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Guest opinion: It’s time to coalesce around Metro’s transportation measure

Posted by on October 16th, 2020 at 8:36 am

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

For nearly two decades, transportation advocates and forward-thinking politicians around the region have talked wistfully about “The Big One,” the opportunity to ask voters to approve funding for a massive litany of transit, bicycle, and pedestrian projects all over the region.

For the last eighteen months, a massive coalition of transportation wonks, social and racial justice advocates and climate hawks shot numerous spitballs at Metro and drew hard lines in the sand to push the agency to propose a transportation package in line with their values of carbon reduction, improved transportation options for the communities that need it most, and addressing violently deadly arterials that frequently kill and harm people trying to cross the street.

This week “The Big One” finally arrives in your mailbox. And this longtime transportation-minded, freeway-skeptic, community organizing rabblerouser is imploring you to vote “Yes” on Measure 26-218.

There are times to shoot spitballs (and lord knows I’ve shot plenty), and there are times to coalesce in support of funding for a vision for the region. I’m writing to tell you that the spitballs have effectively been shot, and now it’s time to support this effort and vote yes.

Screengrab from Let’s Get Moving campaign ad.

You can check the campaign website for the general campaign messaging you’re going to see on television ads and mailers – how Nike and Intel and other wealthy corporations enjoying handsome profits are dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into opposing this measure, how crucial it’d be for our regional economic recovery to create 37,000+ jobs building bus lanes, how miserable traffic congestion is and how much worse it’ll get without massive investment in alternatives, how working families and 91% of small businesses won’t pay a dime. But the skepticism I’ve seen from BikePortland readers and my corners of social media are instead hung up on some belief this package “isn’t good enough for climate” or is somehow “insufficiently anti-car.”

That’s, politely, ludicrous.

What’s at stake

First, let’s be clear about exactly how many substantial bike, ped and transit projects will be funded: $111 million for PBOT’s Central City in Motion plan; major upgrades to deadly arterials we’ve been sick of forever (like SW Barbur, 82nd, McLoughlin, Tualatin Valley Highway, and Powell); $540 million for alone for a transit corridor on 82nd; $9 million for regional trails; $65 million for streetscape improvements in the Albina district, Youth Pass for the entire region, and much more.

If we vote yes, we get to channel our inner Bernie Sanders and tax wealthy corporations to hire tens of thousands of people to build safer streets and make crucial investments in these corridors and programs as economic recovery from our Covid recession.

If we vote no, we get nothing. Zilch. These plans for safer streets and priority bus lanes and separated bike lanes will instead sit on a shelf indefinitely, until Metro finds the guts and wherewithal to start all over and try again. Given the COVID-19 and wildfire-related bankruptcy of the state government, it’s unlikely we’ll find revenue or leadership from the sclerotic state legislature, (and the state DOT will certainly will be less likely to invest in making these corridors walkable and transit-friendly than Metro). There’s not exactly a Plan B for finding the money for any of these investments, many of which have been desperately called for from advocates and communities for decades.

Every one of Cortright’s suggestions on how to get people driving less will be more cost-effective to implement (and more equitable) if we build the streets, sidewalks, bus lanes and bike routes they will need to make the transition to a less car-reliant lifestyle.

But what about climate change?

Make no mistake – this is an investment in a climate-friendly transportation package.

You’ve probably seen the blog posts on City Observatory by my friend and No More Freeways co-conspirator Joe Cortright. While I have immense respect and gratitude for Joe, I simply disagree with his characterizations of this package, take umbrage with the assumptions implicit in his modeling, and laugh at his reading of a political landscape willing to fund transportation improvements with a more pigovian tax mechanism.

Joe’s central argument is that this package isn’t doing “enough” for climate. I’ll happily concede that Joe is correct in that there are other policy mechanisms we simply must pursue to decarbonize our transportation system. Cortright suggests we should be raising the gas tax, instituting congestion pricing, providing more funding for operations for TriMet’s frequent service, exploring the feasibility of progressive-minded vehicle registration fees, and changing the zoning code to get more housing near transit in the suburbs. These are, indeed, largely excellent policy goals and many candidates currently running for office promise to push the city, region and state to move in those directions while empowering frontline communities to figure out equitable implementation.

Before we hit people living in far-flung suburbs with, say, a 40 cent gas tax hike, let’s make sure there’s a safe crosswalks connecting their house to a nearby bus stop.

Asking wealthy corporations to chip in to build more sidewalks and bus lanes across the region is not antithetical to these policy goals; in fact, I’d argue it’s wholly complementary and necessary. Every one of Cortright’s suggestions on how to get people driving less will be more cost-effective to implement (and more equitable) if we build the streets, sidewalks, bus lanes and bike routes they will need to make the transition to a less car-reliant lifestyle.

Before we hit people living in far-flung suburbs with, say, a 30-cent gas tax hike, let’s make sure there’s a safe crosswalks connecting their house to a nearby bus stop (and a bus that has its own dedicated lane so it doesn’t get stuck in traffic!) so that when we find the guts to raise the gas tax, a larger number of people across our region have legitimate alternatives to car ownership. Right now, outside of those of us lucky enough to own property or afford rent in Portland’s central core, very few people in this region could comfortably and reliably get to jobs, the doctor, school, and elsewhere exclusively without a car.

Why would anyone trust a single economist over a unified legion of the region’s top environmental and climate justice organizations?

