Portland State wins $250,000 equity research grant as PBOT leans into transportation justice

Image from Transportation Justice section of PBOT’s 2019-2024 strategic plan.

The pursuit of transportation justice and racial equity will get a big boost thanks to the work of a local team of academics and researchers. And the timing is good as the Portland Bureau of Transportation works to expand its efforts in this area.

Late last month the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State University announced they received a $250,000 Federal Highway Administration grant to create a “Research Roadmap for Institutionalizing Transportation Equity.”

Here’s how TREC explains the project:

All people, regardless of their background, income, or physical abilities, need access to safe, affordable, and convenient transportation options and services. State departments of transportation and their partner regional planning organizations seek to improve the equity outcomes of their decision-making practices and investments. The research roadmap will help define broad research areas and gaps for further study, along with specific research problem statements that have urgent, near-term significance.

TREC’s project will be led by Aaron Golub, a professor in the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at PSU. The research team will include noted bicycle researchers Jennifer Dill and Nathan McNeil, as well as Amy Lubitow, a researcher who’s studied the transportation experiences of marginalized cyclists in Portland.

This research project will likely be watched very closely by PBOT. They’ve been leaning into their work on racial equity and transportation justice — especially since the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020 when they vowed to become an “antiracist” organization.

Despite hiring their first equity and inclusion manager in 2015, PBOT didn’t address structural racism and racial justice head-on in a formal way until their 2019-2022 strategic plan. That plan included a full section on transportation justice (they use “transportation justice” and “transportation equity” interchangeably) and unveiled “Will it address structural racism?” as one of the two questions they think about as they go about their every aspect of their work (“Will it reduce carbon emissions?” is the other) . PBOT described the value of inclusivity in that 2019 strategic plan, but they didn’t share a clear definition of transportation justice.

Now PBOT has taken their work on this topic up yet another notch. The latest update of their strategic plan includes a new “transportation justice framework” they say is meant to create a “toolbox of resources” that will help:

  • Ensure all staff are familiar with existing transportation-related disparities in our communities;
  • Equip them with tools and prompts to advance and operationalize transportation justice across our work;
  • Empower PBOT teams to provide equitable services to historically underserved communities; and
  • Keep us accountable to our goal of becoming an anti-racist organization.

Also new from PBOT is a working draft definition of transportation justice:

Transportation Justice refers to the elimination of disparities in our mobility and interconnected systems (equity) as well as a transformative and liberating redistribution of power, resources, and opportunities (justice) to those experiencing the greatest disparities today to ensure that all Portlanders use and enjoy the same access to safe, reliable, equitable, sustainable, and affordable transportation options.

Who are people in Portland PBOT says have “historically been burdened by unjust and racist policies and decisions”? Their list includes: “Portlanders who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), people with disabilities, households living on low incomes, as well as all those community members who are multilingual, immigrants, refugees, LGBTQIA+, and/or displaced.”

PBOT has also drafted a list of principles that guide their commitment to transportation justice:

  • Transportation Justice principles:
  • Moving beyond equity (eliminating disparities) towards justice (redistributing power, resources, and opportunities)
  • Recognizing past and existing injustice and accepting that the past is never dead
  • Co-creating solutions with historically underserved communities and envisioning liberation through their lens
  • Addressing past harm and mitigating structural pains at all stages of our work
  • Acknowledging the interconnectedness of systems
  • Centering race and applying “targeted universalism” (in which we prioritize addressing the needs of those experiencing the greatest disparities, which in turn maximizes benefits)
  • Committing to intersectionality
  • Putting people first (adopting a human-centered approach)
  • Applying results-based accountability

On a related note, a PBOT employee has been selected as a “Transportation Justice Fellow” by Better Bike Share, a national nonprofit.

Learn more about the TREC research project here. Learn more about PBOT’s transportation justice efforts here.

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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BB
BB
3 months ago

Fixing potholes and sweeping streets is just too much of a fucking ask in this city, isn’t it.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  BB

It is, but this is a grant PSU got from FHA, neither of which has anything to do with fixing potholes or sweeping bike lanes (I assume by “streets” you really meant “bike lanes,” since this is BikePortland and we cyclists all know what a terrible job PBOT does of maintaining bike lanes).

