One of the most powerful transportation policymakers in the state of Oregon is “skeptical” that actions taken by government can influence peoples’ decisions on how they get around.
Lee Beyer is the newest member of the powerful Oregon Transportation Commission, the five-person board appointed by the governor to oversee and set policy for the Oregon Department of Transportation. That alone makes Beyer a very important voice, but his stature goes well beyond the OTC. As a member of the Oregon House and Senate he served 20 years in the state legislature — and is a former co-chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. In that capacity, Beyer was one of the main architects of the landmark transportation package known as HB 2017. (He was also a staunch supporter of the infamous Oregon bike tax.)
At a meeting of the Oregon Transportation Commission in Salem on Thursday, Beyer was listening from the dais during the public comment period when environmental advocate Bob Cortright from the nonprofit 350 Salem stepped up to speak. Cortright (not to be confused with his brother Joe, also an notable ODOT watchdog), used his time to make the case that the Oregon Transportation Plan (being released in draft form later this spring) won’t meet its targets unless it does more to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT).
Here’s the exchange (same as audio above):
The draft plan won’t correct this problem, because it’s really silent about the scale of reductions in VMT and mode shift that are needed. Again, we need to double or triple the share of trips that are made by walking, cycling and transit and reduce VMT by 20%. So those should be clearly included in the OTP [Oregon Transportation Plan]. The draft plan won’t correct this. This is a recipe for an OTP that doesn’t make progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. So again, I hope you make those changes as you go forward.
Bob, I appreciate your concern. And the dilemma that I always see is, we can make it easier for people to walk or bike or whatever. And we can make it — I don’t know that we can make it easier for them to drive — But the issue is really self determination. I guess I’m a little skeptical. I come to believe that people are going to continue to do what they do what they want to do. And that it’s very hard to make that change. That’s more of a societal attitude issue rather than something that I think the [Oregon] Department [of Transportation] can do directly… We can make it easier… but my comment, or perspective is that I think as we move to less environmentally damaging cars, EVs or whatever, that people will continue to drive, because they like the freedom of personal mobility. That’s the frustration that I have with the system.
To have someone of Beyer’s stature say, essentially, that the state can have little influence on how many people will choose to drive or walk or bike or take transit, is very notable. Keep in mind that the room was full of top ODOT staff (including Director Kris Strickler).
One person I spoke to who was at the meeting said their jaw hit the floor when Beyer made his comments.
I reached out to Cortright after the meeting just to see if he was as surprised at Beyer’s comments as I was.
“I think it’s appropriate to be pretty shocked on several levels,” Cortright shared. “His comment pretty much denies and ignores the fact that public policy over the last 50-75 years has done boatloads to affect people’s transportation choices by the way we’ve built a very car dependent transportation system and then made driving essentially free.”
Beyond the very dubious merits of Beyer’s comment from a policy standpoint, Cortright feels words like that will serve to tamp down enthusiasm among ODOT rank-and-file. “It’s a bit fatalistic, it excuses the OTC and ODOT from any responsibility, and his skepticism sends a powerful message to ODOT staff that the OTC thinks all these efforts to reduce VMT aren’t worth it and what we need to do is just continue to make driving easier.”
Its so wild for people with billion dollar budgets to say that they can’t do anything to change how people travel and here I am a PE teacher going from 1% to 33% of my students biking to school in 3 months with a $500 grant from Metro SRTS.
Weaponized incompetence is very much a real thing.
people like Sam deserve a $50,000 grant
Comment of the week right here.
“Look guys, I hear you that we need to change what we’re doing. But have you considered that that’s, like, really hard? Couldn’t we just, you know, not, instead?”
If one’s position is, “Whelp, we can’t do much to shape behavior,” then why bother serving on the OTC or be a legislator to begin with? It makes sense if you’re a deregulation libertarian, but he’s not. Seems a rather odd position.
Infrastructure shapes behavior.
it sure does… And what’s so annoying about Beyer’s comments is it’s all the intentional choices of ODOT and Oregon that have led him to his belief that people just love to drive!
You don’t think people love to drive?
Really? Is that why there are no cars on the road?
I know loads of people who drive begrudgingly in the city. I know none who *love* to drive on a daily basis.
