Parking Space Tax Fails the Transparency Test

As Oregonians wrestle with how both to maintain and expand our highway transportation system, the debate over new funding sources is heating up. Now, an old idea that never got any traction is once again coming to the fore.

Fifteen years ago, Portland’s regional public transit system, Tri-Met, considered imposing a tax on commercial parking spaces. At the time, the Portland region had about 700,000 asphalt parking spaces at malls and other commercial locations. Now, there are about one million such spaces.

Downtown developer and former Oregon Transportation Commission member John Russell thinks a statewide parking space tax makes sense now for several reasons. He sees such a tax as both “climate friendly” and a sprawl fighter.

Russell and I both were appointed by Governor Ted Kulongoski to the thirty-member Task Force on Comprehensive Revenue Restructuring, charged with making revenue reform recommendations to the next legislative session in 2009. At the March 13 task force meeting, Russell said that retailers currently have an incentive to locate at or beyond the edge of urban areas because land is cheaper there. A parking space tax will raise the cost of such decisions, possibly encouraging retailers to locate closer in where they may need to provide fewer parking spaces because of public transit options. Fewer auto miles driven translate, he believes, into a “climate friendly” policy.

Russell argued that raising the gasoline tax is not a politically viable transportation solution because it is politically unpopular. The parking space tax, on the other hand, will be invisible to shoppers since it will be imposed on retailers, not shoppers. He believes this has the political benefit of taxing people who often aren’t voters, apparently recognizing that retail owners might be out-of-staters.

After his presentation, a task force member asked Russell if such a tax might make shoppers mad. He responded no, since it would be invisible to them. Shoppers wouldn’t be asked to pay it, he continued; the retailers would pay.

I then asked Russell if such a proposal wouldn’t violate a key principle of what is widely seen as good tax policy, namely that taxes should be transparent. Shouldn’t shoppers know they’re being taxed to park at a mall? Russell responded that it would be difficult to make all the taxes buried in the price of consumer goods transparent. I agreed that doing so might be difficult; but given that he’s proposing a new tax, shouldn’t we start here and at least make sure that this one is transparent?

I reminded task force members that businesses don’t pay taxes. They simply pass taxes on to various individuals, and we often don’t know who exactly bears the burden. In the case of a new parking space tax, retailers might pass their increased costs on to shoppers in the form of higher prices or to employees in the form of lower wages. In either case, shoppers and/or employees likely would blame the retailers instead of understanding that those costs were actually imposed upon them by government tax policy.

I concluded my remarks by explaining that transparency requires us to be honest about whom we want to tax. If we want to tax shoppers, then we should tax them openly and not make business our hidden tax collector. That ended the task force discussion on this issue, but it may have been just the beginning of a larger discussion about how we ensure transparency in any tax reform proposals.

If a tax is hidden from those who ultimately pay it, people can’t evaluate either its costs or benefits to themselves or others. A hidden tax also can be easily raised, without those who feel the impact even knowing what happened.

The more that taxes are invisible to those who ultimately pay them, the more likely taxpayers will view the entire tax system as unfair. Unless we want to fool citizens about who actually pays which taxes, we need to make transparency a key feature of any tax proposal. Otherwise, we do a disservice to the very taxpayers government is meant to serve.

You can listen to the entire March 13, 2008 Task Force meeting here. The parking space tax discussion begins 2 hours and 16 minutes into the three-hour meeting.

Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Steve Buckstein is Director of Cascade’s Government Transparency Project and the Oregon Economic Opportunity Project. Based in Portland, Cascade Policy Institute is Oregon’s free market think tank.

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  • Matt Evans

    As you’ve identified, Steve, lack of transparency is a significant problem in Oregon’s revenue system. This extends from the state to the local level. For instance, many of your utility bills (electric, cable, telephone, etc) can contain what’s known as a “franchise fee.” This is normally equal to about 7 percent of the gross revenue of the utility involved, and the entire amount is charged to ratepayers. Only about half shows up as a line item on the utility bill. The rest is hidden in the rate. This was one of the root causes of the recent tax revolt in Damascus, Oregon.

    I found Russell’s arguments about what is “politically viable” very interesting. He’s right, of course, that a gas tax increase is out of the question; the last such effort received a 12 percent “yes” vote, even less popular than a general sales tax. I trust he doesn’t believe that only by tricking taxpayers can revenues for transportation infrastructure be freed up. Dishonesty and trickery aren’t “politically viable” either.

    An honest user fee where visitors would have to pay $3-$5 every time they visit Washington Square or Clackamas Town Center would have a much different effect then Mr. Russell probably believes it would.

  • Jerry

    Of course they (libs and dems) always hide fees and taxes. Why wouldn’t they?
    They will stop at nothing in their self-centered quest for power, money, and control.
    The tax has nothing to do with traffic, pollution, congestion, or anything else. Just power and control.

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Doesn’t it make you frankly feel a little creepy about someone who wants to institute a tax, to raise revenue the people would not otherwise contribute as well as change peoples behavior making people more “climate friendly” all without them knowing?

    Frankly, government constantly seeking hidden ways to tax people amounts essentially to theft. Trying to change their behavior in this same hidden fashion amounts to little more than trying to feed the megalomania impulses of those who would rule others.


    Wow, such ingenuity from liberals these days, if they spent as much time figuring how to cut obvious waste, they would need to design invisible taxes. E.G. Pull the whole over the people eyes!

  • stop the tax and spenders

    The only reason a higher gas tax will not fly is because our gas taxes are being spent on everything, but our roads!