Yes, we need PBOT to get better at these things.

What I want to see in transportation justice is some acknowledgement that it’s not enough for POC to do the same destructive things white people have done in the transpo arena since time immemorial – just to catch up. Transpo justice needs to acknowledge new, clean, green ways of getting around, even if they are more expensive that firing up ICEs and adding to pollution and climate catastrophe.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  Fred

we cyclists all know what a terrible job PBOT does of maintaining bike lanes

PBOT is not very good at sweeping streets, either.

I agree about moving beyond ICEs. PBOT and BPS have been doing a lot to make it harder for renters to charge electric vehicles, and have not yet started the harder work of providing charging infrastructure on the street. The vehicle transition is coming fast, and there’s a lot of infrastructure that needs to get figured out and built.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

and have not yet started the harder work of providing charging infrastructure on the street

There are only two neighborhood chargers in all of Portland but one of them has been nonfunctional for almost a year and the other is heavily used by privileged homeowners. The decision to locate these in Richmond of all places (a majority homeowner neighborhood) speaks volumes to PBOT’s committment to “equity”.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

The decision to locate these in Richmond

To be fair, for a pilot, they need to be near a critical mass of EVs.

Where are the lone two located, BTW?

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

comment image

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
3 months ago
Reply to  BB

City and county can’t provide basic services, but strive for aspirational home runs.

Chris I
Chris I
3 months ago

Despite hiring their first equity and inclusion manager in 2015, PBOT didn’t address structural racism and racial justice head-on in a formal way until their 2019-2022 strategic plan.

That must have been a cush gig for about 4 years. Probably 6 figures, too.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

A cush gig for the first 4 years? I rather doubt it. Before I left Portland in December 2015 I remember attending a PBOT Bureau Advisory Committee meeting in which the new equity guy was explaining the various differences between different types of racism to a more-or-less all-white audience of staffers, union reps, neighborhood reps (which I was one), freight people, and the mode squad. None of us are “racist” of course, but the fact that PBOT still had many policies and institutions in place that in 2015 were clearly “racist” indicated how long of a haul this guy was going to have on just changing PBOT internally, let alone its policies, ordinances, and culture. Our country banned black slavery in the 1860s and we are still fighting racism over 150 years later; Portland as a city dates even earlier, from 1845, and there has been some sort of transportation/public works department for most of the time – PDOT was created in 1988 from the Public Works Dept, PBOT came later in 2002 or so – and it may take a long time yet for such an organization to overcome its internalized institutional racism, let alone the community it serves.

Nathan
Nathan
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I would sincerely be interested in having you explain the many ways in which PBOT was been “racist” prior to the start of the “work” from the 2019-2022 “strategic plan”. Perhaps by racism you mean there simply are very little minorities instead in attending a transportation advisory committee meeting? Therefore it was solely white peoples as you’ve observed.

Do you have any examples of cities that prior to Portland exemplified an absence of such “internalized institutional racism”. Perhaps filtering SF, Seattle, and Eugene?

Chris I
Chris I
3 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

Adding bike lanes in a black neighborhood is racist.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

Adding a bike lane in a black neighborhood for the sake of adding a bike lane, that is one that doesn’t connect to anywhere for anyone, is not only racist but a really poor use of public funding.

John V
John V
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

If you’re referring to the 33rd bike lane in the news recently, uhh, it definitely connects to things, it was actually in demand. If you’re talking about a different case, what is it?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  John V

To be honest with you, I’m not really aware of any neighborhood in all of Portland that is any longer predominantly black, maybe Portsmouth? I was actually referring to cities where blacks make up a substantial portion of the population – such as the community I live in now, Greensboro NC – which really do put in bike lanes in black areas that connect nothing in particular, certainly nowhere anyone wants to ride, all just to satisfy a district city councilor or two. My city also puts in buffered bike lanes in black neighborhoods in places that are useful, too, to connect apartments to supermarkets for example, or to get students to nearby universities and businesses.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

You have to dig into the experience of Black people and other people of color in America to understand how structural racism has created the situation we see today, where people of color are seemingly locked into lower status than whites (see David’s comment above about one Black man talking to an all-white audience).