The climate-friendly region we aspire to is full of dense, walkable neighborhoods with abundant and affordable housing connected by frequent, reliable, accessible transit. Investing billions in the backbone of a regional transit network doesn’t accomplish all of our goals, but it’s a necessary component. If we want to heckle TriMet to make the bus run every five minutes, it behooves us to fully fund the Rose Lane Project (which this measure would do) so every dollar TriMet spends on bus headways is maximized for public benefit.

There’s also a reality check – Cortright’s implicit suggestion that the region should instead pay for these projects by raising the gas tax or a carbon tax is both admirable from a policy perspective and absurd as political strategy. Back in 2016, Commissioner Steve Novick had to fight off $100,000 of opposition funding from Big Oil to pass the municipal 10-cent gas tax. I cannot fathom the well-funded opposition and regional voter tax-skepticism a campaign to substantially raise gas taxes from Hillsboro to Gresham would face, and it’s absurd to suggest there’s any viable pathway to winning that at the ballot box. We’ve literally had Republicans twice flee the state in the last year to avoid voting on market-based climate policy; without reform of our deeply broken democratic institutions, we’re left with imperfect mechanisms to raise revenue to tackle our overlapping transportation, housing and climate problems.

Coalitions matter

A few of the measure’s supporters.

I also think it’s worth pointing out the litany of environmental organizations who have looked over the details of this package and found a lot to celebrate. There’s at times a surprising level of disagreement between local environmental nonprofits who each have different sources of funding and theories on how to achieve their missions. Yet these groups are unified in their support; Climate Solutions is delighted by the funding for electric buses, OPAL-Environmental Justice is thrilled about youth pass, and Sunrise PDX is excited about the funding mechanism and bus lanes. I don’t agree with any of these organizations 100% of the time, but why would anyone trust the judgment of a single economist over a unified legion of the region’s top environmental and climate justice advocates organizations?

Sunrise PDX volunteers made voices heard at a Metro meeting in May 2019.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

These same organizations are the ones that tirelessly showed up to Metro meetings over the past eighteen months – it’s easy to forget that loud community opposition helped scuttle the proposal led by TriMet to ask voters in 2018 for funding for three freeways and the SW Corridor. This package’s contributions to regional equity and climate initiatives was a direct result of impressive organizing from the Getting There Together Coalition, OPAL – Environmental Justice Oregon and Sunrise PDX. Walter Robinson II, Alejandra Gallegos, Vivian Satterfield, Kari Schlosshauer, Richa Poudyal, Ashton Simpson, Maria Hernandez, and so many others deserve immense credit for slogging along with Metro and holding the agency accountable to demanding a progressive funding mechanism, fighting off many of the road projects, insisting on the inclusion of youth pass, and reflecting the myriad needs of the region’s diverse communities. This package includes numerous hard-won concessions won by and for communities of color, and any opposition to this package needs to grapple with why these hard-won victories for transportation justice aren’t worth supporting.

Let’s get real

Not voting for this package because you don’t like the road projects is like not voting for Joe Biden because he won’t ban fracking.

The claim that a ballot measure that overwhelmingly invests in girding a backbone of a regional transit network is somehow antithetical to our climate goals strikes me as preposterous. Even if this mechanism is ultimately not the one that will punish people to get out of their cars the quickest, it’s certainly a mechanism that will make that transition gentler and more appealing to more people. This is especially true for those of us priced out to the periphery of the region, living paycheck to paycheck, crossing haphazard streets to catch an infrequent bus that routinely gets stuck in traffic.

To be clear, I too share frustrations about the particulars of the SW Corridor, the inclusion of the Airport Way Overpass, and a handful of promised suburban parking lots. Given the existential threat that climate change represents and the emotional catharsis I feel every time I’ve attended an event with the brave youth from Sunrise, I assure you that my life is permeated with the climate anxiety that further radicalizes me with every wildfire.

But not voting for this package because you don’t like the road projects is like not voting for Joe Biden because he won’t ban fracking. Yeah, we know the dude should ban fracking, but we also need to unambiguously win an election, and the righteous fight to ban fracking can and should be resumed in January, (assuming we kick the fascist out of office) just as the fight to decarbonize our transportation system will require persistent community heckling after this passes.

I’d also point out that if Measure 26-218 fails, it sets regional efforts for investing in our broken system back by years. Even if you buy Cortright’s argument that this package is a deeply imperfect mechanism, what iteration of our region in the next decade is going to hit our transportation decarbonization goals without these transit investments? While I intend to join Joe Cortright in banging down the doors of the Oregon Transportation Commission demanding reform in the months ahead, let’s not fool ourselves — a “no” vote isn’t going to put any additional pressure on the OTC to reform the dinosaurs at ODOT.

The coming COVID recession is going to require an awful lot of economic stimulus to dig us out of this mess and put people to work. Asking Nike and Intel to pay taxes to hire people to build transit lines and sidewalks that communities of color have been demanding for decades seems like a pretty unobjectionable ask to me.

Join me in voting Yes on Measure 26-218. Let’s get moving.

— Aaron Brown is a community organizer working for the Let’s Get Moving campaign to pass Measure 26-218, although his support for the package was solidified months before being hired for the campaign. Aaron is the former Board President of Oregon Walks, a co-founder of No More Freeways, and a connoisseur of political buttons and stickers. He is a renter who lives in the St. Johns neighborhood of North Portland.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Champs
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Champs

As much as this feels like the wrong tax at the wrong time I am allowing myself to be convinced.