    Trams, streetcars, Light rail, Bike paths, bubble curbs, sidewalks and subsidizing Smart Growth Projects . If you want your roads fixed, the Auto user should have to pay more!!!!

    Time for auto and truck taxes to only be spent on roads and added capacity and all the other transportation options should be paid for
    by the users too!

  • EconomistNOTE

    Right now those who don’t drive to the mall are paying for parking for those who do. Because it’s bundled into the cost, non-drivers are subsidizing drivers.

    So, if we’re going to make the taxes transparent, we could also make the costs of doing business transparent — that is, on your receipt, it could say “product cost” “labor” “property taxes” “parking lot creation and upkeep” and soforth.

    The current system isn’t transparent at all. Parking taxes do nothing to change that.

    • Steve Buckstein

      EconomistNOTE, I don’t think your analogy of disclosing business costs and disclosing taxes holds up. You don’t have to shop at any particular retailer or mall. A private business has no obligation to tell customers its cost structure. They must disclose such details to their owners and investors, but not to customers.

      Government, on the other hand, generally monopolizes its services and demands taxes from its citizens to provide those services. It seems the least that government can do is be transparent about who it is taxing, how much the tax is, and how that money is spent.

    • jim karlocik

      “non-drivers are subsidizing drivers.”

      *JK:* A good start at ending subsidies would be to have transit users pay their full cost of about $9 every time they step on a TriMeth vehicle.


  • Tim Lyman

    “Russell said that retailers currently have an incentive to locate at or beyond the edge of urban areas because land is cheaper there.”

    How ignorant and foolish can you get?

    Retailers locate where customers are or are likely to be in the near future. Shopping center and mall developers spend enormous sums of money studying growth and traffic patterns before they spend a dime on real estate. No one builds a mall in the middle of nowhere.

    And then, of course, there’s the simple fact that almost every Oregon city large and prosperous enough to support shoppping mall developent has some form of urban growth boundary preventing development “beyond the edge of urban areas.”

  • Jerry

    This whole silly idea only strengthens my original idea of several months ago for tax breaks for bike riders.
    Where is some originality in thought from these politicos??

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Bike riders, like mass transit riders are already heavily subsidized by businesses ( local transit taxes ) and automobile drivers ( gas taxes ).

      You want a tax break on top of all that? I don’t think so.

      One nice idea would be to tax bike riders in the form of registration fees to help pay for bike lanes. Requiring licensing would also be nice so that when bicyclists blow through a red light they can be written up, with some actual enforcement power, just like everyone else.

      Of course, if its all about using less energy and reducing traffic congestion, then a much more efficient vehicle would be the motorcycle, not the bicycle. Licensing, registration and taxing is already in place and gas use is lower than a hybrid.

      • Jerry

        Bike riders have little, if any, effect on the streets regarding wear and tear. Bike lanes cost only the paint to line them out. Bike riders do not contribute to grid-lock, parking problems, traffic jams, pollution, noise, etc.
        I repeat my call for tax BREAKS for bike riders – they help, not hurt.
        Am I the only one who can figure this out?

        • Congestion is a choice

          Cars have very little impact on our roads because the roads are build to carry big Tri- Met buses that do damage to the streets and trucks that do pay weigh and mile taxes on top of their fuel taxes.

          Shopping areas need parking so they can attract customers.
          with out parking they don’t do well

          The worst performing Nordstrom is in down town Portland
          The worst performing Meier and Frank was down town Portland
          and much of downtown is subsidized

          We didn’t have parking problems and grid lock until the the planners
          decided to build us into a congestion town.

          For years there was a parking lid on downtown and it killed business and now 80% of business is no longer downtown but in the burbs

        • Rupert in Springfield

          >Bike lanes cost only the paint to line them out.

          Well, that, plus the asphalt for the additional half wide lane for them, plus the crew to install all of this and the land itself. Of course if you are talking about simply painting a line on existing roads, then maybe, but at that point you have now taken away from car lanes so you have to account for the cost there as well.

          >Bike riders do not contribute to grid-lock, parking problems, traffic jams, pollution,

          Well, using that logic then neither do motorcycles. Plus motorcycles are far more efficient means of transportation than bicycles. With the price some people seem to be willing to pay for a bicycle these days, they aren’t that much more expensive either. Plus, they are held to a higher responsibility standard already through licensing, registration and insurance than bike riders seem willing to accept.

          If bike riders want the privilege of using the roads ( we are constantly told driving is not a right, but a privilege ) they should start to accept some responsibility and carry insurance, pay for roads and follow the rules of those roads. The bike riders non use of fossil fuels does not constitute a right to have others subsidize his roads. Its a bicycle, not a halo.

  • Terrry Parker

    One of the real problems with funding highway construction and maintenance is that too much of the revenue collected from motorists is siphoned off for other uses. As an example, the Columbia Crossing project proposes to use motorist paid taxes, tolls and otherwise to pay for walking trails along the slough, and portions of the local match the multimillion dollar bicycle crossing, bicycle infrastructure and light rail. Before any new taxes are added against drivers who already pay more than fair their share for transport infrastructure, laws such as the one percent for bike lanes and other laws that drain motorist paid taxes from highway funding need to be repealed. Bicyclists alone should be taxed to pay for bicycle infrastructure and transit riders ought to have a surcharge added to fares to pay for more transit. Enough is already too much from motorists when it comes to subsidizing the freeloaders.

  • dean

    Steve…the tax transparancy issue is a red herring. Is the sales tax really transparent? Are income and payrol taxes truly transparent if they are deducted from checks before one has the money in hand? Why hold a proposed parking space tax to a standard that simply does not exist in the real world? Just to make a debating point?