One example: Black Americans were historically unable to get mortgages or to live in certain parts of Portland. That’s structural racism. It wouldn’t *seem* to hold back an individual Black person today, but of course it does. Imagine not being able to navigate the system to get a job at PBOT! That’s the kind of issue PBOT would try to resolve as it deals with structural racism.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

Nathan, it’s not the staff (or at least not the current staff – those from before 1970 or so are another matter) who are blatantly racist, it’s various written and unwritten policies – what projects get funded, where, when, how soon (or how much delayed) – and how those decisions are made. The pedestrian bridge fiasco over Columbia Boulevard is a good example. If this bridge had been in a high-profile area like the Blumenauer or the Ned Flanders, you can bet the city would find all the funding needed to get it built. But alas it is in an area that was long neglected by the city. For a very long time North Portland (and nearby areas of NE Portland) were a lot like East Portland today – an area where poor people (i.e. BIPOC) were allowed to live relatively unmolested by the police, but nevertheless neglected by city services – dirtier parks, more trash, more burnt out street lights, and yes, more unfilled potholes. Starting in the 1990s North and NE Portland’s traditionally black areas were rapidly gentrified (which has been studied half to death by academics) and only now is the city starting to look at real improvements in the area. Sort of.

The reality is there is never enough money to go around, and usually the squeakiest wheel gets the grease – typically downtown in the case of Portland plus the surrounding rich leafy burbs (Irvingburb, Pearlburb, Uptownburb, Eastmorelandburb, and Laurelburb to name a few) – and all the other vast tracts of middle-class misery fight over the remaining crumbs. So how are the leftovers divided and who decides? Well, I know it’s tempting to blame the politicians, and ultimately they are probably responsible, but in reality they typically do what their senior bureaucrats advise them to do. And who are these senior bureaucrats? Some are appointed, such as the PBOT director and all other bureau directors, but most of the senior division heads (such as for maintenance for example) are actually staff who have gradually risen through the ranks – unless the commit a felony they are virtually unfireable – who are listed as “classified” employees. And much like your police officers, they make day-to-day administrative decisions, maybe based on written policies, but more often than not by their native intelligence and biases, which may or may not be inherently “racist” – it’s all part of the system.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

“plus the surrounding rich leafy burbs”

you can also see this privilege in the housing reforms burbanists promote: apartment buildings for inner eastside burbs but not for neighborhoods where lower-middle and lower-class people tend to live.

We think it should be legal for any residential lot from roughly 12th to 60th, Fremont to Powell….[to build] street-scale apartment buildings.

https://portlandneighborswelcome.org/our-campaigns

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Sometime over 10 years ago the city approved a certain type of facilities plan. The plan called for certain desirable amenities every quarter mile in the rich inner areas of town and every half-mile in the poorer outer parts of town, which had the same densities but were much more ethnically diverse, more youth, more auto-dependent, poorer transit service, fewer sidewalks, etc. As you know, the square of half-as-much is actually a quarter as much, so what would you call a plan that gives only a quarter of the nice stuff to the poorer BIPOC parts of the city versus the full amount to the nicer richer inner parts of the city?

The poorer BIPOC outer parts of the city had fewer representatives on the city steering committee, but they did have some representation – however, all the folks that PBOT chose to serve where white – none were BIPOC.

cct
cct
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

unless the commit a felony they are virtually unfireable

In Portland you can commit a felony and be promoted, apparently.

And there are racist people currently working for all city bureaus – they are still everywhere; whether our current festering dung-heap of a culture emboldens them enough to be vocal or act on those feelings is still probably muted for now… but give it time. We need more FAFO on that front.