People love driving in Portland because it’s quick, easy, and requires very little effort. And, for a growing percentage of Portlanders* it’s inexpensive on a per-trip basis. The inability of active transportation proponents to understand this is a great example of epistemological closure (e.g. living in a self-referential bubble).
I loathe driving because of its extreme negative externalities but in the USA the fact that some activity causes harm to others has never been much of a barrier to FYIGM Fordist consumption. I also realize that my hate of driving is a minority position among Portlanders as a whole and, even, among active transportation proponents#.
* 42% of Portland households earn more than $100,000 per year.
# see Jonathan Maus’ comment about loving driving “sometimes”.
Uh, okay, go off I guess?
I love walking and biking and bussing and riding on rails anywhere I go. In theory.
In reality, I hate walking over the Halsey overpass near Gateway because it’s steep and I can barely hear myself think and I’ve been right hooked at the intersection by unaware drivers more times than I care to count. I hate the dread that my spouse and I feel that when I leave for the grocery store it might be the last time we ever see each other because I might get t-boned by someone going 40 mph and not paying attention at an intersection of 82nd. I hate that if I miss the bus because I get held up for a few minutes I’ll be stuck waiting half an hour for the next one. I hate that the infrequency and unreliability of Amtrak makes it practically impossible to use it to get to Salem. All of these are the result of intentional decisions made by PBOT, ODOT, and USDOT over the last century, and we end up with a more dangerous, less efficient, and less sustainable transportation system as a result. Most people aren’t “bike people” or “car people” or “train people;” they just want to get from A to B as conveniently as possible. We’ve just inherited a system in which the personal automobile is the only truly convenient option 99% of the time.
And outside of the urban core with its wealth of amenities, resources, and transportation infrastructure the personal automobile is not only convenient but essential. (Few things piss me off more than seeing a white college-educated economically-comfortable dude claim that anyone can go “car free”.)
To reverse this tragedy of the commons we need systemic change but instead the democratic establishment and its panoply of nonprofits only offer more insipid incremental reform as “progress”.
Right on Michael! It’s not “self-determination” that caused these problems. It’s the narrow minded people wielding the money and power that still want to mow down more neighborhoods and businesses to increase pavement, pollution, and ultimately more congestion, not less.
And who’s to blame? Look in the mirror, that’s who.
We continue to vote in politicians that kowtow to businesses and funnel them as much of our tax money as possible all in the name of helping us or social programs. If you think Goldschmidt brought us the Max system out of the kindness of his heart and not to enrichen his construction company friends then I don’t know where you’ve been all these years.
We continue to let the billionaires accumulate even more wealth at the expense of the middle-class and poor. Afterall, how many 10s of thousands have lost their jobs due to layoffs just so those billionaires could add a few 100 million to their wealth. How many times has Phil called up politicians and they bent over backwards to give him (his company) tax breaks. Who must make up those tax breaks? You and I.
I don’t have the answers, I try to vote for the right people, but sometimes I get it wrong. I’m no fan of taxes and vote a resounding No on every tax/fee/bond measure that I can irrespective of what it’ll be used for because we are taxes ourselves out of our homes/apartments. Yes, there are other reasons too, but hey, it’s income tax time and I see how much I pay and realize how little I get in return.
My answer, one day, when I can persuade the family that living in Portland is just not for us anymore then we’ll move. It’ll be a big lift as there are family and community ties that are keeping us here, for now.
So, to sum up my overly long diatribe, we are the problem that I no longer feel safe walking in my neighborhood, no longer feel safe riding TriMet, and have to drive. Pollution, congestion, pavement be dammed!
Driving is subsidized in many different ways, and other transportation options are not. It’s really that straight forward and you seem to fall into the same trap as this ODOT guy.
“I know none who *love* to drive on a daily basis.”
Yet they love to drive more than they love the alternatives.
People love the most convenient, fastest, and easiest way to get from point a to point b. Right now that is cars, because of the billions spent on car infrastructure. Hillsides have been carved into, tunnels and viaducts have been built at massive scales, hundreds of blocks have been demolished to make way for grade separated highways and complex interchanges, and the largest amount of public right of way is devoted to car parking and driving lanes. It is not some intrinsic quality that cars are better. Imagine if the MAX was truly grade separated, or if there was bicycle highways connecting all the neighborhoods, or if there was rose lanes on all the important arterials. Would people still clutch on to their cars because of love? Or is people’s love for cars a manifestation of decades of political and societal norms of making cars run supreme?