    Bottom line is that public services, if they are worth providing, have to be paid for by someone. In the larger scheme of things, assuming one cares about the fate of the earth and humanity (a big assumption on this site I know,) a tax on surface parking spaces makes a lot of sense because it imposes a cost on otherwise wasted space, which could result in more efficient and economic use of land…not a bad thing if you think about it a bit objectively.

    • Steve Buckstein

      Dean, sales taxes are transparent to the extent that the customer sees the tax itemized along with the purchase price. Income and payroll taxes generally are disclosed on pay stubs. The employer portion of FICA taxes is not disclosed, but should be since economists will tell you that it’s really the worker, not the employer, who pays that tax alone with his/her own 7.65% FICA tax.

      By stating that tax transparency is a red herring, are you really making a case for not being open about who we want to tax, and for not disclosing the tax to those individuals?

      • dean

        Steve…what is to prevent a store owner in a mall from adding the parking space fee to the tab, making it just as transparent as the sales tax?

        I am not making any case for tax transparency or against. I am saying you appear to be using that argument as a diversion from the main issue, which is the wisdom, justification, sense, etc…of a tax on parking spaces to help pay for transportation AND as a side benefit help discourage wasted space and unecesary car use.

    • jim karlocik

      *Dean:* because it imposes a cost on otherwise wasted space, which could result in more efficient and economic use of land…not a bad thing if you think about it a bit objectively.
      *JK:* “ wasted space” – wasted in what way? It looks pretty useful to me – it lets you drive, quicker and cheaper than transit, to rapidly do your shopping. Or do you consider people wasting time and money on transit a good thing.

      Why does you side keep pushing efficient land use, more economic land use and totally ignore the FACT that:
      * mass transit is less efficient than driving.
      * high density is more expensive than low density.
      * mass transit wastes people’s time
      * high density is more congested.

      PS: CO2 DOES NOT cause significant global warming at the current levels.
      PS: CO2 helps plants grow and has already raised plant productivity by double digit percentages.
      PS: Did you see the announcement that the USA may have 10 times as much oil reserves as thought and may necome completely energy independent as a result.


      • dean

        Jim K…I did not know I had a side. I thought I was just speaking for myself.

        Many commercial projects, particularly large box retail, large malls, and mini-malls build parking areas that are large enough to handle their “peak week,” which is in December. The rest of the year a large percent of their parking spaces just sit there empty, rain falling on pavement, carrying crap into our streams and degrading them. And the acres of asphalt make walking, cycling, and transit not very appealing.

        Driving oneself around may be cheaper and quicker than transit, unless one is stuck on the Banfield at 8 AM watching the loaded MAX whiz by, or is stuck on a surface street while bikes whiz past, or unless the price fo gas keeps going up. And even then you have to account for time spent in the gym after work when you could have gotten your exercise walking or cycling, perhaps combined with a bus or rail ride. I did a cycle/train commute for 11 years from Portland to Gresham and was in the best shape of my life (sigh). it took and extra hour a day, but I saved time and money on the gym membership my colleagues paid for.

        Your assumptions on comparative costs need some checking. The correct answer is “it all depends.” High rises over 75 feet tall are more expensive per square foot than low rises by about 30% primarily die to structural requirements and fire codes, but a high underlying land value can make high rises cheaper, which is why Hong Kong and New York look the way they do. And a single family housing developer who can spread street, utility and land costs across 8 units per acre can sell cheaper than one who builds at 4 units per acre. Space costs money.

        “Congestion,” if you mean car traffic, can be worse at lower densities than mid densities because there may be more total car trips. Again…it depends…

        No Jim…I did not see the “announcement” that we have 10 times more than the 3% or so of the world’s oil supply that is believed to be in the U.S.. Since global warming is no problem according to you, that is great news. We ought to quickly drill it, suck it out, and burn it up before we end up designing cars that don’t need oil by mistake.

        • Chris McMullen

          Dean, you just can’t keep from making a fool of yourself can you?

          Coming from a person who’s intrinsically tied to the retail industry, I can assure you parking lots are not built to size for the December rush. Private business owners have to pay for their parking lot regardless of what time of year it is. They maximize how many spaces make sense by extrapolating trends over the entire year.

          Take a peak at Washington Square’s packed parking lot at pretty much any time of year. Of course, Washington Square isn’t a product of your stupid, utopian subsidies and ideology.

          God, Dean I swear you just make crap up to get attention.

          • dean

            Chris…your personal insults and unsubstantiated accusations aside, the over-sizing of parking lots for peak periods is a well known, long used approach of many suburban retailers. This is why Portland and other communities have changed their minimum required spaces to maximum allowed spaces….to cut down on unnecessary paving.

            If you don’t believe me, I’ll find some citations for you to chew on.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            And thus we see the basic assumption of those who love and trust big government.

            Of course it would be foolish to think business and mall builders know the amount of parking spaces appropriate for any given mall. I mean they are paying for them and putting the effort into building them. It would be foolish to think they have any knowledge whatsoever of how many parking spaces are appropriate.

            On the other hand, Government, with no financial stake, no experience in running shopping malls and no responsibility for any decision they make should be assumed to have the correct answer as to the correct number of parking spaces.

            Quick Oh Wise and Powerful All Knowing Government – Stop the foolish developers from wasting all of their money building parking spaces based upon one week in December.

            As an aside, anyone who thinks parking lots in malls are oversized just for one week in Christmas clearly does not do the Christmas shopping in their family. I can assure you this is not so.