Most city bureaus are committed to seeing how their work can undo past injuries, or prevent new ones; while it may seem that the priority should be just do the work regardless of neighborhood, historically making life better for minorities has made life better for all. About the only truth to a certain person’s “rising tides float all boats” claim.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago

It’s kind of a bummer that this is going to be wielded as a very heavy baton against a lot of future bike projects.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I think that’s kind of the point

J_R
J_R
3 months ago

“The pursuit of transportation justice and racial equity will get a big boost thanks to the work of a local team of academics and researchers.”

No. The researchers from PSU will identify issues and maybe even recommend some practices, but, as with most things in Portland, implementation will be lacking. Sure, there will be a report, a task force, travel to far away places, but probably not much action on the part of COP and PBOT.

Sorry, but I’m not optimistic.

Nathan
Nathan
3 months ago

What a gobbity-goop word salad of a bunch of made of social justice BS. Why not we focus on making the world better, making our transportation and cycling networks better. Instead of sinking countless dollars into new “studies,” that seem to do nothing but make up ways to divide us by declaring how there are “marginalized cyclists” for all non-white males and inventing new phrases like “transportation justice”.

The sooner PBOT is disbanded the better! Surely these funds could be used for actual good like teacher salaries AND more efficient transportation projects run by ODOT, paradoxical as it sounds at least ODOT is accountable to the legislature not the squeaky wheel that exists here in Portland.

Nathan
Nathan
3 months ago

Despite my criticism of this grant with all its active use of social justice buzzwords, i find it ironic to have this now the focus piece of bike Portland, given how often I’ve seen my cycling peers disregard black and brown voices, if these neighbors are in opposition to our favored cycling improvements. Something I’ve personally have overheard called projects for “white gentrifiers” by these neighbors.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
3 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

Which just proves that people can have bad takes on safety projects regardless of skin color

Chris I
Chris I
3 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

Bike lanes are racist, so it only makes sense that BikePortland is also racist.

JeffS
JeffS
3 months ago
Reply to  Nathan

Most every neighborhood, as a whole, is opposed to cycling projects.

Disregarded would be the least of the response from cycling advocates. The attacks are usually abundant and quite personal.

It is only when those complaints come non-white people that there is any desire whatsoever to temper that response.

Yes. There is discriminatory thinking at play, but in the opposite way that you describe.

Hunnybee
Hunnybee
3 months ago

Transportation justice and equity require sidewalks on every street in Portland before anything else. Sidewalks allow people to walk places instead of driving. Sidewalks are where young children learn to ride tricycles and then bicycles. No sidewalks makes it less likely that young people will grow up using bikes to get around town and more likely they will use cars to do so. Building sidewalks over any further “bike infrastructure” should be paramount, as sidewalks are the most critical necessity to getting young people to fall in love with riding bikes. Let’s focus on installing sidewalks on semi-busy side streets and busy streets that need them in east Portland, Cully and outer SW over adding any additional bike infrastructure to Portland.

Fred
Fred
3 months ago
Reply to  Hunnybee

I disagree, but since you brought up outer SW, where I live, I will say that it will be impossible to add sidewalks to most smaller streets out here – there simply isn’t room. The streets were not designed or built for anything but moving cars, and they barely even do that.

In outer SW, we say “Our sidewalks are our streets,” since we all walk in the streets. Yes, there are key streets that need sidewalks, and PBOT needs to keep adding them when it can.

We can walk and chew gum at the same time, by which I mean: We can add sidewalks AND bike lanes, and we should continue doing so.

Chris I
Chris I
3 months ago
Reply to  Fred

And go look at the Capital Highway project to see what would happen on most streets in SW if the city even had the money to attempt to add sidewalks. Massive neighborhood opposition because the sidewalks would be taking away front yards.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  Chris I

I’m not following you Chris. Cap Hwy was a grassroots up project with tremendous neighborhood outreach and support.