We can wring our hands over the past, but we have to deal with the world we’ve got. In that one, people prefer driving around Portland to biking, walking, or rolling the dice with TriMet.
The problem is that, in our world, cars offer a combination of attributes that are hard to replicate in other modes. It is therefore unsurprising that alot of the “solutions” involve making things worse for drivers in the hopes that the other modes will look better by comparison. That is a politically difficult road.
I don’t see a feasible path forward to make other modes work better than cars for most people most of the time. I think that to break free from the current dynamics, we need a new mode that can rewrite the fundamental equation, just as cars did a century ago.
Taking space away from cars to make driving harder would not be effective without simultaneously allocating that space to alternatives. It’s all about the carrot and stick.
“We need a new mode that can rewrite the fundamental equation…”
It’s called public transportation. But it has to be reliable and frequent enough that no dice-rolling is needed.
Uh, yeah so we should change that. Like, it’s what everyone is saying to you here. It got that way because of massive investment in driving and lack of investment in anything else. So yes, take away from car convenience and put real, serious investment in alternatives. That’s the solution.
I agree. If we can develop a mode of public transportation that is on-demand and point-to-point (and feels clean and safe and is relatively cheap), then maybe people will want to use it.
What is that supposed to mean? It sounds like you’re defining the problem of mass transit as unsolvable until we get Star Trek style teleporters. For people who actually want working alternatives, real solutions require making physical real world transit competitive by giving it some of the infrastructure and funding that previously went towards making personal automobiles the only way to get around.
Watts has previously commented that they think the future of mass transit is autonomous electric taxis or some such thing. Meanwhile Europe and Japan just use that outdated 19th-century technology called “trains”.
Lol, that’s what I was afraid he meant but didn’t want to assume. That is so not a solution it is funny. All the problems we have today would be the same, all the infrastructure would still be for cars, everyone would still want to buy their own car, etc. And that’s assuming we’re even close to getting the technology to work.
Like you said, we already have working, proven, and far more cost effective solutions, but the cost is shared instead of diffused into individuals so libertarians fight it kicking and screaming.
I don’t see TriMet recovering anytime soon, because they do not offer the type of service people want to use, especially when the commute-to-downtown-everyday model of work has declined so sharply. In a city like ours, it would be utterly unsustainable (financially or environmentally) to provide high frequency service to enough places that people stop driving. It just cannot happen.
If transit in any form is going to recover, it needs to reflect the way people move around the city. Whether or not you think robotaxis will work, the current model doesn’t do that, and wishful thinking that we’ll just rebuild the city in the image of Tokyo so that it could is just wishful thinking.
“Wishful thinking that we’ll just rebuild the city in the image of Tokyo…”
I’d be happy with rebuilding the city in the image of Utrecht in the Netherlands. It starts with removing legal and policy barriers to human-scaled urban development. No robotaxis required.
Yes, that is a Trimet problem. They could probably solve it if they really wanted to.
Probably…because the automobile would still be the path of least resistance. In my very strong opinion, we won’t see much mode share shift without policies that actively discourage automobile use (e.g. political change vs the status quo of weak nonprofits begging the establishment for dribbles of funding).
What policies do you have in mind?
This is the sort of “make things worse” thinking that will never carry the day.
If that’s your attitude, then there will never EVER be an alternative to driving. Period. It just won’t happen. Because if we make it so driving can get you from any point A to any point B at an average of like 30mph, the laws of physics basically preclude anything ever being more convenient. We have invested trillions into making driving easy at the expense of anything else (i.e. “make things worse” for everything else), and the only way to right that wrong is to allocate the physical space we inhabit differently.
Theres such a constrained right of way in all of Portland that any alternative would have to and should take away space devoted to cars. The best policy to discourage car use is to take space from cars to make the alternatives better. Anything short of that would be regressive.
Obviously taking space from SUVs/personal-trucks is one of the primary ways to encourage people to stop driving. However, there are plenty of other non-regressive approaches:
1. Progressive and weight-based excise taxes on vehicle purchases with a weight penalty.
2. Progressive and weight-based mileage-based DEQ, tag-plate, licensing, and title fees.
3. Progressive traffic citations with pervasive automated enforcement (e.g. that is not only located in lower-income neighborhoods).