Joe Cortright
Guest

My friend and brother-in-arms in the freeway wars, Aaron Brown, has crafted a clever rationalization for a multi-billion dollar transportation Christmas tree that squanders the region’s limited financial resources on a series of projects that do little to advance equity or livability, and in the case of greenhouse gas emissions, do essentially nothing.

Aaron asks whether people should believe me or the coalition of groups supporting this measure—many of whom get pet project’s funded in the measure. I don’t ask anyone to believe me, just simply to read the facts and arguments I’ve presented and to decide for themselves. I come at this not because I’ve been paid by proponents or opponents, but based on my own independent analysis of the proposal, and decades of work on issues of urban policy, including transportation, the environment and equity.
https://cityobservatory.org/the-case-against-metros-5-billion-transportation-bond/

Let me reiterate the key arguments here:

This proposal simply takes Portland in the wrong direction. It ties up a huge chunk of capital in a series of projects that do nothing, according to Metro’s own estimates, (and not my modeling, as Aaron implies) to reduce transportaiton-related greenhouse gas emissions. The bulk of the money in this measure is spent the road right of way, where by tradition (and common sense) we’ve asked users to pay.

The Metro measure cannibalizes the payroll tax, which has been the foundation for paying for operating transit. TriMet’s finances are devastated now, with ridership (and farebox revenue) down sharply. It will need more money just to get ridership back to pre-Covid levels. This measure is likely to make it difficult or impossible for Tri-Met to find more money to maintain current bus service, much less expand it. A new light rail line won’t do any good if we can’t afford the salaries of the drivers to operate it. Equity comes from more transit service, especially more frequent buses, not an expensive and under-performing light rail line that runs to a tony suburban mall. (GB Arrington, a long time Tri-Met strategic planner has underscored the manifold shortcomings of the proposal).
https://cityobservatory.org/why-this-portland-transit-veteran-is-voting-no-on-metros-bond/

Aaron asserts that I’m politically naive to suggest that an increased gas tax is possible: But in his own op-ed, he notes that Portland approved a 10 cent a gallon gas tax in 2016 (and omits that we renewed voters overwhelmingly in May). Asking users to pay for the transportation system makes sense, and it puts the burden on those who use the system the most. The state Legislature also voted to increase the gas tax in 2017. There’s nothing magical or impossible about raising gas taxes. In fact, gas prices are roughly 50 cents a gallon lower than they were a year ago: Now would have been the perfect time to raise gas taxes.
https://ycharts.com/indicators/us_gas_price

The Metro measure spends the bulk of its money on improvements to ODOT highways: Barbur Boulevard, TV Highway, McLoughlin Boulevard, 82nd Avenue, Powell Boulevard. Why should Metro taxpayers pay to fix the safety and acces problems of these roads? And by letting ODOT off the hook for these costs, it frees up their resources to push the $800 million Rose Quarter I-5 project, and a revival of the $3 billion Columbia River Crossing. This measure enables the freeway builders, and fails to hold ODOT accountable for decades of failure in the Portland region.

A year, two years or five years from now, as the climate crisis worsens, and as we’re looking for the resources to pay for things that will really make a difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we’ll regret that we tied up all of this $5 billion in payroll tax revenue (for the next twenty years or more) and got only a 5/100ths of 1 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from transportation. This region can, and must do better than that.

casual observer
Guest
casual observer

Thank you for posting this, it really helped me make my decision. Your second to last paragraph was an excellent point.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

On one hand, you’ve made a series of eloquent points that directly address the problems we are facing with climate change and transportation and how this measure doens’t address those problems.

Now on the other hand, the measures boosters have come with “it’s not as bad as it looks, the plan is so vague and poorly designed we can change it!” and “its better than nothing!”.

What to do…what to do…?

Aaron
Guest

1) I’m acutely aware of the 2016 gas tax. I was the campaign manager for Measure 26-173. Trust me when I say that it’d be a truly herculean effort to raise a regional gas tax on par with what you discussed in your post. I also think the regressivity concerns of a gas tax would be more pronounced at a regional level than at a municipal level.

2) Even *if* this cannabalizes the payroll tax, well, it gets us to start thinking about where we can find revenue for transit. Hopefully it’s something like congestion pricing, carbon pricing or a gas tax! All of them will be ludicrously difficult and involve a lot of lawyers. None of those are on the ballot now. This is. We need more infrastructure, we need more disincentives on driving, we need more funding for transit service. Passing this measure gets us, well, one of those three confirmed, when we currently have zero.

3) Completely agree it’s bullcrap that ODOT is abdicating their responsibility of paying for these roads. Completely disagree that voting no on this measure will somehow get ODOT to cough up the money to fix TV Highway. If this measure indeed fails, we can push for that, but the OTC doesn’t exactly seem to be responsive to public feedback. Hell, only last month did the OTC start taking online public testimony after six months of inability to testify via zoom. The region can’t wait around for the state; we need to take our fate into our own hands, especially when the people who suffer from disinvestment are the most vulnerable among us. I hope you agree that I’ve done my share of “holding ODOT accountable for decades of failure in the region”, and I intend to continue to do so regardless of what happens with this Measure in November.

4) 82nd is not a “pet project” to APANO. It’s their community boulevard. We should be thrilled that communities of color are playing hardball to get “pet projects” included – that’s, like, proof that these organizations have clout and are using it to improve their community. That’s just democracy.

