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Carfree streets, EVs for all, smarter funding: Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty shares her ‘smart transit’ vision

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on January 22nd, 2021 at 10:46 am

Hardesty envisions more scenes like this downtown, where people have more space on the streets.

“I believe life will be radically different post-Covid and our planning should reflect our new reality.”
— Jo Ann Hardesty, city commissioner

At a city council work session Thursday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and the four other commissioners had an informal and wide-ranging discussion about how to respond to the multiple crises facing our city. During the meeting, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty described how she wants to use her leadership of the transportation bureau to kickstart the local economy and face the climate crisis. Hardesty called it a vision for “smart transit”.

The work session was led by Dr. Markisha Smith from the Portland Office of Equity and Human Rights. Each commissioner was asked to share their opinion about the most urgent issues council should focus on in the next 12-18 months.

The first thing Hardesty mentioned was her vision for more carfree streets we reported on earlier this month. Hardesty elaborated on that idea (first shared her policy director Derek Bradley at a Bicycle Advisory Committee January 12th), but she didn’t stop there.

About one hour and 15 minutes into the two-hour session (you can watch it here), Hardesty laid out four transportation-related goals.

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She tied a vision for carfree streets downtown to the climate crisis, economic rebirth and changing behaviors related to the Covid pandemic:

Jo Ann Hardesty
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“When I think about smart transit I think about, as we are attempting to reach our climate goals, are there opportunities to support small restaurants across the city by closing off some streets to auto traffic? Is it possible when we are in rebuild mode coming out of Covid, to really think about what would a carfree downtown look like? I say this because I think that there is this misperception that one day we’re going to go back to business as usual and that Covid will be behind us, and we’re going to flip the switch and life will be as it was prior to Covid. I think that there’s a lot of people that believe that and I am not one of them. I believe life will be radically different post-Covid, and our planning should reflect our new reality… Is there an opportunity to create international districts in different parts of the city that people can access for food and goods and services that are not tied to people getting into automobiles?”

Hardesty then mentioned her desire to boost electric vehicle access:

“I also want to think about how we create opportunities for electric vehicle infrastructure in different parts of the city so that we can ensure that BIPOC community members have access to both building it and actually being able to take advantage of using it.”

Her next two goals were related to funding. The first was about federal funds:

“I want to make sure we are identifying federal resources that traditionally have been all about freeway expansions. I’m looking for federal resources to support a climate resilient transportation department that is really focused on green issues as compared to freeway expansions like we’re so accustomed to.”

The second was the concern that PBOT’s budget is closely tied to driving and there’s still no substitute to gas taxes and parking-related revenues — both of which were trending down before the pandemic hit:

“[I am interested in] trying to identify new funding opportunities to create a smart transit system for PBOT that is not dependent on people driving automobiles, and not dependent on people parking at parking garages [PBOT owns and operates several of them downtown]. We are facing a $40 million budget deficit because normal funding mechanisms have been impacted by A) Covid and B) should be impacted by our climate justice and resiliency goals.”

The facilitator then asked other commissioners to respond.

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Commissioner Mingus Mapps said, “I generally support this vision. I think it’s innovative and I’m happy to work with a lot of these things.”

Commissioner Carmen Rubio said, “I also support it. It’s in line with a lot of our goals, particularly around equity.”

Commissioner Dan Ryan was much less enthusiastic: “It felt very connected to the climate crisis, even though it was stated as transportation. But that’s what I kept hearing. It’s not in my top three or four, but I respect what I just heard.”

Mayor Wheeler responded with, “I appreciated it. It sounded more like the answer to a broader question. It sounded tactical. I think it is in alignment with our stated goals around climate action and transportation equity. But I would see that as one of multiple strategies that are fulfilling the larger objective.” Then he added, “I want to say this: I actually love innovative and visionary thinking and I appreciate that. It’s a good vision.”

With new leadership in City Hall and multiple crises facing Portland, now is a great time for a new transportation vision and more urgency on the topic in general — something Portland hasn’t for years. Hardesty seems to understand the opportunity and appears to be unafraid to try and meet it. As she laid out her idea to use streets as gathering places in a way that would help our economy rebound in a Covid-safe way, Hardesty said, “That’s one of the exciting things about having transportation at this moment.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Commissioner Hardesty wants more carfree streets in downtown Portland

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on January 12th, 2021 at 7:42 pm

SW Harvey Milk at 13th back in July.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

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San Francisco bans cars on major downtown street: Now it’s Portland’s turn

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on October 17th, 2019 at 8:14 am

Jealous.
(Story in San Francisco Chronicle.)

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PSU moves toward permanent car ban on SW Montgomery

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on September 24th, 2019 at 1:11 pm

SW Montgomery from 6th Avenue as seen today with a brand new layer of pavement.
(Photo: Tim Davis/PlacesForEveryone.com

Pretty much every time people are treated to urban space that’s free from motor vehicles, they embrace it and want to make it last forever. That appears to be what’s happening on Southwest Montgomery between 6th and Broadway. [Read more…]

Planning begins on carfree bridge over Columbia Blvd and new path through St. Johns Prairie

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on September 18th, 2019 at 4:08 pm

Detail of new bridges and path alignment.
(Graphic: Metro)

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Opinion: Too many cars, not enough leadership

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on August 23rd, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Downtown needs more freedom to move, not more free parking for cars.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

As this week’s cover story in the Willamette Week makes clear, we aren’t doing enough to make our streets safe for everyone. On Wednesday we had the 36th fatality on Portland roads, two more than all of 2018.

While those who work at PBOT and City Hall struggle to make progress on Vision Zero goals, they might want to take a look out their office windows. There are simply too many cars and too many people who use them irresponsibly. [Read more…]

Time to weigh in on future carfree bridge between Oak Grove and Lake Oswego

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on August 2nd, 2019 at 8:10 am

Looking north from Foothills Park in Lake Oswego at the potential future site of a new bridge. (Existing railroad bridge in in the background).
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Clackamas County wants to know if they should move forward with a new, carfree bridge over the Willamette River that would connect Oak Grove/Milwaukie to Lake Oswego. Known as “OGLO,” the project has been on the radar since 2009 when a Metro study found strong public support for the idea.

Clackamas County has opened an online open house and will host two open houses next week to garner feedback as part of a Metro-funded feasibility study. [Read more…]

Sneak peek at new carfree section of Historic Columbia River Highway

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on July 24th, 2019 at 10:41 am

We cannot wait to ride this.
(Photos: ODOT)


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Meet Skip Spitzer; a carfree, climate-change-fighting, single dad

Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) by on July 2nd, 2019 at 11:48 am

Skip Spitzer tows his son’s balance bike behind their trailer.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

This week we’re happy to share a profile of reader Skip Spitzer.

I met Skip on my Bike to School Day bike ride to the ‘Red for Ed’ rally, though I’d noticed his trailer in photos of various bike events around town before. As luck would have it, he was at the Woodstock Elementary play structure a couple weeks later while I was running a bike rodeo and he was nice enough to stick around for a conversation and a few photos…[Read more…]

Oregonian: Alder Street food cart pod could move to North Park Blocks

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on June 24th, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Future (carfree) food cart pod promenade?

In case you hadn’t heard, Portland’s most famous food cart pod was recently evicted from its space on Southwest Alder Street to make way for a new hotel.

The Oregonian reported this morning that Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s office wants to move the carts to the North Park Blocks:[Read more…]