Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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.jpg
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.

I-5 in Portland.  Photo: Portland Tribune, "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."

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At 10:38 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

I've tried to explain this before, but the anti-car types don't believe it.

Our entire federal highway system is set up to benefit truckers and the logistics industry, not cars.

As a car driver, our system is mostly crap. Good network, but completely ineffective maintenance and driving quality.

For truckers, it is great.

What we need to be doing is finding make the subsidies more explicit. As much as I want to see gas in the $5 range, the gas tax is not the answer.

Also ties into that urban areas are being underfunded by both the feds and states. Tolls on individual cars isn't going to help.

I'd said before in DC we could impose a $1 tax on every box delivered via UPS/FedEX/USPS. That would quickly pay for WMATA improvements.

Good luck getting that through Council, though.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

hmm. Very good point. But it's like what I've written about in wayfinding or the idea of a transit network at different scales: regional; metropolitan; suburban; city and subnetworks within.

So yes. the freeway network is designed for long distance movement, yes mostly of freight. Conflicts arise in the urban areas where the local mobility needs expressed by automobile drivers conflict with truck movement.

... parenthetically, I was struck by one of DeBlasio's proposals for congestion charging, putting heavy fees on service vehicles, when you would want to facilitate their travel (workers fixing houses, etc.) and discourage single occupant vehicle use from Queens, LI, and Staten Island...

Chicago is another example. I've written about more shift to night time deliveries as a way to reduce conflict/increase speeds. E.g., it can take an hour to get from Tenleytown to Bethesda during the day and less than 15 minutes at night. Given all the rules about amount of hours, wait time at freight terminals, you'd think there'd be more of this.

I don't know, really, what the best way is to pay for this. The advantage of the gas tax is that it's easy to collect. Creating individualized payment accounts for VMT seems made for the company that Xerox used to own that is a big contractor for camera-based ticketing, or EDS, etc.

But of course, with a rise of electric vehicles you're gonna need a vehicle/driver specific collection method since yes, the roads still need to be maintained.

2. WRT your package surcharge, you're the lawyer... I'd think that this would be opposed on the grounds of it being an artifact of "interstate commerce", but again, I'm not a lawyer and there are probably workarounds.

But it's an interesting idea.

WRT Council/Mayor, I'm still pissed that car share users pay more per use in tax (10%) than ride hailing users (4%).

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt "anti-car" just some points... I personally am not anti-car, use cars, etc. I take on a seemingly rabid anti-car position, mostly because that positioning is rarely represented in these discussions. However, I was more zealous about it before, now I recognize that car accommodation is absolutely necessary in planning.

That being said, privileging car use, especially single occupant vehicle use, generally, isn't the way to go.

Similarly, cities have differentiated needs and optimality conditions that generally don't favor the car, and cities need to be able to plan and shape the transportation environment accordingly.

e.g., like the problem currently in France (and not unlike how certain transportation tolling practices favor certain groups in various places), we have to recognize the need for differentiated practice (including taxes, etc.) depending on the nature of the mobility network in particular places.

Unfortunately, like in the US, generally the practice is to make everyone drive, and when Republicans get into office, restrict sustainable mobility support, etc.

That's just dumb, just as not planning for freight movement in a systematic way is dumb too.

At 11:39 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Well I've put out the idea before that individual car use works ok up to a city size of say 300,000 - and that point further investment doesn't scale out.

And yes, I'll on board with $5 gas and restricting car ownership so that if you making less than $100,000 you can't buy one. Singapore as a model. However that is political suicide even in urban areas.

But I am suggesting that instead of putting taxing regimens as a "War on Cars" declare a "War on Trucks" and put that money into useful measures that move people. At least as a first step.

At 11:39 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

for a good laugh, read about Uber's goal of building automated scooters and bikes.

At 12:07 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

WRT the specific issue of connecting to Clark County/Vancouver and transit, I did take a Tri-Met bus from Portland to Vancouver I thought. It was a local bus, #6.

I don't remember if I only took it to Hayden Island, which is in the middle of the Columbia River and the current terminus, or if I was able to take it all the way in. Don't know if the route changed since (13+ yeas ago).

At the very least, they should focus development of enhanced commuter bus service to capture more SOV trips.

cf. BRT in Clark County/Vancouver is slowly expanding.

C-Tran already provides bus service to Portland, Express and Regional (just a few stops for either), and local, over two different bridges, to downtown and East Portland. C-Tran and Tri-Met connect on Hayden Island.

The regional buses specifically terminate at MAX stations, the local and Express buses go beyond MAX stations.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt "War on trucks" I guess I don't fully agree. Trucks should be prioritized, presumably, just like transit, as serving more people than a SOV.

OTOH, as you know a lot of truck travel after a certain distance could be diverted to trains, and that would pull a lot of traffic off the highways.

There is talk of tolling I-81 specifically to better deal with truck traffic. And the big CSX project modifying their network to accommodate double stacked containers was positioned in a lot of external marketing as being able to "add capacity" to the Interstate highway system. (I noticed some double stacked containers on a train on the Met. Branch recently, but wasn't in a position to photograph it.)

The trucking associations have always put a lot out there about how they pay a lot towards roads because of the taxes the pay. I don't know the specifics well enough to say whether or not they tell the whole story.

I do remember seeing ads in the 1940s issues of the Saturday Evening Post when the Assn. of American Railroads ran tons of "image advertising" and one was about how railroads pay property taxes on their infrastructure, while trucks get away without having to do this on the bulk of their infrastructure, which is provided to them via the public highway system.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

will search out the uber stuff.

on a private e-mail discussion we've been talking about scooters (and car share, etc.) over a thread lasting many months and I offered my recent take on Santa Monica. One person said an ex-colleague now in Seattle said he sees very little regular use of scooters.

I think it's important to offer, that the term "micromobility" is very useful, etc., but I don't see it as being a big segment long term. Older people aren't likely to want to use the mode.

separately, I somehow missed that Ford is shutting down Chariot... which makes me realize I need to do a follow up on intra-district mobility.

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

For the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles there is the Alameda Corridor, a dedicated underground tunnel for train traffic as a measure to reduce truck traffic (and to reduce surface congestion).

I think there is a new dedicated set of roads in Miami partly connecting to the airport that are freight only. But I can't seem to find the cite I was thinking of.

This report is along those lines, but not what I remember:

The Potential for Reserved Truck Lanes and Truckways in Florida

While I think the way Elon Musk is conceiving of tunnels doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and there is no indication that he really has a way to make them more cheaply, he did mention in some of the coverage I read the ability to do dedicated truck tunnels, which reminded me of this.

There are likely a bunch of opportunities to do dedicated movement that would have disproportionately positive benefits on congestion.

Hadn't see this:

Truck Route System for Miami-Dade County

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