        • Steve Buckstein

          Dean, you say that “Driving oneself around may be cheaper and quicker than transit, unless one is stuck on the Banfield at 8 AM watching the loaded MAX whiz by…”

          I used to think this argument had some validity, until I started driving the Banfield regularly during the morning rush hour. Unless there’s an accident, it’s rare to see more than one Max train “whiz by” while driving from 39th to I5 going into town. That’s because they don’t (and virtually can’t) run closer than about every five minutes. So, a driver may see several hundred people “whizzing by” (seated and standing) once on that segment of their trip, but over the entire 3-hour morning rush something like 7 or 8 times more people get into town on the Banfield versus getting their on the train. Max is simply not high capacity transit.

          • dean

            Steve…fortunatley I am not a commuter. But I do business downtown, and at times cycle in, at times drive in on Foster-Powell, at times drive in on the Banfield, and at times take the light rail, sometimes combined with cycling.

            As a general rule, it is quicker for me as an individual to drive in rather than to cycle or use transit. It is not likely cheaper or faster when I factor in nearly $4 a gallon gas, other car operational costs, parking and a gym membership, not to mention my contribution to air pollution. Contrary to libertarian thought, individual choices do not always add up to what is best for society as a whole.

            We need transit, safe bicycle routes, wide sidewalks, and improved auto routes….all of the above. A maturing city needs many options for getting around. We clearly can’t afford “all of the above” at present rates of taxation. So we either raise some taxes or fees to support the infrastructure that allows us all to get around OR we eliminate some of the choices (as many who write in here advocate) or we watch our ability to get around, and eventually our economy grind to a crawl.

            As for Rupert, as usual you seem to miss the point. Planning regulations for decades have established minimum and maximum levels of parking that must be provided by commercial developers. Do planners “know better?” I don’t have a clue, but hopefully they base their numbers on evidence, not whim. A commercial developer knows from experience that lots of free parking and visibly available spaces along busy public highways results in more store traffic. A planner knows (or ought to know) that cummulatively, lots and lots of asphalt has negative consequences on cities and the ecosystems we depend on.

            So we could just leave it up to developers to decide how much asphalt we get in our cities, or we could have some rules that limit their choices in the interest of the elusive greater good. Reasonable people would probably agree to a set of rules that have some basis in empirical reality. Are you reasonable? Just teasing.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            Ahh Dean, always starting off constructively by saying someone missed the point. Nice try.

            In fact I am very reasonable. Unfortunately I tend to suffer from the weird delirium that tends to make me think that the person who bought the land should be able to develop it without government micromanaging every detail. I hardly see variance in numbers of parking spaces being some sort of “greater good” concern. It is simply social manipulation, nothing more.

            That said, the case would be hard to make that government is acting here in the sense of “the greater good”. It isn’t, and that is the entire point of the original subject of this blog. Government, especially with regard to parking, tends to act for societal behavior modification. These policies tend to never be decided by a vote, but rather in the same sort of Star Chamber, thus any claim to “common goodness” is quite suspect.

            Liberals think “the common good” means the good laid out by elites for commoners. Conservatives think the phrase should mean the good arrived at by the commoners and told to the elites.

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean, you say, “We need transit, safe bicycle routes, wide sidewalks, and improved auto routes….all of the above. A maturing city needs many options for getting around. We clearly can’t afford “all of the above” at present rates of taxation.”

            I agree that many options are generally better than fewer options, but you also recognize that we can’t afford every option with current funding sources. Resources are limited in the real world, and we all have to make choices. But, rather than use that truth to advocate for more tax funding, why not first look at the current options and see if one or more may be so costly that they actually reduce other, cheaper and more efficient options. As others here have documented elsewhere, light rail tops the unaffordability list.

          • dean

            Steve…sure…doing what you can with what you have makes sense, and that could include dropping light rail if that is the choice we collectively decide is best. But if the consequences are more cars on roads that can’t be upgraded all that much anyway (substantially widening roads within alerady built up cities is prohibitively expensive and disruptive) then what have we actually gained by shifting the insufficient funding around? And driving is getting more expensive by the day, not cheaper.

            I’ve never been convinced light rail was the best choice for Portland. But at the time that choice was made, lets recall the other option was the Mt Hood Freeway that would have destroyed thousands of homes and business in the inner city to make it easier to commute from the suburbs. The transportation conflict is between retaining viable neighborhoods close in versus accomodating ex-urban development, and light rail, trolleys, bicycle lanes and so forth have to be evaluated within this bigger picture. The Tacoma Street/Sellwood Bridge issue is a great illustration of this conflict.

            Rupert…I apologize for being snarky earlier. I probably miss or ignore your points as often as you do mine.

            But I don’t accept your statement that “conservatives” think common good means as told by the commoners to the elites, while we liberals have it the other way around. Political populism can and is harnessed by either the left or the right at various times and places. Your conservative hero William Buckley was as elite as one gets, and he had no problem advocating restricting of the franchise to those he deemed sufficiently educated or propertied. When liberals try populism we get acused of “class warfare.” When conservatives, whose main interest is protecting the rich from taxation use populism, it looks as phony as a 3 dollar bill.

            I don’t advocate either “elites” or “the people” as best positioned to make the big and small decisions that affect all of us. It takes both. Your beef may be that the suite of decisions that has been made over the past number of years with respect to land use has not gone your way. But to claim that this is the fault of “elites” ignores the fact that nearly every elected official in the Portland area supports higher funding for transportation, and they support multiple ways to get around. If “the people” feel otherwise and simply want a cars only approach then why do they keep electing the wrong people? If they want developers to determine the future than why don’t they vote out zoning, as Houston has done? Why did “conservatives’ fail to even run a single candidate for the Metro Council? Could it be that “the people” are not with you on this?