Hunnybee
Hunnybee
3 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Note I said semi-busy side streets and busy streets. If need be the city should use the power of eminent domain on those streets. Also, the more money we spend on continuing to add bike infrastructure to the central city that already has enough of it, the less money for building sidewalks in outer SW, Cully and east Portland. I bike all around the central city and there is no need to add any additional bike infrastructure. The city plans to once again alter Willamette Blvd but people in outer east Portland are still walking in the streets to get places as there are semi busy roads without sidewalks, I’ve seen it myself. It’s not equitable.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  Hunnybee

The city policy requiring that sidewalks can only be put in through redevelopment is an inherently racist policy in a systemic way, since most land ownership and development capital is in the hands of white people. It’s also racist in that many sidewalks in Portland’s inner east side in the so-called “streetcar suburbs” were actually built and paid for by the federal government in the 1930s using Work Progress Administration (WPA) mechanisms – they were make-work schemes from the period, which has been well-documented by PBOT in a 2000 report. It would, in my opinion, be the “least racist” policy if the city decided that all unfinished sidewalks were the responsibility of the city, as it is here in NC and many other states, rather than private land owners. And to a certain extent, and to its credit, PBOT has in fact been slowly doing just that, after 2010 in East Portland, Cully, B-D, and SW, but it’s going to take a bit of time, maybe about 150 years…

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
3 months ago

So far “transportation justice” has been only used as an excuse to prioritize car drivers, protect parking, block bike lane projects, and making our streets less safe.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
3 months ago

“households living on low incomes”

I distinctly remember a PBOT employee instructing me that low-income people are not a protected class so I guess it’s some small measure of progress that PBOT now recognizes class as an equity issue.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

“Protected Class” in governmentese refers to those who are specifically called out in national legislation – blacks, Hispanics, indentured servants, Native American Indians, bald eagles, snail darters, certain owls, 4Fs, highway contractors…

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I understand this but the message I received was that PBOT was not obligated to consider SES (so they would not).

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

This is true, they don’t have to, but what they often do is use data on low income, rental rates, or poverty as a proxy for identifying where protected classes are, since many people now refuse to identify their race or will answer “mixed”, so in the end they are using the data, but not quite in the way you or I might use it. Other good good variables to arrive at the same thing include car ownership (or lack of it) and the number of people in a household and number of children.

Fuzzy Blue Line
Fuzzy Blue Line
3 months ago

I know research has its purpose and place in the transportation world but the amount of $ wasted on virtue signaling research that gets absolutely nothing done boggles my mind. And this isn’t just PSU. Nationally the amount of grant $ (paid by your taxes) handed out for research that has no practical application and simply produces another meaningless PhD student’s dissertation is mind blowing. If even a tiny fraction of that bloated research funding were redirected to getting infrastructure actually installed we might get somewhere.

Fuzzy Blue Line
Fuzzy Blue Line
3 months ago

I’m basically arguing about the difference between funding objective research versus subjective research. Objective research has measurable outcomes such as how many crashes are prevented by installing bike boxes or a bike signal at an intersection. We can measure the impact. Subjective research which has dominated recent funding requests such as social justice research rarely (if ever) have measurable outcomes. The typical outcome of such studies is that past wrongs have been committed and we need more research or funding redistribution to such impacted groups. I have yet to see a single social justice research study with measurable outcomes defined by OBJECTIVE measures. They’re typically biased because the researchers are the ones defining terms and outcomes based on their predetermined biases.

SD
SD
3 months ago

What is the US research budget relative to other spending, how is research funding distributed and what is the return on investment? I am curious, now that I have found out that Fuzzy Blue Line knows all of this stuff.

J1mb0
J1mb0
3 months ago

Sorry, but isn’t that the mindset that got us into this situation in the first place? No studies, just build so much road that it becomes the largest infrastructure project ever completed by any country ever? If we had stopped to think a little bit about the impacts and practicality of such construction before doing it, maybe we wouldn’t have dug ourselves into such a deep hole. But we went with “Take the debt out to build it now, or else we may never build it at all”, and now we have to deal with and face the consequences of those half baked decisions. Rarely do good systems get designed and built efficiently. If we do something efficiently but the end result is a hot pile of traffic jams and inequity, then all we did was waste resources efficiently.

SD
SD
3 months ago

I am excited about this and hope that this is an opportunity to transform transportation systems rather than make small tweaks that reinforce a fundamentally inequitable SOV-based system.