4. State regulation that forces all autoinsurance to be mileage-based with limits on base fees. (Current options like metromile are mostly not mileage-based.)
4. Parking space elimination in urban centers and other areas with decent infrastructure. The libertarian “Schoupian” approach only serves to funnel more money to SUV/truck-centric transportation bureaus.
5. Tax credits for SUV/truck-light households.
6. A carbon tax.
If the roads cars can drive on are all bumper to bumper traffic, people would not drive as much if they can get where they need to go in a short time by public transit and other options. This is the flip side to induced demand. We’re living in a world where everyone drives because that demand was previously induced.
Maybe that’s what you mean by political change, but I don’t think anyone talking in this thread was suggesting status quo of weak nonprofits bla bla bla. In other words,
These are things that would require taking some space from drivers. Or at least that’s one easy way to do it.
Transformative anti-capitalist political change.
Some of the people commenting on this thread organize with “sheepdog” nonprofits.
“if they can get where they need to go in a short time by public transit”
If you can figure out a way to sustainably configure a bus service such that most trips for most people are fast and convenient, you’d have my support.
I don’t doubt people love to drive. Heck, I love to drive sometimes. But let’s not act like this is a simple conversation. The “love to drive” is hardly created in a vacuum. And when the concept is used in a political and policy context it takes on extra weight.
Oh, and we live in a system where the largest purchasers of media happen to be automakers and their #1 message they’ve pounded into our heads for 100 years has been, essentially, “You love to drive” and “Driving is awesome” so there’s that.
I have news for you, they love and I mean Love cars in France, Italy, Germany…. It’s not an American phenomena at all.
When gas prices rose last summer the public squealed like pigs over it.
Politicians lose their jobs over the price of gas.
China is the largest market now in the world, they can’t wait to own them
You are just in the bubble here.
I don’t even understand what you are saying Dwk. Yes, people love cars all over the world.. .But for some odd reason it’s only us here in the USofA that have an abusive relationship with them. Look at fatality stats, look at media spending, look at DUI and distracted driving and look at kids getting run over in their own driveways, look at the Big Dumb Truck culture… All in the USA.
And yes, I get the politics of cars.
And your point is?
My point is the vast majority of the public in the US has no interest in your point of view. If They did there would be changes occurring. This guy you write about has had his job for twenty years with the full support of the public that elects his boss.
I don’t get YOUR point? How is what you write here changing anything?
I hate to bring reality up but since this blog has been around the percentage of people riding bikes has fallen dramatically in this city.
Not your fault and I understand your POV but its does not reflect the majority views at all.
If gasoline was $8 bucks a gallon as it should be, then the public would support mass transit and a lot of stuff you support. Without that you are just doomed to be an echo chamber.
Thanks for fleshing out your point dwk. Very helpful in understanding where you are coming from.
Keep in mind, I don’t always care whether or not my views are shared or understood by a lot of people.
You and I seem to have very different views on politics and how activism and the media works. That’s fine. I agree with you that gas price is way too low and that it’s one of the – if not THE – strongest ways we could shift behaviors. I find it odd that you understand that, yet you seem to dismiss the value of people pushing ideas that might actually lead to higher gas prices. Sorry if I just don’t go with the popular American opinion on transportation stuff… I’m actually proud of that! My goal isn’t to go along with the majority and status quo… My goal is to present what I think is a better way of doing things and then try to expose those ideas to as many people as possible.
The fact that you and I are having this conversation here is a good sign that BP isn’t an echo chamber at all.
Yes Americans (and others in the world) love their cars, but policies can make a big difference. Years ago the central city in Munich (and many other European cities) was nothing but streets with cars and parking. Now central Munich (and almost every city & village in Europe) has many streets closed to cars, and people are walking and riding — safely — all over the place. And the city’s most valuable real estate is on those non-car-centric streets. We in the U.S. are just behind the times, in part due to short-sighted policymakers.
I remember when Bike Portland claimed that a 10¢ per gallon gas tax would discourage driving.