          • Steve Buckstein

            Dean, the consequence of dropping light rail doesn’t have to be more cars on the roads. A few years ago, Cascade’s John Charles published a piece in The Oregonian arguing that we should tear out the East Side light rail tracks and put in a dedicated busway which would allow many, many more commuters to get into town on rubber-tired vehicles without getting in the way of the cars on the freeway. The busway has the added advantage that buses used during rush hour could leave the busway at other times, providing additional transit options in the region. MAX is stuck going back and forth on its fixed route, which is not very useful to anyone living or working more than a quarter mile from the stops.

            An aside, Dean: I have to question your assumption that “…conservatives…main interest is protecting the rich from taxation…” If roughly one third of Americans self-identify as conservative (as opposed to Republican), clearly many of those people are not “rich.” Why would middle class and even some low-income people want to protect the rich from taxation? Clearly that’s not the “main interest” of conservatives, except perhaps to the extent that they see themselves as potentially becoming “rich” in our opportunity-rich society. In that case, they may be interested in protecting themselves and others from heavier tax burdens as they prosper.

          • cc

            “Could it be that “the people” are not with you on this?”

            Or could it be that the “elites”, that growing number of folks whose living depends upon the growth of government, are able to manipulate the system to their own benefit at the expense of “the people”?

            Surely you wouldn’t condone that?

          • Rupert in Springfield


            >Your conservative hero William Buckley was as elite as one gets, and he had no problem advocating restricting of the franchise to those he deemed sufficiently educated or propertied.

            Um, I think you might want to take a second look at Buckley. He went to elite schools and had a brilliant mind coupled with good diction. In that sense I felt quite a bond with him. However Buckley was hardly an elitist, quite the contrary in fact. His most famous quote was that he would rather be ruled by the first 100 people listed in the phone book than by those currently on capitol hill.

            As for populism, well, not much to say on that. If you are trying to hide a tax, it is a redundancy to say it is not populist, for if it were there would be no need to hide it. Social architecture, especially as implemented through taxes is almost never populist, and that’s just what this is.

            >But to claim that this is the fault of “elites” ignores the fact that nearly every elected official in the Portland area supports higher funding for transportation

            Just two words – $200 million dollars a mile – ok, that’s more than two words. Its kind of several word and some numbers and a dollar sign. Lets just say that one again – $200 million dollars a mile. That’s the cost of the stupid choo choo. Now, here is what I propose:

            Lets go down to the town square, you, me and a bottle of bourbon. And lets just go up to people at random and just say that number

            Me, in lurid voice, somewhat leering, maybe in formal wear, I’m holding the bourbon – “Two Hundred Miiiiilllllllllion Dollars a mile, that’s the cost of our new choo choo”

            You, reasonable voice kind of Edward R Murrow, interested but dispassionate look, I’m thinking maybe comfortable casual wear or perhaps yachting togs – “Question Mr. John Q Public – Do you think transportation needs more funding?”

            Lets see what sort of response we get.


            Oh, yes right – the obligatory boiler plate “oh, harrumph, hands on hips time, well…….$200 million a mile is nothing compared to what we spend in Iraq…….god damn Cheney………Halliburton………..Bush is so stupid……No one lied when Clinton cried…………Medical Marijuana……….Whales………Global Warming deniers are Hitler……..bikes……..bikes…….guys, the sound is really really good but I gotta have more bike path, can you really play it up?”

          • dean

            Rupert…bourbon is not my drink of choice, and I lack yachting togs. So I’ll pass on your offer.

            Buckley supported the continued disenfranchisement of blacks in the south in the 50s and suggested extending that ban to poor uneducated whites. Look it up. Yes…the phone book quote was pithy. Do you think he actually meant it though?

            I don’t know how the Portland area transportation issues appear from Springfield. From here (personal perspective), it looks like this. We have a lot more people and businesses who have come in over the past 20 years, and many more on their way according to responsible projections. The inner part of Portland (east to around 60th, west to the hills) are successfully accomodating a lot of this growth by filling vacant space, transforming defunct industrial and warehouse areas into mixed use neighborhoods, and building 2-4 story mixed use buildings along former streetcar corridors. Per square foot housing prices in inner Portland are way higher than they are in the burbs, suggesting that density is very much in tune with the market.

            The burbs are slowly shifting from low density, spread out, seperate land uses to moderate density and mixed uses. Much of this is because we have an urban growth boundary that restricts outward development, but much is also market driven, evidenced by similar projects in far flung cities and suburbs across the US.

            To the extent we get denser, a car only transportation system makes diminishing sense. Yes…light rail and trolleys are capital intensive, and bike lanes may be annoying, and parking hard to find or costly. Growth has its disadvantages. But the people and political leadership of this region opted for this approach several decades ago, and many who live here, perhaps most, continue to support the choices that have been made. Not always, not every project, and maybe not forever. But it has nothing whatsoever to do with what “elites” want versus what “the common people” want.

            Having said that, at times decisions get imposed on local communities (like my own) in support of regional goals that we locals may not care about. But that is local populism losing out to regional policies supported by the wider population.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            >Buckley supported the continued disenfranchisement of blacks in the south in the 50s and suggested extending that ban to poor uneducated whites. Look it up.

            I don’t have to, as I have read many of Buckley’s books ( not the spy ones ) and was a long term subscriber to NR. To my knowledge your assertion that Buckley supported banning blacks and poor whites from voting is BS. If you have statements otherwise I would love to see them, I doubt very much you do however. This is simply play 1 from the liberal playbook – ungrounded assertion of racism to slur those who disagree.

