chris smith

Wonk Nights work! 30 months later, city kicks off bike parking reform

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on February 23rd, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Bike Parking Wonk Night-7

The crowd of problem-solvers in 2013.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

BikePortlanders may remember that a few years ago, Portland Planning and Sustainability Commissioner Chris Smith approached us with an idea: he felt the city’s bike parking rules needed an update, and wanted help proving it.

So we teamed up with our friends at Lancaster Engineering to host a “wonk night” at which 30 attendees broke into groups and brainstormed ideas for updating the city code that tells developers how to design bike parking and how much of each type to include.

Smith wrote us this week to share some good news: Tomorrow night is the first meeting of the Bicycle Parking Stakeholder Working Group, which has been officially tasked with rewriting the city’s code.

[Read more…]

Commissioner Fritz questions city plan to legalize tiny homes near property lines, a perk currently given to auto storage

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on November 20th, 2015 at 10:55 am

Sally Spear, right, lives in a backyard home in Northeast Portland with her daughter’s family.
(Photos by M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Until this week, Portland seemed poised to eliminate one of the many ways it prioritizes housing for cars over housing for people.

For decades, there’s been exactly one way to build a 15-foot-tall structure up to the edge of most Portland property lines: put a car in it.

Want an accessory dwelling unit the same size as a garage? Sorry, that’ll have to be set back five feet from the property line, even if it has no windows or doors facing the property edge.

Bike sheds currently face the same restriction: unlike garages that were designed for cars, bike sheds must be at least five feet away from the property line in all single-family residential zones.

[Read more…]

How much should parking permits cost? Four ways the city could find out

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on October 1st, 2015 at 10:07 am

Space is valuable. But who wants to vote on what it’s worth?
(Photos: M.Andersen and J.Maus/BikePortland)

Last year, Portland hired a top-dollar consulting firm for advice on the best way to manage the auto parking that’s become increasingly scarce in a few neighborhoods.

Twelve months later, the city is taking steps toward some of its recommendations: for example, proposing an opt-in parking permit system that would let residential neighborhoods block their street parking spaces from being used by people living or shopping on commercial corridors.

But at the moment, Portland is on course to ignore a different suggestion made very clearly by the firm, Nelson\Nygaard: that elected officials should “never, ever” be the ones to set the price of parking.

[Read more…]

Portland parking reformers puzzle over how to value bike lanes

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on January 30th, 2015 at 10:28 am

New striping on Broadway ramp-2

What’s it worth?
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

How much is a bike lane worth?

As the City of Portland begins moving toward an overhaul of its auto parking policy, the people on two massive parking-reform stakeholder committees (one for the central city and one for neighborhood commercial districts) are beginning to confront an interesting problem.

If modern acolytes of market-priced street parking are correct, it’s actually not hard to discover the economic value of an on-street auto parking space: use meters or permits to raise the price of parking until 15 percent of spaces in a given area — about one per block — are always empty and available. It’s the curbside equivalent of a store that’s acquiring new inventory at the same rate that it sells its current stock.

[Read more…]

What if you could auction off the right to park a car in front of your home?

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on November 26th, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Auto parking on Southeast Division Street.
(Photos by M.Andersen)

Unlimited free on-street car parking is one of the big problems stopping Portland from becoming a better place to live, work, ride a bike, and do business — and a Portland planning expert is floating an interesting solution.

[Read more…]

Wonk Night kickstarts effort to reform Portland’s bike parking code

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on October 31st, 2013 at 10:33 am

Bike Parking Wonk Night-7

An unprecedented gathering of bike parking
brain-power met at Lancaster Engineering
Tuesday night.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Staple racks at the grocery store blocked by piles of pumpkins; events with 800 people and zero additional bike parking; apartment buildings with dozens of wall hooks that are difficult and awkward to use for many people…

Portland is full of bike parking problems. Fortunately, most of them are solvable.

