Portland city budget director ‘hopes’ people start driving and parking again

Keep your money. Give us back our streets. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Ah, the glory days before Covid and accumulated crises decimated downtown; when drivers filled their tanks and city-owned parking lots with their large, dangerous, toxic vehicles that are inherently incompatible with quality urban life. Don’t you miss those days?! Or maybe you just miss that sweet, sweet money from all that gas and parking revenue.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation sure does. But at least their leaders have the sense to resist the urge to bring it back. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the director of Portland’s budget office.

Let’s back up a bit…

Last week we shared just how perilous PBOT’s budget situation has become. The agency has just one more year before they reach the end of their line. There will be no more financial reserves to draw from, even deeper cuts, staff layoffs, “dramatic and visible service reductions,” and so on and so forth. Then, as PBOT Commissioner Mingus Mapps puts it, “The cancer which is currently consuming PBOT will start to consume every general fund bureau,” because PBOT will have to borrow from other bureaus just to keep the transportation system on its feet.

Mapps is desperate to find a way out. That’s why, to the surprise of many City Hall watchers, he floated an idea to charge Portlanders about $8 a month for a “transportation utility fee” in hopes of saving his bureau (and his political legacy). The move raised eyebrows because similar revenue-raising efforts by previous PBOT commissioners took months of political alliance-building and public partner-vetting before ever seeing the light of day. The abrupt and audacious move showed that Mapps is willing to throw almost anything at the wall in hopes that something will stick.

Tim Grewe

At a City Council budget work session Tuesday morning we got another chance to see Mapps wrestle with this issue, and it led to a revealing exchange with the director of Portland’s City Budget Office (CBO).

Mapps, Mayor Ted Wheeler, city staff, and the rest of council came together to learn about the Mayor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2023-2024. The meat of the meeting was a presentation led by CBO Director Tim Grewe. Grewe was appointed to that position in January by Mayor Wheeler and comes with an impressive resume that includes a recent stint at the U.S. Treasury. Grewe’s 30-year career at the City of Portland (which ended in 2006) included service as the City’s first Chief Administrative Officer, its Director of the Office of Finance and Management, and the Director of Financial Planning.

The respect this background demands is why, at one point in his presentation, Mapps turned to Grewe and ask, “Can you kind of summarize and give us a sense of where PBOT is financially and the implications that has for say, the budget moving forward? And if you have any advice for me to actually manage the bureau that I find to be in a series of economic paradoxes?”

Grewe’s answer raised a few eyebrows:

“Yes. We would hope that going into the future, people would be using their cars more and we’d be getting back to levels of gas tax that we’ve had previously, people would be using our parking structures in our parking places like they used to do previously. I’m not confident that that’s going to be the trend that we see. So I think the PBOT is going to continue to have to economize, be efficient, and continue to reduce services unless we can find a funding source that helps them going into the future.”

The context here, which many of you know by now, is that one of the reasons PBOT is in such dire financial health is because the two main funding pots that have historically funded them — parking meter and gas tax revenue — are dwindling fast. The tension isn’t just financial, it’s that these two sources of revenue come from driving cars, which is something all of Portland’s adopted plans for transportation, climate and land-use say we need much less off.

To have the city budget director so misaligned with a key tenet of Portland’s values and goals is troubling. Furthermore, it underscores just how mentally hitched we are to cars that such an astute financial expert thinks driving is good for our long-term budget. Not to mention the fact that no amount of hope will likely bring back the driving glory days Grewe envisions.

Another thing we learned at the budget work session yesterday? Grewe’s hope for more driving looks less likely than ever. According to PBOT Business Services Group Director Jeremy Patton, the bureau expected downtown parking to have recovered to 80% of pre-Covid levels by now. Their budget reflected this, and back in November they expected a $9 million hole in 2024-2025 as a result. But an updated forecast shows parking has not returned. “Parking has been flat and it’s about the same as it was last year and we’re not showing a huge increase moving forward — a very, very slow incline if any,” Patton shared with city council members. “What we’re showing right now is that’s that’s nowhere close [to earlier forecasts] unless we get a lot more parking and a lot more folks coming downtown.”

When adjusted for the new parking forecast, the 2024-2025 gap balloons to $28 million.

PBOT’s hands are tied. It’s politically infeasible to do anything that even hints at encouraging more people drive downtown, and the politics of a major new transportation fee are daunting. In fact, the politics of any new fee right now are daunting.