            That said, what you might be referring to was Buckley’s support for literacy tests. Now while it is quite true that such tests had been used in the past solely for the purpose of preventing blacks from voting that does not pertain here as blacks are not prevented from attending school in the same way they once were. Buckley was always quite clear on this, his position was that just because something had been abused in the past doesn’t mean it is invalid. I frankly don’t have a problem with this and obviously it is not elitism to require reading ability or basic knowledge of government to vote. One does have to pass such test to become a citizen after all.

            >Yes…the phone book quote was pithy. Do you think he actually meant it though?

            How astonishing that you entirely undermine your own argument in the span of this one sentence. You think Buckley really means something when you think it supports your position, and then think they don’t mean something when it contradicts your position. The only conclusion one can come to is that you enter the fray by checking team colours, not arguments. If they are on your side, automatically good, if they are on the opposing side, automatically bad. If nothing else this approach does simplify life. It does not for a fairly easy to defeat position however.

          • dean

            Rupert…from an editorial Buckley wrote in National Review in 1957:

            “The central question that emerges—and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by merely consulting a catalog of the rights of American citizens, born Equal—is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes—the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. …

            National Review believes that the South’s premises are correct. If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, though undemocratic, enlightened. It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority. Sometimes it becomes impossible to assert the will of a minority, in which case it must give way; and the society will regress; sometimes the numerical minority cannot prevail except by violence: then it must determine whether the prevalence of its will is worth the terrible price of violence.”

            How does the above editorial square with your “conservative populism?”

          • dean

            Oh…and the phone book comment. Would the fellow who wrote that editorial really want to be governed by randomly selected names from a phone book? We report…you decide.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            Hmm, interesting quote, unfortunately I was not a subscriber at the time and I never heard Buckley talk that way in later years. One would assume he had moved on. Its a nice contrast considering the leading Democratic candidate goes to what appears to be a devoutly racist church. I suppose at some point the Democrats will move away from their racist past, but it given current events I am beginning to think they will not achieve parity with the Republicans on that score in my lifetime. That’s too bad.

            Anyhoo, given how you are perfectly willing to condemn anyone you oppose for things as far back as the 50’s and excuse anyone you support for far more egregious sins of the present there probably isn’t much point.

            I do wonder sometimes if there is ever an instance where you apply your own logic to yourself or your party? I mean given your thinking one would pretty much have to say that Bill Clinton was more of a racist than Buckley. He did after all attempt to appoint Lani Guinier who advocated exactly the same thing. The only difference is he did that in the 90’s. One would think the Democrats would have moved along, as Buckley clearly had. Guess its kind of easy to remain stuck in the past though when you are willing to elect Klansmen to the Senate.

            Sorry to burst your bubble Dean but you do know the saying about people who live in glass houses.

          • dean

            Rupert…I recall we had this exchange earlier to no avail. I’ll sum up my feelings on this important topic:

            1) I don’t think Buckley was a “racist.” I also think he was anything but a “populist.”
            2) The “democratic party,” spcecifically southern Democrats, supported racist policies for many decades. Many former southern democrats switched over to the Republican party as a consequence of Kennedy and Johnson’ adn Humphrey’s support for the civil rights act, open housing laws, etc…all of which Buckly and Reagan opposed by the way.
            3) I don’t think Senator Obama is a “racist,” and the very idea of this is ridiculous given that he is multi racial and was raised by his white grandparents, irrespective of Reverand Wrights rantings.
            4) I do think there is a “black racism” directed against whites, also Asians. I think racism is pretty much inherent in people in general, stemming from our long history as tribal people who were often at war with the tribe over the hill. We automatically are more suspicious of people who do not “look like us” or have different behaviors.
            5) I think we educate ourselves out of racism, and the long march of history (at least in the west) has been a gradual squeezing out of racist policies, pseudo policies, and acceptance of public displays of racist behavior.
            6) I think “populism can be used for or against racism, by left or right wing politicians.
            7) I think none of this has anything at all to do with taxing parking spaces.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            >Rupert…I recall we had this exchange earlier to no avail.

            We did actually. I gave up reasoning with you when you finally conceded that Democrats do racialize situations for political benefit. The difference being, in your mind, that when Democrats do it it is always for the good, when Republicans do it it is always to repress minorities.

            An absolutely ludicrous proposition – But there it be anyway my brother

            >1) I don’t think Buckley was a “racist.”

            Then why the hell did you bring up the suggestion of racism in the first place? Yeesh, words mean things guy.

            >I also think he was anything but a “populist.”

            Who ever said he was? You said he was an elitist, which he was not. He spoke and wrote in an educated manner, which some might mistake for elitism. It isn’t. In fact, it would be essentially impossible to be a conservative as well as an elitist. Laissesz Fair government, by its very definition, is non elitist.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            Hey wait a second, you know, now that I check into it Buckley’s support initially of segregation was in the context of evolving out of it rather than through federal intervention. A subtle but significant distinction as it does imply it should end, just not at the federal hand. He did eventually admit he was wrong on the issue and that federal intervention had been necessary to end segregation. So he certainly didn’t actively support segregation any more than most of the Democrats ( say like Al Gores dad ) did at the time.

            The important thing is he did eventually admit he was wrong, publically. Imagine if we could get to a point where a Democrat could admit he was wrong? I mean imagine if Obama could actually admit he was wrong for being a part of and supporting a disgustingly racist church? That would be wild. Imagine if Clinton could have admitted he was wrong for suggesting a racist for attorney general ( Lani Guinier ). Imagine a Democratic party purged of the only remaining cadre of racists ( Sharpton et. al ) of any real significance in the country? What a breath of fresh air that would be.