Well, dwk, it’s good to know where you stand. If everyone thought like you & Watts, Trimet would probably still insist that trains didn’t have to be accessible, because we had buses….. or maybe Portland would still have this nonsense:
Hell, I was born in the USA just about on the day the concrete was poured for the first mile of Interstate highway. Cars are cool and I like to drive. Also cars spread their waste exactly where we breath and they are made from stuff we rip out of the ground, so, I can see it is a problem.
You can love to do a lot of things but if your passion hurts other people it is not right. Fact is that people’s love of driving has always hurt a lot of people and no one cared, or they were too ignorant to notice. Anyone who supports expanding our auto-centric transportation system while ignoring those who walk or bike either does not care about those who are negatively impacted or they are too ignorant to notice. My bet is that Beyer’s comments reflect a combination of both – don’t care, don’t know.
I completely agree with you.
I ride a bike everywhere, own a 2009 Corolla that gets used once a month.
I am not the general public, 90% of whom do seem to support our auto centric system or at least scream and vote out anyone who makes driving more expensive.
If the owner here wants to focus on transportation issues and speak to this crowd, they all agree.
I miss reading about bicycles…..
The price of gas changes behavior a lot more.
They love cars just as much in Europe but they have to pay a lot to use them.
This country just won’t do that, all the infrastructure you build to make cars inconvenient won’t make a dent as long as we have cheap gas.
Roger that. My son lives(car free) in Germany. Arguably the best cars in the world are made there, so the love of cars is strong there. In Europe there are easy and convenient alternatives to daily use of a car. They drive when they travel but not so much when commuting
Street changes in Paris and London since the COVID pandemic have produced less driving and a lot more bicycling without any change in gas prices. Infrastructure matters a lot .
This is Govenor Kotek’s board? Doesn’t she claim to acknowledge climate change?
I said I’d never vote for Kotek and then I saw the ballot… Kotek is an effective, pragmatic, centrist politician. She won’t go up the climate change hill just to find a place to die.
Don’t they all claim to acknowledge climate change? Kotek was one of the biggest OG CRC boosters but I’m sure she’d show up for a photo op with climate activists. Also, Beyer was nominated by Kate Brown over the cries of advocates. It’s hard not to laugh sometimes.
You are correct, Andrew N. I remember the articles here on BP about Beyer, and I (and many others) wrote to our elected leaders in Salem and begged them not to approve the nomination. It was all for naught. Dem leaders have other priorities, I guess.
Even harder not to cry
That’s kind of my question, here. Never even mind his presence on a Kotek-appointed board; how has someone who thinks this way been on a Joint Committee for Transportation for so long? If he thinks nothing they do will change people’s behaviors, then…what have you been doing for the past 2 decades?
I frankly don’t doubt, too, that it won’t be easy to get a public that already think “personal mobility” can by necessity ONLY mean cars. But to pretend that you–any of us, really, but especially someone in his position–can have no role to play in it is a comical self-absolution.
This guy needs to retire, yesterday, and let someone not stuck in the 1960’s take over.
Because the Transportation Committee isn’t the committee responsible for changing peoples behaviors about driving, that’s a task for the Land Use Committee? (DLCD is where the VMT reduction goals are enshrined in unfunded and unenforceable statutes).
Although there is supposed to be this multi-agency work group:
With these key objectives:
There is no “committee responsible for changing peoples behaviors about driving”, there is only the power people have to effect change.The real question is, can the transportation committee do anything that would affect peoples behaviors about driving, and that seems like obviously yes.
With all due respect, this is lovely cognitive dissonance.
You do understand the meaning of this comment, right? The implication is that his presence on the board is wrong regardless of who put him there, not that the fact that Kotek put him there makes it better, because it does not.
I thought Lee Beyer was appointed by Kate Brown.
So many of the people in Portland who claim to be climate movement activists strongly supported Kotek. I can’t take any of these people seriously.
She can’t even have ODOT pick up the trash on the freeways she cares so much about the environment….
No, she herself promised to “pick up the damn trash” in that famous campaign ad. Better get on it!
Gee uncle Lee, you’re right, cars really are the best way to get around. It’s just the natural way. You know, they say the Pioneers used I-84 to first settle the Willamette valley. Better get rid of my bike, Hop card, and walking shoes.