Complicating the issue is that fact many taxpayers are burned out. So much so that Mayor Wheeler senses an opportunity and now wants voters to know he thinks the collective tax burden is just too damn high. Could Wheeler’s new anti-tax posture mean that PBOT’s 40-cent parking meter increase — the major feather in their budget cap this year — is in peril? PBOT tucked the 40-cent increase into the 20-cent increase they got through council last summer, so it was sort of hidden. That meter increase is a key way PBOT will stay in the black this coming fiscal year. According to PBOT budget documents, if the increase in not approved, they will have to cut their budget an additional 4.5% in 2024-2025 (from a 7.7% cut to an 11.6% cut).

Suffice it to say, PBOT budget talks are getting pretty dark.

At one point in yesterday’s meeting Mapps asked Patton for the straight dope: “How much do I need to shrink the bureau by given the trends we are talking about?”

“We’re looking at 20%.”

Ouch.

And you know it’s serious this time because the tone has shifted from how to raise revenue to how to survive without it.

“Over the course of the next year, we’re going to have to talk about operational changes,” Wheeler said at the meeting yesterday. “We’re going to have to talk about potential shifts in the way we do business… And yes, when it comes to transportation in particular, really restructuring the revenue model.”

Buckle in folks.

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 maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago

Furthermore, it underscores just how mentally hitched we are to cars that such an astute financial expert thinks driving is good for our long-term budget.

If the free-marketeers at the “Parking Reform Network” and “Sightline” had gotten their way, PBOT’s budget would be even more dependent on car/SUV storage fees.

Perhaps instead of fostering continued dependence on automobility for transportation funding we should start switching to a less perilous source of funding (e.g. a progressive income tax).

Randi J
Randi J
1 year ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Sort of like the failed Preschool Tax and Homeless Tax? Yeah those have worked out so well.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago
Reply to  Randi J

Hi Grover…erm…Randi, considering that the preschool program is at the beginning of its implementation your desire to “drown it in a bathtub” is reactionary. As for the “homeless tax” [sic] the two housing bonds have been unambiguously success:

A record number of voter approved affordable housing projects opened in the region in 2022. They were funded by bond measures passed by voters in Portland and Metro, the elected regional government that serves the urbanized portions of Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.

The Portland bond originally was expected to support 1,300 units by 2023 … Since then, the bureau has increased the number of projected units to nearly 1,900,

https://www.koin.com/news/portland/portland-metro-housing-bonds-show-progress/

The Grovers in Portland will never admit this but the chronically unhoused decreased in the 2022 PIT count and it’s my expectation that as more supportive housing and shelter beds come online we will see real progress in addressing houselessness. Housing is human right!

FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Income and property taxes are already too high in Oregon, the state needs to wake up and implement a sales tax.

Tony Jordan (Contributor)
Reply to  pierre delecto

Pierre,

Wrong and misleading as usual. I have consistently advocated for PBOT to allocate revenues from parking to specific programs that encourage less driving. Examples include the transportation wallet, one-time investments in improving access for people walking and biking, etc.

PBOT is hooked on central city parking revenue which goes into the general transportation fund. Serious parking reformers will tell you that the purpose of pricing is to manage the curb and shift modes, not to raise revenue and support the bureau’s budget.

I agree with your second paragraph and always have. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile and sound to manage curb access with pricing.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago

…advocated for PBOT to allocate revenues from parking to specific programs that encourage less driving

The city council and PBOT are subjugated to the wishes of the SUV-driving majority. Any new source of revenue derived from SUV-use will be used to subsidize automobility. It’s naive to think otherwise, IMO.

Serious parking reformers will tell you that the purpose of pricing is to manage the curb and shift modes

The absolute horror of drivers not being able to find a parking space! An outrage!

Fortunately, everyone who has read Shoup’s book knows that there is a “free” market solution that can fix this problem for drivers.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

a progressive income tax

There’s something a bit like that on the ballot. I’ll withhold thoughts about feasibility until I see how much Portlanders support that.

Fred
Fred
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

The current proposal on the ballot is not progressive at all! The proposed tax on capital gains will hit EVERYONE, regardless of income. That’s why almost every news organization, from The O to the Biz Journal is against it, along with many nonprofit and service organizations.

Measure 26-238 deserves a NO vote, in my opinion.

Jacob
Jacob
1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

85% of capital gains taxes is accrued by the top 1%. This tax is inherently progressive as working class Portlanders do not sell things that accrue capital. Additionally, retirement accounts are not affected by capital gains taxes. Plus, on the sale of a primary residence (i.e. relying on a home sale to fund retirement), $250,000 of profit is not taxed. When owning a home as a couple, $500,000 of profit is not taxed.

For the amount that can be taxed, it’s $7.5 for every $1000 of profit. It’s an amazingly small price to pay in exchange for no illegal evictions. Vote YES on 26-238

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob

Additionally, retirement accounts are not affected by capital gains taxes. 

This is true at the federal and state level, but this would not be true at the local level (unless the law is written with that carve-out in place, which it is not). Same for the sale of a home — you’d pay the .75%* tax on the first dollar of capital gain.

