State transportation leaders come to Portland at start of ‘long road ahead’ for funding bill

Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Julie Brown (middle) with Oregon House Representative and Joint Committee on Transportation Co-Chair Susan McClain walk in downtown Portland yesterday. Behind them is OTC Vice-Chair and former JCT Co-Chair Lee Beyer and State Senator Kathleen Taylor. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Yesterday was a big day for transportation in the Portland region. The Oregon Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation (JCT) came to town for the first stop on a 13 city, statewide tour to garner feedback on what’s expected to be a multi-billion dollar funding package in the 2025 legislative session.

Over the course of seven hours, an impressive assemblage of state lawmakers and agency leaders took a bus tour of Portland, participated in a two-hour roundtable discussion, and held a public hearing. The bus tour and roundtable were invite-only affairs and there was no livestream or official recording available to the public.

I took part in all three events (you can read my live updates on X if you’d like) and learned perspectives from across the political spectrum and got a good sense of the contours of the debate at the outset of this important process. The day was full unsurprising, disappointing and hopeful statements, relatively bold commitments from elected leaders, lines lightly drawn in the sand, emotional testimonies, and more. I’ll share more about the public hearing and public testimony in a separate post, but for now I want to focus on what I learned on the bus tour and roundtable discussion (which I recorded and might turn into a podcast soon).

Get comfortable and scroll down….

Coming into these conversations, everyone wanted to know how ODOT is going to raise new revenue for transportation. We can debate why their finances are in such bad shape, but there’s no denying the fact that the agency (like many transportation departments) is in a hole that grows deeper by the year. The culprits are declining gas tax revenue, paying for commitments to expensive freeway expansion megaprojects, and soaring inflation.

ODOT says they have a $1.8 billion annual funding gap. And that’s just to pay for services and basic system investments. When they add three other projects they claim the legislature committed to in 2017 — the I-5 Rose Quarter Project and two phases of an expansion of I-205 (including a new Abernethy Bridge near Oregon City) — they add another $2.6 billion to the gap.

This funding hole is part of the reason why the 2025 conversation has begun with a clear message from ODOT, JCT members and other insiders: Beyond coming up with a funding plan for the “unfinished business” of those aforementioned megaprojects, there will be no new project spending in the next bill. The focus will be on “critical services,” operations and maintenance. So don’t send your senator or representative a wishlist of projects, because they probably won’t consider it.

I shared a seat on the bus with Oregon Transportation Commission Chair Julie Brown, one of five members of the OTC, a governor-body that has the unenviable task of setting ODOT’s budget. Brown said the focus on maintenance is due in large part because project costs have become “astronomical” due to inflation and budget overruns. “We’re sticker-shocked,” is how she put it to me. 

That being said, Brown (who has a deep background as a public transit system manager and advocate) shared that existing ODOT programs like the successful and popular Statewide Transportation Improvement Fund (STIF, created in House Bill 2017) could see a huge bump in funding if/when a new bill is passed. That program currently spends about $110 million per year on public transit infrastructure and services statewide. One source said the STIF allotment in the 2025 bill could go up as much as 500%.

How will the state fill their funding gap and fund the infrastructure so many Oregonians want? Yesterday’s conversations illuminated a few front-running ideas.

Metro, Portland’s elected regional planning authority, had two representatives at the roundtable, Councilor Juan Carlos Gonzalez (who’s also chair of Metro’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation) and Councilor Christine Lewis. They were unified in a belief that it’s time to push forward on some sort of road usage charge (also called a vehicle miles traveled tax or VMT tax), something Oregon’s been working on in pilot-mode for many years.

“A road user charged should be our region’s future,” Gonzalez said at the roundtable. “I’m ready to personally say, let’s figure out the next steps to get there,” Lewis added.

Those steps will need to make sure the new fee doesn’t negatively impact people with low incomes. Everyone around the table is aware of this political pitfall around a road user charge. JCT Co-Chair Rep. Susan McLain voiced her interest in a “fair VMT”.  Indi Namkoong with nonprofit Verde said they support a VMT tax, but only one that is, “Fair and accountable to the low income communities and communities of color that we work with.”

But cold water was immediately thrown on the idea by advocates for truckers and drivers. Oregon Trucking Association President Jana Jarvis said a road usage charge would be expensive, difficult to administer and wouldn’t net nearly as much profit for ODOT as the gas tax does. Jarvis also said her people aren’t in the mood for more taxes. “We took a 53% increase [in taxes] in 2017 and that was a huge increase,” she said. “We did it to pay for the Rose Quarter project and we don’t have the Rose Quarter project… and many of those funds were diverted to non-road projects.”

And Marie Dodds with 765,000 member strong AAA Oregon/Idaho isn’t into the idea either. “A road usage charge is going to be a long time coming and very expensive,” she said, adding that she too is disappointed promised highway projects haven’t been completed and making very similar talking points to trucking reps she sat next to.

But Dodds, and many other people around the table, seemed fine with another idea that’s likely to figure large in the 2025 package: Indexing existing revenue streams to inflation. There’s widespread agreement that indexing current fees to inflation is a politically feasible, short-term solution to help raise revenue.

What wasn’t mentioned at the roundtable was tolling. It appears Governor Tina Kotek’s move to mothball ODOT’s freeway tolling plan has put that concept on ice politically — right when Oregon needs it most.

On a more local level, Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Millicent Williams added to the chorus of support for basic maintenance funding. One of the bus tour stops was the intersection of SW Broadway and Jackson where Williams talked about failing pavement and the city’s lack of resources for street sweeping. “With sustainable funding, we can get to work on the backlog of deferred maintenance and stabilize the foundation of our system,” she said.

While Williams is clearly committed to her “back to basics” message of funding maintenance over new capital projects, she’s also a big supporter of ODOT’s I-5 freeway widening at the Rose Quarter. “It is an important artery, it is an important connection between Canada and Mexico,” she told a full bus as we rolled through the Rose Quarter. “We often say the only stop sign along I-5 is right here. And I don’t know if that’s the compliment that we want to receive, but it is certainly the comment that we hear.”

Williams’ support is notable because whether or not Oregon should continue investing in freeway expansions is a good example of just how far apart various factions of the debate around transportation funding are right now. Some believe “no more freeways” is the only answer and others believe that concept is untenable.

Oregon Walks Executive Director Zachary Lauritzen spoke up at the roundtable to say, “I want to say this very clearly: We cannot build our way out of congestion. We can build another lane, we can build another lane and another lane. We can do that. And then we’ll be Los Angeles or Houston.” Lauritzen was among several people who spoke about the need for a “holistic” approach to transportation that integrates land-use, housing, and other issues — not just freeway megaprojects.

Rebecca Sanders, a PhD and founder of Safe Streets Research, a consulting firm, added, “We shouldn’t be expanding highways for any reason.”

But those views drew a retort from JCT Co-Vice Chair Representative Shelly Boshart Davis, a Republican whose family owns a trucking company. “When we talk about not being able to build ourselves out of this problem, I categorically disagree. We can build ourselves out of some of this problem,” she said.

“When we talk about the Rose Quarter, that’s the only two-lane section of I-5 in an urban area from Canada to Mexico. It’s two lanes. I’m not asking for five. And it’s one of the top 30 bottlenecks in the United States, so I think that we can’t just say, ‘we can’t build ourselves out of this problem,’ we can, in some cases. We gotta get those trucks through if we want to lower emissions.”

Talk of needing more investment in biking, walking and transit in order change driving habits was well-represented at the meeting. The Street Trust Board Chair Thomas Le Ngo spoke up about the need to encourage less driving because, “The average cost of car ownership is about $12,000 a year and it’s going up.” Ngo pointed to The Street Trust’s free e-bike program as a “proven model for behavior change.” 

But House Rep Tawna Sanchez, a Democrat who represents north and northeast Portland wasn’t comfortable with all the talk about driving less. She said poorer people often have no choice other than to drive:

“I’m a little frustrated with that sort of thing… While I appreciate the concepts of reductions of vehicles and multimodal and the whole thing, I still feel like I sit in a place where I work with people who are low income all day long in my real life job [Rep Sanchez is a social worker]. We still have food deserts in this city and in this state. When we’re building low-income housing, we’re building it without parking for the most part, and have an expectation that people will — somehow or another, miraculously be able to shop for their five, six kids or whatever, however many people they have in their home once a month or twice a month — and be able to bring that all back on the bus or something like that. This is not reality for poor people, let’s just be realistic… we all got here some kind of way and not everybody can ride a bike, or do all of those things, you know, keep it all on transit or whatever. It’s just difficult on some level so I want us to think about that too.”

Senator Lew Frederick, a Democrat whose north Portland district I-5 runs through, shared a similar sentiment:

“I’m not getting on a bicycle anytime soon [he’s 72]. I used to love riding, I rode a bicycle every day. But I know my balance won’t let me be on a bicycle. So I’m not going to be doing it. I’m also not going to be taking the bus, or the train to Salem, because there are only two trains. And so I need to be able to move around a lot of different ways. So we need to be looking at the needs of folks out there and figuring out how we can support what’s going on.

Every day, I get off the freeway at the Rose quarter. Every day, I get worried every time I get on the freeway at the Rose Quarter. The lanes are too narrow right now, nevermind trying to to make them even more narrow.”

It’s curious why folks make statements like this because there has never been a proposal to force everyone out of their cars and onto bikes and buses. Thankfully, Southeast Portland House Rep Khanh Pham made the point I was screaming silently in my head. She responded to Sanchez by sharing how her family has gone down to just one car — not just to save the earth but to save money. “It’s often not about a conversation about never driving, but we have to balance… the data shows if we were to build a transportation system that allowed people to reduce their miles driven by 20% — so 80% could continue but just a 20% reduction in driving — it would save the average family over $1,450 a year. And that’s a huge that’s a huge savings for working families.”

These comments led to an interesting discussion of behavior change. Rep. Sanchez said “We are not Europe” [one of three people in the meeting who uttered that unfortunate phrase] as a way to explain how she thinks Oregonians are simply too stubborn to change behaviors. “We don’t want to change. We don’t want to do things differently. We have loads of stubborn individualism.”

JCT Co-Chair Senator Chris Gorsek added that people haven’t changed because the system hasn’t changed “We’ve been trying to get people to use alternative forms of transportation for years. For years! We’ve done transit oriented development, and then it fails. So I think it’s a good idea, but we have to find a different mechanism for inspiring people to actually do those things… We have to think of a new model, a new way of thinking about what we’re doing with transportation, I would argue a new and bold way of thinking…”

“New” and “bold” isn’t what politicians are typically good at, so I’m not very hopeful that Gorsek or anyone else can encourage significant behavior change.

I thought how ODOT Director Kris Strickler posed a question in his closing comments at the roundtable was very interesting. According to ODOT calculations, Strickler said, the average Oregonian spends about $350 per year in taxes and fees for their use of the transportation system (per vehicle). “So what do you want to do with that $350?” he asked, rhetorically. “And would you spend more to provide some of the outcomes we’ve been talking about around the table?”

All this talk must lead to somewhere, but the destination isn’t clear yet. Strickler said Oregon is in a “no fail moment,” but politics only cares about votes. With differences on the merits of freeway spending and concerns about new taxes even among the same party and a listening session tour that won’t be over until October, there’s a long road ahead before a package comes together.

And Kelly Brooks, the transportation and infrastructure advisor for Governor Kotek, wasn’t exactly optimistic in her remarks. While she said the Governor “cares a lot about the issue,” her cool outlook on the discussion was notable. “We have to acknowledge that time is a pretty limited resource right now,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do and not much time to do it.”

Senator Brian Boquist, a Republican who represents rural counties and was one of the architects of HB 2017 said he doesn’t think anything will pass in the coming session. He doesn’t see a package getting hammered out in time or the votes to pass it if it did. “I’ll just say I’m the naysayer. I think it’s going to be really tough to do anything big in 2025. It’s going to be 2026… It’s a long road ahead and you’ve got to convince a bunch of people.”

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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🚲
🚲
7 days ago

that’s the only two-lane section of I-5 in an urban area from Canada to Mexico

At the level of Burnside, there are ~20 freeway lanes going through Portland connecting Canada to Mexico on I 405, I5 and I205.

blumdrew
7 days ago
Reply to  🚲

Other places where I5 has two lanes in an urban area in Oregon:

  1. Medford
  2. Grants Pass
  3. Eugene/Springfield
  4. Albany
  5. Salem*

Either Portland is the only urban area in Oregon, or our transportation leaders don’t get out much. The Medford viaduct in particular is something they ought to be aware of (it was controversial and is nearing replacement time)

*they might have expanded this part of I5 in Salem, I know part of it near there has been done recently. If so, Salem might be the only urban area in Oregon (unless we count Woodburn?) that doesn’t have a two lane section

Bonuses outside Oregon:

  1. Chehalis/Centralia, WA
  2. Mount Vernon/Burlington, WA
  3. Los Angeles, CA ( you read that correctly)
  4. Bellingham, WA

Maybe a bit cheeky on the LA one – it was the only part of I5 with two lanes in a California urban area I could find.

Fact check
Fact check
6 days ago
Reply to  🚲

I-205: 6 through lanes, 2 aux lanes, 8 total
I-5: 4 through lanes, 4 total
I-405: 4 through lanes, 4 total

That’s 14 through lanes, 16 total lanes, and that is one-third less than what you counted

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  Fact check

There is no difference between a through and an auxiliary lane. At Burnside, I am assuming they counted the I-84 exit lanes that flank I5. While not all of those head N/S definitely one, maybe two (NB entrance from I-84) feels like it should count

🚲
🚲
6 days ago
Reply to  Fact check

I used the satellite map
I405: 6 lanes, I5: 6 lanes, I205: 8 lanes.

Adam
Adam
7 days ago

The main problem with Oregon transportation is the abundance of mediocre people in positions of leadership. As George Carlin observed, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

No one wants to pay. Everyone wants their pony. No one can see the forest for the trees. Mr. Maus could have saved seven hours of his life by just asking Chat GPT to give him the most common stock excuses Americans use to not improve their public transit and rationalize building more highways.

If they are not gonna bother doing the hard work of improving public transit and non-car modes and making the hard financing decisions to build more thoughtful and forward-looking infrastructure then they should just stop and do nothing. They should scrap all new highway projects and just raise the current fees and gas taxes to the level it would take to fully fund current maintenance needs. Don’t even bother pretending you’re going to implement a worthwhile VMT system. I don’t think this lot has the competence.

Look. As things stand, it is super easy to drive around the metro area and the state. Super easy – at any time of the day and year. You can literally take your car to almost any remote corner of the state without any real obstacles. If you think it is not easy to drive because it sometimes takes you an hour or two hours to get across the 35-mile-wide metro area during rush hour you are spoiled. It could take you four hours and you’d still have no good reason to complain because you’d be in an air conditioned private vehicle with ample entertainment at your fingertips, and you’re still going to get to your next destination quicker than if you took the bus or walked. Probably even if you biked because, let’s face it, most of you are not fit enough to bike across the metro area.