Duncan Parks
Guest

Aaron talks about the “regressivity” of a regional gas tax…but how about the effect on working folks when we add yet another chunk of payroll overhead for all businesses over 25 employees? Just grabbing more from Nike and Intel is a really disingenuous way to describe the impact on businesses all over the region that actually employ people. This measure needs a funding source with the right incentives (i.e. a tax of some sort on driving cars).

Momo
Guest
Momo

Saying “why we should we have to pay to fix ODOT’s terrible roads” is exactly what we’ve been doing for the last several decades. How has that worked out? What’s that definition of insanity again? How many people will die while you stand on your moral high ground?

Bicycling Al
Guest
Bicycling Al

You have a lot of good ideas. Unfortunately, none of them are on the ballot. Measure 26-218 IS ON THE BALLOT! I’m not one to turn down something tangible for promises of better things to come. If the payroll tax turns out to be onerous, then there will be incentive to fix it with a better alternative later. I don’t think it’s an onerous tax but am willing to concede that things don’t always work out as planned.

I’ll vote for M26-218.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

Hi Joe,

I respect your analysis and appreciate your critique of this proposal… especially as a fellow independent observer (and I agree many supporters of the measure are tied to it either financially or because it gets them a “win” to show off to their members/constituents).

However, policy doesn’t work in a vacuum and it can’t be made on cold economic calculations alone. I just keep coming back to what’s needed to reach the consensus and compromise that will get a package through Metro Council to begin with and then give it some chance of passing. And that isn’t always the best/purest policies… That is what will satisfy valued stakeholders and keep people away from their pitchforks.

Without the gross corporate funding of attack ads this measure would be passing easily IMO. If it had a large gas tax increase those corporate losers wouldn’t have had to mount a campaign because the grassroots opposition would have been so strong. That’s just one aspect of the many complicated moving parts on this thing.

Thanks for your comments.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

It occurs to me that one defense against corporate pushback is utter necessity. If Metro’s proposal would make a significant dent in greenhouse gas emissions, it might be harder to attack. As it is, I get little sense that these projects are urgent, transformational, or even necessary in any sort of real sense. Nice to have, maybe, but nothing life-or-death. Adding the climate angle might help make the case that we really need to do this, and if you oppose it, you’ve got a bad case of short-termism. Some companies might step back from fighting that.

We may not be quite there yet, but I sense growing public appetite to address climate change, and I think our agencies need to start putting measures out there that make the case we can and must reduce our impact on the planet.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

I’m voting no because the green line extension is a mistake and it makes the package unpalatable. It’s a shame that Metro chose to weigh down an otherwise mediocre to good spending package with a $1 billion boondoggle.

I think its also sad that we are voting on “the big one” and it doesn’t even promise real bike infrastructure. Just unprotected gutter lanes throughout. How is this our best effort? We are being asked to fund a project that wont substantially make it easier to get around the metro without being in a car because leadership doesn’t have the vision or political courage to build good infrastructure.

It’s also silly to discount the analysis of the economist because lots of other groups found something to like in the package. That’s the point of pork. You put something in there for everyone to get them onboard with a package they otherwise wouldn’t like. PBOT came right out and said they did that with the Fixing Our Streets package. Putting token projects in to get votes doesn’t make it a good measure.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

Putting token projects in to get votes doesn’t make it a good measure

I hear you and I am struggling with this as well. In my view, most notable people who support the measure or who are willing to hold their nose and vote “yes” are either 1) politicians 2) wanna-be politicians 3) nonprofits who stand to gain from the “win” and/or who were part of the sausage-making… And the people saying “No” are independent observers.

That being said, the point of stuff like this isn’t just to make “a good measure”. It’s to make a measure that will actually get the votes to pass — with both stakeholder/politicians and with the public in this case.

Seriously. What good is a “good measure” if it’s DOA politically?

I don’t know about you but I’m tired of dysfunctional politics where nothing gets done. This measure is a rare compromise that has some good stuff and some bad stuff (the definition of compromise). In my opinion the good outweighs the bad and I think it deserves support.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

The green line extension will be TriMets big project of the 2020s. MAX ridership is declining because our current routes don’t fit the needs of the community. I don’t see how this commuter extension is going to do anything to change MAXs fortune.

To me this looks like willingly voting to get stuck with a project that will act as an anchor and distract TriMet from making smart investments that actually empower folks in the metro to get around outside of a car.

roberta
Guest

The Max line ridership is declining because they put too many Max Stops in and a lot of them are poorly placed next to a freeway.

Jason
Guest
Jason

I thought the SW Corridor was going to add raised bike lanes to Barbur? So, not just unprotected gutter lanes.

continuous sidewalks and protected bike lanes on both sides of Barbur from I-405 to Barbur Transit Center

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

The bike lanes in the SW Corridor are the only high quality lanes in the whole package. Most of them are gutter lanes and all of them in East Portland are gutter lanes.

Aaron
Guest

just to be abundantly clear, this is very incorrect. There’s all sorts of opportunity to build some separated bike paths and other high quality bike stuff if the advocates make it a point to come out loudly to every community meeting in the months and years ahead for each of these corridors.

We as advocates have a much better chance convincing Metro to make these changes than hoping ODOT does it. This measure passing would happen in tandem with the jurisdictional transfer that allows the city/county/metro to guide the process. That’s a huge reason I’m excited about it – I’m confident that APANO is going to fight hard to make the transit and pedestrian improvements on 82nd absolutely world-class.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Just to be abundantly clear, my comment was very correct.

