengthen its case. Back in April we reported that the commissioner believes the best way to reduce traffic on I-5 through the Rose Quarter is to charge a fee for people to drive on them — not to add more freeway lanes.

Portland will use this new task force to help shape its position on the topic on related ODOT and Metro committees.

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ODOT was mandated by the Oregon Legislature in 2017 to move forward on a congestion pricing policy. Their plan to toll I-5 and I-205 was sent to the Federal Highway Administration in December 2018.

The City of Portland’s task force will be free to explore a much broader set of potential pricing policies than ODOT. In a statement, Portland said strategies that will be considered by the task force may include, but are not limited to: “parking pricing, area and time-based fees, fleet charges, road user charges, cordons [priced zones], freeway pricing and more”.

Like many policies coming out of PBOT these days, equity and inclusion are at the forefront. The task force’s work on pricing will include members who represent those who’ve been most harmed by our existing transportation system. “Historically underrepresented communities, including low-income people of color and people with disabilities,” states a statement on the task force, “face barriers that impact their mobility and access and a transportation funding system based on regressive gas taxes… The Pricing for Equitable Mobility Community Task Force will lead with equity and center transportation justice values throughout its work.”

The task force will include up to 20 members who will meet monthly over an 18-month period between 2019-2021. More info here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

If they want to make things more expensive, they should have the folks over at the Water Bureau plan it.

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

Cue the incessant vitriolic whining from entitled drivers in 3, 2, 1, …

mh
Subscriber

I wish the phrase “true cost” could be worked into the article title, rather than “more expensive.”

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

To me it sounds like framing the committee the way they are is setting it up for failure. If it proposes anything interesting, it will be hugely controversial, so it would be far wiser to frame it in the most conservative manner possible to make its recommendations seem more palatable. If it sounds like the radical left is behind the proposals, they will be harder to sell to Portlanders than if the committee appeared to be more establishment.

For example, I wish they would change the name to something like “Task Force to Reduce the Social Cost of Driving”, or something else that doesn’t contain the absurd notion that “equity” means making things worse for people to “even the score”.

I wish them success, but this appears to be another example of Eudaly taking a good idea and destroying any prospect of success by approaching it in precisely the wrong way.

David Hampsten
Guest

Idea #1: A citywide parking permit program.

It was suggested by the leading PBOT Director candidate who turned us down (we hired #2 Treat afterwards) as a way to give a value on the public right-of-way. SF and Chicago apparently already do it. For poorer residents and those paying higher property taxes (especially in East Portland), the permit cost could be reduced, reducing equity concerns.

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

If they really make automobile drivers pay the true cost of road use it will blow most peoples minds. Once you take away the subsidies for road construction, maintenance and parking then add back in the costs of pollution related to cars, runoff from impervious surfaces created to serve cars, cost of sprawl created by auto commuting then the costs of foreign wars to keep the oil flowing, then add in the added costs to the healthcare system of car crashes and sedentary drivers car use would end immediately as no one could afford it.

David Hampsten
Guest

Idea #2: Maximize any tax or fees based on the Blue Book value for every car registered in Oregon. If there isn’t a tax, create one.

My city in NC charges up to $40 per car owned, the maximum allowed by our state laws. Washington state has a much higher tax. This tax is charged throughout much of the USA, so there shouldn’t be a lot of opposition to it; in fact I believe Oregon already has such a fee or tax, but they need to maximize it.

David Hampsten
Guest

Idea #3: Increase the Utility License Fee (ULF) to reflect modern costs for street maintenance and rebuilds.

This fee is charged to utilities (and ultimately to their customers) for cutting up city streets, to periodically repave city streets. Almost right after it was approved by Council in 1988 to pay for repaving, Council decided to move a majority of the fees collected to the general fund, to pay for police, fire, etc. Today only 2-3% of the fee goes to PBOT for repaving, the rest to the general fund.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Another “task force?”

maccoinnich
Subscriber

What happened to performance based parking? City Council approved it last year and I haven’t heard anything about it since.

Mark Riskedahl
Guest
Mark Riskedahl

Studded tire surcharge!