The truckers will manage and honestly should just be ignored. They bring nothing to the table except entitlement. They have no real leverage because there is only one I-5 and it is still quicker to use it in its current state than re-route your trucks along US-97 or further east to I-15. I say give freight truckers exclusive access to I-205. They’d only have to share it with goverment-owned vehicles. In exchange we would bury I-5 beneath the Columbia and through the center of Portland and completly eliminate I-405.

John V
John V
6 days ago
Reply to  Adam

Are you running for anything? Your ideas are spot on.

Michael
Michael
6 days ago
Reply to  Adam

On the topic of trucks, there’s another reason I’m not particularly convinced by their arguments: there are alternative modes of transportation available for shipping goods, and almost all of them are going to be better for the public and the environment if they’re utilized instead of one guy driving a semi through a city. We have a robust freight rail system, well-developed maritime shipping, and a plethora of airports with cargo terminals. Each of those, of course, have their downsides and constraints, and there will likely always be a time and a place for a single guy driving a large truck towing one to three trailers on an asphalt highway, but we also don’t need to bend over backwards for trucking industry just because they’re worried that their profit margin might take a hit if their clients decide to load their containers onto a UP train, instead.

dirk mcgee
dirk mcgee
6 days ago
Reply to  Michael

But how does it get from the train to the store? I think you’re missing some links in the logistics system here…

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  dirk mcgee

Sure, but local last mile shipping by truck is pretty obviously different than long haul trucking. Long to medium haul trucking relies extensively on the freeway system, while last mile does not.

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Long to medium haul trucking relies extensively on the freeway system, while last mile does not.

For that we rely on neighborhood streets.

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  Michael

there are alternative modes of transportation available for shipping goods

Union Pacific is not interested in your truckload of melons. And even if they were, you’d still need to arrange transportation on both ends of the journey, and hope they arrived when they were supposed to, making logistics much more difficult and expensive.

Trains work great for big loads of not particularly delicate stuff. They do not work well for the stuff that most people ship by truck.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
5 days ago
Reply to  Michael

The trucking industry has an undue influence on the Rose Quarter I-5 so-called “Improvement” proposal. From Albina, trucks turn off Interstate Ave onto Ramsay Way directly to the southbound I-5 on-ramp at Wheeler Way.

Early designs proposed relocating this on-ramp from Wheeler Way to Weidler where the new entrance is downhill (up to speed more readily) with better visibility and more distance to merge left to access I-5 while traffic on I-5 must merge right to access I-84. This relocation would reduce traffic hazards through the area for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. For no good reason fathomable, this one safety improvement is off the table, in part to accommodate trucking in both directions to/from Albina along Ramsay Way.

The current proposal is to relocate the southbound off-ramp from Broadway which is uphill (which reduces exit speed and clearly visible) to a blind hairpin turn at Wheeler Way whereby Ramsay Way becomes a dedicated truck route, never mind the safety hazards it creates and the safety improvements it neglects. Relocating the southbound on-ramp to Weidler is safer for all traffic including freight trucks. The main influence upon relocating the I-5 southbound exit ramp is inappropriately located development. Who wants to live near freeway on/off ramps, raise your hands. Who enjoys the roar of passing traffic? Who would rather not consider the air pollution? Who isn’t disgusted with freeway-bound traffic speeding through crosswalks?

Kris Strickler should be removed from office, be indicted and face criminal charges including Reckless Endangerment and Negligent Homicide.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
6 days ago
Reply to  Adam

I much appreciate your perspective but must disagree with the pipe dream to “bury I-5 below the Columbia and Willamette Rivers” because neither I-5 tunnels are possible nor advisable if they were.

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

A tunnel is definitely possible, practical, and dare I say advisable under the Columbia. It’s only ~30 feet deep and not very wide (by water crossing standards – it is a wide river). The Willamette is a slightly different story, but it’s surely technically possible

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I-5 Tunnels under the Willamette and Columbia Rivers are NOT possible NOR advisable if they were because of the traffic hazards especially during accidents. Picture traffic in these tunnels stopped. PIcture emergency vehicles unable to reach an accident scene.

To replace the I-5 Marquam Bridge, picture tunnel ramps plowing through SW Portland waterfront neighborhoods. To replace the Columbia River I-5 bridge, picture replacing the east/west views of Mt Hood and forest park with a darkened hole. These I-5 freeway tunnels are DEFINITELY not possible. The only people who believe they’re possible are wealthy real estate agents from Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea!

blumdrew
blumdrew
5 days ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

Thanks for a good laugh this morning. Be real, there is hardly a difference between traffic stopped in a tunnel and on a bridge (excepting very rare circumstances involving a crash with hazardous materials – why hazmat carriers are usually routed around tunnels!). There are places with much more complex and constrained rights of way or geography than I5 in Portland that manage tunnels. Brooklyn-Battery, Chesapeake Bay, Fort McHenry, the Great Belt Bridge/Tunnel in Denmark, to name a few. Locally, traffic stops in the tunnels on US 26 just about every single day and life seems to go on just fine.

Wow, can you imagine replacing a view on a highway bridge with a tunnel? Who cares man. Have you ever tried to enjoy the view of Mount Hood on the Vancouver Waterfront? It’s nice, but the oppressing road noise from I-5 sort of ruins the charm. Views for drivers should never be a primary concern.

And surely the approach to a Willamette River tunnel in SW Portland would happen within the existing very wide right of way of I5/OR 43. Hardly worse to imagine that this traffic would be emerging from a tunnel rather than descending from a bridge!

The only people who believe they’re possible are wealthy real estate agents from Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea!

I’ll engage with this earnestly, but like what are you saying? That scary “foreign investors” from bad countries will benefit from an I5 Columbia River Tunnel? I mean I guess that means you also think having a tunnel would be a positive for real estate/property values within earshot of the existing bridge then. But like you can check who owns those parcels very easily, and the most foreign I can find is this RV Park on Hayden Island owned by a group in the Detroit suburbs. Also, the Hayden Island shopping center is owned by a group from New York. I doubt that whoever sold them these properties in 1992 and 2017 were foreign agents.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
5 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

The main reason an I-5 tunnel under the Willamette River is “unadvisable” is because traffic MUST change lanes in the tunnel. The ‘short’ Hwy 26 Vista Bridge tunnel you mention, a prominent sign is posted that boldly states “Do not change lanes in tunnel.”

At all times, at least half of the traffic entering this tunnel must change lanes, left-to-right and right-to-left. Changing lanes increases the potential for accident. In major accidents, don’t pretend there is no difference compared to a bridge.

As for construction of a Willamette River tunnel, traffic in both directions enters separate tunnel portals (I-5 & I-405 at the south end), (I-5 & I-84 at the north end between Burnside and Morrison bridges. The river bed is about 35′ deep in the middle. At that low point middle (at least another 30′ down) the tunnel ascends to the portals at an acceptably steep grade.

An I-5 tunnel under the Columbia River is far more complicated and as much a threat to public safety than you can imagine.

Development interests (absentee landlords) view waterfront property as lucrative. Ted Wheeler knows perfectly well an I-5 tunnel is neither possible nor advisable. He promotes the idea to entice developers who’ll settle for other less glamorous sites.

John V
John V
5 days ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

I don’t understand the argument that tunnels are less safe during crashes. Are you imagining they have no shoulder? It’s not like a bridge is any more accessible than a tunnel. You can’t even come at it from the air in the case of an emergency. A bridge may as well be a tunnel as far as that goes. Also tunnels exist, all over the world, doing exactly this kind of thing. Are they all just dangerous death traps?
What is the added danger you’re speaking of?

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
5 days ago
Reply to  John V

Crashes in a tunnel require evacuation from the point where the crash blocks traffic to the nearest portal. When a fire erupts, evacuation is more difficult for seniors and disabled as well as for all involved in a smoke-filled tunnel.

blumdrew
5 days ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

The main reason an I-5 tunnel under the Willamette River is “unadvisable” is because traffic MUST change lanes in the tunnel.

Surely we can design something that doesn’t require changing lanes in the tunnel. I don’t see any reason why that has to be a requirement. We could get rid of the exit onto Water Ave, for example.

In major accidents, don’t pretend there is no difference compared to a bridge.

The only tangible difference is being under the water instead of over. It’s a minor difference for the vast majority of crashes, and likely has equal traffic disruption potential (the primary concern for the vast majority of crashes). Fires are an issue though, sure. One point for the bridge I guess.

An I-5 tunnel under the Columbia River is far more complicated and as much a threat to public safety than you can imagine.

Okay, please illuminate me on why it’s such a dire threat to public safety then. And again, roadway tunnels are pretty common both internationally and here in the US.

Development interests (absentee landlords) view waterfront property as lucrative.

Well, I guess we should have highways running along all waterfronts to prevent absentee landlords from making money. That’s our only choice! We can’t use it for a park or something like that, only highways or absentee landlords.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
5 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I’ve drafted an I-5 Eastbank “reconfiguration” that pushes I-5 back from the riverbank 30′ or so to make the Esplanade quieter and more amenable for public uses. I’ve designed a replacement for the Marquam Bridge that minimizes impact both eastside and westside. You’ve done nuthin Drewd but make a lot of noise. I think you’re one of those hi-tech solution people who get no further than pipe dreams.

blumdrew
5 days ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

You’ve done nuthin Drewd but make a lot of noise. I think you’re one of those hi-tech solution people who get no further than pipe dreams.

You can think whatever you want about me, that’s fine. But I certainly am not advocating for “hi-tech” solutions, I prefer things that are proven solutions, which is why I favor a tunnel for the Columbia River. Given the existing stated need for a fixed span crossing, the navigational constraints, as well as practical height limitations (plus the max from Pearson Field) I don’t see a good reason why we should still be setting money on fire designing a bridge to do this. A tunnel meets all the most important requirements without trying. As for the need for light rail to Vancouver and better pedestrian/cycling access that can be handled by repurposing the old bridge.

But I am not an engineer, so I don’t have specific alignment recommendations

Watts
Watts
5 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I’m curious; if a tunnel is a good solution, why is ODOT so opposed to it? I don’t have an informed opinion, but I’ve never heard their rationale for why it wouldn’t work (yet I’m sure they have one).

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
4 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I-5 from Vancouver is a steep descent to the Columbia River even more steeply to enter a tunnel. A high bridge would be more level and create public space below. The glorious view crossing the Columbia is worth preserving for those whose time is not spent mentally elsewhere calculating.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
5 days ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

Ooops. Correction: In the 3rd paragraph above, replace “the tunnel ascends to the portals” at an “(unacceptably)” steep grade.
Physically, an I-5 tunnel under the Willamette River is impossible.

Laika
Laika
2 days ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

Have you ever driven in Boston? They have several tunnels under the bay, and there’s required lane changing in the tunnels at several points where lanes merge in and out. It works for them just fine… Tunnels are safe and have been in use all over the world for many decades. The existence of a sign is not proof that it can’t/shouldn’t be done.

Those tunnels are longer, deeper, and probably carry a similar amount of traffic to what a buried I5 would be.

Tunnels are safer in earthquakes, less noisy for nearby property, AND they take up less land. Think of how much better the east bank would be without that highway. Think of how much quieter all of downtown/waterfront would be without that highway. Think of how you could better connect the south waterfront to adjacent neighborhoods without the highway separating everything (waterfront could finally get a grocery store)

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
2 days ago
Reply to  Laika

I took Amtrak to Boston in 2011 to assess the completed Big Dig and was impressed with the park space it created. However, neither I-5 tunnel under the Willamette nor Columbia Rivers makes a fitting comparison. I-5 does not plow through a comparably built urban environment.

Forced lane changes under the Willamette is potentially more hazardous than entrance/exit lane changes. I’ve considered the prospect of rerouting I-5 onto I-405 but traffic will likely slow to a crawl from the Fremont Bridge the entire length of I-405. The Morrison Bridge would remain access to downtown and eastside from I-5 & I-84 without the Marquam Bridge.

As for I-5 under the Columbia River, have you pictured how access ramps to SR14 and downtown Vancouver would function? Access to Hayden Island will likely be from Marine Drive (like the 2010 Concept #1) but I-5 must still abruptly enter and exit a portal on the island forming obstructive length of surface and elevated freeway. The current design for I-5 on Hayden Island is entirely elevated and the surface below graded and preferably landscaped.

Oregon State Department of Highway Robbery and pretentious urban planning agencies harmfully mislead the public in these regards solely for the purpose of raking in tons of money and basking in the misguided respect people like you think they deserve based on pretty pictures.

Dylan
Dylan
6 days ago
Reply to  Adam

Cotw

dw
dw
7 days ago

I’m also not going to be taking the bus, or the train to Salem, because there are only two trains.

MAYBE WE SHOULD FUND RUNNING MORE TRAINS THEN LEW

Watts
Watts
7 days ago
Reply to  dw

We need to fund more trains, and also ensure that transit connections on either end are reliable and comfortable. How much extra travel time and expense do you think is reasonable for Sen. Frederick to spend on his trip, compared to his existing point-to-point solution?

How many new daily riders would be needed to offset the pollution of each additional heavy diesel train between Portland and Salem? Is the additional track available for use?

For me, right now, driving to Salem takes 49 minutes. Taking transit to Union Station takes 31 minutes, and I have great transit accessibility.

“Running more trains” is a simplistic solution.

dw
dw
7 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Senator Fredrick is literally sitting on the committee that could make the decision to fund not only more trains (the simplistic solution) and also increase biking, walking, and transit connectivity to those trains. He is justifying creating policy that perpetuates car-exclusive infrastructure investments.

Watts
Watts
7 days ago
Reply to  dw

Senator Fredrick is literally sitting on the committee that could make the decision to fund not only more trains (the simplistic solution) and also increase biking, walking, and transit connectivity to those trains.

Perhaps; such a policy would be very complicated, and many of the levers are not under state control. I am also skeptical that there is anything we can do to make such complex/multimodal trips even vaguely competitive with driving, but if someone has a well-considered plan, I would suggest sending it to the committee.

Steven
Steven
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Easy. Take road space from cars and give it back to biking, walking, and transit. Car trips get slower, everything else gets faster. Problem solved.

Watts
Watts
5 days ago
Reply to  Steven

Do you truly believe that meaningfully improving biking, walking, and transit connectivity to Portland and Salem train stations to the point that taking the train would work for significantly more people would be easy?

Steven
Steven
5 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Politically, no. Conceptually, yes. I guess I should have said “simple” rather than “easy”.

Watts
Watts
5 days ago
Reply to  Steven

If you remove politics (and economics) from the equation, many things become “conceptually simple.”