The current plan only provides for protected bike lanes on the SW Corridor. Every other bike lane in the plan is unprotected, surface level.

I’m not voting for a bad plan and hoping I can badger Metro into making useful infrastructure.

roberta
Guest

The problem with this argument Aaron, is that it forces bicycling advocates to come out to every single public meeting to make sure a bike lane is actually safe.

This measure will not happen in tandem with the jurisdictional transfer because ODOT never wanted to pay for these abandoned highways, these are state highways that should be paid for with state money. Not another regional tax. I’m tired of fighting for bike lanes. Metro doesn’t fight for them either. Why should we give them any more money?

And why the heck do we need another Burnside bridge? Didn’t we just pay to have it to be updated? What is is happening with MultCo Bridge engineering? That project got slapped on at the last minute and there is no resolution for how it connects to the freeways on the eastside. I’m not confident with Apano, Safe Routes, Street Trust , Opal, they all just caved for ODOT HB2017 and Metro 2020 funding. Just look at the Just Transit Alliance Pledge, it does not include cyclists and when I asked them to include cyclists in their alliance they gutted the Opal website instead of being inclusive to cyclists. This is a scam for cyclists. Don’t let your other gigs cloud your judgement.

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

Hey Aaron is it possible to amend the bike bill to define bicycle/walking infrastructure as “physically separated?” Given that change ODOT would not be able to sidestep cycleways on their jurisdiction any longer. Convincing Metro would no longer be necessary.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

SW Corridor is (at least) at 30% engineering drawings. No other project that would be funded as part of this package is anywhere near that far along. There’s absolutely no reason that the other bikes would be low quality; and with the amount of money proposed there are many reasons to believe that they will be high quality.

Momo
Guest
Momo

What about all the protected bike lanes in Central City in Motion?

Aaron
Guest

just to clarify, this project is going to invest in all kinds of amazing, phenomenal bike infrastructure. There’s millions a year for regional trails, and each of these corridors are going to have terrific bike lanes. I certainly feel better about Metro and local jurisdictions and their willingness to build world class bike infrastructure than ODOT, who currently owns these arterials.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

“Phenomenal bike infrastructure” is subjective I suppose. If you consider recreational paths and unprotected gutter bike lanes “phenomenal”, sure.

I’m not being asked to vote on a parks measure am I? Recreational paths have no place in this measure in the first place, but they certainly aren’t going to do anything to help lower carbon emissions or make the metro easier to get around.

Just to clarify, the bike lanes on Barbur are the only “world class” bike lanes in this measure. The rest are unprotected bike lanes. We know that unprotected bike lanes don’t encourage bicycling and we know that the large majority of people don’t feel safe using them. It’s just throwing money away on paint at that point. It seems like Portlands activist would understand that after watching paint and pray fail and seeing Portlands dying bicycle culture over the last ten years.

CD52
Guest
CD52

Where do you live? Somewhere that already has access to a light rail line? We in the southwest corridor helped pay for all of them. Now it’s our turn. Just adding more busses on existing Barbur isn’t going to get us the capacity of transit service we need in the future. And the measure does have something for everybody. That’s not “pork” that’s helping everyone.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

No, I live in St. Johns. Not only do we not have access to a light rail line, we don’t have access to decent bus service or bike lanes. There isn’t even a safe way to cross the cut. Jump off your high horse.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Aaron,

“…funding for a massive litany of transit, bicycle, and pedestrian projects all over the region.” pretty much sums up this effort.

This funding package is a formal acknowledgement by Metro that they have failed for decades to do their basic job of getting local governments to prioritize fixing and improving infrastructure for our poorest and most vulnerable residents. At any stage along the way Metro could have – had the power to do so – to veto bad projects, prioritize funding for good projects, and penalize jurisdictions for delaying improvements. Instead Metro has acted like a rubber stamp for everything and anything member jurisdictions submitted for Metro approval. So why should voters feel any confidence that Metro has suddenly changed their ways and will get these $5 Billion in projects done on time, as specified? Why should voters trust Metro, and why now?

Middle of the Road Guy
Subscriber
Middle of the Road Guy

I feel the same way about the school bonds here. “Yeah, I know we’ve been a complete failure before, but surely putting more money in our hands will fix the institutional problems that led to these failures in the first place”.

citylover
Guest
citylover

Except that schools have been historically underfunded in Oregon and transit has been funded nicely…lack of funding is one of the things that has kept schools from succeeding.

Aaron
Guest

how on earth do you think transit has been funded “nicely” especially considering the billions this region has spent on roads and freeways?

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

But they’ve still been horribly managed.

Aaron
Guest

“Metro has been unable to raise money to fix up our bad streets, why should we give them money now to fix up those streets?” is a really weird take.

Our house in on fire, so vote like it
Guest
Our house in on fire, so vote like it

Our house is on fire and and Mr. Brown wants the metro region to keep on adding fuel to the fire for ten years.

Let’s get real, Lobbyist Brown, a $7 billion committment to continue to spew tailpipe carbon pollution at historically-high levels for a decade is only “climate friendly” if you believe, like Trump, that the climate crisis is a hoax.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

I hear you on this and share some of your feelings. However, I’ve been thinking how this measure isn’t the end of the work or the conversation – it’s just the beginning. What I mean to say is, I’m confident that the combination of this funding and our regional transportation activism can be a much more powerful and positive force to fight climate change than not having this funding in place.

If this measure passes, the same coalition that put the package together will be inspired to keep working together to push for even stronger and more progressive changes.