I mean, I can say that the little that the Portland metro region has done to reduce driving has influenced lots of people’s behaviors. Yeah, I have a lot of friends who drive, but most of them can agree that it’s relatively easy to get around (some parts of) town without a car. All because of government policy. I wonder what could happened if we were even just 15% more ambitious.
And yeah, you could record my driving habits and say, “Look! this one loves to drive.” I don’t usually. It’s convenient for long distances. It usually becomes the cheapest option if I’m traveling with one other person. But if there were even all day hourly bus service between most of the important towns in this state, you bet I’d be taking more bus trips to the coast, to McMinnville, to Bend…cost is usually the main thing and it’s cheaper right now to drive with one other person than it is to use the existing service.
Actually, I’d love more frequent service to McMinnville precisely to visit the wine bars and now have to drive home or pay for an expensive hotel. Why aren’t we doing this already?
For anyone who missed it, here’s a translation of Lee Beyer’s comments, in plain English:
“I am not qualified to serve on the Oregon Transportation Commission.”
(He was also a staunch supporter of the infamous Oregon bike tax.)
How can we repeal this silly tax?
Why would anyone want to use unsafe public transportation? Just this week person hit with rock in their face. Walk anywhere with dangers of armed homeless in tents blocking sidewalks, stealing off our porches and defecation on streets. Heard one person peed on a person considering relocation to Portland. Needless to say, that individual crossed all of Oregon off their list. Highest number of methods addicts in country now addicted to the new meth, so their brains are literally fried. Not to mention legal hard drug use.
I would leave Portland area entirely before walking, biking or taking unsafe public transportation which add ridiculous time to trips with no A to B transportation AND a city that has now decided to put drugged, mentally ill homeless camps ajacent to public transportation connections and parking. Not safe to even access public transportation or park. I will gladly group my trips. I will travel off peak, after that, forget it!
PS Stopped going to Portland for anything but travel to Airport to leave nearly 15 years ago. PORTLAND should improve roads for drivers. Portland should clear sidewalks by criminalizing drugs and unsanctioned camping like Tennessee just did!
So you stopped spending any time in Portland 15 years ago but still expect the city to spend money for your driving convenience? No thanks. I don’t expect someone who never comes here to have an accurate idea of public safety in Portland, but you may be shocked to learn about the dangers of driving a car (hint: it’s a lot more dangerous than riding MAX).
Unfortunately, this is par for the course for ODOT. They always predict massive future traffic growth and then try to build freeways and highways to accommodate that growth. They say they’re just building what the people want, while ignoring that it’s all that added capacity that allows traffic volume growth to occur in the first place. In truth, during periods where traffic lane capacity stays flat, traffic volumes stay flat as well. And if they were to slowly remove freeway lanes or entire freeway links, volumes would drop even more. People drive because it’s fast, easy, and “free.” If driving were more difficult and expensive, and other options easier and cheaper, people would happily use other ways to travel.
It also looks like ODOT is doubling down on the notion that electric vehicles will save us, and keep them from having to make any hard choices. While EVs will certainly help with climate change, it’s a very slow adoption rate and will not make a difference fast enough. Plus they are expensive, have lots of environmental impacts even while using electric power (it’s not like all our electricity is carbon-free), and ODOT hasn’t figured out how to charge them for road maintenance. They are helpful, but not our savior and ODOT needs to adopt a multi-pronged strategy. To my mind, EVs are the best climate strategy for suburbs and small towns, but in denser cities we need to invest in better walking, biking, and public transit and make driving less convenient and cheap.
The best transportation policy is a good land-use policy. Density and a mix of uses in the places where people live will make most car trips unnecessary. As sprawl continues to bankrupt US cities, the choice will be to densify or die.
Density at the levels needed to eliminate car trips cannot be accomplished in Portland without wholesale demolition, urban renewal style.
Heck, even in NYC, many trips are made by car.
Continued car dependency cannot be accomplished without massive infrastructure spending that we don’t have the tax base for, not to mention the environmental costs of sprawl. Like I said, it’s densify or die.
If you’re right, we’re screwed either way because regardless of what happens in Portland, most of the US is far worse off, and Portland simply can’t survive in a country full of dead cities.
So I really hope you’re wrong.
That’s at least in part because NYC’s transit is actually not great compared with other global cities its size (London, Paris, Tokyo, Seoul).