Proponents claim the tax would be very different than what they wrote into the law.

*.75% isn’t even the real rate — it will fluctuate year by year, and could go much higher.

FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob

Incorrect, anyone that owns a house is affected, and working class Portlanders do own houses that have accrued in value over the years, for most people it is their largest and often only investment.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago
Reply to  FDUP

The fact that we treat a basic human resource/need like an investment and allow people to reap massive windfall profits is fundamentally unjust.

Atreus
Atreus
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

It’s a capital gains tax, not an income tax, and it’s not all that progressive since it applies to any sale of any home. So if you have owned a home for 30 years, maybe a senior on a fixed income, and you’re relying on that house sale to fund your retirement, you pay a big chunk on the capital gains which could be massive. Apparently every other capital gains tax int the country exempts a certain amount if it’s someone selling their only house (not a real estate investor with multiple properties. Also I read that no city in the country has its own capital gains tax, so the admin costs will be massive, and collection will be difficult since it won’t be in any tax software.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  Atreus

It’s a capital gains tax, not an income tax

Generally, people who get capital gains have both capital and a gain, which puts them ahead of a lot of folks. I agree that this particular implementation is highly problematic, and I’m not defending it, but it may give us insight for Portlander’s appetite for additional taxation.

My guess is… not hungry.

dwk
dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

Capital gains taxes is a low flat tax for wealthy people. Middle class people pay more than 20% unusually.
The city has a 7 Billion dollar budget and most think they are getting very little for the tax dollars. Taxing the gain on houses at flat tax rate is about as un progressive as it gets.
*** Moderator: cut last sentence, name calling ***

SD
SD
1 year ago

People really don’t want to spend 5-10% of their waking hours/ lives sitting in a car. Technology will continue to chip away at the factors that have traditionally forced people to drive. It would be foolish and wasteful for PBOT and the city to continue to plan for a car-dominant transportation system.

cc_rider
cc_rider
1 year ago

Funding public goods directly with usage fees is usually a pretty terrible idea and this is no exception.

What PBOT should do is look at eliminating bloat and inefficiencies to save that 20%. The endless outreach and surveys can go until they’ve built the infrastructure that we’ve already told them we want. It’s probably a good idea to stop dumping gravel on unmaintained roads to eliminate potholes that come back in three months. And we all know that there are some seriously under-performing managers who can be let go, productivity might increase if we did that.

I think Ted’s a poor leader and a terrible person, but I think his concern about taxes is pretty widespread. I wouldn’t mind paying more in taxes but will for the forseeable future vote no on any tax increase for any reason because the City/County/Metro have so grossly mismanaged the money and don’t appear to have any interest in change. I’d leave Multnomah County if my partner didn’t want to live here. The juice isn’t worth the squeeze in regards to what it costs to live here and what you get.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  cc_rider

“The juice isn’t worth the squeeze in regards to what it costs to live here and what you get.”

And this trend is only getting worse. The focus is on aspiration policies like Preschool for All instead of providing a base level of public services.

dwk
dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  cc_rider

“Funding public goods directly with usage fees is usually a pretty terrible idea and this is no exception.”
I think Tolling specific things like so called “freeways” and Bridges should be solely on the people that use them. Why not?
People have to pay to use Public transit, the gas taxes really don’t pay for the road use. Why should not the people using them pay for them?

JeffS
JeffS
1 year ago
Reply to  dwk

1) transit is not self-funding either
2) the toll money is not going to be spent on just the facilities they are placed on. If it were, I might be with you
3) If you support access fees, then why stop with just one or two facilities? What is the argument for tolling two spots and leaving everything else open? – especially considering point #2

I understand that it is politically expedient to tax a subset of the population too small to overturn it. But you relinquish any ideological argument when this approach is taken.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  JeffS

2) the toll money is not going to be spent on just the facilities they are placed on. If it were, I might be with you

Oregon Constitution Article IX, Section 3a: The Constitution limits the use of tolling revenues to “the construction, reconstruction, improvement, repair, maintenance, operation and use of public highways, roads, streets and roadside rest areas.”

ODOT will be spending billions on the various interstate projects that will be tolled, and they will have billions in bonds to pay back. Tolling revenue alone won’t even come close to paying back the bonds, so the money will also be coming out of their normal budget. I think you are really splitting hairs on this one, because the net result is the same. Tolling money will fund ODOT, and ODOT is paying for the projects.

cc_rider
cc_rider
1 year ago
Reply to  dwk

Well, firstly, it encourages the exact situation we have right now. In fat times governments were flush with revenue and built more roads because more roads equals more driving which equals more revenue to build roads.

