More on the origin story for Portland transit/+ current proposal for tolls on I-5
Portland Oregon is the poster child for sustainable transportation, known for demolishing a waterfront freeway, focusing serving the downtown by transit, later creating light rail and streetcar programs, supporting bicycle use, etc.
It's frustrating as a planner when people bring up Portland as an example, because what they usually don't understand Portland's "secret," which is that what they see today is built on almost 50 years of tough, visionary, bold decision making. (1) not only did they make a visionary decision to move away from freeways; (2) they realized they needed to focus development downtown; (3) and instead of prioritizing the car, they prioritized transit service--first bus, then light rail, and then streetcar; and (4) they continued to build on these decisions "incrementally" with what we might call "continuous process improvement."
-- "A summary of my impressions of Portland, Oregon and planning," 2005
-- "Nohad Toulan: The University in the City," Portland State University, 2014
-- "Portland Oregonian says that Seattle is now far more innovative concerning sustainable mobility than Portland," 2018
-- "Light rail: blight or bliss"," Vancouver Columbian, 2013
In short, they were bold and they continued to be bold, through decisions that build on and extended the previous decisions. It's a perfect example of what I call "Transformational Projects Action Planning," although it was more incremental and somewhat unintentionally a process where the sum of the parts ended up being even stronger than the individual pathbreaking efforts.
-- "Why can't the "Bilbao Effect" be reproduced? | Bilbao as an example of Transformational Projects Action Planning," 2017
-- "Downtown Edmonton cultural facilities development as an example of "Transformational Projects Action Planning" 2018
Pioneer Square, Max Light Rail, Protestors, at Lunchtime. Photo from the now sadly defunct website PortlandGround.
An article on a proposal for tolls on I-5 in Greater Portland, which links Oregon and Washington, includes a link to a 2014 piece from Willamette Week, the alternative newsweekly for Portland, with more back story on how light rail came about, "Feb. 4, 1974: Portland kills the Mount Hood Freeway..."
Neal Goldschmitt, the mayor who "killed the freeway," started out as a legal aid lawyer who saw the city's plans for a bunch of freeways to be not only a bad thing but a hook for running for office. He got elected to City Council in 1970 and as Mayor in 1972. (The Downtown Plan discussed in the 2005 entry was passed in 1972.)
Goldschmitt didn't want to lose the money allocated for "highways" and proposed a system of dedicated "bus roads," but was convinced to push for light rail instead, which originally was opposed by the area Growth Machine, including the local newspaper.
But he was successful, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Tolling and I-5
The FreightWaves article, "Oregon Toll Proposal Pits Trucks Against Transit," is important because it shows how flawed transportation capacity planning usually is, because of the various political and economic interests, and the failure to employ more objective "transportation demand management" approaches, and other problems.
City Council supports tolling to ease highway traffic."
For example, I-5 is used as a major commuting artery between Washington State and Portland, and the backbone of freight transportation along the West Coast, but expanding light rail to Vancouver hasn't been successful, although it would capture a fair amount of car traffic, thereby "adding capacity" for freight and other uses.
Note that the Tri-Met Yellow Line ("Interstate"), was originally intended to terminate in Vancouver, but the political complexity added to the project by attempting to serve two states led the transit agency to drop the Washington State connection in order to start building the project.
Currently, Oregon laws as currently written only allow toll revenues to be used for road projects, not transit and sustainable transportation. And the various trucking lobbies want the funds to be used solely for adding lanes.
From the article:
Truckers support tolls that would increase efficiencies and offset the cost of congestion, said Jana Jarvis, the head of the Oregon Trucking Associations (OTA). "But," said Jarvis, who represented trucking interests on a committee studying the tolling, "we want additional lanes, additional road capacity."
The Washington Trucking Associations referred FreightWaves to Vanderpol for comment. He echoed OTA's position. "We are supportive of tolls if they create new road capacity."
That contingency doesn't sit well with the Street Trust, a Portland-based bike, pedestrian and transit advocacy group. The FHA's approval called for the state to study a hugely complex set of issues, including how tolling revenue will be spent, and what impact it will have on neighborhood traffic and low- income residents, noted Richa Poudyal, the Street Trust's advocacy director.
"In this next phase we advocate for [toll] revenue to be allocated for transit improvements rather than highway projects," Poudyal said. "If the proposal doesn't address those considerations, or if the revenue is only used for highways, we won't support it."