Just because Barbur (and other roads) will still have lots of lanes, I’m not going to give up and assume they will always be filled with more drivers. And I would MUCH rather lobby Metro to do the right thing than ODOT. This measure puts the money into Metro’s hands and they’ve proven to be much more open and flexible and smart and nimble than ODOT ever has. Giving Metro more “skin in the game” in terms of regional transportation planning feels like a good thing to me (I know a lot of people at Metro and they are really smart and good people) and is another reason I plan to vote “yes” on this.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

And remember, it’s all about having skin in the game, just like with the bike fee.

idlebytes
Guest
idlebytes

This measure puts the money into Metro’s hands and they’ve proven to be much more open and flexible and smart and nimble than ODOT ever has.

What does that mean for the state highways the measure is supposed to pay to repair? Does Metro just have to give the money to ODOT and politely ask them to not make them more driver friendly? If ODOT is the one that will ultimately design and build the changes I don’t have much faith that the money will be used on traffic calming and safety.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

What does that mean for the state highways the measure is supposed to pay to repair? Does Metro just have to give the money to ODOT and politely ask them to not make them more driver friendly?

That’s a good question. I’m not sure exactly but I do know that ODOT is able to partner with other agencies and contractors and that as long as the plans don’t go against ODOT design guidelines, they can build whatever is paid for. As for those guidelines, the good news is that ODOT is evolving theirs quickly and I believe by the time any of this Metro money comes in ODOT will have a new Urban Design Guide published. And I hear it’s pretty good.

roberta
Guest

They should have published the guidelines instead of hiding it away. If it doesn’t have protected bike lanes its another scam.

Aaron
Guest

bingo

roberta
Guest

The people who put together the project list is from JPAC which over represents white and affluent cities regionally. ODOT is now, actually responding to lobbying (me) more so then Metro. I’m not giving Metro people a pass. They hoard regional data and make advocates pay for it. These people are smart because they are hoarding all the good data. Just a reminder Jonathan the Just Transit Alliance doesn’t include cycling and they have no real commitment to being inclusive to cyclists or acknowledge the economic powerhouse this industry has become in Portland.

Aaron
Guest

I was a registered lobbyist at the legislature for a few months with what was then the Oregon Bus Project back in 2015, and I was a registered lobbyist for the Anti Freeway Industrial Complex at the city of Portland in 2017-2018 when the freeway fight first kicked up, so yeah, you got me, good one, Ron.

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Member

I voted YES on this measure and encourage others who care about transportation investments to do that same.

Thank you to Aaron for writing such a compelling op-ed about why this measure deserves your YES vote as well.

We should all be very thankful of the numerous climate and social justice groups that worked to improve this measure and are now asking for your YES vote as well.

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

You lost me at the Joe Biden analogy. I do plan to vote green party and not Joe Biden because he won’t ban fracking, plus 100 other things. Remember, voting for the lesser evil is still evil.

nic.cota
Guest
nic.cota

A vote for a 3rd candidate (unfortunately in America) will always act as a vote for the candidate you least support. It divides what would otherwise be a unified coalition of majority into 2 separate minorities..In other words, I’d say the Trump Campaign would support your vote for the green party. All for the sake of avoiding ‘the lesser evil’.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Generally not true. The presidential vote is taken state-by-state, not nationally. You can typically count the fingers of one hand the number of states where one major candidate did not win an outright majority (over 50%) of the votes cast. Unless you live in one of those rare battleground states, your voting for a 3rd party candidate will make no difference whatsoever to the eventual outcome.

X
Guest
X

Ideally, I’m a Green.

OTH, compare the number of Green Party votes in each state to the margin of victory in the 2016 election. I voted for every Democrat/Working Family candidate and will until the fire is out, out, out.

Aaron
Guest

lesser evil also harms fewer people. voting is harm reduction buddy

Matt D
Guest
Matt D

That only makes sense if a third party actually stood a chance at winning. Please get real.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Technically, according to the 12th amendment, if there is a tie for President (269 electoral votes each) or no one gets a majority of 270+, the top 3 candidates then go to a House vote, whereby each state gets one vote (I’m uncertain if DC gets to vote or not.) The top 2 vice presidential candidates go to a runoff in the Senate, each state getting its usual 2 votes; the current vice president is unable to vote to break ties. It’s all very unlikely of course, as it hasn’t happened since the early 1800s, back when there were at least 4 major political parties.

Oh how I wish we were Canada, so I could vote NDP. Instead we have two conservative parties, both utterly corrupt, with two spoiled white one-percenter 70+ old men running against each other, throwing so much mud to see what will stick, to become the king of the world. I hope the result is decisive one way or the other, this present divided government is hell.

X
Guest
X

In 2020 it’s dangerous to pretend there’s no difference between the parties or the presidential candidates. Joe Biden is not my favorite politician but I feel that he has a notion of where the truth might be found. The other party has lost its bearings.

Your point is well taken about the two old guys. Let’s look at the veeps. In the debate Pence attempted to make a dubious statement at one point and gave a big squirming look-away-from-the camera tell. He’s willing to say a thing, on national TV, that he can’t even sell to himself. Pitiful and rotten to the core.

