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Archive for November, 2007

MSTIP and TIF

Posted by Peter W on November 27, 2007

I have some ideas about MSTIP and TIF in Washington County, and I’m putting them here for everyone to consider.

MSTIP (Major Streets Transportation “Improvement” Program) is basically a program where the county takes a bunch of property tax money from county residents (regardless of how much you might drive) and builds fatter roads that make it easy for people to continue to drive more and more in our increasingly sprawled out region. TIF (Traffic Impact Fee) funds essentially the same big-road projects, but with a fee developers pay (essentially regardless of how bike/pedestrian friendly–or car unfriendly–the development is).

Now, the County seems to think it is friendly to bicyclists and pedestrians when really it tends to just provide the bare minimum that is required by law (sidewalks and bike lanes). Currently the County is planning to collect $420 million over 6 years and of that, will spend a total of $20 million on ‘special’ projects, including bike, pedestrian, and bridge projects.

The County wants people to believe they are working toward a balanced transportation system, but thats just not true:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in MSTIP, planning, transportation, washington county | Leave a Comment »

Murray Road – A Freeway in the not too distant future?

Posted by Peter W on November 12, 2007

The front page image in the Washington County slides linked to from this post shows an artists depiction (below) of a project that I saw earlier on a WCCC road projects list.

Overpass on Murray Road

Alarmed by this, I asked the City of Beaverton about it (along with another project on their list–a five lane connection from Hall Blvd to Jenkins Rd which would go right though an existing neighborhood). It turns out that although these projects are on Beaverton’s list of plans, they are low priority projects that were included in the County list only because the County didn’t ask about priorities. It is scary though, that the County just assumed projects like these, that would obviously have a severely negative impact on bike and pedestrian modes, as well as neighborhood livability (or even neighborhood existence in the Hall Blvd case), should be among the first projects funded by the next Washington County MSTIP funding initiative.

In fact, the general trend in the Washington County MSTIP plans seems to be widening 2 lane roads to 3 lanes, widening 3 lane roads to 5 lanes, and even widening the 5 lane TV Hwy to 7 lanes. It makes me wonder – when does this pattern end? If the roads weren’t wide enough before, what guarantees that they will be wide enough after reconstruction? Will they just alleviate congestion temporarily while enabling more auto-dependent development at the urban fringes, which will in turn require another round of road widening projects? I also wonder what happens immediately after roads are widened? If it just enables more traffic, won’t that cause more congestion on the roads connected to newly widened roads?

People may currently accept MSTIP road widening projects as necessary and even convenient, but as we run out of easy projects and as it becomes necessary to tear down homes and neighborhoods to make way for more lanes, the political tide will begin to turn against wider roads (and has likely already begun).

But if wider roads don’t fix the traffic problem and people want an alternative, what can be done? Luckily there is an alternative.

The Washington County Department of Land Use and Transportation (DLUT) seems to have left one huge factor out of their supply and demand transportation equations – the demand side. They assume that there is nothing they can do to reduce the amount of driving people do.  But the solution is actually in their name – “Land Use”. Instead of building wider roads to handle growing traffic from new houses far away from businesses, schools, and shopping, the DLUT should focus on promoting infill development and new development in centers, where people are close enough to where they want to go that they wouldn’t need to use a car to make trips (or if they did use their car, at least the trips would be shorter). Resident surveys have already shown that people prefer this to sprawling auto dependent development; the DLUT just needs to start paying attention to what people want and help make that happen. The alternative — continuing our current path and turning our roads into freeways — means more noise, more neighborhoods carved up, less people walking, biking and taking transit, more pollution, and in the end, just more traffic.

Posted in beaverton, MSTIP, planning, transportation, washington county | Leave a Comment »

Washington County 2020 Transportation Needs

Posted by Peter W on November 12, 2007

Today I came across some slides from a presentation made in April about Washington County’s 2020 Transportation needs.