Secondly, maintaining something like a bridge or highway has a minimum cost to it. It’s a poor use of taxpayer dollars to let something degrade, and degradation is exponential without preventative maintenance, solely because there arent enough active users at the present.

dwk
dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  cc_rider

“Secondly, maintaining something like a bridge or highway has a minimum cost to it. It’s a poor use of taxpayer dollars to let something degrade, and degradation is exponential without preventative maintenance, solely because there arent enough active users at the present.:

Dude, you try so hard to own people you make zero sense….
The reason for Tolls IS to maintain infrastructure. There are still tolls on the Golden Gate bridge strictly to maintain it.
Do you actually think that the I5 bridge will run out of users or are you just trying to win the argument?
The people who drive over the NEW I5 bridge should pay for it.

cc_rider
cc_rider
1 year ago
Reply to  dwk

Dude, you try so hard to own people you make zero sense….

The reason for Tolls IS to maintain infrastructure. There are still tolls on the Golden Gate bridge strictly to maintain it.

Sorry DWK! I didn’t realize I would need to go through and explain my paragraph sentence by sentence.

Of course the reason the toll exists to maintain infrastructure, just like parking fees and gas taxes. I want to highlight a sentence for you I wrote because I think you missed it.

“solely because there arent enough active users at the present”

If X is the amount of revenue you need to maintain an asset, and Y is the user fee generated revenue, then whenever Y is less than X, you run a deficit.

Do you actually think that the I5 bridge will run out of users or are you just trying to win the argument?

Did I say it would ‘run out of users’, or is that a straw man you made up to defeat?

The risk is the toll revenue is less than maintainance needs

The reason for Tolls IS to maintain infrastructure. There are still tolls on the Golden Gate bridge strictly to maintain it.

You mean the bridge that is currently rated as in ‘Fair Condition’ and will be rated as in ‘Poor Condition’ within three years? The one that’s getting $400 million from the Feds for repairs? That the one you’re talking about?

https://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/news/2023/02/10/golden-gate-bridge-lawsuit.html

https://abc7news.com/golden-gate-bridge-federal-grant-san-francisco-bay-lights-display/12729292/

PTB
PTB
1 year ago

“Ah, the glory days before Covid and accumulated crises decimated downtown”

What happens to downtown though? I can’t hear another person say “turn the buildings into housing!” because from what I’ve read this is just not a realistic idea for many big, downtown buildings (here or elsewhere). Fine, no one wants to commute. No surprise, I wouldn’t want to car commute either (and don’t, I bike or take the bus). We can’t just let downtown rot. There’s no way there won’t be horrible ripple effects if it just keeps crumbling like it is.

I know that’s not the real point of this article, the health of downtown, but fuckin’a, it really stresses me out seeing downtown now vs what it was like my entire nearish 50 year life up until March 2020.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  PTB

I feel the same way.

One thing, though–you’re right that converting downtown commercial buildings to housing isn’t realistic for many, it COULD be realistic with some changes to seismic and building codes, at least for many buildings. It would be nice if those changes could get done before the commercial market is totally wiped out, but that might be what needs to happen for changes to happen.

It’s totally relevant to this article–empty buildings downtown will wipe out City finances a lot worse than partially empty parking spaces.

JP
JP
1 year ago
Reply to  PTB

Exactly. Ideally everyone who visits downtown would ride a bike, walk, or take transit, but right now much of downtown is in crisis. We need as many people visiting downtown and supporting downtown businesses, and (in the short term) I really don’t care how they get there.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago

That’s really bad.

Maybe PBOT can hand out free bumper stickers as rewards for people who drive downtown and park in public garages or at meters. They could say:

ONE LESS BIKE ON THE ROAD and maybe

ONE LESS PERSON ON A BUS

Michael Mann
Michael Mann
1 year ago

Honest question here. How close are we to making a switch from a gas tax to a mileage tax? I know that’s probably a state issue, not a city issue, and I know there was (is?) a pilot program, but for better or worse it appears we’ve already decided EVs are transportation salvation, so it seems inevitable that a mileage tax becomes the norm to fund DOTs. And is there a viable plan to scale the mileage tax so – like vehicle registration fees – heavier vehicles pay more per mile (like they do with gas taxes)?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

As with any revenue-generating scheme, the technical and technology aspects have been solved long ago, usually in other countries, but the process of adopting it is entirely political. It would need to be at the Federal level before most states would adopt a mileage tax or fee, and no city would adopt it unless its state adopted it already. The most likely scenario would be a few relatively minor progressive states doing it first, maybe Hawaii and Delaware for example (though I could have sworn that conservative Utah has done it already), then larger states like New York or California adopting it later on, but it will be at least a decade before the Feds even start debating it.

