Advocates gather at Lloyd Center for Oregon Active Transportation Summit

“Let’s end socialism for the car.”

– Earl Blumenauer, U.S. Congressman

The 2023 Oregon Active Transportation Summit, hosted by Portland transportation advocacy non-profit The Street Trust, is officially a go. People from all across Oregon’s transportation industry — from advocates to transit agency officials — have convened in the Lloyd Center for three days of panel discussions and networking events about all things related to getting around.

The event officially kicked off yesterday with a multimodal scavenger hunt and opening reception. This morning, the Summit got down to business with its first plenaries and panels. First, the Street Trust’s Executive Director Sarah Iannarone introduced the Summit’s theme — “Move Into Action” — and welcomed a surprise guest, U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer, to the stage.

Blumenauer said he’d prepared a written speech for the morning but decided to wing it instead and “speak from the heart.” He praised The Street Trust for hosting an event like this one and emphasized the importance of transportation reform in Oregon and across the country.

“You’re on a holy mission here. Really, you’re going to help our communities save us from ourselves,” Blumenauer said. “This is literally a matter of life and death.”

Blumenauer covered a range of topics in his introduction speech, from getting rid of minimum car parking mandates to making active transportation options more affordable for everyone. Though he said he is not in favor of “declaring war on the automobile,” he was very direct about the problems our society faces as a result of car-centric planning.

“We have to recognize that how the automobile is so intrinsic with how people think and how they live. And we have to find ways to unwind that in a thoughtful fashion,” Blumenauer said. “There’s a lot of talk these days about socialism. Let’s end socialism for the car.”

This morning’s panel discussions were focused on public transit. First, we heard from a panel of transit agency leaders from around the state: Sam Desue, Jr., who leads TriMet, Jameson T. Auten from the Lane Transit District in the Eugene-Springfield area and Andrea Breault from Cascades East Transit in central Oregon. Then, several advocates provided a “community response” to this conversation, offering different perspectives on the issues the transit agency leaders discussed. (Look out for a full recap of these panel discussions soon.)

In between these panel discussions, I talked to several attendees to find out what they were looking forward to in the days ahead.

Jack Blashchishen, the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) coordinator for the Springfield School District (and one-time BikePortland contributor!) said he was eager to meet statewide colleagues from the SRTS program. School transportation has become a key issue for many advocates recently, and there is quite a large SRTS showing here at the Summit.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing everyone who’s part of the statewide transportation community,” Blashchishen said.

Rob Zako and Claire Roth, both from southern Willamette Valley transportation advocacy group Better Eugene-Springfield Transportation (BEST), said they see the Summit as an opportunity to cultivate relationships with people from across the state so they can work together to influence transportation legislation in the future.

“My personal mission is to break down siloes as much as possible and encourage people talk to each other across disciplines,” Roth said. “The pandemic hit advocacy like a ton of bricks, and it took a toll on transportation. This is the spring of transportation, we’re blooming again.”

Mary Lee Turner, a disability and pedestrian advocate (and current member of the Portland Pedestrian Advisory Committee) told me she wants to make sure there’s a presence of people with disabilities who rely on walking to get around at events like these.

“People with disabilities are everywhere, and if we aren’t, that’s because we can’t get there,” Turner said.

Stay tuned for more BikePortland dispatches from the Summit in the days ahead.

Taylor Griggs

Taylor Griggs

Taylor was BikePortland's staff writer from 2021 to 2023. She currently writes for the Portland Mercury. Contact her at taylorgriggswriter@gmail.com

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1 year ago

Though he said he is not in favor of “declaring war on the automobile,” he was very direct about the problems our society faces as a result of car-centric planning.

This right here is why Blumenauer and people like him are such a effective politicians. He’s not out to be provocative by saying something outrageous like “ban cars” that won’t gain the support of more than like 2% of Americans any time in the near future. He’s instead working within the necessities of our current society, recognizing that our car dependence is a real problem, while proposing pragmatic improvements that eventually will get us to a place where driving will be less necessary.

I think that this is something that bike advocates in particular need to learn and take to heart. People in general want less car dependence, but many people see the bike and active transportation advocacy community in Portland use such divisive and inflammatory rhetoric that we are never listened to. Such as when the Street Trust a year or so ago supported shutting down all high-crash corridors to cars immediately, losing all credibility with most of the public.

blumdrew
blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to   

Sure, that’s what I would do if I were a politician. But I’m not, I have no interest in ever running for office in any capacity. Earl Blumenauer may be subject to the political realities of getting re-elected, but I am not. I am free to dream of a better world, and free to make audacious plans.

 
 
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I completely agree with you on that. I certainly hold a few views that have a snowball’s chance in hell of gaining any significant support in the near future. For example, I think that minimally-used private property should not exist: all land should be open to public access unless a plaintiff can provide a convincing argument that any intrusion on the land would be problematic.

