Metro Council president has written a book on ‘Roadways for People’

Peterson in 2019. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Metro Council President Lynn Peterson will look to burnish her low-car bona fides with a new book due out in December.

“In Roadways for People, Lynn Peterson draws from her personal experience and interviews with leaders in the field to showcase new possibilities within transportation engineering and planning,” reads the blurb from publisher Island Press. The book was written with Elizabeth Doerr.

Peterson, 54, has held the Metro Council presidency since 2019. Prior to that she was Secretary of Transportation for the state of Washington. She has also served as a Lake Oswego city councillor and a commissioner for Clackamas County. Here’s more about the book from the publisher’s website:

The car-only approach in transportation planning and engineering has led to the construction of roadways that have torn apart and devalued communities, especially Black and Brown communities.  Forging a new path to repair this damage requires a community solutions-based approach to planning, designing, and building our roadways. When Lynn Peterson began working as a transportation engineer, she was taught to evaluate roadway projects based only on metrics related to driver safety, allowable speed for the highest number of cars, project schedule, and budget. Involving the community and collaborating with peers were never part of the discussion. Today, Peterson is a recognized leader in transportation planning and engineering, known for her approach that is rooted in racial equity, guided by a process of community engagement, and includes collaboration with other professionals.

In Roadways for People, Lynn Peterson draws from her personal experience and interviews with leaders in the field to showcase new possibilities within transportation engineering and planning. She incorporated a community-solutions based approach in her work at Metro, TriMet, and while running the Washington State Department of Transportation, where she played an instrumental role in the largest transportation bill in that state’s history. The community solutions-based approach moves away from the narrow standards of traditional transportation design and focuses instead on a process that involves consistent feedback, learning loops, and meaningful and regular community engagement. This approach seeks to address the transportation needs of the most historically marginalized members of the community.

Roadways for People is written to empower professionals and policymakers to create transportation solutions that serve people rather than cars. Examples across the U.S.—from Portland, Oregon to Baltimore, Maryland—show what is possible with a community-centered approach. As traditional highway expansions are put on pause around the country, professionals and policymakers have an opportunity to move forward with a better approach. Peterson shows them how.

It’s notable that the blurb references highways expansions being put “on pause.” In practice, Peterson has supported the I-5 freeway expansion

both across the Columbia River and through central Portland with her recent “yes” votes on both the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program and I-5 Rose Quarter projects respectively. At the Oregon Active Transportation Summit back in April, she told the crowd, “We can’t let ‘no’ get in the way of progress.”

It will be interesting to note how — or if — she handles these projects in this book. We’ve requested a media copy and will share a more detailed review once it arrives.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

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

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Joseph E
1 year ago

Ironically, the publisher chose a map for the cover which shows mostly the “roads not for people”: the streets and road which form the car-centric network, in Portland.

1 year ago
Reply to  Joseph E

Given Peterson’s historic and ongoing support for highway expansion, I don’t find it ironic at all.

1 year ago

Jonathan, if Lynn and Elizabeth didn’t interview you as a leader in the field, I think that was a significant shortcoming.

1 year ago

That book will be read by people from outside Portland who will have no idea that Peterson has been a freeway-widening champion in her home city.

If she goes on a book-promotion tour, BP readers should photo-bomb her events and provide perspective on the very wide gap between her rhetoric and her reality.

1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

This is a really interesting comment. It triggered the thought that Peterson may be trying to reap the political benefits of supporting highway expansion now, while setting the stage for her future run for governor as a “transportation progressive” hoping people will forget what she did and only remember the book.

1 year ago

As traditional highway expansions are put on pause around the country, professionals and policymakers have an opportunity to move forward with a better approach. Peterson shows them how.”


Peterson championed the biggest highway expansion package in Washington State for decades – a set of traditional, billion-dollar highway expansions across the state.

She’s also an enabler of Oregon’s big, traditional highway expansions.

Really really curious how she (or her co-writer) explains these.

1 year ago

Hard pass from me. This seems very cynical and opportunistic, given how much of a freeway-centric road-builder Peterson is. She has always been a supporter of ODOT’s big freeway projects. Her leadership at Metro has also been very poor, culminating in the poorly-conceived transportation measure that failed largely due to a nonsensical project list (mostly SW Corridor, which most people don’t support, and a bunch of random projects that didn’t add up to a coherent vision) and really problematic funding mechanisms that kept shifting and made the business community oppose it vehemently. The whole thing was a debacle. Metro needs to get back to bold, visionary, long-term planning like they are meant to do.

Joe Cortright
1 year ago

This is offensive and hypocritical on so many levels. Lynn is aiming to trade on Portland’s national image and historical accomplishments, just as she is using her power as Metro President to undermine them. She’s been a relentless supporter of ODOT’s freeway expansion projects at every turn, even as they mortgage the region’s transportation future to a car-dominated system. No amount of green-washing and woke-washing changes the reality that she’s advocating for spending billions of dollars to widen highways even as transportation is the largest, and fastest growing source of greenhouse gases in the region.

Lynn is a 21st century Roberta Moses.

After four years, we now clearly know what Lynn meant when she told us she wanted “to build some shit.”

Hopefully, her book will include these quotes:
“I’m very excited to build some shit,” incoming Metro president Lynn Petersen told the cheering crowd.

“We need to build bus (speed improvement) intersections and also increase highway lane miles,” Peterson said, in a possible preview of the kinds of projects she is thinking of including.
“We’ve done a lot of good planning, but we’ve got to get some s— done,” said Peterson, known for her salty language, who will take office in January.

Portland Tribune, November 6, 2018