And yet I’m still in the situation where it takes almost as long to get to Union Station by transit as it does to get to Salem by car. I don’t see any way (simple or otherwise) to make that trip easier, besides, perhaps, moving the station next to my house.

Steven
Steven
5 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Or we could build more train stations (regional trains, heavy metro, trams, etc.) and you could move closer to one. Seems like that would be simpler than organizing everything around you and your current lifestyle.

Watts
Watts
5 days ago
Reply to  Steven

I live in a spot with excellent transit access right now, near the core of the city. If taking the train to Salem doesn’t work for me, it’s not going to work for many others. Adding a station near OMSI would be more convenient for me, but would add delay for everyone else.

Is your simple solution that everyone with a household member working in Salem move near Union Station?

Steven
Steven
4 days ago
Reply to  Watts

I guess I wasn’t clear. My solution is to replace an inefficient car-based transportation system with efficient mass transit. That generally means a centrally located inter-city rail station with easy connection to other neighborhoods via frequent metro, bus, tram/LRT, etc. will it be politically easy? No. Will it be economically feasible? Is car dependency currently economically feasible? You don’t even have to look to Europe for model to emulate. Just about any major city outside the US or Canada will do.

Watts
Watts
4 days ago
Reply to  Steven

If I could take the Orange Line to Union station and get there in 15 minutes (which seems optimistically fast, even from my close-in location and with an underground line and reduced stations through downtown), and my connection time were 10 minutes on either end, and it were another 15 minutes on the Salem end to get to my final destination, that’s still longer than it takes me to drive, even assuming that the rail line from Portland to Salem took no time at all, and that it took no time for me to walk to the Orange Line station, and that the Orange Line train arrived instantly when I did.

There are many ways to measure efficiency. Time is an important one, as is cost. For better or worse, we already have a road network, so I’m not even sure whether or when building an entirely new system would pay back on an energy basis, especially as vehicles electrify and become enormously more energy efficient (with or without full migration to renewables).

Steven
Steven
4 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Yes, time is an important factor. Google maps gives a driving time of 52 minutes from Portland Union station to the Oregon state capitol in Salem. That’s with light traffic and easy freeway access at both ends of the journey. Transit currently takes about 20 minutes more. Obviously those times will be different depending on where you’re starting from, but it’s not hard to imagine transit making up the difference with all the things one doesn’t have to spend extra time on when taking the train: looking for a parking space, buying gas or snacks, stopping to use the bathroom. Plus the fact that one can, you know, use the time for productive things like reading, working, or just relaxing.

We currently have a highway system that makes it faster for many people to drive. No surprise there. I am saying we can do better by re-allocating most of the road space within cities to biking, walking, and public transit, and making transit more frequent and reliable. Then there are the added benefits of more efficient land use, which makes it easier for more people to live within a short walk of transit and other places that they visit often, saving them even more time.

SD
SD
7 days ago
Reply to  dw

Frederick has always been horrible on transportation and repeatedly proved that he is refractory to anything other than 100% motonormativity. Probably why he stays on that committee.

dw
dw
7 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Oh, and to add, Amtrak Cascades has great ridership, the trains are regularly full. Anecdotally, every time I go between here and Seattle or Eugene the trains are almost at capacity.

Watts
Watts
7 days ago
Reply to  dw

I agree. I often take the train to Seattle if I don’t need my car.

Adam
Adam
7 days ago
Reply to  Watts

@Watts – 49 minutes seems reasonable to travel to Salem and even if it took you two hours, that ain’t so bad if you really need to get there. So we should not have to waste any more money expanding the freeway at the Rose Quarter or anywhere else. Travel times are not that bad and if you think they are you need an attitude check.

Watts
Watts
7 days ago
Reply to  Adam

Travel times are not that bad 

I agree — I oppose freeway expansion (and I don’t think the RQ project would change travel time much anyway). However, the idea that we can realistically develop a rail/transit connection to Salem that’s time/cost/ease-of-use/environmentally competitive with driving door-to-door seems like a fantasy.

If you take issue with my last statement, rather than tell me “we can just do it”, tell me how it could be done.

Fred
Fred
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Hi Watts: Please visit any city in any advanced country in Europe (Germany, Netherlands, France, etc) and ride their trains and then you’ll see how to do it. No one here needs to explain it to you.

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  Fred

No one here needs to explain it to you.

Because no one here can.

I’ve visited many European (and Japanese) cities, and I know how well a rail system can work. What I don’t know is how to retrofit a European-style rail system into our existing transportation and urban infrastructure. And you don’t either.

Fred
Fred
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

That’s the Watts playbook: Point to the status quo and say “It can’t be done b/c it isn’t being done.” It’s so pointless.

We have to get beyond your limited way of thinking if we’re to have transformational change. Remember Einstein: “No problem was ever solved by engaging at the level of thinking that got us into the problem in the first place.”

Sorry to lecture you but you need to hear it.

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  Fred

It seems more likely that transforming a city like Portland, situated squarely in the American context, into a European-style transportation mecca is not possible in a politically, economically, or environmentally realistic way. It’s not physically impossible — we could bulldoze the city and start over — but there are other limits in this world than what’s physically possible.

Instead of accusing me of limited thinking, why not start by showing, at the very least, that this is a goal that Portlanders want, and are willing to work toward.

If I could transform the world by wishing, believe me, I would.

Fred
Fred
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Instead of accusing me of limited thinking, why not start by showing, at the very least, that this is a goal that Portlanders want, and are willing to work toward.

Because you always reflect and amplify the limitations you see around you. You are just like our sorry political leaders in this respect.

The thing you are missing here is that there’s plenty of dosh for freeway widening and practically any other car-centric project. Heck – ODOT is capping I-5 and moving a school, for heaven’s sake, to advance their car-moving goals.

But seriously work toward projects that would move people more efficiently and less impactfully? Well, we have no money for that.

We could build a serious network of trains in the same way we have built the interstate highway system: by taking land (via eminent domain) and dedicating funding over many years to build out the network. That’s how we could do it, but we are stuck with unimaginative leaders and their enabling citizens who are beholden to the status quo.

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  Fred

You are just like our sorry political leaders in this respect.

You can keep saying this, but this doesn’t explain how to undertake one of the biggest makeovers in Portland history without popular or political support.

The amount of money needed would be several (many) orders of magnitude greater than what’s needed for a single highway project, and that money needs to come from somewhere. Without political support, where would that be?

We could, as you say, seize the land needed from landowners. That would take a ton of money and a huge amount of political support. Such a project has neither.

Want me to say a world-class rail system would be great? Happily. It would be great. Absolutely. I would love to have that here. And while we’re wishing, let’s reverse climate change and usher in a new era of world peace.

There is big change coming for our transportation system, but it’s not going to look like rail.

mc
mc
1 day ago
Reply to  Watts

It seems more likely that transforming a city like Portland, situated squarely in the American context, into a European-style transportation mecca is not possible in a politically, economically, or environmentally realistic way.

To the best I can tell, ain’t no one asking for a “European-style transportation mecca“. What it seems people are asking for is some common sense, practical transportation solutions to every single person driving around town in their personal motorized vehicle for every single trip, which isn’t economically viable for the city or its citizens, isn’t environmentally sustainable nor politically tenable.

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but there was a time in America and in Portland where street cars shared the streets with cars, horses, bikes and pedestrians. There is historical video evidence.

Street railways arrived early in Portland and made lasting social and economic contributions that are still apparent in the layout and character of the city’s neighborhoods today. During the 1890s, streetcar lines spread rapidly into the West Hills and across the Willamette River. The technological prowess of the growing “Rose City” was reflected in the largest horsecar in the Northwest, the second steepest cable car grade in the nation, the first true interurban railway, and an annual illuminated trolley parade. By the dawn of the 20th century, Portland could boast of the largest electric railway system in the West, as well as its first eight-wheeled streetcar. The streetcars lasted into the late 1950s here,

https://www.ohs.org/shop/museum-store/books-and-publications/portlands-streetcars.cfm

If you ever biked or walked around town, you’d notice some of that old railway track still embedded in the pavement. It’s also interesting to note, that many of the desirable neighborhoods around town where people like to live near and drive to for shopping, eating, drinking and for just generally participating in human social interaction are in areas that were designed around the street car service.

This is what people like the Youtube creator the CityNerd are referring to when they talk about good “urban fabric / bones”. In fact, he did a whole video about this, if you care enough to edify yourself and engage in an actual informed and well-intentioned discussion rather than just lazily making extreme and unfounded claims to just gaslight people.

‘Portland’s East Side Neighborhoods Are Still Great – Here’s why’ — https://youtu.be/W6uy6Sw3P3o?feature=shared

Watts
Watts
1 day ago
Reply to  mc

ain’t no one asking…

Except Fred, upthread.

What it seems people are asking for is some common sense, practical transportation solutions

I’d include myself in that group.

I fully concur with your claim that the streetcar neighborhoods are the most desirable parts of Portland, both for their proximity to downtown, as well as the development patterns they produced (compact, single family housing with many small commercial nodes close by). And also that it was the streetcars themselves that produced this pattern.

To help me understand where we actually differ, tell me where you start to disagree: 1. I claim that cars offer benefits that other modes don’t and can’t, including point-to-point service and on-demand availability. They also incur significant social and environmental costs. 2. I do not believe that it is economically or politically feasible to develop a comprehensive rail-based transportation network in the Portland area, or provide transit service of any kind that would be high enough quality and comprehensive enough to lead to a substantial number of Portland region residents abandoning their cars. 3. One of the reasons for this are that we are now too spread out, and our travel patterns are two diffuse. This is a fundamental difference from when we had a dense streetcar network. 4. I do not believe that by building sufficiently large apartment blocks in the core of the city (damaging or destroying what we agree are the most desirable parts of the city), we can lure those living in these far-flung areas and traveling to many locations to abandon their properties and move to the center, thus reducing the demand for car travel. 5. EVs will reduce the environmental cost of car travel, and automation will reduce many of the other social impacts. If those two technologies are fully developed, the external cost of car use will be greatly reduced, while leaving the benefits intact (or even increasing them by, for example, making car travel more available to those who can’t drive).

These are not statements of my values, but a logical assessment of the world as it exists. I would reconsider any of these points if someone can explain how we realistically get from where we are today to a future where the point is rendered false.

PS
PS
6 days ago
Reply to  Fred

What a transformational idea, lets build billions upon billions worth of infrastructure to compete with the billions already spent for transit that is hardly used in a city that isn’t growing, has deaths outpacing births and is looking at closing elementary schools. You probably need transformation ideas, but pretending you’re Dutch isn’t likely what you’re looking for.

Steven
Steven
5 days ago
Reply to  PS

Wait until you find out how much freeways cost in this “city that isn’t growing”. Does more than a billion dollars per mile sound reasonable?

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

The existing right of way is (mostly) conducive to higher speed operations, with the barriers primarily being Union Pacific. A medium sized (by ODOT project standards) to double track and improve signalling to allow for 110 mph operation (a 38% top speed increase) is something absolutely worth looking into. At speeds like that, the train would become faster than driving point-to-point on an express service to Salem, enough to offset travel time to the station for at least some of Portland (YMMV).

At 110 MPH operation, we could expect ~50 minute station to station travel time, and at 125 MPH operation, we could expect ~45 minute station to station travel time. I see a 58 minute station-to-station drive time, so as long as the differential between that 58 minutes and your own personal drive time is less than 10 to 15 minutes, transit would be faster in absolute terms (assuming you are headed to the state capitol, where walking from a parking spot ~ walking from the station). This is admittedly, not a huge proportion of the city – mostly just areas north of Union Station (since it’s further from Salem) between the I-84 and Lombard and near to either the 4, 8, 17, 44, 77 or Yellow Line. But still, I think it’s probably still competitive (especially factoring in higher traffic times of day – like the evening heading out of Wilsonville)

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Everything you proposed seems possible with the application of enough money. We could buy out UP or lease their right-of-way (though as far as I know they remain uninterested). While very difficult and expensive, that would be the easiest part of the project.

Even with much faster rail times, you still have the logistics at either end. Look at your time to Union Station, then whatever it would take to get to your destination in Salem (not everyone is going to the statehouse). And would enough people be attracted by such a journey to make it possible to run more trains per day? If I’m delayed or something happens, I don’t want to be stranded until the next bi-daily train.

Given that personal vehicles will be electrified well before this project could be completed, does building a new electric rail system between Salem and Portland even make sense from an environmental (never mind fiscal) standpoint? How long would it take to repay the carbon investment needed to offset construction costs?

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Doubtful that we could buy out UP, but there are ongoing signalling/track/grade crossing upgrades elsewhere on shared lines that we could model off (Chicago – St. Louis is also getting 110 to 125 mph operation on a UP owned line).

And on the logistics side, it’s very trip dependent (I was loosely using a North Portland to state capitol trip) but Salem does have transit and isn’t very large. Having something on the order of 8 trains/day probably would start to reach into the “well I could use this service range” – something which you see on the Hiawatha service from Milwaukee to Chicago.

Given that personal vehicles will be electrified well before this project could be completed,

Optimistic, though I guess this project is just a concept. I hadn’t mentioned electrification, diesel operations at 125 mph is possible, though I do support it (but more as a general national policy). Given how much more efficient electric rail travel is than driving (even an EV), I don’t really think that we need to worry a ton about carbon investments.

I am unsure on selling it as a financial investment – though I think a real passenger service (hourly trains or better) on primarily new tracks is worth it from Portland to Eugene for a variety of financial and non-financial reasons. A high speed alignment roughly along I5 could be used for both high speed and regional services – making travel times of like 20 minutes from Wilsonville to Portland for commuting possible – plus like 30 minute travel times to Salem and less than an hour to Eugene. In all honesty, the use case for a Salem train probably pertains more to access to housing and jobs (making commuting a real choice) than it does for “typical” intercity travel. Portland and Salem are just really close to each other.

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I was thinking you meant a parallel electric track, not an upgraded mainline track that could handle faster diesel trains.

New tracks means lots of new concrete and steel (and I believe we’re going through an emissions bottleneck where emissions today are more damaging than emissions tomorrow, and concrete and steel today will emit more than that manufactured tomorrow).

But given how much pollution diesel trains emit, you’d need to displace a lot of vehicles (even if they weren’t all EVs) to make them pay off. Maybe sufficient demand is there, but I’d need to see some evidence it is.

If this were part of a new high-speed Cascadia service (which I think would be great, not sure if it’s practical), it would definitely mean new tracks.

If you want people to commute, you’ll need more than the single morning and evening train that 8 trains/day suggests.

Finally, with all this new infrastructure in place, what’s my incentive to use it and not just have a lot less hassle to drive, as I would today?

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Here’s how it can be done: The simplest, least cost, least impact MAX route to Tigard is an extension from Beaverton along the WES corridor. This frees the WES fleet to then run from Tualatin to Salem and back twice daily.

