jo ann hardesty

More traffic cameras, more money: A big day for safer streets in Portland

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on June 9th, 2021 at 5:32 pm

A man tries to cross 82nd Avenue at Alberta, the intersection where two people were killed by drivers in April.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Wednesday was a very consequential day for traffic safety in Portland.

“I have moved from hating cameras, to really understanding how, in relationship with other safety improvements, they could help keep people in our communities safe.”
— Jo Ann Hardesty, city commissioner

At their morning session Portland City Council finally authorized the Portland Bureau of Transportation to move forward with a contract for automated enforcement cameras. This contract was first given the go-ahead by council 18 months ago but was mired in red tape and stuck at the city’s procurement office.

Then this afternoon the Oregon Senate passed House Bill 2530, which repeals the existing sunset on the city’s traffic camera program that was set to expire in 2024. “We are optimistic that the governor will sign this,” a PBOT spokesperson shared with me today, “Allowing the speed safety cameras program in Portland to become permanent.”

And then at their evening session, City Council passed the 2021-2022 budget that included a last-minute, $450,000 amendment from PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty that aims to, “Urgently respond to the crisis of vehicular violence.”

When these three things are taken together, they represent significant progress and give PBOT clear marching orders to tame the city’s most dangerous intersections.

At City Council today, PBOT Safety Section Manager Dana Dickman told Mayor Wheeler, Hardesty and the rest of council that the new, five year, $15 million contract with Conduent State & Local Solutions, Inc will allow PBOT to install twice as many cameras as they have now. “This contract will allow us to install up to 20 fixed speed cameras [total] and 20 intersection cameras so it’s essentially a little bit more than doubling the system,” Dickman said.

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Despite the clear effectiveness and urgent need for automated cameras to cite drivers for speeding and red light running infractions, Portland has installed only eight of them in the past five years. One of the barriers to expansion was that state law requires a sworn police officer to review each citation. PBOT tried to change that law at the legislature this year, but lawmakers and police unions weren’t ready to pass it.

Asked how a major expansion of the camera program will be possible with the police officer requirement still in place, PBOT spokesperson Dylan Rivera told BikePortland today that, “We have agreement from our partners at the Portland Police Bureau, and the courts that handle speed citations, that they both can handle the additional work that will come with the expansion in the number of cameras.”

Rivera said PBOT could install even more cameras in the coming years without the officer requirement and that, “We fully intend to bring this issue up again [at future legislative sessions].”

Cameras alone will not solve our traffic safety crisis. Streets must be designed in a way that discourages dangerous driving and limits the consequences of it. PBOT Commissioner Hardesty understands this and today she put our money where her mouth is.

The $450,000, one-time boost from the General Fund will be used on projects on PBOT’s “high crash corridors” (streets with an above average rate of injury and/or death) in the next four to six months.

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Hardesty’s commitment to address Portland’s rising traffic fatalities began in earnest when a man intentionally used his car to run over people in southeast Portland in late January. It was a vehicular rampage that left one person dead, many others injured, and put our entire city on edge — and it happen just weeks after Hardesty was asked to lead PBOT. Then when two people died while walking on 82nd Avenue in late April, Hardesty had seen enough. She tasked PBOT staff to come up with a list of projects that would have an immediate impact on safety.

“It’s clear our city is seeing a tragic increase in loss of life from vehicular violence and we need to treat this like an emergency,” Hardesty said in a statement released today that also referenced a spike in deaths so far this year that’s over 50% higher than 2020.

The $450,000 will be spent on new traffic cameras, intersection “daylighting” projects, new traffic signals with leading pedestrian intervals, turn calming bumps at high-crash intersections, installation of flexible posts in center turn lanes (to prevent them from being improperly used), and warning signs at high crash intersections.

Today proves that Hardesty can deliver for PBOT and there’s nothing like excellent budget news to boost staff morale. It’s also another example of Hardesty’s flexibility when it comes to re-assessing her positions.

“I have moved from hating [automated enforcement] cameras, to really understanding how, in relationship with other safety improvements, they could help keep people in our communities safe,” she said at Council today. “I look forward to installing these cameras and installing the safety improvements so that it doesn’t matter what part of the city you live in, you can safely walk and bike safely.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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PBOT takes key step in Commissioner Hardesty’s vision for carfree spaces citywide

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on May 28th, 2021 at 10:21 am

This existing plaza on SW Harvey Milk (off Burnside) will become Pride Plaza on June 26th.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

[Read more…]

Hardesty weighs in on Rose Quarter project and traffic enforcement concerns

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on May 20th, 2021 at 12:21 pm

Commissioner Hardesty at the Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday.

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Guest Opinion: Hardesty’s comments come after years of unmet promises

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on May 18th, 2021 at 2:11 pm

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PBOT Commissioner has revealing, heated exchanges with bicycle advisory committee members

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on May 12th, 2021 at 2:03 pm

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Tensions mount as bi-state I-5 freeway expansion project moves forward

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on March 19th, 2021 at 2:29 pm

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Commissioner Hardesty targeted by ‘smear campaign’ in false hit-and-run allegation

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on March 4th, 2021 at 1:22 pm

Hardesty at a press conference today.

Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty was forced to go on the offensive in a press conference in order to respond to false allegations that she left the scene of a hit-and-run.

The story emerged this morning from PJ Media and was later picked up by The Oregonian and other local outlets.

The writer of the PJ Media story, Jeff Reynolds, is also involved with the Coalition to Save Portland, a nonprofit that formed last fall with a goal to “restore law and order, reverse defunding of the police, end the decay of livability.” Reynolds is also a well-known Republican party operative. [Read more…]

Interview: PBOT Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty on the Hawthorne decision, traffic enforcement, and more

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on February 19th, 2021 at 11:38 am

(Photo: City of Portand)

I spoke to Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty on the phone last Friday. We covered a lot of ground. The interview below has been slightly edited for clarity and brevity.[Read more…]

Portland commissioner cites ‘vehicular violence’ in response to spate of crashes

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on February 9th, 2021 at 4:39 pm

(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

[Read more…]

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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— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.