Wednesday, November 01, 2006

PDX Transportation Issues of Concern

As a part of Metro's RTP update, they're soliciting feedback from community groups. One such group is the Coalition for a Livable Future, which has asked for a list of transportation-related issues of concern.

Here is my response:

- Lack of regional rail connectivity to all the regional and outlying town centers. Where is the commuter rail link to McMinnville, Hood River, St. Helens, Forest Grove, Oregon City, Salem, etc.?

- Lack of regional Class 1 bicycle facilities: Where are the Spingwater Corridor-equivalent bicycle freeways linking the communities mentioned above, as well as Wilsonville, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Aloha, etc. to the rest of the system?

- Lack of pedestrian facilities on all streets. Where are the sidewalks, especially in suburban and rural residential areas?

- Lack of pervious surfaces on transportation facilities. Why not use the planting strip between the sidewalk and the street as a bioswale for most streets, to mitigate storm runoff?

- Exposed automobile infrastructure (freeways) -- why not bury I-5 through N/NE Portland and SW Portland, as well as I-84 in NE Portland and I-405 through downtown, or even I-205 and I-5 through the Central Eastside? Ultimately, all the freeways should be capped and placed underground, for three reasons:

1) Air Quality. If they're underground, their emissions can be "scrubbed" through fans & air filters (perhaps even biologically) before being released into the community

2) Real Estate. The freeways take up a lot of land. Their air rights could be sold to finance the capping project, and that space used for new developments, parks, open space, community facilities, etc.

3) Pedestrian/street network connectivity. Currently, most streets don't connect across freeways corridors. These street connections could all be re-established as a part of the capping process.


Other strategies for managing the Portland region's growth in population (projected at one million by 2030) and the increased demand on the transportation system:

- Increase allowable densities near high-quality transit systems, so that more of the growth in the region's population can take place within walking distance of attractive transit options.

- Build more commuter rail links to connect regional town centers, as well as town centers of nearby urban areas that are functionally a part of the metro region. Similar to the European system, this removes the need for an automobile for most trips. This could/should include rail/tram links to the coast and to Mt. Hood, so that people can also recreate without cars.


Strategies to get car owners to use their cars less, and make transportation options more convenient for people who don't own cars:

- More high-quality public transportation connections, especially new passenger/commuter rail lines, water taxis/ferries and trams so that all major attractions in the region and easily and quickly transit-accessible through timed-transfer links.


Strategies to improve the region's economy and livability:

- Build out a super-efficient regional mass transit system, including many more commuter/passenger rail links, light rail lines, streetcars, trams, trolleys, water taxis, ferries and BRT/high quality bus services, in tandem with the buildout of a regional high-quality bicycle infrastructure system, and make all of this the focus for high-intensity employment and residential focused development, with easy access both to other regional centers as well as greenspace. If design/build contracts are awarded locally, vehicles built locally, then this will provide a good shot in the arm to the region's economy.


Other strategies for supporting an efficient, sustainable transportation system:

- Make timed transfer centers an integral part of the regional transit system. In conjunction with running all transit service son time, this will allow transit to "pulse" out from these centers, so that passengers can remain in motion from their origin to their destination, minimizing wait time.


Strategies for reducing car crashes and improving pedestrian and cyclist safety:

- Create sustainable alternatives to driving, so that fewer people see driving as the only preferable option.

- Re-design street facilities so that the facility itself informs the speed of travel through it, i.e. bring back cobblestone streets for dense areas, narrow residential streets to slow down and limit through traffic, construct bulb-outs and curb extensions to ease pedestrian crossings, give bicyclists preferential treatment at intersections, etc.


Strategies for the funding of transportation in a fair manner:

- Use Tax Increment Financing to allow new transportation projects to help pay for themselves by getting a cut of the incremental increase in value that they bring to properties that directly benefit from their development.

- Increase the amount of freight movement that takes place using the regional rail system, and use fees from this to help pay for maintenance and operations of the system.

- Charge a wholesale delivery fee that taxes goods as they are sold from distributors to retailers, assessed for the maintenance and expansion of the transportation system used to deliver those goods.


Other ideas for helping the Coalition for a Livable Future to Shift the Balance:

- Make it fun. Make it exciting. Cooperate with the City Repair Project, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and other community-focused groups to really engage the community on these issues.

- Throw good parties, where people can come out and meet other folks to discuss the issues over beer & food, but also in combination with entertainment and perhaps related artsy/craftsy stuff.

- Encourage more community development exercises like neighborhood cob workshops to build benches near traffic-calming projects at intersections, and plant community gardens (small ones) in those planters.

- Encourage brewpubs, as the centers for neighborhood social activity, to be located in every village, town and regional center, especially right at transit stations and transit points, but also within walkable/bike-able neighborhoods.


If you'd like to take the survey, it can be found here:

If you'd like to receive updates on the Shift the Balance! campaign and learn how to be involved in shaping the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan, send an email to (and post your ideas in a rely to this blog)!


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