surly ogre
surly ogre
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

In the United States, a VMT fee currently exists as part of a limited program for 5,000 volunteers in Oregon and for trucks in Illinois. Internationally, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Belgium, Russia and Switzerland have implemented various forms of VMT fees, limited to trucks. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_miles_traveled_tax

Utah’s program was launched last year and has enrolled more drivers than Oregon’s. A dozen states are considering legislation this year to update, launch or study programs, including California — where the governor wants to end sales of gas-powered cars by 2035 — and Wyoming.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/interactive/2021/electric-mileage-tax/

Rufio
Rufio
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

The mileage tax (with a vehicle weight multiplier) is one of those policies that looks good on paper and then gets thrashed once nuts and bolts begin to be discussed. The elephant in the room? How to track miles traveled. People appear to be willing to forego their privacy when it comes to Apple or Google, but not so when it comes to the government.

Your question of how close we are? Hard to say. ODOT continues to look at pricing structures–as you know, tolling is deeply into the mix as well–and we’re seeing how much pushback that is getting once people are seeing the real pricetag for the infrastructure they use.

Will
Will
1 year ago
Reply to  Rufio

In theory the data could be collected from in-car telemetrics which already exist. My understanding though, is that that data would need to be purchased from the third parties that own them. Another option would be to charge the fee at the time of registration with the DEQ looking at the mileage, but that will obviously entail a single large payment, which might be quite difficult for a lot of people.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Rufio

Why on Earth would it be hard to track miles traveled? We already track that, it’s literally on every registration or whatever. Your odometer is ancient technology and reading it is no privacy invasion at all.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  John

Most of the miles I drive every year (which isn’t very many) are outside the state of Oregon. Why should Oregon tax me for using Washington’s roads?

dwk
dwk
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

It’s why tolling is the best, most fair way to pay for infrastructure. The people who live in Washington pay very little road use tax. They buy their gas in Washington and drive in Oregon. An Oregon mileage tax they will not pay either.
They WILL pay when they cross the I5 bridge and also the tolls on 205.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  dwk

Why not both? Tolling is good but it won’t get anything out of the people who drive their oversized megaton electric SUV around the city from the suburbs or even just the edges of town. Those are expensive miles too and tolling would miss it. But you’re right, we should also be tolling for the people who come in from out of state.

Really, it should just be a federal tax on mileage with a weight factor, but assuming that never happens, we need to do something else.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

Why not? You paid your registration here, all your other taxes are paid here, because you live here. If you drive a lot outside of Oregon that’s a you problem. You’re an edge case that I don’t have much concern for and you’re in a tiny minority. And the tax has the same beneficial effect on you as it would if you did that driving here.

Jim Calhoon
Jim Calhoon
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

The program was voluntary. Drivers who enrolled in it received a discount on their registration and reimbursement of any state gas taxes paid. Each driver was responsible reporting the miles driven to the state. 

Fred
Fred
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Calhoon

No, Jim – the mileage was collected via a small device (like a toll tag) that the driver voluntarily installed in the car. Each month you’d get a statement, like a bank statement, listing your miles traveled, on which days, etc. And there was no discount on registration – you just got a reimbursement of gas tax that was equal to what you paid for miles traveled, so it was a wash. The entire program was to help the state see if they could ADMINISTER a mileage-based revenue-collection program, which they easily proved they could do. As other commenters have noted here, the technology and administration are the easy parts; the political lift to assess fees based on mileage is the REALLY hard part. When people suggested that heavier vehicles, for example, pay higher per-mile rates, drivers of SUVs immediately cried foul.

Jim Calhoon
Jim Calhoon
1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

First according to the OReGO website

Oregon Department of Transportation : OReGO: Oregon’s Road Usage Charge Program : Programs : State of Oregon

drivers enrolled in the program do save on their registration fees.

As far as the device used to collect milage. It depends on which one of the three Account Managers you Choose.

1.     Azuga OReGO (azuga.com) gives you the option of three ways to track milage. 1st is a Location-enabled OBDII device. This one will subtract miles outside of Oregon. 2nd is a Non-location OBDII device. It just tracks total milage driven. The 3rd option is Manual Entry. Using your smart phone you enter your milage and provide a picture of the odometer.

2.     Emovis.us Welcome to OReGO program with Emovis presenting DriveSync® | Home only has one option a GPS enabled OBDII. It partners with the DriveSync App from IMS to collect milage and then bill you.

3.     Oregon DOT Home (myoregoaccount.org) partners with emovis and uses a Non-GPS OBDII to collect milage.

It was not indicated on any of the websites listed above but I am going to assume that are subscription fees depending on which option the driver chooses. For those non-car persons OBDII is a port found on cars 1996 and newer that allows communication to the ECU (Electronic Control Unit)

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Mann

Ah, but that would be regressive. Many high earners work from home – it’s the poors who often have to drive the most to lower paying jobs.