It had some interesting information about current funding and transportation trends, and results from a survey of 403 Washington County residents over 18 years old in May 2006. Below are some of the highlights:

In the last 20 years, transportation capital projects costs totaled $432 million. The 2020 capital projects needs will cost $2.6 billion. [I’m really curious how in the next 12 years we can afford to spend six times more money than we did in the last 20 years.]

There is an expected population increase of 44%, and jobs increase of 70% by 2020 in Washington County. Bike/Ped trips are expected increase by 47%, while auto trips increase by 75%. [Does anyone else think that maybe we need to increase our bike/ped mode split?]

When asked to rate the importance and performance of various goals, the survey found that “well planned to handle growth” was perceived as highly important but the county had low performance on this. Efficient use of tax dollars is also highly important to people but results show that people feel the county’s performance is low in this regard.

“Safety and convenience for pedestrians and bicyclists” was rated more important than easy travel to residential or shopping areas, quick connection to freeways, and travel times being maintained or reduced.
Regarding what was the biggest challenge facing the county, “traffic congestion” was rated as the biggest by 36% of people and “education and schools” was rated the biggest by 34%. [I’m a little confused about the numbers on that slide (p25) because they add up to over 100%. It was pointed out that overall, transportation issues were the #1 concern (65%), but I’m curious if that is just because they allowed multiple selection and gave more transportation choices (“congestion”, “maintenance”, and “infrastructure”) than other categories. I also wonder if bike/ped safety and convenience, and education, would matter more if school age people were included in the survey (hopefully the county isn’t intending to only support the voting part of the public…)]

When asked who should pay for transportation improvements, the result was:

  • 70% fees on new development
  • 55% was assessment on commercial trucks
  • 45% business income tax
  • 42% vehicle registration fees
  • 35% local road maintenance districts
  • 33% gas tax
  • 27% tolls on major freeways
  • 25% property tax
  • 12% personal income tax

(multiple selection was allowed, so #s add to more than 100%)

Note that more people believed a gax tax should fund transportation rather than property tax.

Annually, the current county gas tax raises $600,000 while property tax raises $20,000,000 (in other words, county property tax raises 30 times as much money as the county gas tax).

Among the conclusions is: “Keep resident values in mind when crafting any new funding package”. [Hopefully if they stick to that they will support more bike/ped infrastructure and shift the funding source away from property tax and onto other sources that might also help people make better transportation choices (like gas tax and vehicle registration fees).]

One thing this presentation completely lacked was any discussion about changing the demand for transportation, via programs to encourage alternatives to automobile use, or through land-use changes. I believe that if the County enacted a high fee on new development on the urban fringe where the costs of providing infrastructure are high and where alternative transportation modes are less convenient, then that could potentially have a big impact on encouraging infill development and development in centers. And instead of spending money on capacity improvements which will just enable more sprawl and more traffic, the money could be spent on providing bike/ped safety improvements, connectivity, and improvements in centers that promote denser development; the result would be less reliance on the automobile and hence less traffic.

Posted in MSTIP, planning, transportation, washington county | 1 Comment »

Most ready for ‘green sacrifices’

Posted by Peter W on November 5, 2007

Most people say they are ready to make personal sacrifices to address climate change, according to a BBC poll of 22,000 people in 21 countries.

Four out of five people say they are prepared to change their lifestyle, even in the US and China, the world’s two biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.

Three quarters would back energy taxes if the cash was used to find new sources of energy, or boost efficiency.

[…]

In almost all countries in Europe, and in the US, most people believe the cost of fuels that contribute most to climate change will have to increase.

[…] when people opposed to energy taxes are asked whether their opinion would change if the revenue from the taxes were used to increase energy efficiency or develop cleaner fuel, large majorities are produced in every country in favour of higher taxes.

And when those opposed to higher taxes are asked whether they would change their minds if other taxes were reduced in order to keep their total tax burden the same, the survey again discovered large majorities in every country in favour of higher green taxes.

“This poll clearly shows that people are much more ready to endure their share of the burden than most politicians grant,” said Doug Miller, director of Globescan, the polling company that conducted the survey on behalf of the BBC.

(view full article)

Posted in climate change | Leave a Comment »