Transportation justice arguments in Portland have often been based on political expediency rather than real solutions. An SOV-based system is like playing musical chairs with a two to one ratio of people to chairs. When transportation justice efforts fixate on how to distribute those chairs instead of increasing the number of chairs to match the number of people, these efforts are ineffectual.

SOV-based systems create scarcity by design because they are directly tied to systems of wealth concentration.

The lack of a clear understanding and goals of transportation justice have left PBOT vulnerable to shifting political winds and back room influencers. I hope this is a starting point to changing that.

SD
SD
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

Single User Car systems predictably expand to use more and more space and resources. Resources that include people’s health and lives. Instead of reaching a natural limit that inhibits this system, the discomfort and panic that are created drive further expansion and resource depletion. As a result, the difference between winners and losers of transportation become greater as more resources are consumed. In the US, a reflexive, sometimes well-meaning response is to try to give the people suffering from this inequitable system the objects that the winners have. “A heart warming story about giving someone who walks to work a car.” This is misguided because for one, it is not focused on providing transportation. The car is a tool for transportation that still requires personal financial costs to maintain, and the other required elements of the system may not be adequate. Second, when applied at a system-wide level, which is very costly and impractical, trying to push transportation-poor people into a single user car system depletes more resources and further punishes people that will never be able to participate in a SUC system.
Any viable approach to transportation equity must focus on increasing the actual transportation of people and diminish the ways in which the transportation of people are compromised by wealth-concentrating systems. SUC systems will always fail in an urban environment, because they compete with and antagonize population density. The private exploitation of public space by freight, SUC-services, SUC manufacturers and infrastructure profiteers also competes with equitable transportation, and in our current economic system expand until they destroy. Any effort to achieve sustainable and expansive equity must also dismantle urban SUC systems.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

Would you apply this line of thinking apply to all Single Use Vehicles? (i.e. smaller cheap vehicles like an Arcimoto, electric cargo bike, etc.) or only some?

That is, is it the private ownership of the vehicles (whatever they are) that is objectionable, or just a question of magnitude of cost?

SD
SD
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Single user vehicle the same as single occupancy vehicle. Yes, some bicycles, most skateboards and I think all unicycles are single user. I didn’t want to burden an already dry comment by further delineating cars from bicycles. But, it’s true that we could consider cars and trucks to be an failed version of bicycles.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

What is the differentiating principle between successful vehicles and failed ones? Where do cargo e-bikes and tiny electric vehicles like Arcimotos fit in? How about very small electric cars like a Fiat 500?

SD
SD
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

I would first approach this question by trying to make a calculation based on ideal population density in a city +/-, the space required for each vehicle, the risk of harm introduced into the system by each vehicle, i.e., momentum of each vehicle, possibly other factors, the cost of infrastructure build and maintenance for each vehicle type, carbon footprint and pollution in manufacturing and use and personal per individual cost of each vehicle.

I would try to define an acceptable threshold for each of these: space for everyone to have one personal transport item stored outside of their living space, zero deaths, number of expected injuries from each to compare, low climate destruction potential, cost etc.

Then, I would look at the extreme possibilities of each person having the same personal transportation item, and the more likely possibility of a mix of items based on demographics, and distance traveled. This would allow a threshold to be set that defines a successful vs failed personal transportation device. My guess is that the examples you mention would make the cut. But, a limit would need to be set to counter the perverse incentives of consumerism and predictable escalation of externalized harms.

Next step, I would look at municipal regulatory thresholds that would align with successful vehicles and discourage failed vehicles. Limit public storage space, limit travel lane width, reduce speed through geofenced speed limiters, user fees based on momentum, and subsidize successful transportation methods.

Personal cost drives a lot of the harmful transportation choices that people make because they feel that they need one vehicle that can meet all of their needs, even if some of those needs, like transporting five or more people at a time occurs less than once a year. The high initial investment and difficulty of changing from one vehicle to another makes people want to choose a vehicle that will cover every possible need for 20 years. This choice for everyone in the system is a huge drain on resources. Cheaper, smaller, more flexible transportation devices allow for a more rational system.