          • dean

            Rupert…first…”Democrats,” in a historic context do not equal “liberals,” and likewise “Republicans” did not historically equal “conservatives.” The Democrats who supported segregation were not liberals, and the Republicans who supported ending segregation were not conservatives okay?.

            When African-Americans like Reverend Wright express anger or frustration with the consequences of 200 + years of white repression of black people, I do not see this as equal to a bunch of KKK guys in robes burning crosses. The reason is that the one on the receiving end has a more legitimate grievance, so to the extent I may have implied that when “Democrats racialize” they always do it for the good, what I meant to say, or meant to have you understand, is that black Democrats (or Republicans like Clarence Thomas) who are pissed off and dare to say so in public or in print have a more defensible position. If you or I and our ancestors were crapped on for many generations, we might have as much anger as Sharpton and Wright and Farakan and Thomas have. And as Martin Luther King had on more than one occasion by the way.

            And yes…in my experience when Republicans “racialize” politics their position is much less defensible because they do it from the position of the oppressor. I mean…whose country club have wealthy white guys been excluded from anyway? Which bus did they have to sit in the back of? Which public school or university were they barred from attending?

            I brought up Buckley to refute your contention that conservatives are by nature populists. The context for demonstrating that was Buckley’s editorial on the politics of the south…about as far from a populist position as one can get. I could have brought up his support for Francisco Franco to make the same point…but chose not to.

            Impossible for a conservative to be an elitist? Have your read any Burke? The conservative fetish over private property and law and order means little to people who have no property to lose my friend. And lets admit that it has never been “conservatives” who have been at the front lines to extend voting or civil rights to: African Americans, Asian Americans, Women, Indians, Gay Americans, and down the line. What can be more elitist than denying the vote or civil rights to others?

            Yes…Buckley eventually admitted he was wrong on his resistance to expansion of civil rights to African-Americans, and the role of the Federal government in forcing that expansion on the southern states. A year or so back Ken Melhman, former head of the RNC admitted that Republicans had used racial politics to their advantage and gave a mea culpa. Someday…I can see Republicans admitting they were wrong to demonize Mexicans and Gay people for political gain….once that political gain dissipates and becomes an apparent loss. If you are on the wrong side of history you will find yourself having to apologize a lot.

            As for Senator Obama apologizing for his membership in a “racist church,” I suppose he should if that were the case. But I don’t accept your interpretation of his church, and based on his speech and memoirs, neither does he. Maybe McCain should apologize for seeking and accepting the endorsement of Reverand Ted Hagee? But lets not go there.

          • Chris McMullen

            Why would Dean want to do that? He loves the idea of feeding more and more money to the government class.

          • dean

            Steve…my reading of politics is that self-described conservatives may choose that descriptor for different reasons. Some choose it because of religious or social policy reasons, others for foriegn policiy reasons, others for economic resons, and some for all three. When President Bush attempted to privatize part of Social Security a few years ago, many social conservatives abandoned ship on him, suggesting they have a different view of economics than those who are conservative in part so as to preserve their wealth.

            As for John’s proposal, where would all those buses go when they are not carrying rush hour traffic on the Banfield? I mean, its not like we would need a whole lot of empty buses driving around town all day.

            The larger issue is the nexus between land development, density, and transportation. As I understand the goal of our regional land use plan, it is to get as many people as possible living withing that 1/4 mile distance of a frequent transit (10 minute) stop. With a fixed investment like rail, it is believed to be easier to get the zoning changes and private investment capital to create the infrastructure that allows the density. I know that raises all sorts of questions: do we want all this density, does density = more crime, and so forth. Too much to debate here. But increasing numbers of cars and buses within higher density surroundings make little sense because there just will not be enough available space. we can spread out, or we can pack in. If we spread out then transit makes little sense. If we pack in then cars & buses only makes little sense.

            Again….I’m not saying light rail was the best choice. But since we made it I’m not sure John’s suggestion to tear out an infrastructure built at great taxpayer expense is worth talking about. I mean…why not tear out the entire Banfield and build housing and commerce there instead of out in the burbs?

            Chris…I was unaware there was such a thing as a “government class.” I thought there were elected officials, some paid a little, some paid a moderate amount, many unpaid, and that there are workers who do sometimes hard, sometimes easy jobs for middle clas pay: firemen, policemen, park groundskeepers, teachers, sewer cleaner outers, meter readers, water system engineers, soldiers, administrators, clearks, and so forth. They tend to live in teh same neighborhoods as the rest of us, shop at the same stores, and would be hard to distinguish from a private sector plumber or landscape architect. I did not know that government workers constituted a “class.” Did I miss something important?

          • Tired of the govermemt class

            The goal of government class to force us to live within a 1/4 mile of transit is unsustainable .

            The goal of the government class to force density into our family friendly neighborhoods is none of their business.

            Tearing out the Max and replacing it with buses would most likely give us a better transit system improve ridership and cost the taxpayers less in the future.

          • dean

            To add a small point, I would love to see someone run for mayor of Portland or Metro executive on a platform of eliminating light rail, tearing up the existing tracks, getting rid of all teh bike lanes, and carving new freeways through existing neighborhoods so that suburbanites could get downtown easier. What do you think “the people” would do with that platform Rupert?

    • cc

      “Why hold a proposed parking space tax to a standard that simply does not exist in the real world? Just to make a debating point?”