However, I also recognize that this is simply not going to happen in the near- or mid-term future, and thus I will waste no energy bringing my views into the public eye. If people think that I hold one or more radical views, then they will think that my views on other topics are also radical even if they are actually much more well-supported by the general public. It will lead to people ignoring what I have to say. And I think that’s something that we all need to realize.

blumdrew
blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to   

Being unwilling to advocate for views you hold in the public eye because they are unpopular means they never will be. I think that your idea of public ownership of minimally-used land would actually stand some chance of being implemented, at least in the right political climate (and with some more rigid definitions). I like it at least.

If people think that because of some radical views you hold that you are not a reasonable person, they are being silly and judgemental. I hold a slew of moderately to extremely radical views on many subjects, but I don’t find that people who I actually know in real life hold any of that against me. Maybe some of my fellow BikePortland serial commenters do, but I figure we all are a bit nuts so no harm done there.

I think it’s different if you are a public figure or politician, but holding radical views is both normal and something to be encouraged in the rank and file citizen world. Thinking outside the box is a welcome change to the monotony of the increasingly corporate world, and most things we take for granted now started out as a radical fringe belief.

I’d note that I think the Street Trust exists more in the “public figure” side of things, and likely does need to consider the political ramifications of the statements they make and views they hold. And I do think they are a somewhat flawed org that often frames things in a needlessly standoffish way if their goal is to garner widespread support. But I don’t work for them, and are not entirely sure on their whole strategy to begin with so won’t speculate too much more than that (for now anyways).

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
1 year ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Politicians create and pass legislation plus they appoint the bureaucrats that oversee the implementation of it. While you might not want to work in an incremental fashion, the folks that actually change the laws have to. Protest and advocacy are easier than governance. I understand your frustration about the pace of change, but pragmatism is what gets things done. I contend that extremist rhetoric on both sides of the debate is slowing or outright stopping needed change.

To borrow from baseball, manufacturing runs via base hits and walks is smarter than always swinging for the fences.

blumdrew
blumdrew
1 year ago
Reply to  Lazy Spinner

Pragmatism is what gets things done as long as the things to be done are within the framework of acceptable change for society. Not all changes are like that, sometimes change is dramatic and violent. This isn’t to say we need a literal revolution to have safe streets or reduce car dependency – just that change doesn’t always function that way.

Would incremental change have abolished slavery in the US? Would incremental change have ended apartheid in South Africa? Or freed colonial Africa? Or ended the ancien régime in France? Would incremental change have given the working class the 40 hour work week?

Those are dramatic examples – but history is littered with examples of change happening in dramatic leaps, rather than by minute changes. And it’s okay to advocate for both. I can support a politician like Earl Blumenauer while simultaneously believing that the sort of changes he proposes are not going to be all that it takes to make the world a better place.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Lazy Spinner

I’m afraid that’s just ahistorical. Pragmatism is not what gets things done, radicalism is. Any big changes in US history have come from a vocal and militant movement that did not just do pragmatic incremental changes. See slavery abolition, civil rights, worker’s rights, most of the New Deal parts that still linger around. Incremental changes are on the other hand what causes us to backslide in those same areas as major wins are chipped away at by tiny concessions here and there (see worker’s rights, affirmative action, the New Deal parts that have mostly gone away).

Shanika Green
Shanika Green
1 year ago
Reply to  John

Radicalism sure hasn’t worked for Portland. Record traffic deaths, dangerous and dirty MUP’s, record homicides, record shootings, recurrent vandalism, frequent business break ins, businesses such as REI and Walmart closing, record car thefts, garbage everywhere and unregulated inhunane street suffering in all but the toniest neighborhoods. And not to mention a high tax burden for this dysfunction. Sorry but it’s time for Portland to return what worked: Pragmatic Progressivism.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago
Reply to   

pragmatic improvements that eventually will get us to a place

We’ve seen how “pragmatism” has allowed corporate-bought-and-payed-for democrats to ignore multiple intertwined tragedies of the common for generations. American “pragmatism” is what Hannah Arendt described as the banality of evil — or in the modern vernacular the “lesser evil” which enables ever greater harm.

Pierrethecycliste
Pierrethecycliste
1 year ago

What makes me doubtful these “advocates”
will advocate for:
1) safe, clean and clear MUP’s in Portland
2) unobstructed public sidewalks for pedestrians to be able to use
3) Enforcement of our traffic laws to keep
vulnerable users (pedestrians, cyclists) safe in our city.
4) School routes clear of drug users and those with significant mental health issues.

Rafa Jimon
Rafa Jimon
1 year ago

Mary Lee Turner, a disability and pedestrian advocate (and current member of the Portland Pedestrian Advisory Committee) told me she wants to make sure there’s a presence of people with disabilities who rely on walking to get around at events like these.

“People with disabilities are everywhere, and if we aren’t, that’s because we can’t get there,” Turner said.

It’s very unlikely Ms. Turner will get any support from these folx in attempting to keep our sidewalks clear so disabled people don’t have to venture out in the street to avoid “campers”. I find most (not all) Portland transportation “advocates” to be ableists and enablers of the homeless mayhem we have allowed in this once functional city.

Portland spent $2 MILLION for homeless tents blocking sidewalks (msn.com)