On Tuesday night, Jonathan and I joined the bike coordinators for Oregon’s two largest-employment universities, three representatives of bike parking equipment companies, two city employees, three architects, a team of engineers, the operator of the largest bike valet in North America and 25 other wonky Portland citizens for drinks and sandwiches to start talking about the solutions.[Read more…]

I-5 widening plan up for vote at City Council Thursday

Avatar by on October 23rd, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I-5 at Rose Quarter

ODOT’s dream to widen I-5 near the Rose Quarter
could take a big step forward tomorrow.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

On Wednesday, a plan by the Oregon Department of Transportation to widen I-5 near the Rose Quarter will be considered for adoption by City Council. The I-5 Broadway/Weidler Facility Plan, which includes freeway and surface street changes that are estimated to cost $400 million, will be considered in tandem with the N/NE Quadrant Plan, an effort by the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to re-imagine transportation and land-use in the lower-Albina and Lloyd districts.

While passage of both plans is likely, the key component of the I-5 Facility Plan — the widening of the freeway between I-84 and the Fremont Bridge — is not supported by local grassroots group Active Right of Way (AROW). A City of Portland Planning Commissioner also voted against the facility plan when it came before the City’s Planning and Sustainability Commission last month.

[Read more…]

Chris Smith’s new “Transit Appliance”

Avatar by on October 21st, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Chris Smith and his “Transit Appliance”.
-Watch video below-

Transportation expert, blogger, and citizen activist extraordinaire Chris Smith unveiled his new “Transit Appliance” at the Rail-volution today. The new device is simple but has potential to be extremely effective.

With a $179 device, some open data, and a wi-fi signal, Smith’s Transit Appliance (could use a better name perhaps?) broadcasts transit arrival information for anyone that happens by. It’s sort of like the arrival/departure screens at the airport.[Read more…]

New blog will shine light on Planning Commission

Avatar by on October 19th, 2009 at 11:10 am

“Why a Planning Commissioner Blog?… Because public policy can be complicated and three minutes at a hearing is a pretty limited opportunity to engage in a substantive conversation.”
— Chris Smith

If you care about bike policy or planning in Portland, chances are you’ve heard of Chris Smith. Smith is a consummate citizen activist who sits on a number of committees (including the Bike Master Plan Steering Committee), runs the Portland Transport blog, has made a run for City Council, and much more.

Most recently, Smith made news for his appointment to the Portland Planning Commission. Smith’s trademark has always been transparency of bureaucratic processes and encouragement of citizens to learn and get involved in them.

On that note, he’s just launched Here’s a snip from Smith’s introductory post:[Read more…]

Chris Smith appointed to Portland Planning Commission

Avatar by on August 21st, 2009 at 12:07 pm


Chris Smith, newest member of
Portland Planning Commission.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Citizen activist Chris Smith is the newest member of the Portland Planning Commission. The Planning Commission is a volunteer body that advises City Council on “any proposal that directly affects any goal or policy related to any element of the City’s Comprehensive Plan”.

Smith — whose day job is with Xerox Corporation in Beaverton — is well known in biking circles because of his activism, his blog (, and due to his involvement on many transportation-related committees and stakeholder groups. He’s currently a member of the Bicycle Master Plan Steering Committee.

In a video interview with Mayor Adams prior to his confirmation, Adams said he nominated Smith for the commission because of his “extensive experience from the grassroots level on transportation, transit and zoning issues.”

metro hearing on the CRC-9.jpg

Smith at a Metro hearing on the CRC project.

Smith is filling the unexpired term of former Bicycle Transportation Alliance executive director Catherine Ciarlo, who left the commission to take the job of Transportation Policy Director for Mayor Adams.

Asked about his new appointment, Smith told BikePortland “I’m very excited to be joining Planning Commission right now. As you know, my passion is to help Portland develop sustainably – socially, economically and environmentally.”

Smith said his focus will be to instill those values into the ongoing revamp of The Portland Plan and that his work on the Bicycle Master Plan and Streetcar System Plan “are going to be cornerstones of that effort.”

Smith made a run for City Council in 2008 and he has been an outspoken critic of the controversial Columbia River Crossing project.

A major advocacy focus for Smith has been Portland’s streetcar planning efforts. He is currently Chair of Portland Streetcar Citizen’s Advisory Committee. According to the Willamette Week, he intends to step down from that role in order to avoid any conflict of interest.

Smith’s first Planning Commission meeting will this coming Tuesday.