So with a mileage tax you’d have to implement a Work From Home tax…

driver
driver
1 year ago

So true like 3/4 of the staff where i work because they cant afford anything in portland anymore . Penalizing them for commuting from wilsonville or vancouver is ridiculous. Biking isnt possible , busing takes too long . The max is basically unsafe .

Jordan Lund
Jordan Lund
1 year ago

You think it’s bad now… wait until self drive cars drop people off and come back and pick them up when summoned by their phone or watch.

No parking fees, no parking fines, no traffic infractions.

Cities are going to bleed money. The only way around it will be paygating the downtown core. Pay to get in or pay to get out.

JeffS
JeffS
1 year ago
Reply to  Jordan Lund

If you’re going that route, why just the core?

My first thought was a mileage tax, but this still doesn’t seem quite right. A driver travelling an hour down a country road would pay considerably more than the autonomous cars endlessly creeping around downtown waiting for their owners to retrieve them. It might be “fair” by the stated rules, but encourages a different set of problems.

Daniel Reimer
1 year ago
Reply to  JeffS

A vehicle miles tax is just that, a usage fee. A congestion charge is how a city can manage the traffic while also raising revenue.

In many ways, you can think of gas tax as a cost per mile. If Oregon’s gas tax is currently $0.38, and the average mpg is 26, then for each mile someone drives they pay $0.0146 per mile in taxes. To drive 100 miles would only cost them $1.46 in gas taxes. I’d imagine a VMT fee to replace the gas tax would be somewhat similar of a rate.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
1 year ago
Reply to  Jordan Lund

wait until self drive cars drop people off and come back and pick them up when summoned by their phone or watch.

I guess you’ve not heard of uber and lyft — the transit-destroying TNCs that increase SUV traffic throughout our city and received a sweetheart low-fee deal from the city.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  Jordan Lund

Fortunately, that won’t be happening any time soon. They’ve been telling us that mass-adoption of “self-driving” cars is just a few years away for the past decade or more, and we still just have a few players with a few pilot programs that operate in very limited spaces. We are very far away from mass adoption.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

The improvement curve for self-driving cars will look a little like ChatGPT: nothing for a long time, then an interesting toy, then, seemingly overnight, something that’s able to pass the bar exam. Robot cars are still on the flat, uninteresting part of that curve.

surly ogre
surly ogre
1 year ago
Reply to  Jordan Lund

and after the self drive cars drop you off, they may also be available as taxis, causing congestion all day as they roll around, or causing a parking mess if they pull over, or off the road somewhere…

John D
John D
1 year ago

This article kind of dumped on the budget director. But what is he supposed to do? He can’t change the revenue sources.

Fred
Fred
1 year ago
Reply to  John D

The head bean-counters in organizations have extraordinary power to influence the direction the organization takes, since an organization can do nothing without money. So when a budget director says “We need more driving and parking,” it’s an important clue about the direction an organization will head in. Calling it out is great work by JM.

SD
SD
1 year ago
Reply to  John D

“As the budget director, this is outside of my area of expertise. Aligning revenue streams with the long term goals of the city is more complex than what we are discussing today. Obviously, if revenue generated from gas and parking returned to previous levels, it would mitigate this shortfall. However, there is no indication that this will be the case.”

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  John D

Most of his answer was fine, and answered the questions he was asked well. The faulty part was the “We would hope…people would be using their cars more…using our parking structures….” part.

My first impression was that that’s his personal opinion, so shouldn’t be part of his answer, any more than saying, “We would hope we can cut pay and benefits of maintenance workers, since they get paid way too much” or “We should tax people more here”.

And he also said “we” which makes it sound like he’s presenting an official position of PBOT versus his personal opinion, which would also be wrong.

But then the scary thing is, what if he said “we” because that IS the opinion of PBOT? In that case, he’s just the messenger, and it’s good (but maybe not for PBOT) that he put that out in the open.

Charley
Charley
1 year ago

This is one of those cases where biking should be super popular with conservatives: it’s so much more expensive to maintain a network of automobile roads than a network of bike paths. Cars are so much larger, have such higher design requirements, and create so much more wear and tear.

Unfortunately, I think most American conservatives will not agree- because most of them drive a car and wouldn’t want to have to change. Yesterday’s innovation becomes today’s path-dependency.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  Charley

Except that many conservatives also fear interactions with the general public. Cars are safer and save time, especially when you live outside of the city. Many of them also reject anything that has a perceived environmental benefit, because God made the earth for us to use and abuse, in their thinking.