The City of Portland could require local tire centers to assess a surcharge on installation of studded tires. There are numerous fees, surcharges, excises and taxes that can be levied consistent with state Constitutional restrictions. AAA and other lobbying interests have been successful scaring local governments into believing they don’t have authority to assess these types of fees.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Everyone needs tires. Even hipsters in Tesla’s . Tax tires. It would also keep tires with any tread out of landfills.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

An idea to address the equity issue, though perhaps not solve, is a pay-by-mile solution which taxes shorter car trips more heavily. Pay-by-mile would continue to be good policy even after we solve global climate change and electrify transportation, since SOV is still a highly inefficient and dangerous mode of transit. Taxing shorter trips more heavily would discourage people from driving simply because it is convenient to do so, yet not penalize those whose short-term transportation needs (before we can fully build-out public and human-powered transit networks) can only be met by longer driving commutes. As better infrastructure is installed and people become more accustomed to using their feet, bicycles, or public transit, the scale can shift to further discourage driving, until we can manage to price it out completely and achieve transportation nirvana.

Rudi V
Guest
Rudi V

“new pricing strategies could potentially be used to improve mobility, address the climate crisis and advance equity for people historically underserved by the transportation system in Portland.”

Hmm… only one of those three goals isn’t pure fantasy. The other 2 are avenues for giveaways to leftest constituencies.

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

Middle of The Road Guy
Redistribution of taxes to provide services IS providing a subsidy. Our society is pretty much based on that model. How do you feel about Universal healthcare?Recommended 0

Ah, yes, the great myth that so-called moderates believe. In fact, taxes in the US are not “redistributed” since billionaires pay a lower effective tax rate than people like me, the waning “middle class.” Aint nothing in the middle of the road but yellow lines and roadkill.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Can we get Greta on the “force?”

May the “force” be not against us!

Scott Kocher
Guest

+1. Street parking city-wide needs to be priced at the city’s true cost of the private automobile storage and transportation services being provided (thus fee not tax). That will make the price high enough that private garages would–and driveway curb cuts may–need to be priced as well. Plenty of options for sliding scale based on what vehicle is being parked, the owner’s income, etc. Use the revenue to help low income Portlanders escape spending half their income on cars. No wasting time on concern trolling for this one. Do it now.

9watts
Subscriber

Hello, Kitty
From https://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/About/Pages/Transportation-Funding.aspx:>>> T
…when almost everyone benefits from a good road network even if they never drive….Recommended 4

You are focusing on the social enjoyment, practical dimensions of having a ‘good road network. ‘ What your focus elides is the climate cost associated with this so-called public good. Roads which encourage and allow overuse of motor vehicles hurt us all, will make life as we know it impossible. We didn’t always recognize this, but we do now. Or we should.

9watts
Subscriber

middle of the road guy
No need to be dismissive. But the goods you use arrive somehow, right? That’s an indirect benefit, no?If you are going to be a Holy Roller on climate change, at least admit you benefit from it as well.Recommended 8

You accusing others of being dismissive. Rich.

Goods. Always goods. I love it how the last refuge of the climate scoundrels, the gotcha opportunity, is always the transport of goods. Most of the crap that fills the trucks we don’t need, will find a way to do without when we price things more fairly. The reason we order, buy, consume, throw away so much is because much of it is (still) so unbelievably cheap, and it is so cheap because oil and highways and cars still are massively SUBSIDIZED. Yes, subsidized. You and Hello, Kitty’s attempts to suggest otherwise notwithstanding.

Mark Smith
Guest
Mark Smith

Chris I
People would drive to other jurisdictions to purchase tires, if the tax is enough.Recommended 2

Sure some would, like any tax. Most don’t. Laziness is a human trait. Capitalize on it.

Mark Smith
Guest
Mark Smith

resopmok
An idea to address the equity issue, though perhaps not solve, is a pay-by-mile solution which taxes shorter car trips more heavily. Pay-by-mile would continue to be good policy even after we solve global climate change and electrify transportation, since SOV is still a highly inefficient and dangerous mode of transit. Taxing shorter trips more heavily would discourage people from driving simply because it is convenient to do so, yet not penalize those whose short-term transportation needs (before we can fully build-out public and human-powered transit networks) can only be met by longer driving commutes. As better infrastructure is installed and people become more accustomed to using their feet, bicycles, or public transit, the scale can shift to further discourage driving, until we can manage to price it out completely and achieve transportation nirvana.Recommended 1

If only a taxing system existed already…if only….