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

It costs TriMet $100 per passenger to get people as far as Wilsonville, and they do so running large highly polluting diesel locomotives. How can extending WES possibly make sense?

And who is going to travel out to Beaverton to catch the train to Salem? Certainly not anyone from east of the river.

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Here’s a nitpick no one needs: they run diesel multiple units on WES, so there aren’t any locomotives 🙂

I’ve always thought the primary benefit of a Salem WES extension is really for people who live in Salem and want a semi-flexible (and cheap) way to get to Portland. It’s like $10 round trip if you do a Cherriots 1X to Wilsonville, then a TriMet day pass (Wilsonville -> Beaverton -> Portland/Hillsboro, etc.). I don’t think just two round trips a day is enough for a useful service

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

What’s the difference between a locomotive and a “multiple unit”?

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Locomotives are basically just big engines that pull a train, multiple units have motive power onboard each car (or on more than one). I mean the WES runs one car trains anyways, so maybe a moot point but they are DMUs from a technical perspective, and the desire to have DMUs for the service along with Buy American standards is why TriMet ended up basically bailing out Colorado Railcar to get the trains.

multiple units are lighter than locomotive hauled trains, and have better acceleration

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

WES trainsets do not pollute anywhere near as much as freight trucks, municipal buses nor Greyhound buses. The route to Salem with WES trainsets would begin at Tualatin or Wilsonville. MAX light rail trains more quickly and comfortably than any Tri-Met bus to reach that transfer point. You want a lessexpensive transit corridor and I made this obvious conclusion how to make it happen. Contrarianism is alive and well in the frickin USA.

blumdrew
5 days ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

While it’s possible to get FRA approval to run light rail trains on the same corridor as freight trains (they do so in New Jersey and in San Diego), they tend to require very stringent things (namely, strict temporal separation). I don’t doubt that this would be possible given that I don’t think P&W has much freight traffic on this line anyways (part of why the WES was built in the first place). Still, I don’t think it’s a simple project – inexpensive maybe – but given that it requires cooperation of a freight railroad company and the FRA it’s definitely not a given.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
5 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

You make a fair point – though inconclusive – about the P&W corridor as probably wide enough to accommodate a MAX extension. More important, the proposed (and voter rejected) SW Corridor MAX extension along state Hwy 99W should be ruled out as objectionably high impact that also worsens existing traffic hazards.

The only suitable transit system for Barbur Blvd is “bus with curbside stops” including the use of the FX2 fleet of 60′ articulated buses that are not living up to Tri-Met promises on Division. Unlike Division Street, Barbur Blvd has many fewer bus stops which could achieve quicker trip times.

blumdrew
5 days ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

Okay but it’s not about geometry, it’s about the regulatory environment. The P&W corridor is definitely wide enough for two tracks and electrification between Beaverton and Tigard. But I think the better use of any existing rail corridor is probably a true regional service rather than light rail anyways. In this spirit, the issue with the SW Corridor is the issue with the MAX in general – it’s way too slow. We should be looking to high speed regional lines being built all over the world for inspiration (Paris, Guagzhou, London to name a few) rather than continuing to think that the only types of transit are light rail and buses.

A center running BRT could work fine on Barbur though. Works great on Van Ness in San Francisco (even if it took 30 years to build there).

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
5 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

A center running BRT on Barbur Blvd would have the same environmentally disastrous impact as would MAX LRT on the corridor. Curbside bus stops imposes minimal impact and with appropriate sidewalk and crosswalk improvements make Barbur a more pedestrian friendly corridor. Barbur is nothing like Van Ness and you should know better.
MAX is NOT way too slow. The problem is people like you Drewd amplify faults followed with no real alternative solutions.

blumdrew
5 days ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

Average speed of the MAX is like 18 mph, and while there are some sections where it competes well with the car (between Beaverton and Portland, or Gateway and Portland) it’s mostly just a pretty slow tram. Modern higher speed regional service (again, that already exists and is being built all over the world) averages speeds closer to 30 to 40 MPH in dense cores (like London’s Elizabeth Line) or upwards of 100 MPH in fringes (like Guangzhou Line 18).

Sorry, environmental concerns over improvements to the bus? Hard for me to take seriously. I used to ride lines 12 (and formerly 94) to work in Tigard. I can assure you that the curbside bus stops do not work very well in a ton of places – with this stop ingrained into my memory after waiting multiple light cycles to get through, more than once in a week. Barbur isn’t that similiar to Van Ness, but they were both legacy state highways in built up areas (lots of curb cuts, auto oriented history, wide rights of way) so I feel like they are similar enough to justify a comparison.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  blumdrew

That’s my favorite bus stop, I mean, it’s a doozy. I have a better photo I’ll look for. That is a very special corner, I think of it every time someone calls SW the rich part of town, or complains about any other bus stop in the city. The one at BHH and Oleson is quite notable also.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
4 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Drew, I appreciate your feedback and hope we both learn a thing or two about planning. When the Westside MAX was under construction, I’d regularly take the bus to points along the route to survey progress. I formulated an estimate that ride comfort (not speed) is the main advantage light rail trips offer, basically, twice the distance of a bus ride comfortably.

Tri-Met has 75 two-car MAX trainsets on 55 miles of double-track, but 600 buses on about 400 miles of bus route. The need to invest in better bus service is plainly evident. My own build-out of MAX adds about 15 miles of track — the extension from Beaverton to Tualatin and a Green Line extension from Clackamas Town Center to Milwaukie.

I have also surveyed a subway route through downtown that would certainly speed MAX transit time across the region more ideally than the route proposed by Tri-Met corporate whores. My subway route proposal is a narrow “stacked” cut-n-cover tunnel route along Naito Pkwy to a portal beneath the SW Morrison bridgehead. It would be “twin-tube” beneath the Willamette River with a Rose Quarter station (mezzanine above a center platform) and further east along Halladay to a portal between NE 7th & Grand. Saturday Market would have a subway station.

In the 2nd phase, the Naito Pkwy route would extend south to a portal near SW Main where the Green Line would be rerouted to form a Green Line Loop. A 3rd phase extension from Naito Pkwy along SW Columbia to Goose Hollow with a station between SW 5th & 6th Transit Mall in place already. The Blue Line would reroute via SW Columbia. The Red Line would run on the surface route. The Green Line would reroute via Naito Pkwy. The Orange Line would reroute along SW Columbia and from Beaverton to Tualatin.

I began this study of a MAX subway in 2015 and completed the MAX network in 2017. If possible, it’s certainly far more ideal, least disruptive to construct and less expensive than the proposed Tri-Met route for dummies.

John V
John V
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Judging by the looks of i5, he’s not the only person going to Salem. Seems like even some express bus lines would work. With that distance, they wouldn’t even be slower than driving.

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  John V

With that distance, they wouldn’t even be slower than driving.

Unless you include the time getting to and from the bus line, transfer time, etc. If I had to take a bus to my car, then a bus from the parking lot to my final destination, the time and hassle might be comparable. But I don’t. That’s why point-to-point is so important.

Even you seem to concede that running more trains won’t do the trick, which is what we were actually talking about.

John V
John V
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

I don’t know, I think what we were actually talking about was improving transit from Portland to Salem. I think trains would work great for that if anyone had the political will to make it happen. Then they wouldn’t have to be big dirty diesel ones either. That would be the ideal, they could move much faster than cars or bus on the highway, nullifying the point to point advantage. It’s not like the land between here and there is super built up. But it is all owned by someone so it would take political courage to make it happen.

But busses are easy which is why I brought it up. I think with distances like Portland to Salem, and so many people going to the same general parts of both, point to point is less of an advantage. It’s not like sprawling suburb to sprawling suburb.

And we don’t have to solve for every use case, like someone who is too elderly to walk a few blocks. Sure, they can keep driving (although we should provide them better options).

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  John V

I think what we were actually talking about was improving transit from Portland to Salem.

We were talking about a train, but I agree a bus would be much easier. So easy it’s already happening: there’s at least 7 buses a day between Portland and Salem. Those companies would surely be willing to scale up frequency if there is demand.

So the task is easy. We don’t need to build anything, just convince more people to take the bus, and that it’s worth $15-$20 to do so.

https://www.rome2rio.com/map/Portland/Salem-OR-USA#trips/transport/Portland/Salem-OR-USA/r/Bus/s/0

By the way, I suspect I am one of the few people here who have actually taken transit from Portland to Salem, even with a car sitting in my driveway.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
5 days ago
Reply to  John V

John V, you seem level-headed enough to understand the bigger picture fairly presented as unsustainably excessive personal motor vehicle use in daily travel routine, and, transport of essential commodities the longest distances via trucking, shipping and air freight. Steps taken to address traffic mayhem and catastrophic climate change must above all include significant reductions of Vehicle Miles Travelled VMT.

Picture more needs being met without having to drive near as far. Picture more essential commodities produced and distributed within states and metropolitan areas. Picture transit systems less devoted to commuting because such systems create more demand for commuting than they can handle and most travel needs
so created can only be met by driving.

My focus these days is in opposition to converting standard 40′ city buses to EV. They don’t convert very well at all (at twice the price) nor are they suitable for stop-n-go circuitous routes. The Yellow School Bus and paratransit lift-van fleets likewise do not convert to EV well enough to justify the expense. Paratransit lift-vans (sans lift) should be easy-boarding low-floor models that seniors, disabled, school kids and all transit patrons need. We’re being sold a bill of goods with false advertising. These 3 basic bus models will remain poor handling, uncomfortable, inconvenient so as to pose no competition to automobile dependency.

John V
John V
5 days ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

I think you’re preaching to the choir, if I get your meaning. I have a couple questions:

  1. why don’t busses convert well? I think electric (with overhead wires) might be better where feasible, to save on batteries/weight. But for the battery case, can’t they benefit greatly from regenerative braking (to the circuitous stop/go issue you mentioned)?
  2. Reducing miles traveled commuting is ideal. Are you suggesting something like smaller / walkable + bike-able cities as the alternative to commuting? Or something else?
  3. For times when commuting is needed (which seems inevitable), what alternatives to busses are you thinking? Light rail? I’m on board. I only suggest busses as they should be (if prioritized), an easy short term solution. Given dedicated lanes they could be faster than driving. Given better bike carrying capacity to deal with the point-to-point issues Watts always brings up could help.

I’m not disagreeing with you, those are just my thoughts/questions.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
5 days ago
Reply to  John V

I had a friend years ago John whose last name was Vierheller. I’d go by his place Thursday nights in the 1990’s to watch Babylon 5 and Deep Space 9.

Your point #2 John is closest to a formidable solution. New Urban planners highlight “Mixed use, transit-oriented pedestrian-friendly infill development that accommodates bicycling routes separate from roadways” in effect building hundreds of local neighborhood economies within entire metropolitan regions that supplant economies dependent upon long-distance travel and transport.

Your point #3 about buses is perhaps misguided. Buses are essential components of metropolitan area transit systems. Portland has 75 two-car MAX trainsets on 55 miles of double track. Compared to 600 buses along 400 (or so) miles of bus route, the greater need is for more suitable bus models built from the ground up for EV drivetrains, all-battery BEV and plug-in hybrid PHEV as well, and shorter wheelbase lengths to make them more maneuverable and energy efficient.

Overhead trolleybuses are ideal for hill-climbing. Seattle could modernize its trolleybus route system downtown. Regenerative braking returns energy to a bus battery pack at the rate of 1/4 the energy it takes to accelerate a bus from a stop to average speed. Regenerative braking is more of a safety device than an energy recovery.

I am an advocate for light rail systems, but in Nov 2020, voters wisely rejected the SW Corridor MAX extension to Tigard for many reasons. For me, it met NONE of the basic metrics that determine merit and support; not even close. Portlanders were deceitfully misled to believe it had no objectionable flaws. There is a MAX subway route proposal below 6th Ave transit mall, but it is NOT the most ideal route through downtown and not advisable because of unstable soils and damage to buildings above in earthquake. The most seismically stable and most productive route downtown is a cut-n-cover tunnel along Naito Pkwy.

blumdrew
7 days ago
Reply to  dw

Seriously, also like the state also runs the POINT bus! It’s really good, and there’s a trip from Portland to Salem at 7:00 AM that gets in at 8:05 AM! From North Portland, you could take the #4 or the Yellow Line to Union Station and have a total trip time of like an hour and a half, and be a short walk from the capitol grounds

Fred
Fred
7 days ago
Reply to  dw

Seriously. Has anyone ever taken a train in an advanced country like Germany? Every city of any size in Germany has a fantastic network of fast trains that take people to all points of the metro area quickly and safely. Imagine if you could board a train in Gresham and be downtown in 20 minutes. They can do it in Germany so why can’t we do it here?

Salem is only 46 miles from Portland. A fast train could cover this distance in under 40 minutes. Why can’t we do this? Is it possible we have put our limited resources into other priorities?

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
7 days ago
Reply to  Fred

Maybe Oregon could approve a 21% VAT like Germany has to pay for its excellent transit service? You know how Oregonians absolutely love sales tax…

Fred
Fred
6 days ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Good point, David. I’m the first one to say that we Oregonians are morons for not having a sales tax. We give away millions of dollars every day – and that’s just from people visiting Oregon. When I visit other states, I pay for the privilege.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
6 days ago
Reply to  Fred

It’s states like NC that have sales tax on food to specifically pay for freeways that are morons…

Don Courtney
Don Courtney
6 days ago
Reply to  Fred

Nothing against you personally but I get frustrated with you, Jonathan, Bike Portland and all of the Oregon, largely incompetent politicians, because none of you bring up the inescapable fact that the metro area and the larger region have population densities up to ten times less than Germany, the Netherlands, or wherever you took your last great trip on a public transit system.

Without discussing this, which is IMO the fundamental principle generating not only this debate but every single complaint about our car dependent system as it stands today, we are not going to be able to change it.

eawriste
eawriste
6 days ago
Reply to  Don Courtney

There are a couple things here we can separate:
1) National/regional density 2) land use policy

1) The assumption here is that regional/national density alone creates the need for a single transportation mode. I.E. my country is too big to have walkable infrastructure or other modes of transportation.

Here is why that statement makes no sense. In the US over 45% of car trips are < 3 miles. In a place where the infrastructure offers choices to people, e.g., frequent transit, separated bike lanes, people can and do make different choices.

2) You might say, cities in the US are less dense than the typical european city, which is generally true. American cities were not built for the car, they were gutted for the car. So if you’re pointing to wasteful/inefficient land use policies, yeah, that’s definitely something that needs to be included in the talk about transportation in the US.

