joe cortright

Opinion: Portland’s scooter success exposes stark double standard

Avatar by on January 18th, 2019 at 8:57 am

Scooter riders in the mix of traffic in downtown Portland.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

*This post is by Joe Cortright and was originally published by City Observatory.

Data shows Portland’s scooter experiment worked. Maybe it’s time to critically appraise the failed, 110-year experiment with cars.
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2017 Year-in-review: More driving, more dying

Avatar by on January 18th, 2018 at 1:12 pm

Traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This story is by Joe Cortright. It first appeared on City Observatory.

Four days before Christmas, on a Wednesday morning just after dawn, Elizabeth Meyers was crossing Sandy Boulevard in Portland, near 78th Avenue, just about a block from her neighborhood library. She was struck and killed, becoming Portland’s 50th traffic fatality of 2017.
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Guest post: The death of Flint Street, one of Portland’s major bike routes

Avatar by on December 18th, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Xs mark the spot of Flint Street. White lines show location of proposed lids over I-5. (View is looking south with Moda Center/Memorial Coliseum in the background.)

(Courtesy, Jim Howell, AORTA)

A proposed freeway widening project will tear out one of Portland’s most used bike routes,

This story is by Portland writer and economist Joe Cortright. It first appeared on City Observatory.

We’re putting the I-5 Rose Quarter project under a microscope, in part because we think it reveals some deep-seated biases in the way transportation planning takes place, not just in Portland, but in many cities. Today we turn our attention to plans to tear out a key local street which serves as a major bikeway in north Portland.

A quick refresher: I-5 is the main north-south route through Portland, and the Oregon Department of Transportation is proposing to spend at least $450 million to widen it with new lanes on a one-mile stretch just north of downtown. A growing coalition of community groups has organized to fight the project as wasteful, ineffective and at odds with the region’s climate change and Vision Zero goals.
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Planned widening of I-5 at the Rose Quarter is Portland’s next big freeway fight

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on August 29th, 2017 at 4:21 pm

I-5 at Rose Quarter

As the project moves forward, so to are efforts to stop it.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The initial draft of Oregon’s just-passed transportation bill was an audacious money-grab from misguided politicians and the freeway advocates that fuel them. Thankfully, the final version that Governor Kate Brown signed into law today in Portland dramatically scaled-back our investment in urban freeway widening projects; but not completely.

One of the winners in the bill was a project that will expand Interstate 5 through the Rose Quarter — right through the heart of Portland’s central city. And with City Council poised for a vote to add the project into Portland’s Transportation System Plan on September 7th, activists are laying the groundwork for another freeway fight.
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Oregon’s climate change hypocrisy on full display in transportation bill debate

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on June 9th, 2017 at 6:05 pm

The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.

The news this week was full of stories about how Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler were beside themselves about President Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement. They vowed to remain committed to climate change prevention.

Yet both of our local leaders support spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the single largest source of greenhouse gases in Oregon: emissions from cars and trucks.
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Guest opinion: ODOT management audit misleads, omits key facts

Avatar by on February 1st, 2017 at 1:12 pm

A day in Salem-3

We deserve a better ODOT before we hand them new revenue.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This guest essay was written by Joe Cortright, an urban economist with Impresa Consulting who also runs

There are a lot of big questions about the Oregon Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) competence and capability. Unfortunately the new $1 million audit undertaken by McKinsey and Company answers none of them.

The audit is misleading, inaccurate and omits key facts about ODOT’s substantive management problems. In effect, the audit actually conceals some of ODOT’s most expensive blunders.

An audit that doesn’t acknowledge, much less analyze, obvious problems can’t provide meaningful solutions. For example, auditors who can’t even correctly identify the cost of the agency’s largest construction project—and who purposely omit it from their one statistical chart showing cost overruns—aren’t worth the money they’re being paid, because they haven’t done their jobs.

Why does this matter? Because the Oregon legislature is about to begin a debate over transportation funding that could result in hundreds of millions of dollars flowing through ODOT’s hands.
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Active Transportation Summit dispatch: Vision Zero and the myth of freight

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on March 14th, 2016 at 1:12 pm


Lynn Peterson, former Director of Transportation
for the State of Washington, spoke at this
morning’s opening plenary.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The “shared vision” of transportation reform advocates was literally on display at the kickoff of the Oregon Active Transportation Summit this morning. The event, organized by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, is being held at the Sentinel hotel in downtown Portland today and tomorrow.

I’m covering the action for the first part of the day, then our News Editor Michael Anderson will take over in the afternoon.

The summit started with an opening speech by Lynn Peterson, the former transportation policy advisor to former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber who was recently forced out of her position as director of Washington’s Department of Transportation.
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Guest article: How should Portland pay for streets?

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on January 9th, 2015 at 11:01 am

CRC Rally-151

Joe Cortright, economist in action.
(All photos by J.Maus/BikePortland unless otherwise noted)

This is a crosspost from City Observatory, the new think tank about urban policy led by Portland-based economist Joe Cortright. Many BikePortland readers will know Cortright as one of the loudest critics of the defunct Columbia River Crossing freeway expansion plan.

— by Joe Cortright

For the past several months, Portland’s City Council has been wrestling with various proposals to raise additional funds to pay for maintaining and improving city streets. After considering a range of ideas, including fees on households and businesses, a progressive income tax, and a kind of Rube Goldberg income tax pro-rated to average gasoline consumption, the council has apparently thrown up its hands on designing its own solution.

The plan now is for the street fee solution to be laid at the feet of Portland voters in the form of a civic multiple choice test: Do you want to pay for streets with a monthly household street fee, a higher gas tax, a property tax, an income tax or something else entirely?

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Economist Joe Cortright launches ‘virtual think tank’

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on October 15th, 2014 at 1:00 pm


Home page

Joe Cortright, a Portland-based economist who specializes in making the case for urban innovation and active transportation and was a powerful critic of the failed Columbia River Crossing project, has launched City Observatory, a “virtual think tank” that will be “devoted to data-driven analysis of cities and the policies that shape them.”

Topics on the site will be arranged in a system of “cards,” copying a successful feature of popular news site

The goal of this new venture will be to spark conversations about what policies and practices will create great cities. Cortright received funding for the project from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
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Report: Traffic projections ‘invalidate the transportation rationale for the CRC’

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on September 23rd, 2013 at 11:19 am

traffic on i-5 -1

Tolls and traffic projections for the CRC project
raise new questions.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Economist Joe Cortright says new traffic projections from a previously undisclosed report reveals an inconvenient truth about the Columbia River Crossing project. The plan to toll the existing I-5 bridge span (starting in 2016) would lead to nearly 50,000 people per day opting to drive over the I-205 bridge instead. As a result, not only would I-205 (and its feeder routes I-84 and SR 14) become jammed during rush hour, but there would be a significant decrease in traffic on I-5 which raises new questions about the wisdom of spending $2.7 billion to significantly expand its capacity.

This analysis is detailed in a new, 12-page report by Cortright’s firm, Impresa Consulting Inc. (PDF). Cortright obtained the underlying data via a public records request from the CRC and the records come from a traffic modeling report performed by CRC contractors CDM Smith.

Here’s more from the summary of Impresa’s report:[Read more…]