Ultimately, equity and access are defined by the greater system when there are limited resources. Our current transportation system has created scarcity because it is defined by a market that benefits from pushing the cost of transportation to its extremes and the profiteers of that market have been the biggest influencers of regulation and system development.

Manufactured scarcity creates winners and losers, which in our society typically falls out based on personal and generational wealth. Approaching equity without addressing the failures of the larger system is fruitless.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

“make a calculation”.

One of the other things you would need to calculate is the benefits that each type of vehicle offers. A lot of people are willing to pay a lot of money to have a car, so they obviously bring some benefits to those who buy them. Even if you don’t personally agree with those benefits, when you see real people shelling out real money, it is clear that they do.

SD
SD
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

The reason that people shell out real money is more complicated than personal preference. Even assuming that rational and practical choices are being made, people are buying a transportation tool to cope with a broken transportation system. And, the US market is both limited in choice compared to other countries and filled with incentives for people to buy more car or truck than they need for more money.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  SD

people are buying a transportation tool to cope with a broken transportation system.

Perhaps this is true. However, that changes nothing about what I said. If you’re right, then when we fix the system, people will want to stop driving.

So what realistic path gets us from where we are to a system so great that people don’t want to drive anymore?

What is my incentive to buy a huge-ass truck that costs $60K compared to a small, efficient vehicle that costs a third of that, costs less to operate and insure, and is easier to manage in the city? Surely there’s more going on than “got to buy a car to mange with a broken system”.

It would be nice to get beyond the usual “other people are sheep, we know better” and look at what’s really motivating folks.

SD
SD
3 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Even more of a reason to use Single User Car (SUC) instead of Single Occupancy Vehicle (SOV). SUC excludes non-car vehicles in addition to the added contextualization.

Phillip Barron
3 months ago

A research university wins a significant grant to study a complex problem, but those in the know call it word salad and virtue signaling (tired cliches already). Perhaps PSU and PBOT should save some money and just talk with Bike Portland commenters, since some of them already think they’re experts. 

rick
rick
3 months ago
Reply to  Phillip Barron

$250,000 would repair some paper street trails in outer SW Portland.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  Phillip Barron

I’m available, and my rate is in-line with what we are paying “experts” these days.

John V
John V
3 months ago
Reply to  Phillip Barron

Almost any time someone says “virtue signalling” or “woke”, you can basically just ignore the rest of what they say. They’re just conservative dog whistles. I say almost, because there can be virtue signalling to hide things (kind of what greenwashing is) but yeah, usually that’s not what people mean. Usually it’s more like “I have absolutely no understanding of what these people are talking about, so it must all be just a wasted money!”

“I don’t experience racism or discrimination, so it doesn’t exist, we live in a perfect meritocracy”

That’s what I’m hearing.

Phillip Barron
3 months ago
Reply to  John V

You mean, at this point saying “virtue signaling” is just an act of… virtue signaling?

The effort to minimize the gains of social justice by deriding attitudes as “woke” affirms for me that the progress is being made. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be such moral panic about it.

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  John V

Almost any time someone says “virtue signalling” or “woke”, you can basically just ignore the rest of what they say. They’re just conservative dog whistles.

I feel the same way about “dog whistle”.

Unless, of course, you are actually calling a dog.

Chris I
Chris I
3 months ago
Reply to  Phillip Barron

With the recent back and forth on the Broadway and NE 33rd bikeways, I think a lot of cycling advocates are feeling frustrated with PBOT, and any new of them focusing on transportation justice instead of transportation safety is going to trigger folks. We should be laser-focused on our skyrocketing pedestrian deaths in this city.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor

Congratulations to the researchers, TREC and PSU.

This comment thread is really good, I feel like jumping in everywhere…maybe I’ll just go to Bike Happy Hour tonight instead.

I’ve got an idea for a research direction. Given that we have recent census data, now would be a good time to do statistical analyses of trends and correlations. In particular, I’m interested to know how strong the correlation is between income/wealth and road safety. Is there a strong enough correlation between wealth and safety to use very granular shelter information (house/rental prices) as a proxy for road safety (less granular crash history)?