But there are tiny towns with very little density in various european/world cities where people have the option of driving, biking and walking safely. The problem is not cars per se, it’s total car dependency.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
6 days ago

Jonathan, use of the word “density” is misleading in terms of urban planning. The more descriptive word to employ is “diversity” – as in, a “diverse” mix of land uses. Use of the word density infers high-density housing, but housing is only one land use. High-density housing removes land available for other uses – occupations, retail services, medical and educational institutions, park space, neighborhood gardens, natural areas.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor

Most recently on BP, this density post featuring Rick Potestio, the Irvington neighborhood, and a bunch of Legos:

https://bikeportland.org/2024/02/22/legos-growth-and-dynamic-density-in-irvington-384088

Andrew S
Andrew S
6 days ago
Reply to  Don Courtney

Incorrect on population density. Here are a couple of examples. Tried to pick locations with comparable density. Except Amsterdam, which is often referenced when we talk about transportation in Dutch cities. Admittedly it has 2.79x the density of Portland as a whole, but that is far from 10x.

Portland (2020 numbers):
Population 652,503, Density 4,888.10/sq mi
Key stat: Max lightrail annual ridership 23,446,700

Freiburg, Germany (2022 numbers – Wikipedia):
Population 236,140, Density 4,000/sq mi
Key stat: 70% of the population live within 500m of a tram stop with a tram every 7–8 mins (couldn’t quickly find ridership number)

Sapporo, Japan (2023 numbers – Wikipedia)
Population 1,959,750, Density 4,500/sq mi
Key Stat: Sapporo Municipal Subway annual ridership 209 million
Amsterdam, NL (2022 numbers – Wikipedia)
Population 921,402, Density 13,670/sq mi
Key stat: 38% of all journeys in the city are made by bicycle

Nothing against you personally, but I get frustrated with those that claim inescapable facts that are neither inescapable nor factual, then use those false claims to promote the status quo of car dependency. Do better.

Fred
Fred
6 days ago
Reply to  Andrew S

Great post, Andrew. I get so frustrated with people (esp the supposed experts from Sightline) who say nothing is possible until we increase population density by 10X or 20X. Spend time in any European city and you’ll see how they have managed to build out splendid transit networks while maintaining moderate density that is very livable. Here in the US we get so-called experts telling us we must convert our lovely suburbs into hellscapes and ONLY THEN can we have good transit. Just isn’t true. We can have both.

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  Fred

I said this in reply to the original post, but those population density numbers are not directly comparable at all. China is illustrative here: Wikipedia gives Beijing a metro density of 4,500 people/square mile – less dense than Portland.

The first European city I can think of with a municipal boundary that most closely resembles a typical American city is Paris, which has a density of 52,000 people/square mile. Or between 10x and 20x Portland. French cities actually are good points of comparison on closer inspection more broadly and the other large French cities have densities ranging from just over 10,000/square mile (Toulouse) to 27,000 (Lyon). For reference, New York has a population density of 29,000 people/square mile.

If you want good transit ridership less than 5,000 people/square mile is just not going to cut it. There are no European cities that have a municipal boundary that looks like Portland’s relative to their metro region that have anything even close to that low.

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  Andrew S

While everything posted above is technically accurate, there are some key distinctions to make about municipal boundaries that really matter in cases like this.

Let’s consider Amsterdam. While the numbers cited are accurate, it doesn’t really tell an interesting story, since the municipal borders of Amsterdam contain a lot of what I think most of us would consider unambiguously rural land. It also doesn’t contain a fair amount of moderately dense suburbs. So I think it’s probably fair to say that the population density of what we would recognize as “Amsterdam” is likely higher than the municipal limit definition.

But on the other hand, Portland is almost entirely built up – immediately surrounded by primarily residential suburbs of similar density to the edge of the city, but lower than average. There is no extra rural land included, and indeed even many of the industrial lands have been built over as jobs have moved to suburban municipalities too. So I think it’s fair to say that the residential density of “Portland” as someone who isn’t thinking in terms of city boundaries is likely lower than the municipal definition (side note

So to say that the municipality of Amsterdam is 2.79x denser than Portland, while technically accurate sort of misses the actual story of urban form and density. Things are even more misleading if we are looking at Freiburg im Breisgau – as it is what we would consider to be a consolidated city-county. Looking at the municipal boundary, this is fairly clear. The reason 70% of the population lives within 500m of a tram stop is because the population density around the tram lines is high – likely 5x higher than the “city” as a whole.

And I’ll just leave this municipal boundary of Sapporo here too, since it’s really crazy. It’s like 5x larger than the urbanized part of the city.

Kevin Machiz
Kevin Machiz
7 days ago

The only reason I reactivated my AAA membership is because they offer bike towing service in case your bike breaks down. The comments here from AAA don’t represent me. I’d be very interested if there was a competitor offering this service.

Regarding Senator Frederick, the organizers of the Pacific TrikeFest ought to extend him an invitation.

Joseph E
7 days ago
Reply to  Kevin Machiz

You could switch to Better World Club, which offers roadside assistance for bikes: A bie only membership is $41.95 per year for roadside assistance, and they claim to be carbon-neutral (via offsets) – I haven’t used them myself, but I’ve heard it is a good option which doesn’t support AAA’s auto-centric policies – https://www.betterworldclub.net/nationwide-bike-roadside-assistance

Kevin Machiz
Kevin Machiz
7 days ago
Reply to  Joseph E

Better World Club looks great. Can’t believe I’ve never heard of them given they are based out of Portland!

Steve Cheseborough (Contributor)
Chezz
6 days ago
Reply to  Kevin Machiz

Velosurance bike insurance (against theft, damage) includes roadside assistance.

John V
John V
6 days ago
Reply to  Chezz

Good to know. I just got a bike that I’m afraid I feel compelled to insure. I hate adding another monthly fee. But it is cheaper than car insurance!

Dylan
Dylan
6 days ago
Reply to  Kevin Machiz

Uber xl is ala carte, fits most bikes including some cargo bikes. Though you’re subject to market pricing

Kevin Machiz
Kevin Machiz
4 days ago
Reply to  Dylan

Very doubtful it would fit my cargo bike. Most definitely would not fit my wife’s 100 pound cargo trike even if she and the driver could lift it. I suppose we could just Uber to the nearest U-Haul and rent a truck, but BWC, recommended by Joseph above, seems like a pretty easy and affordable solution.

blumdrew
7 days ago

When we’re building low-income housing, we’re building it without parking for the most part, and have an expectation that people will — somehow or another, miraculously be able to shop for their five, six kids or whatever, however many people they have in their home once a month or twice a month — and be able to bring that all back on the bus or something like that. This is not reality for poor people, let’s just be realistic

This makes me so so so angry. Wielding the interests of poor people as if they need cars more than richer people is outrageous. It costs me like $250/year to maintain my bikes – for all my riding, for all my trips. If I were to drive to work and park (at PSU), I think I could expect to pay that monthly in parking and gas. And considering I make like $1,500/month this wouldn’t really work for me. Cycling and transit are undeniably less expensive to do than drive a car – but if we don’t have a region that is built so that all trips can feasibly be made by bike or transit, then we will never do as much as we can to help those who need it most. Not everyone has the fortune to be in grad school and to work within a few miles of their home – but get a grip.

Lower income housing in amenity rich urban areas should mean that a grocery store is a destination you can walk to. I feel like so much of the discussion I see based on this just sort of assumes everyone does a huge weekly trip at the supermarket and then drives home. If you live a quarter mile from the store, it’s feasible to just pop in on a walk, or on your way home, for a few things for dinner or lunch. It’s what people do in cities all over the world, and I feel like is part of why Rep Sanchez (and many others) act like it’s some impossible thing to do grocery shopping via transit. People who do shop via walking, cycling, or transit make more trips more frequently – and many of them enjoy the routine of getting out in the neighborhood more often.

Watts
Watts
7 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Remember that apocryphal single mom working three jobs who can’t attend neighborhood association meetings? How is she supposed to go shopping every day?

I too find “wielding the interests of poor people” distasteful, regardless of the policy outcome being pursued. There is far too much of it right here in these forums.

aquaticko
aquaticko
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

…Maybe a single mom shouldn’t have to work three jobs to make ends meet? These are all connected issues, and I won’t say it doesn’t happen, but it’s awfully rare to hear someone say explicitly, “don’t change the subject”. We’re ultimately talking about the same set of problems.

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  aquaticko

Maybe a single mom shouldn’t have to work three jobs to make ends meet?

Agreed. And, I suspect, is relatively rare. None of this makes the “wielding the interests of poor people” any more tasteful.

aquaticko
aquaticko
5 days ago
Reply to  Watts

But there’s no denying that–almost by definition–poorer people need more help meeting their needs. The mistake is in thinking that the needs of those of us more fortunate or meaningfully different from theirs. We all need/deserve the same basic things, and prizing the expressed needs of those whose basic needs are already met over the often-unexpressed needs of those whose basic needs aren’t yet is a mistake.

Pretending that wielding another’s basic needs to better meet needs that we all have isn’t any more distasteful than pretending that, e.g., the need for free parking/toll-free roads is actually meeting a basic need, rather than one constructed by already having your true basic need (to get around easily) already met by having access to a car.

Watts
Watts
5 days ago
Reply to  aquaticko

Pretending that wielding another’s basic needs to better meet needs that we all have isn’t any more distasteful than pretending that, e.g., the need for free parking/toll-free roads is actually meeting a basic need

I try not to do either of these things.

I am also fortunate in that I don’t need a car for my basic mobility, but I am healthy, energetic, and find enjoyment in solving mobility and logistics puzzles that others find exhausting or boring. I am also blessed that my social circle is mostly comprised of similar people.

Different people have different needs, and what I find most unpalatable is when would-be advocates claim to speak for others that they really know little about.

John V
John V
7 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

assumes everyone does a huge weekly trip at the supermarket

Her scenario was worse than that! It was a family with five or six kids and making ginormous trips once or twice a month. Yeah of course you’ll do it once or twice a month if it’s a 20 mile drive, but even in our food deserts in Portland, I don’t know how big a food desert here can be. The city just isn’t that big.
But yeah, the solution is not having food deserts. It should be easy to support a supermarket in any of these places if they do in fact have people with families of five or six that are currently driving, what, 10 miles? to get their groceries.

I mean, yeah. If you have five kids, and you’re a single parent and need to do shopping *with* the kids, the convenience of a car (or a Suburban in this case) means you just put them all in. That situation sounds challenging regardless and I don’t know how representative it is or if how it should be addressed. Maybe in that case, financial assistance to drive, I dunno.

But for everyone else, yeah it’s easy to carry groceries.

mc
mc
6 days ago
Reply to  John V

“It was a family with five or six kids and making ginormous trips once or twice a month.”

I love how they trot out these edge cases. Who has 5 or 6 kids these days?!?! Even in the 1960s, the average married family was 4 people. I mean, ‘Eight Is Enough’ and ‘The Brady Bunch’ were tv sitcoms, not reality shows.

Joseph E
7 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Right? Who even shops “ once a month or twice a month ” – do people with SUVs or minivans go to Costco once a month only? What about fresh vegetables? I shop at least once a week since vegetables don’t last longer than that, usually 2 times, for a family of 4.

blumdrew
blumdrew
7 days ago
Reply to  Joseph E

I think that the US “mega grocery trip” social pattern is part of why fresh produce isn’t really the norm for lots of people here (though cost/lack of government subsidy for healthy foods of course is huge too).

Kyle
Kyle
7 days ago
Reply to  Joseph E

I mean people who rely on EBT to buy groceries sometimes do a big shopping trip once a month when their benefit is reloaded, and people living paycheck to paycheck would tend to shop right after they get paid, so there is a valid point about a very specific use case being unrealistic to do by bus/bike.

With that being said, the reason the housing is affordable in the first place is because it does not have parking, so it is pretty disappointing to see a policy maker misunderstand something basic like “the cost of constructing parking makes housing much more expensive “

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
7 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Lower income housing in amenity rich urban areas should mean that a grocery store is a destination you can walk to.

And we have virtually none of this relative to the vast and chronic BASIC HUMAN NEED for shelter in this thoroughly classist metro region.

And considering I make like $1,500/month this wouldn’t really work for me. Cycling and transit are undeniably less expensive to do than drive a car

The propensity of young college-educated “urbanists” from upper and middle-class backgrounds to glibly dismiss the barriers and disparities that prevent low-income communities from adopting transportation alternatives is one of the reasons I view the urbanist movement as thoroughly classist movement.

It’s what people do in cities all over the world…

Even in the Netherlands and Denmark immigrant households are segregated to low-income housing built in very poorly-resourced areas that are typically far from “twee” urban centers. Recently, Dutch cities have demolished low-income social housing neighborhoods in city centers (that date to less right-wing extremist and anti-immigrant governments) in order to sell land to private developers while evicting poor tenants to resource-poor areas. Disgustingly, one of the bigoted criticisms of immigrants in the Netherlands is that they don’t adopt cycling for transportation. Gee…I wonder why…

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248979816_Escaping_poverty_neighborhoods_in_the_Netherlands

In particular, little is known about the potential for different kinds of households to escape from poverty areas. Escaping these areas can be important in order to escape unwanted housing and living conditions. The analyses in this paper show that in the Netherlands the chance to escape such poverty neighbourhoods partly depends on ethnic descent: some immigrant groups are less able to escape than are Dutch households.

John V
John V
7 days ago

Even in the Netherlands and Denmark immigrant households are segregated to low-income housing built in very poorly-resourced areas

Yes but that’s not because low-income immigrants are incapable of riding bikes or busses, it’s because the places they can afford to live don’t have amenities. You don’t have to fix that by saying bikes and busses don’t work, you don’t have to be racist about it (ok, well maybe we must, I don’t know). We could fix the problem instead.

I don’t know exactly how, in capitalism, we get there to be affordable groceries, walkable schools, etc. in low income areas. That’s really just a conundrum of capitalism. But either the problem is unsolvable or it can be addressed. I don’t know, subsidized grocery stores? Sounds weird. But better infrastructure at least. Of course, that will cause it to gentrify and push the problem somewhere else.

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
6 days ago
Reply to  John V

We could fix the problem instead.

The subtext of my comment is that we can’t fix this problem when urban development is dominated by a rent-seeking real estate industry (that has captured our governments and crafted a regime with immense public subsidy of predatory speculation).

The urbanist approach is the epitome of “underpants gnome” thinking:

Step 1. Deregulation of for-profit real estate development!
Step 2. ???
Step 3. Abundant housing for the growing population of people who can’t possibly pay enough for private companies to profit (in desirable inner city neighborhoods.).

The social housing projects in desirable inner-city areas in the Netherlands were created by lefty governments that were willing to grossly violate the rights of real estate corporations. I simply can’t see this happening in ‘murrica in the next 10 or 20 years.

John V
John V
6 days ago

100%, you’re right. I was just spelling it out, in a different way. I don’t see it happening either. I’m afraid things have to get much worse for more people (like the great depression or climate change) before people will shift. I don’t know. A lot can change in 20 years, although I don’t think it has in the previous 20.

blumdrew
blumdrew
7 days ago

And we have virtually none of this relative to the vast and chronic BASIC HUMAN NEED for shelter in this thoroughly classist metro region.