Dave Fronk
Dave Fronk
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

many conservatives also fear interactions with the general public

What “interactions” does one have on a bike commute? I go weeks if not months without uttering a word… or having one uttered at me. Waiting at red lights with other cyclists is typically less interactive than waiting in line at the grocery store.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
1 year ago

PBOT has been in this downward spiral on gas tax and parking fees for over 35 years now, aside from a few slight “up” periods here and there. Nearly every viable new method for generating revenue has been researched to death, then either been rejected by City Council or when approved, has then been siphoned off for use in the general city fund for Fire, Police, and so on. The only reason City Council hasn’t taken away the gas tax and parking revenue from PBOT is because the state blocks it.

Douglas K.
Douglas K.
1 year ago

One of the reasons I like the “transportation utility fee” is that it doesn’t depend on car use. Instead, everyone who uses the roads would pitch in to help with maintenance. I don’t think it should be the sole source of road funding, but it would help stabilize budgets against the successful reduction of single-occupancy car trips.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  Douglas K.

Ah, but how much should everyone pitch in…should high earners who telecommute pay more even though they might use the infrastructure less?

You know this will devolve into an equity discussion.

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
1 year ago

Ahh, but *do* they use the infrastructure less?

Just because they don’t personally drive, all the stuff they have delivered uses local infrastructure, all the goods they get from far away uses regional and national infrastructure.

Yes, this applies to me (a person who hasn’t had a car in 36 years or more) – though the only food I’ve ever had delivered was pizza and not in over 7 years.

We all use the transportation infra, we all benefit from it and linking it only to direct use is likely never going to be equitable.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  Trike Guy

And even just the potential use of the roads benefits you: it’s worth something that a fire truck or ambulance can reach you quickly and easily, even if you hope they never need to.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  Trike Guy

“Just because they don’t personally drive, all the stuff they have delivered uses local infrastructure, all the goods they get from far away uses regional and national infrastructure.”

You mean, just like everyone else. So why penalize those who drive less?

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
1 year ago

My point is: basing funding for the road infrastructure on the # of miles a person drives isn’t actually putting the burden on the correct people.

Like anything that benefits everyone (and Watts made a really good point about access for emergency vehicles) we should be funding it from a progressive funding source that grows as the population does, that doesn’t shrink if (big if) we get people to drive less.

Transit too – pragmatically we *want* people to be able to get to work easily, to get to places to spend their money easily and to have disposable income to spend at local businesses.

Forget fairness or equity – that’s just good for all of us.

Douglas K.
Douglas K.
1 year ago

You don’t “penalize” someone who drives less if you make a “transportation utility fee” part of road repair funding, as long as vehicle user taxes or fees also contribute. Everyone pays the TUF. Motorists pay gas tax (or an odometer-based mileage tax in the future, as gas taxes dwindle) plus vehicle registration fees plus parking fees in addition to the TUF they pay as homeowners or renters.

That’s why I said TUF shouldn’t be the sole source of road funding. But we should implement it. It helps stabilize funding and sweeps in those of us who use the roads but don’t drive.

surly ogre
surly ogre
1 year ago
Reply to  Trike Guy

People who live in Portland live in a community. We live here because it is beautiful. And some people live here because there is no other option. Whatever the reason you’re here, the moment you touch the sidewalk, asphalt, library book, park bench, bike lane, public plaza, turn on the water, or light switch or gas stove burner etc. you are participating in the city. I don’t drive much, so PBOT and others don’t get much money from me. I ride my bike a lot and take transit. I’m fine with paying an appropriate fee to keep my bike lanes and other roads in good to excellent condition. Roads/Streets are a scarce good and have value. They should not ever be free to use. You pay for water, you pay for electricity, you pay for natural gas. Roads/Streets/Freeways are utilities as well. We should treat them that way and expect to pay for them. We should pay by the mile, have tolls and have a monthly fee. Driving is toxic, it needs to be dramatically reduced.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Trike Guy

But you know as well as I do that if everyone in the city (lets say greater city / Vancouver for argument sake) was like you and didn’t have a car for 36 years, traffic would be near non existent and especially the small side streets would be very quiet except for occasional delivery vehicles. All those other uses are not the problem. Look out at the roads, is it mostly delivery vehicles and big trucks or is it (albeit oversized) personal vehicles?

It’s not even close. People who mostly bike have very little impact on road infrastructure. A road would last a century under bicycle traffic.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  John

A road would last a century under bicycle traffic.

I am highly skeptical of that claim. I know where you’re coming from, but (apparently) roads benefit from some level of vehicle traffic, which helps keep things compacted and prevents the asphalt from getting brittle.

Asphalt degrades as it ages (oxidation, UV damage), water starts permeating, creating voids and damage from the freeze/thaw cycle. I don’t doubt that heavy vehicles damage roads a lot more than bikes, but there’s a lot more to the picture than that.