Harris is well seasoned in public life, tough, and smarter than any of them. I was going to vote against Trump anyway but I think if need be she will put the Executive Branch on her back and restore a bit of credibility to the nation. This loose cannon stuff has got to stop.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Keep in mind that it is possible, however very unlikely, that Mike Pence could be the one sworn in as President on Jan 20th. A tie in electoral votes means that each candidate needs at least 26 votes in the House to win (out of 50 or 51 possible votes). If there is no result by Jan 20th, the current vice president gets sworn in. Which is why I hope for a decisive result on November 3rd.

X
Guest
X

The need for a decisive result is exactly why it is dangerous to suggest the parties are similar. They are not.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

We vote for individual candidates, not party lists. Neither presidential candidate conforms to their party platform (the fact that the GOP has abandoned even having one for 2020 notwithstanding). Both parties are to the right-of-center by Canadian and most European standards. The congressional candidates of the slightly-more-liberal party vary from the far right (Lieberman) to the far left (Sanders etc). There aren’t just two parties, but each congressperson and presidential candidate essentially represent their own views; if a candidate has the same views as their party, it’s coincidence rather than intentional.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Another way of describing it is that we aren’t really voting left or right this year, at least for president. If you are a sensible person who stops at all red lights and stop signs and wants a nationwide lockdown and require everyone to wear masks, and you want a predictable boring president, then there’s a 77-year-old who fits the billing to a T. If however you are looking for an utterly unpredictable president, the type who doesn’t really care what you do on your bike or react to a pandemic, then the other 74-year-old guy is your best bet. Judging from the crap shown on TV these days, I’d say most Americans will opt for the latter, at least in swing states – so lets hope they don’t vote.

Lisa C
Guest
Lisa C

It’s not just Joe Cortright who opposes this, so do GB Arrington and David Brandon. That is a lot of very informed, independent, expert opinion—from pro-transit veterans.

To read them, SW Corridor Light Rail should be opposed because it is a bad idea. A very expensive, bad idea which is possibly not competitive enough to get the federal grants it needs for completion.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Ironically, the fact that SW MAX might not get those grants (which this whole measure was designed to capture) makes me almost hopeful enough to vote for the measure. If we can get them to cut the two spare car lanes from Barbur, it will all work out fine.

Nathan
Guest
Nathan

I wish the Max lines had a third set of rails at as many stations as possible to allow express trains from the farthest out park and ride facilities. The length of journey to get on at the last stop of any of the existing or proposed lines is kinda ridiculous. That extensive time commitment de-incentivizes people to park and ride at those locations and instead drive closer in to get on at a smaller neighborhood station or close in ParknRide (reason why pre-pandemic, the Johnson’s Creek ParknRide or Sunset ParknRides fill up before the Parking garage at the end of their lines do). Every legacy mass-transit system on the east coast has express trains for a reason and it’s frustrating that aspect of rail mass-transit systems continues to be overlooked in Portland. I live a 15 min walk from a max stop and it is always faster to take the bus, spewing out exhaust and sitting in traffic, than to take the Max.

Laura
Guest
Laura

(Maybe) the right plan at the wrong time. I work for a local non-profit that falls over the “will pay” threshold. We are struggling this year, with increased demand for our services, and substantially lower income. We have not replaced those who have left in the past 8 months. With this measure, it just hammers us more, and makes it less desirable for us to hire and grow our ability to serve our community.
With no sunset date, it gives Metro a blank check to spend/misspend our money. At least the school bonds have to be renewed periodically.
Finally, the last minute scrambling by Metro to exclude local governments, including it appears, OHSU, and the “oh, we may not implement the full tax rate immediately” to try and appease the business community, is NOT confidence building.
I voted NO.

Tom
Guest
Tom

The issue here is accountability. This tax doesn’t end even after the projects are completed. It will be paid by a select group of private sector employers with 25 or more workers while public agencies of all sizes are exempt (without legal justification). Taxing companies by size is like taxing people by age. Metro can change the tax rate and even the project list whenever they want (this came up in one of the newspaper Q&A sessions where Metro dodged the question). Those are really problematic issues when you put forth such a large tax measure.

This measure is a vote to give Metro a permanent tax revenue. The light rail, pet projects and racial equity stuff are just part of a big feel-good smokescreen to distract voters.

Bradley Bondy
Guest
Bradley Bondy

I voted yes! The measure certainly isn’t perfect, but it’ll finally bring continuous bike lanes to 82nd in Clackamas County which is a big deal for me. I live a couple blocks away from the street yet almost never use it when riding my bike, even when I’m going to a store along 82nd.

This measure will make similar bicycle and pedestrian safety investments in several East Portland arterials too, as well as McLaughlin, Barbur and TV Highway. This measure is worth a yes vote.

Lazy Spinner
Guest
Lazy Spinner

Sure. Nike and Intel can afford the tax but, thousands of small businesses in our region cannot. Restaurants, local retailers, service providers, etc. will be negatively impacted in an environment that is already seeking record business closures. How many individuals at small concerns will lose their jobs when a 30 person firm trims to 24 employees to avoid the tax?

Like others have stated, the MAX Green Line bill disturbs me. The lack of major bicycle infrastructure improvement bothers me. Road improvements? That will likely only create induced demand due to making driving a more attractive option.

It simply is not the right time. Hopefully in a year or two, the economy will have improved and Metro can re-work this plan before putting it before the voters. In addition, it might be wise to see how the work-from-home economy plays out. If WFH becomes the norm, then many of these car centric projects may not be necessary or can be scaled back significantly.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

In general, if a government wants voters to approve a funding package, the best time to do it is during a crises or economic downturn AND when they expect higher-than-usual voter turnout. People like to feel like they are doing something positive for society when they vote, and younger voters are more likely to vote in favor of more taxes than retirees.

idlebytes
Guest
idlebytes

How many individuals at small concerns will lose their jobs when a 30 person firm trims to 24 employees to avoid the tax?