Sure, but where affordable housing is being built by the city with the housing bond it tends to be in at least pretty good locations. I don’t disagree that allocating housing by ability to pay is broadly bad though, or that food deserts exist.

The propensity of young college-educated “urbanists” from upper and middle-class backgrounds to glibly dismiss the barriers and disparities that prevent low-income communities from adopting transportation alternatives is one of the reasons I view the urbanist movement as thoroughly classist movement.

Sure, I am absolutely from an upper middle-class background. I have more money to spare than most, even with my low income levels. But the point still stands that driving would absolutely cost me far, far, far more money than cycling and transit (especially since I am an Honored Citizen). And I cannot currently afford to drive to my work, let alone to the supermarket or to do other errands – that’s the point.

I am referring to how people who live in cities go grocery shopping. Like in basically every city everywhere, since the dawn of time. You take a a few bags, maybe a roller dolly, and you walk to the nearest small market for your basics. Maybe you have a few speciality shops if you can afford it, or maybe you make a larger trip for larger quantities of staples. The auto-oriented supermarket trip is a very recent phenomena, and one that is extremely baked into US culture for the worse.

I am not advocating for anything resembling Dutch policy on anything, you don’t need to put those words into my mouth

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I am not advocating for anything resembling Dutch policy on anything, you don’t need to put those words into my mouth

Since when is an analogy putting words into someone’s mouth. I brought up the Netherlands because it is often held up as an example of what urbanist want to create in the USA/Portland — a 15 minute city for the upper classes and “poverty neighborhoods” for the serfs who had the bad luck of not being born to well-off parents.

blumdrew
6 days ago

It’s what people do in cities all over the world…

Even in the Netherlands and Denmark immigrant households are segregated to low-income housing built in very poorly-resourced areas that are typically far from “twee” urban centers. Recently, Dutch cities have demolished low-income social housing neighborhoods in city centers (that date to less right-wing extremist and anti-immigrant governments) in order to sell land to private developers while evicting poor tenants to resource-poor areas. Disgustingly, one of the bigoted criticisms of immigrants in the Netherlands is that they don’t adopt cycling for transportation. Gee…I wonder why…

This paragraph is not an “analogy”! I was not, and am not, talking about the Netherlands or Denmark specifically (though surely people walk to the store in both countries – regardless of income level). I am talking broadly about how people everywhere tend to do grocery shopping when they are on foot.

I brought up the Netherlands because it is often held up as an example of what urbanist want to create in the USA/Portland — a 15 minute city for the upper classes and “poverty neighborhoods” for the serfs who had the bad luck of not being born to well-off parents.

This is not true of the Netherlands (or Denmark), and it is also not true of what people want in Portland. There is no one who wants 15 minute neighborhoods for the rich and slums for the poor who works in any serious capacity in planning or other adjacent fields. You may think that their policies will result in this – but that is very different from what they want.

In Copenhagen, I found this socialized housing estate whose locations are here. Here is one of those, about one block from a major transit station, and about 30 minutes on transit away from the major industrial port area. Most of the other ones there seemed to be sort of similar-ish locations, certainly not overly bad.

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

You may think that their policies will result in this – but that is very different from what they want.

I meant :”want” as in the outcome of the policies they advocate – apologies for not being clear.

My use of the Netherlands as an example of how the vision of many urbanists corresponds to existing inequality in this nation is, in fact, an analogy (even if you disagree).

blumdrew
6 days ago

That’s not what “want” means though. If I crash my bike, it’s the outcome of things I did not something I wanted to have happen.

I think people pick and choose things they like from other places. Wanting a Dutch-style bike lane doesn’t mean someone is advocating for like Dutch-style racism.

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

In Copenhagen, I found this socialized housing estate …

The racist and Xenophobic Danish government is actively evicting low-income people and immigrants from social housing in desirable urban areas in order to sell properties to private developers. (This is also exactly what happens to “affordable” housing in the USA once tax breaks expire [in as little as 10-20 years]).

Here is how the NYTs described this:

The law mandates that in neighborhoods where at least half of the population is of non-Western origin or descent, and where at least two of the following characteristics exist — low income, low education, high unemployment or a high percentage of residents who have had criminal convictions — the share of social housing needs to be reduced to no more than 40 percent by 2030.

In practice, that means thousands of [social housing] apartments will be demolished, sold to private investors or replaced with new housing catering to wealthier (and often nonimmigrant) residents, to increase the social mix.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/26/world/europe/denmark-housing.html

More on the effort to challenge this disgusting and racist violation of basic EU human rights here:

https://www.housingrightswatch.org/content/denmark%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cghetto-package%E2%80%9D-and-intersection-right-housing-and-non-discrimination

PS: The Netherlands and Denmark are nations that I will not visit

blumdrew
6 days ago

Is the US also a place you won’t visit? I hardly see how any of the things you have outlined are altogether worse than anything I see in the US. We forcibly integrate neighborhoods via market forces like all of the time and also have a xenophobic and racist government.

I think it’s worth pointing out that there are huge political problems in Europe that most people are totally unaware of. But I am aware of these issues – I just think there are still plenty of interesting case studies and things to learn from Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Vienna, Zurich, Paris, London and Milan. I also think there are a lot of interesting things to learn from Mexico City, Osaka, Chongqing, Bangalore, Tehran, Istanbul, Nairobi, and Santiago. Every city has something we can learn from, and every city probably has something that they do worse than a typical US city. There is no perfect political society either, and it’s a bad idea to be dogmatic in support for any given place.

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I wish the USA was a place I could refuse to visit but I have family obligations here.

There is no perfect political society either

I agree but one of my shticks here is to point out that an unjust and under-resourced neighborhood for one is an injustice for all. And to be really blunt, I think that many urbanists are far more focused on creating a people-centered city for themselves and their demographic than addressing (or even thinking about) those who would be left behind because they do not or cannot afford to live in amenity rich areas. From this perspective, I hope you understand why I pointed out the failings of Netherlands and Denmark to create neighborhoods that are conducive to walking to a grocery store for many poor and/or immigrant residents.

People often accuse me of criticizing without offering solutions so here goes:

Even in the best case scenario it would take time to create sufficient high-amenity housing for lower-income people in dense areas. Therefore, instead of telling people to “get a grip” we should advocate for transitional policy: Subsidies to develop amenities in amenity poor areas, transit improvements (frequency, speed, and comfort), EV car share, and, even, deeply subsidized EVs for low-income families.

blumdrew
6 days ago

Sure, I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying there and I agree that the golden aura of the Netherlands and Denmark is bad. I think we are in agreement that the root problem is allocating every resource in our society based on how much money someone can pay for it. If there are finite good places to live, and rich guys can outbid everyone else then the net effect is rich people having nice things at the expense of others.

But I would be a little more cautious in assuming people want that outcome, even if it is, from your perspective, inevitable in our current system (and even if you are correct in that assessment).

I’m less concerned about EVs as a solution to social mobility personally, but I think those are reasonable ideas. And for the record, the person I am telling to get a grip is the elected official who does not understand that grocery store trips look different depending on how people get around.

Fred
Fred
7 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Great points. Sanchez and her ilk assume you have to drive to Costco.

Micah Prange
Micah Prange
7 days ago
Reply to  Fred

She assumes that people DO drive to Costco, which is simply an indisputable fact. Do you ever go to Costco? I go approximately semimonthly. Almost always have a moment when I worry about getting hit by an auto in the parking lot. Almost never have to share the (single, tiny) bike rack with anybody else. BP is like an alternate reality where folks don’t drive to the store. Instead of being angry at the viewpoint Sanchez expresses, which DOES accurately reflect her constituency, how about we try to build political alliances? It seems like the folks looking out for the trucking industry have successfully sold Albina Vision Trust on the freeway cap + extra lanes deal. Meanwhile, we fight the same community over bike lanes on 7th and 33rd.

Fred
Fred
6 days ago
Reply to  Micah Prange

Thanks for biking to Costco.

Micah Prange
Micah Prange
6 days ago
Reply to  Fred

I appreciate the thought, but I drive for many of my trips to Costco. I certainly like to (and do when it works) bike there (it’s a pretty nice ride along the river), but it probably takes around an extra hour compared to driving, and my shopping partner (spouse) is unlikely to make the ride with me.

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  Micah Prange

I realize you aren’t asking me, but I don’t go to Costco and have no interest in it as a place (outside the great prices on hot dogs honestly). I can get reasonable prices on bulk goods at HMart (at least for rice, noodles, and produce anyways), and do most of my daily shopping at the co-op (where I admittedly pay a small premium, offset somewhat by the volunteering discount, and by the fact that it’s close to where I live). I probably spend more time on average than most grocery shopping, but I also enjoy it. I like being out in the world and interacting with people.

I never drive to the store, and usually bike with just my little commuter with a basket on the back. I think it’s silly to imagine that somehow driving to a superstore is the normal way people in the world do their grocery shopping – it just isn’t. In most of the world, you shop for food a few days in advance (owning to a combination of built environment allowing for it, societal preference for fresh produce, and predisposition to be shopping via walking or public transit where you are limited to how much you buy at once by how much you can reasonable transport on your own).

Do most people in the US do this “stocking up” sort of grocery trip? Yes. But the US in uniquely car-oriented in so many ways. I think most of us agree that this is bad in the BikePortland comments section. If we are serious about bikes and more city-like land uses, then we should consider what that means for things like grocery shopping. And if we see electeds who nominatively share the goals of reducing car dependence (for climate, social, financial, or other reasons), but whose statements don’t square with that we need to respectfully critique them.

Micah Prange
Micah Prange
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Thanks for the comment, blumdrew. I think we all (i.e. the BP commentariat minus a few malefactors) understand the vision you are positing. I agree that ‘the US is uniquely car-oriented in so many ways’ and that this comes at a terrible price to so many aspects of American life. I’m asking you to consider a broader social context in your transportation discourse and activism. I realize you aren’t asking me, but I find your comments condescending at times. It’s great that you don’t rely on cars, but many of us do, even if we aspire to do better. Furthermore, I don’t believe increased stridency will be as effective as a sincere effort to bring those of us who have not yet achieved your level of transportation enlightenment on board with your policy preferences. Instead of implying how much better you are than folks that dive, why not try to sympathize with them? Hardcore bike users are still FAR from a majority, even in favorable environments like PDX. More disturbingly, I see transportation activists in political disagreement with local communities that should be our natural allies. I don’t know anything about Sanchez either, but I know that the sentiment she expresses is politically salient — she is sincerely representing her constituents. “Normal people” agree with her that working class need to be able to drive to the store. That is a mainstream position. Telling low income housing residents that they don’t deserve to drive to the store is not helpful, but that sounds to me like what you are saying. We need to work in alliance with advocates for the people Sanchez invokes! Now I’m going to ride my bike to Costco to pick up my prescriptions and wait in a long line for a cheap hot dog. Chaio!

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  Micah Prange

I see transportation activists in political disagreement with local communities that should be our natural allies.

Why should any particular community be the “natural allies” of active (and electric) transportation?

PS Speaking for the malefactors (yes, they elected me), I find blumdrew’s comments to be refreshing; rather than lob accusations, he responds with ideas for how to move forward, almost like he’s actually thought about what would be entailed to do something. Even when I disagree, I appreciate being challenged with some actual vision about how to accomplish the things that most of us want.

It’s much nicer to talk with people who have actual ideas than those who want something like their tourism-constrained vision of Europe and mostly engage in hand waving.

Micah
Micah
5 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Hi Watts. We should be aligned with BIPOC, low income, and other marginalized communities because we all suffer from historical and continuing automobile infrastructure development that severely constrains the kind of neighborhoods we can develop. What I observe in local politics is that despite our common enemy of freeways, Black activists have made common cause with freeway advocates at ODOT, CoP, and the trucking industry instead of active transportation activists. This seems like a deeply broken situation to me. I’m sorry my recommendations are not specific enough. If I had great ideas, I would be out there trying to make them happen. Right now I’m trying to understand why many of my Black neighbors don’t want more bike improvements. I’m not trying to turn PDX into Amsterdam. I’m trying to keep my $350/yr from being used to build more freeway through my city.

I also enjoy blumdrew’s comments (that’s why I respond to them here).

Watts
Watts
5 days ago
Reply to  Micah

We should be aligned with BIPOC, low income, and other marginalized communities because we all suffer from historical and continuing automobile infrastructure development that severely constrains the kind of neighborhoods we can develop.

I do not feel that I am suffering much at all, and I wonder how widespread such suffering is among the communities you identified. Do they think they would tell you they are suffering because their neighborhoods can’t be redeveloped due to automotive constraints? I’m skeptical.

What I observe in local politics is that despite our common enemy of freeways, Black activists have made common cause with freeway advocates at ODOT, CoP, and the trucking industry instead of active transportation activists. 

Maybe black activists do not see freeways as their enemy. It seems that you are projecting your values onto others, and assuming that because you see things one way, and because you feel some sense of responsibility for them (why?), they should too.

I do not see freeways as my enemy either; I find them quite useful when I need to use them, and I am happy that they are keeping vehicles off the streets I bike on. At the same time, I oppose expansion projects like the Rose Quarter for a variety of reasons.

Most people, regardless of race and class, want to get around in the easiest way possible. For most, that means using a car, even when walking or biking or transit is possible. Cars let you go where you want, when you want, with a minimum of physical effort. They are fast. They let you carry things, and keep you out of the weather.

Most people would consider these positive attributes. I’m not sure why they would feel any particular affinity to transportation advocates who want to make their lives more expensive and difficult.

Micah Prange
Micah Prange
2 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Hi Watts. ‘Suffer’ was probably not the most elegant term to use, but I stand by my contention. My assertion that Black communities have been harmed by freeway development is not projection — it’s a consensus conclusion of historical, economic, and sociological scholarship and serves as the framing for the talking points of both the local NAACP chapter and ODOT, which speaks to the political juice of the concept if not its verity. I’m still trying to get my bearings in local politics but it sure seems to me like the freeway expansionists have powerful and visible local Black movers and shakers blessing widening I5 at RQ — perhaps after running into opposition from those same communities earlier in the process. To be blunt, it seems like ODOT has harnessed the White guilt politics you accuse me of to get the extra lanes at RQ. This angers and alarms me, yet I don’t see much discussion of this dynamic here. There are three possibilities: 1) my analysis is wrong, 2) folks here are too polite to bring it up, or 3) folks here don’t see Black Portland (NAACP, AVT, and Soul District Business Association seem to be the most active players in this particular debate) as suitable political allies. If the last is the case, this a terrible state of affairs.