Also, MGGG did an analysis of Portland demographics with 2010 census data. What they found is that Portland does not have a single, sizable minority group, or geographic concentration of ethnicities. We don’t have a Harlem or a Chinatown. Groups are pretty diffusely spread throughout the city, especially Hispanics.

I think there is a basic meat and potatoes level of service and infrastructure that everybody should be able to expect. And that CoP has neglected swaths of the city for decades. My fear is that, because some of those neglected areas are largely white, like SW, an infrastructure prioritization with a large emphasis on race provides cover for continuing to kick the can down the road for another half century.

I hope that the roadmap will emphasize open questions, not fall into small-bore confirmation bias type studies that buttress existing narratives. What questions researchers decide to ask is important.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago

Cities and school districts both get certain types of federal aid based on how large of ethnic minorities they have or can prove to have, particularly immigrants and refugees, and the US Census is so very unhelpful in counting and distinguishing between local native minorities (such as African-Americans and Italian-Americans whose families have been here for centuries) and non-native recent minorities (for example Somali and Ukrainians.) So the city of Portland often gets some of their demographic data from the public school districts (9 different ones serve various parts of the city). Portland has a huge and growing Slavic community, mostly in East Portland, of Russians, Ukrainians, Rumanians, Poles, and others who have arrived since 1990, and who often get along with each other in spite of the various wars at home. There are also lots of refugees from the former Burma, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, who are probably listed by the census as “Asian”. Churches and church-based resettlement agencies are another good source of such data.

Generally, most recent immigrants and refugees settle in the poorest districts of any city, so cities and state DOTs will often use concentrations of poverty and youth as a proxy for measuring ethnic diversity.

cct
cct
3 months ago

My fear is that, because some of those neglected areas are largely white, like SW, an infrastructure prioritization with a large emphasis on race provides cover for continuing to kick the can down the road for another half century.

A valid fear, and the focus is pointless – many of the neighborhoods lacking pedestrian and bike infrastructure in SW and other areas feature pockets of minority groups – but more importantly, many of these neighborhoods are economically disenfranchised and THAT should be the focus of this city. Current policy forces the working poor and middle class to own a car, regardless of their ability to afford it, their desire to, or the health of the planet.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
3 months ago

PBOT Transportation Justice: cars good, bikes racist

Watts
Watts
3 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

And, according to PBOT, bike lanes are bad for climate change.

Adam
Adam
3 months ago

This is a document chock full of empty DEI buzzwords and jargon, with circular definitions, that will likely create plenty of opportunities for circular firing squads and quixotic project outcomes.

Equity: Equality’s funhouse mirror reflection, where resources are distributed unequally based on the agenda and priors of civil servants.

Justice: Power, as wielded in the hands of the self-appointed “righteous” among us who know that people are best valued, not as individuals, but as collectives of people with certain skin-tones, sexual orientations, religions, genders etc.

The past is never dead:” The future is also never alive as long as you keep picking at old wounds. We should not forget the past, but we also cannot save the past. We can only try to build a future in which all people are treated equally, regardless of their race, religion, gender, etc. MLK > Kendi.

Liberation: We’re talking about streets right? Liberating who from who? Pedestrians from drivers? Rights of way from parked cars? A few individuals who happen to be black from bike lanes in their neighborhood?

Centering race: Ah yes, humans can never go wrong by centering race in their government.

Targeted universalism:” Oof. If you have to scare quote your jargon in an already jargon-heavy doc, more eyebrows need to be raised. This just gives civil servants permission to favor one group of people over everyone else, hoping it will all just work out.

Intersectionality: Committing to the ideology to ensure we emphasize our immutable differences over our practical commonalities and individual transportation choices.

Putting people first: But also centering race and committing to intersectionality? Hmm… Want to put people first? Stop hopping to whenever some hotelier gripes about stepping over a bike lane and hop to whenever a librarian gets crushed waiting for a bus. Better yet fix potential hazards before someone dies.

Accountability: Who should we hold accountable for this document and the city’s utter lack of budget planning for one of its core services, like PBOT?