It seems unlikely a firm would reduce their workforce by 20% just to avoid paying this tax. I mean if their average hourly pay were $30 that’s only $14,000 a year in taxes. Out of a $1.8 million payroll.

Aaron
Guest

Traffic Congestion is already back to 90% of pre-pandemic levels.

This tax will also not be levied until 2022.

JR
Guest
JR

Let’s assume payroll is 100% of the expenditures of a company (it’s not, but let’s pretend). This tax would cause a less than 1% increase in expenditures. That’s basically noise with anyone’s budget forecast. Considering the rich tax cut corporations got just from the GOP, this isn’t even a drop in the barrel to improve biking, walking, and transit throughout the region. I’m willing to hold my nose on a couple projects that will grade separate light rail from traffic – heck, I’m not that philosophically rigid.. those are OK too. I already voted YES.

chris m
Guest
chris m

The reason I would trust an economist over a coalition of nonprofits is that economists are dispositionally inclined to evaluate tradeoffs. All of the “pro” arguments on this measure indicate there will be a further tax hike to fund operations (presumably a payroll tax increase because that’s what TriMet does) and a later gas tax increase to achieve climate goals. One of Cortright’s key arguments is that TriMet is going to have an extremely hard time raising more money for operations if this passes. I have not seen proponents of the measure address this… perhaps an additional tax on top of Oregon’s very high income taxes, TriMet’s .7% tax, and this .7% tax will not pose a major problem but it’s an argument that should be addressed.

Michael Andersen
Subscriber

Good argument!

That rail line does suck though. Really really wish we could have done this without it.

Aaron
Guest

we might need a NMBL (no more barbur lanes) to spring up in southwest after this passes.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

LoL I’m here for it!

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

I don’t understand all the hate for the SW Corridor. Is it that this particular design is bad, or just a prevailing sense that SW doesn’t deserve the same amenities as everywhere else?

chris m
Guest
chris m

nothing particularly to do with “deserve.” Studies of the build environment show that it’s unlikely to be cost-effective given ridership, and it is unlikely to even add many riders or improve service significantly over adding more frequent busses to the 12.

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

Current bus routes (incl 12) don’t come anywhere close to serving the same area as the proposed SW Corridor. And service that only runs from 7:00-7:01am and 4:59-5:00pm (exaggerating for effect) isn’t really usable, either.

edit:
To put more context on this, imagine you want to get from Wilsonville/Lake Oswego/Tualatin/Tigard to downtown/Beaverton/Gresham. Picking downtown for a destination, driving your single-occupant vehicle is a 20-45 min trip. The best existing transit option involves two or three transfers, costs $4 and takes 65-100 minutes. Is it any wonder the projected ridership is low? People have been forced to build their transit lives around cars, and it’s going to take time for new habits to develop. A second point: the existing 2X line that parallels I-5 and part of where the SW Corridor would go currently accounts for 20% of that entire system’s fixed-route ridership. Imagine 20% of Trimet’s ridership all being on one bus line and Trimet deciding there weren’t enough riders on that line to make it worth expanding service.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

As the former chair of my NA transportation committee who has relied on trimet, walking and biking as my primary means of transportation for the last 15 years who absolutely believes we need transportation funding, I think this measure is a weak program utilizing a weak funding arrangement with weak quantitative outcomes. 

Many of these issues with the program, funding arrangement and outcomes have been described by Joe C and others in this thread. In a mtg with Metro President Lynn P earlier this year she said that transportation should be funded as a basic utility like water or electricity (paid for by the user). I’d agree. This measure does not do that. 

If instead of the users paying, one could contend that transportation is a basic service and all should pay. If so, we also have existing mechanisms for that (Trimet, ODOT & PBOT/cities). 

Instead of wishful thinking ODOT will fund improvements to their highways, create nice guidelines, not spend their budget on the rose quarter or interstate bridge and complete jurisdictional transfers, why not first ensure the items this community wants from ODOT are secured before taxing metro area non-government businesses over 25 people. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush. 

I also agree we need to ensure Trimet has the funding it needs for the existing system to survive the current crisis before utilizing the payroll tax for other means.

Lastly, we are in the midst of a downturn that isn’t over. Every business or family has had to adjust their plans. So should Metro. For me, that’s the prudent thing to do. 

Doug Hecker
Guest
Doug Hecker

I voted no.

MaddHatter
Guest
MaddHatter

Fair enough… why? What tipped your decision to no?

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

No sunset clause, no thank you.

Wong
Guest
Wong

This is not “asking Nike and Intel to pay taxes”, this is “asking Nike’s and Intel’s employees to pay taxes”. The actual corporations Nike and Intel (and every other Oregon employer that has more than 25 employees) won’t be paying a dime of this tax. They’ll simply pass it on to their employees. This is a payroll tax. I already pay a couple bucks out of every paycheck for “Oregon Transit Tax”. This tax would be yet another line item eating into every employee’s paycheck.
This is a regressive flat tax, like sales tax. I agree that Metro needs funding for these projects, but given the current state of income and wealth inequality in this country, the tax should be progressive: taxing higher incomes at higher rates, and preferably not taxing low-income citizens at all. Going forward, we should insist that most new taxes are progressive.