Let me address why I think Black communities and transportation activists should be naturally aligned. The history of the Pacific Northwest since settlement by Europeans has been one of exploitation of natural and human resources leading to the accumulation of great wealth and physical development. Transportation has played a singular role, both practical and symbolic, in the exploitation. The railways were integral to the subjugation and subsequent impoverishment of the tribal nations of the American West. The interstate highways and attendant road systems are a cornerstone of the racially hegomonistic capitalism that grew in later. BIPOC communities have identified this legacy as a source of trouble for them (and now call for restorative justice). Transportation activists have identified our fossil energy based transportation networks as a climate problem. To me it seems like these are two parts of the same elephant, both stemming from a ‘manifest destiny’ idea of White supremacist settlement. Environmental justice and racial justice have historically been political fellow travelers (e.g. the 60’s civil rights organizing). I believe they should still be. Or be again. I’m not blaming Black communities for taking the best deal for them — I’m bemoaning the fact that, from a Black perspective, freeway expansion seems like a better deal than our vision for the future. That is a failure in my eyes.

Watts
Watts
2 days ago
Reply to  Micah Prange

My assertion that Black communities have been harmed by freeway development is not projection

I was not disputing this point, only your pivot from this to ongoing and future harm that, apparently, many in the black community* do not perceive.**

perhaps after running into opposition from those same communities earlier in the process

On the contrary; ODOT ran into opposition from a citizen review committee made up of a broad-cross section of community members. ODOT got rid of that committee and appointed a new one, with all black members, that has proven a lot less nettlesome.

Let me address why I think Black communities and transportation activists should be naturally aligned.

Historical analysis notwithstanding, they aren’t aligned at all.

Since it sounds like you’re new here (“I’m still trying to get my bearings in local politics”); if you are interested in learning a bit more about how these communities are actually aligned, let me suggest reading up on the removal of traffic calming on NE 7th, the removal of bike lanes on NE 33rd, and the community reception of bike lanes on NE Williams, all well covered and much discussed on this site.

My guess would be that black folks like*** driving as much as anyone else, and don’t like things they perceive as making it harder. Just like people of any other race or broad slice of the population.

*In as much as such a community even exists; I am similarly skeptical there’s such a thing as the “white community”.

**I don’t speak for the black community, nor have any special insight. I’m just judging by what I see from the outside.

***Overly simplistic word to summarize a complex relationship, but suitable for the occasion.

Micah Prange
Micah Prange
1 day ago
Reply to  Watts

I think we’re mostly on the same page (maybe talking past each other?). I lived in the Portland area between 1992 and 2000. I’ve recently moved back. I’m familiar with the contention around the 33rd bike lanes and aware of the 7th and Williams fiascos. I live in NoPo and regularly use these routes (rode home via Williams earlier today and 33rd yesterday). While I found the Tiananmen Square image of Kiel Johnson blocking the bike lane eating truck to be moving, and I have great respect and gratitude for the work of activists like Kiel (THANK YOU!!), I maintain that the great energy generated by such heroes should not be squandered fighting my neighbors over 3 blocks of bike lane. I may be naive, but I want to lessen opposition to bike infrastructure development in N/NE PDX by growing support for such development to currently hostile and apathetic people. I at least want to understand why there is so much opposition. What motivates it? Can I use my voice to alter the terms of the debate to change the way my neighbors evaluate my goals?

Watts
Watts
1 day ago
Reply to  Micah Prange

I want to lessen opposition to bike infrastructure development in N/NE PDX by growing support for such development to currently hostile and apathetic people. 

This is a laudable goal, and I support you!

I at least want to understand why there is so much opposition. What motivates it? Can I use my voice to alter the terms of the debate to change the way my neighbors evaluate my goals?

Various reasons: Bike lanes are for gentrifiers (Williams); we want speeding to be less cumbersome (NE 7th); you told us to build with no parking and now you’re taking away our on-street parking leaving us kind of fucked (NE 33rd).

And probably not (unless you have credibility in the communities you want to influence). And even then I’ve had zero luck influencing the transportation choices of folks I do have credibility with. Maybe others who have enjoyed more success will chime in (but guessing they won’t).

Micah Prange
Micah Prange
1 day ago
Reply to  Watts

Thanks for the list of reasons!

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  Micah Prange

I realize you aren’t asking me, but I find your comments condescending at times. It’s great that you don’t rely on cars, but many of us do, even if we aspire to do better.

I’m not seeking to moralize, rather just to use myself as an example since that’s who I’m most familiar with. I can understand how that can feel condescending though – it’s hard to convey some thoughts over the internet.

I don’t know anything about Sanchez either, but I know that the sentiment she expresses is politically salient — she is sincerely representing her constituents. “Normal people” agree with her that working class need to be able to drive to the store. That is a mainstream position.

It is, but I feel that it’s worth pushing at least somewhat on the assumption that everyone needs to be able to drive to the store. Because if those cultural assumptions and habits aren’t challenged, then having a car is a prerequisite for being considered by our system and then we do things like define food deserts in ways that favor large supermarkets over small community grocers (something which I am fairly sure the city of Portland does).

I agree that finding consensus is important, and I want to help anyone who is struggling with food insecurity. And in my estimation, breaking down the cultural barriers around grocery store trips is a small part of that – especially as it pertains to lowering automotive ownership as an affordability measure. It’s not one-size fits all, and surely it wouldn’t work for Rep. Sanchez’s example family. But for the average Portland household (2.17 people), in the bottom income quartile (>$50k/year) having a grocery store in walking distance, along with a job accessible by bike or transit might mean saving $5k/year on car ownership. That matters a lot.

Damien
Damien
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

But for the average Portland household (2.17 people), in the bottom income quartile (>$50k/year) having a grocery store in walking distance, along with a job accessible by bike or transit might mean saving $5k/year on car ownership. That matters a lot.

And importantly, getting the more “optional” automobile trips off the road will make it easier for the “mandatory” automobile trips. Because a major impediment an automobile driver experiences is other automobiles.

Micah
Micah
5 days ago
Reply to  Damien

A big issue is that a lot of the costs of operating and maintaining a personal automobile are fixed (do not depend on the amount or manner the auto is operated). So once you have ponied up for the car payment, registration, insurance, etc. it makes sense to drive the car (the marginal cost is small). For me, driving my car downtown is way cheaper than taking the bus. Not to mention it’s much faster and more flexible. I still take the bus because I like it better — but it is obviously a luxury. My car use falls into three categories: shopping, outdoor recreation, and interstate/city travel. There are alternatives for all three applications, but none of them are remotely competitive. I have three grocery stores in easy walking distance, but they all suck (where do the people who shop at New Seasons work??). I drive to east Portland for groceries, and a rational poor (‘food insecure’) person will do the same, because it makes economic sense. Blumdrew is making a good point that the expense of cars is an unnecessary burden on folks. I’m making the point that people don’t rely on cars because they are stupid.

Watts
Watts
5 days ago
Reply to  Micah

I wish I had read this before posting my response to you above — you essentially made all my points here.

I will note that you are in an extreme minority that considers the bus to be the “luxury” travel option. That should give you a hint that you see the transportation landscape in a fundamentally different way than most people.

Micah
Micah
5 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I totally agree. Thanks for explaining.

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

In most of the world, you shop for food a few days in advance 

I’m not sure what you are referring to by “most of the world”, but I do know that in Germany and France, when I have visited big super-stores on the outskirts of cities, the parking lots are large and full.

The idea that large car-enabled “stocking up” trips are uniquely American is not true. I agree that for things like bread and vegetables, Europeans are more prone to shop locally and frequently, but many also drive to large American-style megamarts for staples, just like we do. They’re just more likely to remain invisible to you when you’re a tourist.

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

Here is the blurb I read about this yesterday. There are definitely suburban, car-oriented grocery stores the world over, but it’s still more common to do less of that elsewhere. In San Francisco, my friend who lives in the Mission heads around the corner to a bodega for his groceries, while my partners family in the East Bay suburbs drive to a supermarket.

I would be interested to read further in how and when people make those transitions if/when they move to a place where the former is an option. Because I’ve found that my friends in Portland who could do that, often prefer to still do the “stocking up” trip to the Fred Meyer in Hollywood, or on Hawthorne instead of heading to Talarico’s down the street for a few fresh things.

Watts
Watts
5 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

In San Francisco…

It would be interesting to learn about the ramifications of relying on the bodega vs a supermarket. Which is more expensive (and by how much), which offers more variety, which offers a better quality of products?

I don’t know, but it seems plausible to me that those who rely on small neighborhood stores for their groceries are paying a hidden tax in both dollars and the types of food they have access to. Perhaps also in terms of time and mental energy (some people prefer meal planning for the week rather than doing it day-by-day).

blumdrew
5 days ago
Reply to  Watts

I mean it could be 4x as expensive, but my friend would still come out ahead if it means not having a car. The bodega is also like down the stairs of his apartment and at the end of the block. I’d love that kind of convenience even at a higher price point (my memory of it was that the prices seemed surprisingly reasonable too).

I think some of this is my personal preference, but I feel pretty strongly that the mental energy for cooking is a positive, not a negative. It’s a low stress semi creative outlet at the end of a day, something I need regardless of if I cook or not. I find meal planning like that to be distasteful on aesthetic grounds – where’s the joie de vivre!

Watts
Watts
4 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I feel pretty strongly that the mental energy for cooking is a positive, not a negative.

I am quite positive that this is not a universal feeling. I too like cooking, but it can become a drag when you do it day in, day out.

If you’re cooking for a family, week after week, and feeling stressed by life, there’s often a bit less joie de vivre than when you’re solo or cooking for a friend.

The main point being that there are different solutions for different circumstances.

And if you’ve already got the car, which most Portland households do (along with most San Franciscan households), a trip to the grocery store is pretty close to free.

Roberta Robles
Roberta Robles
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Someone remind Sanchez that she represents urban constituents, not rural areas. She has an obligation to represent those views. She’s done quite a lot of wonderful things for the tribes of Oregon. We all support that. However if she can’t support an urban transport alternative vision to the car she needs to be challenged on the ballot. Anybody want to run against Sanchez. This is the green light, IMHO.

Jose V
Jose V
6 days ago
Reply to  Roberta Robles

Nah, I’m not a single issue voter. Plus I’m happy someone is at least thinking about and speaking up on issues affecting us blue collar workers. Don’t hear about that much on BikePortland…..

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  Jose V

What particular issue? I’m not overly familiar with Rep. Sanchez, I just think that this statement is overly oriented towards very American ideals of how trips are done (with a car, in bulk – no other choices) and it’s worth critiquing how it reflects on her worldview more broadly (as it pertains to urban land use and transportation issues).

mc
mc
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

“I feel like so much of the discussion I see based on this just sort of assumes everyone does a huge weekly trip at the supermarket and then drives home.”

Tell me you grew and/or live in the suburbs w/o saying you grew up and/or live in the suburbs. It’s exactly how my family did our grocery shopping in the ‘burbs.

However I’m getting ’round town, walk, bike, transit, I always have a backpack w. me and I just pop into a nearby store and get a few things every few days. Also, I don’t use or have to pay for plastic/paper bags and then have to try to carry my groceries home in some kind of physically challenging/torturing kind of way.

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  mc

Ironically, I didn’t grow up in a suburb though my family still operated closer to the normative “weekly Sunday shopping trip” when I was a kid (but I ate a lot, and my parents were busy). I think there are probably different considerations when you have kids, but I still think that folks with kids in New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Rome, London, Paris, Cairo, Mumbai, Lagos, Quito, or Tehran have food shopping patterns that look closer to “once a day” than they do to “once a month”.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
7 days ago

Yup, the pandemic must be well and truly over, everyone packed in there and no one seemed to be wearing masks.

Steve Cheseborough (Contributor)
Chezz
6 days ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I was there wearing one! Dropped it only to speak to the committee.

Chris I
Chris I
6 days ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

The pandemic officially ended last year.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
6 days ago
Reply to  Chris I

I focused on the masks as a form of sarcasm, since such events are typically s***shows, as several others have already accurately written. The only useful things about such events is how many appointed commission members are often germiphobes (if they aren’t wearing masks then they are already inoculated, or simply oblivious) and what their priorities will be WHEN the new Columbia bridge is cancelled and all that money gets freed up (about $100 million/year). ICYMI, Chris Gorsek is the guy to lobby.

Kyle
Kyle
7 days ago

I thought this comment was interesting in a couple of senses:

“When we talk about the Rose Quarter, that’s the only two-lane section of I-5 in an urban area from Canada to Mexico. It’s two lanes. I’m not asking for five. And it’s one of the top 30 bottlenecks in the United States, so I think that we can’t just say, ‘we can’t build ourselves out of this problem,’ we can, in some cases. We gotta get those trucks through if we want to lower emissions.”

Just looking very briefly at this source:
https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/mobility_trends/national_list_2021.htm

  1. It seems like the rose quarter isn’t actually one of the top 30 bottlenecks and has instead gone from #32 –> #43 between 2020 and 2021. Maybe there is more recent information that confirms that top 30 status that I just am not aware of?
  2. Obviously there are many other bottlenecks that have more than two lanes each way, including:
  3. I-5 through LA (this is pretty obvious to anyone who has driven through there
  4. I-405 through LA, which famously had billion dollar expansion project that achieved basically nothing (source)

So the cognitive dissonance on display with that quote seems pretty remarkable to me.

Steve Cheseborough (Contributor)
Chezz
6 days ago
Reply to  Kyle

And her claiming to care about lowering emissions….

mc
mc
6 days ago
Reply to  Kyle

Hmm, politicians not dealing in current facts? I hate to say it, but Millicent Williams doesn’t impress me at all.

lvc
lvc
7 days ago

There’s a lot to unpack in this post.

I wonder sometimes if advocates for freeway expansions are totally math illiterate. They need billions. “…many of those funds were diverted to non-road projects” my rear end. A quick look at ODOT’s 2023-25 Budget and “Public Transportation” (transit and active transportation) amounts to 465 million, 8% of ODOT’s budget for that cycle. Even if the state didn’t spend another penny on bikes or transit ever again, it wouldn’t be enough fund one of these expansions, let alone three of them. If they’re not sitting there dreaming up with massive new revenue sources for these fantasy projects, they need to be advocating for stopping these projects now. Anything else is just delusional.

I do find it curious that Director Williams appears to be completely unaware of freeway traffic in Southern California or around Puget Sound. ***portion of comment deleted by moderator for personal insult – jm***

blumdrew
7 days ago
Reply to  lvc

Yeah, I mean the Rose Quarter isn’t even consistently the worst place for traffic in Portland. Sure it’s usually busy and there’s usually traffic, but all my worst driving experiences on I-5 have been approaching the Interstate Bridge (honorable mention to Wilsonville too). I never plan my intercity driving trips around Rose Quarter traffic, but I always plan around getting through Vancouver or Wilsonville

Steve Cheseborough (Contributor)
Chezz
6 days ago
Reply to  lvc

She should WANT people to stop in our lovely city. Embrace being the only stop sign between Canada and Mexico. She thinks her job is to move traffic through town?

maxD
maxD
6 days ago
Reply to  lvc

cotw

Fred
Fred
7 days ago

Thanks for putting in seven hours to cover this roadshow (I almost typed s**tshow).