Even in arguably the greatest rail city in the world–Tokyo–cars do have a mode share, but the point is that insofar as people will always want to take the path of least resistance (private car), the government knows that it’s not financially sustainable and is also logistically incredibly inefficient to provide it for everyone, and so goes out of its way to inconvenience people who would drive no matter how inconvenient is.
Proof of parking (not on the street), very high fees for ownership, high fuel taxes…the list goes on. To compensate, land use patterns aren’t punitive to those who don’t want to pay thousands of dollars a year to own a car, and–notably–there’s a good amount of churn in the housing market; housing construction in Tokyo (and Seoul, and all over China) is much higher than anywhere in the U.S.
I’ve said it before, here, I’ll say it again, and echo Daniel’s sentiment: we really do need an urban renewal movement aimed at building dense, car-free or car-discouraging development (ideally including a public housing component). The alternative is a country full of Detroit-style decay.
Urban renewal didn’t work out quite as well as the proponents promised it would the last time we tried it.
Count me out.
Well, we were a lot more comfortable being systemically racist back then, and assumed that cars were going to be a panacea for economic growth and regional economic development. At least now, trying to redline an area wouldn’t likely escape notice, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that cars are probably a net negative to regional economic development precisely because they make it easier to take wealth out of an area.
Leveling neighborhoods of single-family homes to put up blocks of multi-story apartment/condo buildings, so more people can live and work there, is just not the same as leveling those same places so people can drive through there faster.
Cars were a panacea until they weren’t. Your neighborhood leveling plan might likewise have unforeseen consequences.
I don’t really want my house leveled, nor the ones around me. I suspect my neighbors feel the same way. What voice would you give residents about the future development of their neighborhood? Or would we be repeating the past mistakes that we so regret today?
Well said. Good land use policy is the best transportation policy.
In fantastically wealthy (imperialist) nations like the USA, density has only a modest effect on car ownership.
The black circles are wealthy nations and cluster between 30-70 cars per 100 people with little apparent linearity vs density:
Lower-income nations do show some linearity likely due to the fact that the large low-income cities tend to have hyper-dense areas with little to no infrastructure.
Car ownership and car trips are not the same thing. Owning a car doesn’t mean you have to drive it everywhere, and in very dense places they don’t. Yes of course in wealthy places, people will spend money on things they don’t need like a car they rarely use because that’s what people do with too much money. So while pointlessly buying a car you don’t need is also very bad, it’s not as bad as buying a car that you also have to use every day for a long commute.
With better planning and infrastructure investment, mass transit works just fine in less dense places (contrary to other nay-sayers’ beliefs), which I think is part of what you were showing here. But it’s definitely a lot easier to do in more dense areas.
I grew up in less dense cities with pervasive mass transit so this is definitely what I’m saying. Like the lack of social safety nets, our lack of mass transit is a societal choice that has very little to do with zoning/land use deregulation.
That makes sense. I think density and mass transit investment are both different and sometimes complementary solutions to how to reduce car usage. Personally I would prefer to live in a place where I don’t have to use mass transit because I could get the 10 or 15 minutes of walking exercise to go get groceries and get to school, etc. And for that you need density. But agree, especially because of how the Portland metro area is spread out now, they could (and will need to) solve this problem by improving mass transit. There is no reason anyone should even want to use a car to get from East Portland to Beaverton or whatever because a train should be just as good.
Second John’s comment that car ownership and car trips are not the same. Individual “carbon footprint” is a terrible metric, but it’s a lot lower in dense European cities, despite comparable rates of car ownership. And that’s mainly down to the walkable nature of those places.
I work in Salem 2x/week, rest is WFH. I tried the Amtrak bus @ 7:05. Had to get up 1 full hour earlier, and still took an Uber, ’cause who wants to be on the Max @ 5 am. Cost was $15, about the same I pay for gas round trip. And I did not get my coffee at Starbucks in Wilsonville between 7:30 and 8 am. Took another Uber from Salem Amtrak, and got to work on time at 8:30. Cost of Ubers was $25 with tip. So yeah…I’ll keep driving. And once the tolls come, it’s side-streets and country roads.
Remarkable how Beyer says they’re powerless to do anything about people driving cars right after he acknowledged that cars are already so prioritized he can’t think of anything to make driving easier.