As usual, nothing is as simple as the narrative suggests.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

Those are all pretty superficial details, roads last multiple times longer if they only have to support bike traffic, and they can be built a lot less robustly and patched where needed since they don’t have to support SUVs and high speeds. And, you know, bikes are some level of vehicle traffic. This isn’t some “narrative”, it’s just well known, obvious facts.

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  John

I guess I’m saying I don’t think that on the majority of our streets (which are not the central corridors with a huge amount of heavy traffic, but rather the side streets you referenced), would last a lot longer without car traffic on them.

The narrative I referred to is that cars destroy streets and cyclists don’t (and therefore car drivers should pay more than bike riders for their upkeep), but I think it’s probably more true that streets without heavy traffic die of old age before they’re killed by cars.

John
John
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

Fair enough. The thing I’m getting at is that bikes aren’t the thing that depends on 20 foot wide or more roads. Bikes aren’t the reason we need all that, that’s for cars. And in an optimistic future, some of that land could stop being maintained as roads and instead narrower bike paths that are an order of magnitude cheaper to maintain. The maintenance costs that the city is having a hard time keeping up with is because of cars, it isn’t bicycles.

PacificSource
PacificSource
1 year ago

good point. also a couple of my neighbors WFM but jesus they sure keep their amazon & uber eats drivers busy- they get multiple deliveries a day, including fred meyers, starbucks and mcdonalds. tax them!

Chopwatch
Chopwatch
1 year ago

Construction companies have a lot of money and they’re the ones PBOT is letting slide with all kinds of violations; such as fraudulently obtaining construction temporary street use permit which is only authorized for purposes physically essential to construction such as material staging and dump trucks. Yet, established construction companies, some of whom are public works contractors are unlawfully obtaining space to provide free-to-user parking for the parking of construction workers’ commuting vehicle.

I regularly see PBOT parking enforcement division turning a complete blind eye to this. Since construction companies have a lot of money and workers have a steady source of income, they’re not going to abandon the car if towed. So this is a revenue stream city is refusing to tap into. They could ensure revenue stream through making them utilize Smart Park; and citing and towing vehicles of these people they can reasonably anticipate aren’t dead-end tickets.

How do you know if fraudulent permit use is occurring? If there’s a sign says the area is reserved for construction and you see cars, SUVs, or pickup trucks clearly used by supervisors/superintendents, because this is specifically prohibited by city code.

Nathaniel Holder
Nathaniel Holder
1 year ago

Was it irony you were going for ending this article with a car-centric metaphor?

Fluidity
Fluidity
1 year ago

I read Kewes quote more like “this is how we made money before, that’s not going to happen going forward…” and not as an opportunity to advocate for vehicle use

quicklywilliam
1 year ago

The budget director is just doing their job. PBOT’s revenue has been misaligned with their own goals for decades. The problem started with relying on parking revenue, and it’s compounded by relying on a local gas tax.

PBOT is attempting to find new (and more equitable) ways to fund things, but it is a long slow process and for better or worse the pandemic has forced their hand. And it’s only going to get worse as the switch to electric vehicles and plug in hybrids accelerates.

surly ogre
surly ogre
1 year ago

People who live in Portland live in a community. We live here because it is beautiful. And some people live here because there is no other option. Whatever the reason you’re here, the moment you touch the sidewalk, asphalt, library book, park bench, bike lane, public plaza, turn on the water, or light switch or gas stove burner, etc, you are participating in the city. I don’t drive much, so PBOT and others don’t get much money from me. I ride my bike a lot and take transit. I’m fine with paying an appropriate fee to keep my bike lanes and other roads in good to excellent condition. Roads/Streets are a scarce resource and have value. https://www.economicsonline.co.uk/market_failures/road_congestion.html/
They should never be free to use. We pay for water, We pay for electricity, We pay for natural gas. Roads/Streets/Freeways/Parking are utilities as well. We should treat them that way and expect to pay for them. We should pay by the mile, We should have congestion pricing, We should pay freeway tolls, We should pay bridge tolls, and We should have a monthly transportation fee. Driving is toxic, it needs to be dramatically reduced. look at all the benefits from cigarette bans, seat belts, clean water act, etc. Government once again needs to be responsible, be the adult in the room and encourage people to pay for the roads/streets they consume.

surly ogre
surly ogre
1 year ago
FDUP
FDUP
1 year ago

This is part of the reason why city council is trying to force all work-from-home city employees back to the office half time, whether they need to be there or not. Forced commuting is the most unnecessary, time-consuming, stressful, expensive and anti-climate policy I could imagine the city implementing after their workforce has demonstrated a proven ability to work remotely productively without the need for daily commuting.

Sarah Bruce
Sarah Bruce
1 year ago

VMT tax?