On the whole I find our reps’ discussion of these issues to be disappointing, depressing, and clearly not at the level we need if we’re to have the paradigm shift in transportation that we need. We need better representation, and we need to imagine a world in which people can get around safely and efficiently without getting into a car.

Steve Cheseborough (Contributor)
Chezz
6 days ago
Reply to  Fred

We need to do more than imagine it.

SD
SD
7 days ago

Much like drivers complaining about traffic and not realizing that they are traffic, Frederick, Sanchez and company point to a car-loving electorate as if they aren’t cheerleaders for a failed transportation system. They are not informed or curious enough to weigh-in on transportation and reflect much of what is wrong with Oregon dems. It is frustrating that they run pretty much unopposed.

JR
JR
7 days ago

It’s pretty useless to talk about ODOT’s funding problems without discussing the possibility of tolling to raise funds to keep said highways maintained and modified to better serve the region. I’m beyond disappointed that Kotek is putting off tolling so much longer than it needs to. Tolls are used all over the country – red states, blue states, everywhere.

Damien
Damien
7 days ago

Jonathan, did Sen Taylor say much of interest (or otherwise)? I see no mention of her in the post, though that kind of silence would be in line with that I’ve experienced as her constituent (she did have one joint town hall relatively recently, to be fair, but that’s been the only one I can remember, in contrast to my state rep who is doing one a month or so outside of the busy session seasons).

Not that there’s much ado either way; she ran unopposed in the primary and I wouldn’t be surprised if she basically runs unopposed in the general +/- some token opposition that may as well equate to unopposed, so not a lot of pressure to bear there.

SD
SD
7 days ago

“I like imaginary poor people who use cars. I like rich people who use cars. Poor people who don’t drive are invisible to me. The only people who bike, walk and take transit are some weirdos that I can’t relate to, and are politically convenient to complain about. I am an Oregon democrat that is the only name on the ballot who will be dead when life on Earth collapses *\_(•u•)_/* “

Steve Cheseborough (Contributor)
Chezz
6 days ago

Why is it bad to be the only stop sign on I-5? Sounds good! Millicent Williams doesn’t get it.

mc
mc
6 days ago

I love that 23 years later, ODOT is still talking about how they’ve to find another revenue source than the gas tax!

The 2001 Legislative Assembly created a Road User Fee Task Force (RUFTF) with the passage of House Bill 3946. The measure directed the task force to study revenue options and recommend a replacement for the current roadtax system. The Legislative Assembly created the RUFTF out of concern that the gas tax is a declining revenue source, especially over the long term, given fuel efficiency improvements and plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle usage.

The task force developed the Oregon Mileage Fee concept as the most viable broad-based alternative to the gas tax. The concept integrated Background Brief – Legislative Committee Services Page 8 of 11 a mileage-based fee with gasoline tax
collections.

Oregon’s year-long pilot test in the Portland area beginning in March 2006 demonstrated that an electronically collected mileage fee could be technically feasible and might also be an efficient system for replacing the gas tax as the principal way the state funds the road system.

For the test, an on-vehicle device within the vehicles of 299 volunteer participants connected with the odometer to tally miles driven within predetermined geographic zones. This mileage data was transmitted wirelessly at the fuel pump o a central computer where the fee was applied.

Motorists paid mileage fees, in lieu of the gas tax, with their gasoline purchase.”

Reference – https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/lpro/Publications/RoadsAndHighways.pdf
pg. 7 & 8 of 11.

Fact check
Fact check
6 days ago

Our inability to moderate our use of motor vehicles is wreaking havoc on our daily lives.” – Jonathan Maus, 2017, “Portland held hostage by motor vehicle menace”

“And then just a few hours later, the barricades came down and the menace returned. Now our streets are once again dominated by inefficient, toxic vehicles that bring out the worst in people and in our city.” – Jonathan Maus, 2019

Cars are a menace that hold us hostage and should be treated as such.” – Jonathan Maus, 2019

It’s curious why folks make statements like this because there has never been a proposal to force everyone out of their cars and onto bikes and buses.” – Jonathan Maus, 2024

Rather than question whether Rep. Sanchez had a valid point, you just focused on your own narrative – and then claim you aren’t pushing that narrative? It’s great for Rep. Pham, who has one kid, that she can live with one car.

Also, it’s notable that Rep. Sanchez didn’t say “There are some people who want to ban cars.” Nor did Rep. Frederick. They literally said – think about all road users, not just bike and ped users – which is what you said they didn’t say.

You should question whether your advocacy sometimes drowns out your reporting.

Fred
Fred
6 days ago
Reply to  Fact check

One can say that cars are terrible but also that they are currently necessary in our car-centric world. A person can advocate for fewer cars and reduced use of cars while using a car in the present moment.

It’s possible to hold opposing ideas in one’s head at the same time (was it Einstein who called it a mark of genius?).

SD
SD
6 days ago
Reply to  Fact check

Sanchez does not have a valid point, she has a worn out talking point. She imagines extreme individuals circumstances under an extreme reconfiguration of transportation that no one is considering, and uses this straw person to double down on a transportation system that is expensive, destructive and underlies many of the problems she brings up.
Sanchez and Frederick reach these conclusions because they, like many state legislators, are intellectually lazy and see themselves a problem managers rather than problem solvers.
If fact checking is your thing, your time would be better spent checking the massive misinformation that ODOT and others on this “antique (fossil) road show” are spreading.

Micah
Micah
5 days ago
Reply to  SD

Or maybe they see themselves as representatives of their constituents, who, by large majorities, will say they want it to be easier to make shopping trips with their cars. They may be open to driving less, but in their current situation they don’t see a feasible way to manage their day-to-day affairs independent of their car. I’m pretty sure Sanchez and Fredrick (who is my senator) would lose support if they were perceived to be anti car.

SD
SD
5 days ago
Reply to  Micah

Let me see if I understand.

1 Right now, it is too hard to drive to a grocery stare and buy groceries.

2 Elected “leaders” should make decisions based off of vibes that aren’t grounded in reality while we are facing multiple crises that will make life profoundly harder and worse for everyone.

3 They should also ignore the current hardships and inequities created by mistakes of past officials because of said vibes. Even though these vibes are likely just the voices in their heads that have led them to be complacent, mediocre bureaucrats.

Got it.

blumdrew
6 days ago
Reply to  Fact check

They literally said – think about all road users, not just bike and ped users – which is what you said they didn’t say

How are they voting to allocate funding in the state of Oregon?

Is it equally to all road users? Definitely not, just the IBR or RQ is like 25 years or more of pedestrian plus bike funding from ODOT. When was the last time you saw a $10 billion bike project?

Are they allocating to each according to their need? Also seemingly not, given the extreme need for pedestrian safety on basically all urban roads owned by ODOT and the refusal to even consider any measure to improve them.

Are they even allocating to each based on how often people travel via that mode? Also not really – even if we set aside that everyone is a pedestrian. In Region 1, 14.4% of commute trips do not involve a car (derived from this table). Does anyone believe that ODOT spends less than 85% of their Region 1 capital $ on freeway projects? Probably not. Maybe if you are as generous as possible and allocate funding sent to cities and counties as being “not for drivers”, this is roughly proportional. But that’s a bit of a stretch based on how most municipalities allocate funds too.

So by what metric do you feel that Rep. Sanchez and other legislative leaders are earnestly pursuing policy that is thinking about all road users? I’ve yet to see those ideals reflected in the ODOT budget.

Fred
Fred
6 days ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Great point, blum. It’s obvious that they prioritize car and truck drivers, and their roadshow around Oregon is set up to reach their preordained conclusion that The People want more and better infrastructure to serve them and only them.

Fred
Fred
6 days ago

I can’t help thinking that this statewide roadshow should be called The Meth Addiction Tour, as in:

“We are all addicted to meth, so please get us better meth.”

Just think about it. The analogy gets more apt the more you think about it.

Steven
Steven
6 days ago

Quick fact check about “lower[ing] emissions” by speeding up traffic: two transportation researchers at Portland State found that increasing road capacity is likely to increase carbon emissions in the long term through induced demand. Basically, adding more lanes makes it easier to drive, so people drive more, which quickly cancels out any marginal benefits of reduced engine idling. Adding lanes doesn’t even fix traffic, which typically returns to pre-expansion levels in about five years. As usual in these discussions, not a single elected official appears to have even heard of this fundamental law of highway congestion.

Watts
Watts
6 days ago
Reply to  Steven

Induced demand does not occur everywhere all the time. We all know plenty of streets that are not full of traffic, proving it’s not a fundamental law.

To understand the potential for induced demand you really need to look at the particulars. For example, I don’t think the RQ project will induce much demand at all (whereas a new highway through SW Washington along with rezoning probably would). I do, however, think it will be filled up with vehicles pretty quickly, but that those will existing vehicles, not new drivers seduced into making additional trips.

Steven
Steven
6 days ago
Reply to  Watts

It’s called the fundamental law of highway congestion. “Highway” being the operative word.

People are entitled to their own opinions, just not their own facts. Feel free to publish your analysis of induced demand in a reputable peer-reviewed journal, then we’ll talk.

eawriste
eawriste
5 days ago
Reply to  Steven

It seems very indicative of the direction of traffic engineering as a science when TIAs (Traffic Impact Analyses) may soon be considered inadequate evidence in court. At some point engineers may be required to give actual evidence to substantiate their claims. This will be a difficult time for DOTs (whose sole purposes across the country are to expand highways) since traffic analyses are generally junk science. What would be even more shocking is to require DOTs to use past data to predict the increase in inducing more cars, something that exists in reality, but frequently not in the traffic engineering realm.

SD
SD
4 days ago
Reply to  eawriste

I understand the convention, but it is always weird to me when traffic engineers or engineering is referred to as science. They don’t ask questions, there is no science. Only a bit of math and unquestioning obedience to self-interest or dogmatic replication.

eawriste
eawriste
4 days ago
Reply to  SD

I think most traffic engineers would very much disagree. Traffic engineering is a science. Much like any science it goes through self-reflection and revolution. Some of the base assumptions of phrenology were based in racism and eugenics, just as some of the basic assumptions of traffic engineering in the 20th century were centered around the ideal of everyone moving everywhere in a car as fast as possible. We know now that those assumptions are pretty harmful.

In the context of abstract highways (outside of cities), the traditional idea of traffic engineering is fairly straightforward: speed, volume, safety and then cost in order of importance. But applied to the context of a social environment, where people create commerce, where they live and where quality of life is important, traffic engineers are completely inept at making those places healthy and livable.

Given that it was traffic engineers that revolted against the planned removal by Commish Mapps of the SW Broadway PBL, I would say times have changed a bit. But even then I think traffic engineers should only be a part of a team when designing a street, led by someone who understands what a city/neighborhood needs, not by someone who is inappropriately applying rules learned by highway design to an urban environment.

SD
SD
4 days ago
Reply to  eawriste

I know most traffic engineers would disagree. However, the good ones would look at their field and realize that what most traffic engineers do is not deserving of being called science.

Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
Will the last bike commuter turn off their lights
4 days ago
Reply to  eawriste

Traffic engineering is a science

I had no idea that traffic engineers spent the majority of their time reading the academic scientific literature, crafting hypotheses based on this literature, designing well-controlled and well-powered experiments, and, finally, using statistics, mathematical modeling, and validation experiments to test how well the data fits their hypothesis.

PS: Sigh

Watts
Watts
5 days ago
Reply to  Steven

The paper you linked to, as best as I can judge from the abstract, shows that in European cities there is a statistical correlation between adding new highway lanes and vehicle trips. This makes sense to me, and I fully accept that, in the general case, such a correlation exists.

I can’t tell if the study identified any cases where this correlation does not stand, but I’d be shocked if they didn’t. Nor can I tell how it applies to short, constrained segments like what’s proposed in the Rose Quarter, as opposed to longer highway projects.

So while I do agree we should share facts, I don’t accept that a statistical analysis of European highways tells us with any level of certainty what’s going to happen on this specific project, or rises to a level of a “fact”.

Metro does regional traffic forecasting, and their models, while highly flawed in their own ways, would be one way to shed some light on this project.

It’s important to note that I don’t claim the project will not induce demand (though my personal view is that it won’t), only that we don’t have enough information (here, at least) to say for certain that it will.

Steven
Steven
5 days ago
Reply to  Watts

I hope you made sure to write to the JCT that we also don’t have enough information to support Rep. Davis’s claim that adding lanes will “lower emissions”. Sadly the public comment period is now closed. There’s always next time I guess.

Steven
Steven
5 days ago
Reply to  Steven

I also linked to a study of U.S. highways. To quote the abstract, “These findings cast doubt on the effectiveness of expanding highways to eliminate traffic congestion, as the speed-related benefits of new capacity tend to be short-lived.”

Watts
Watts
4 days ago
Reply to  Steven

Despite reading a considerable number of my posts, you sure have some funny views about what I think.

Steven
Steven
4 days ago
Reply to  Watts

I’m not particularly interested in what online randos think. I’m interested in what they say, and whether their words help or hinder a move toward a more just and sustainable future…or whether they instead tend to reinforce the status quo.

Watts
Watts
4 days ago
Reply to  Steven

I hope you made sure to write to the JCT

I did.

SD
SD
6 days ago

Today, I happen to be in a situation where I helped an elderly man with a wheel chair get onto a bus because he had trouble getting both wheels on the ramp. This was in Lew Frederick’s and Tawna Sanchez’s district. I don’t think this man would be able to drive a car. This is the Portlander that is invisible to Frederick and Sanchez- the Portlander that they go out of their way to not think about.

Steven
Steven
4 days ago
Reply to  SD

Exactly. All the talk about “stubborn individualism” ignores the people who don’t want to be forced into a car-centric lifestyle. Whatever happened to freedom of choice?

Watts
Watts
3 days ago
Reply to  SD

It’s ironic that you chose to hang your “not everyone can drive” message (which I fully agree with) on an anecote about somebody having trouble using transit.

Steven
Steven
3 days ago
Reply to  Watts

It’s only ironic if one imagines clunky bus loading ramps to be the best option for accessibility on public transportation. It’s as if I were to say, “Oh you think cars are so great? What about driving over potholes? Ironic!”

SD
SD
1 day ago
Reply to  Watts

No irony. We’ve starved non-car transportation to bolster personal car use. We then compare the fully funded system to a withered mass transit system and draw the false conclusion that cars meet more needs.

Sanchez and Frederick are responsible for taking transportation away from people who can’t drive and diminishing their quality of life. Many cities have mass transit that would have easily met this man’s needs, as well as over a billion people per year.

Provincial ignorance. Begging to be exploited.