      Coming from you, that’s rich.

  • David from Eugene

    Here we go again rather then discussing a proposed tax on its merits, the nonsensical dribble that corporations don’t pay taxes is being trotted out to justify business not paying their share of the cost of government.

    There is a clear nexus between businesses and road use, the bulk of their employees and customers travel there by automobile on the public road system. Further, the location of that business in the community effects the amount of road usage by its employees and customers, the farther the business is located from residential areas and other businesses the further those cars travel on the road system. One of the questions that should be debated in a real discussion of the merits of a parking tax is whether or not the number of parking spaces at a business is a good proxy for the daily demand the business places on the road system or whether some other method such as using the trip generation data collected by International Traffic Engineers association would be better.

    Of equal merit would be a discussion of whether the tax is needed or if there are other fungible revenue sources that could be tapped to repair and maintain our road system. A discussion of whether there is a advantage to the public by influencing the location of a business and whether or not this tax would get the desired effect would also be useful

    But instead of reasoned arguments for or against the merits of the proposed tax, we are treated to the nonsensical assertion that businesses don’t pay taxes because the money they use comes from the corporate revenues derived from sales of products and services to other businesses and the public. Well guess what, an equally invalid argument can be made that since most all money in public hands comes directly or indirectly from businesses in the form of wages, interest, dividends and profits that people don’t pay taxes and that we should eliminate the personal income tax and move the tax burden entirely on to the back of business. As to the related and equally lame transparency test, let me put that one out of its misery, the proposed parking tax is transparent, it would be accessed on the on the owners of the parking and they would be aware of it because they will be the ones writing the check.

  • We are building our way into congestion

    David from Eugene

    Here we go again rather then discussing a proposed tax on its merits, the nonsensical dribble that corporations don’t pay taxes is being trotted out to justify business not paying their share of the cost of government.

    There is no merit to tax autos and truck and or businesses again, just to divert it to transit, bikes and trails. Building us into to a more congested, polluted area only hurts livability.

    Parking = customers
    Customers pay for the parking when they shop in the store and bikes and transit users benefit because the store stays open and doesn’t move. Customers benefit by having the choice to go where they chooses.

    The new parking tax supporters want to take away choice by taxing it.

    • David from Eugene

      First, thank you for moving this discussion to one on the merits of the tax. You are right that it is wrong to raise a tax for one purpose and divert it to another, but I am not sure that is what is being proposed. I believe that the proposal is to raise money to pay for the maintenance and repair of our street and road system. Given the condition of many streets in Eugene I can see a clear need to make the repairs, and from studying our city budget I know that the money is not there to address the current $170 million dollar backlog. So I see a need to raise money. I also know that one way or another the public will be paying, either in taxes or in car repairs.

      So the question in my mind is how to share the cost of these needed repairs. The proposed Parking Tax is a possibility. I have serious reservations about it, as I do not believe it accurately reflects the demand that a business places on the road system. In my mind a Transportation System Maintenance Fee based on trip generation (from ITE trip manual or similar source) assessed on both businesses and residents is a better way to go. But I am willing to consider a Parking Tax as part of a funding package. What is not acceptable is giving businesses a free ride. Where they choose to locate has an impact on the transportation system, thus they should share in the costs.

      The proposed Parking tax would not limit choice, what it would do is reflect the cost of that choice.

      • We are building our way into congestion

        In Portland most of the system development fees and the new capital improvement programs spend most of the auto and truck taxes on transit, sidewalks, bike paths, Smart growth and rail projects. The reason they may say the new tax might be decanted to roads is they already spent the money that should have repaired the roads on something else.

        We have plenty of money to repair our roads, if it is not diverted to other projects.

        • David from Eugene

          As a matter of law the money raised by Systems Development Fees can only be spent on capital projects that increase the capacity of the system for which the fee is collected. Currently those systems for which an SDC can be collected are transportation, parks, storm water, sewage collection and treatment and water. So SDC can not be spent on maintenance of streets and roads. Road fund (i.e. gas tax) money can be spent for either maintenance or new roads, but there is not enough for both. Additionally as County government controls the majority of those funds so it can be difficult for cities to get road fund dollars to pay for maintenance. Those state and federal dollars that are available are project specific. Further these projects normally require a local match, typically 20% of the project cost.

          While general fund (i.e. property tax) dollars can be used for street repair, this is the same pot of money out of which police, fire, and other governmental services are paid for. So the competition for those dollars is fierce. As a result of Measures 5 and 47/50 those general fund dollars are limited and shrinking in buying power every year (government expenses are going up 6% and revenues 3%) so the competition for general funds will only get worse.

          Despite appearance there is not “plenty of money” available to repair roads. Which why discussions like this are going on in communities throughout Oregon

          • We are building our way into congestion

            2008 – 2017 TSDCs
            (Transportation System Development Charges)
            Portland Project List

            South Portal, Phase I & II $57,330,684.00

            Moody/Bond Ave, SW (Sheridan to Gibbs): $18,834,515.00

            South Light Rail $4,960,110.00

            Lloyd District Access Improvements $998,243.00

            Central Eastside Bridgehead $2,148,963.00

            Burnside/Couch, East – Phase I & II $24,946,554.00

            Burnside/Couch, West – Phase I & II $75,895,353.00

            Eastside Streetcar Phase I & II, NE/SE $7,300,000.00

            NW Flanders (Steel Br. to Westover): Bicycle Facility $2,392,336.00

            Going, N (Interstate – Greeley): ITS $950,024.00

            Lombard, N Multi-modal Improvements $34,517,517.00

            Lombard at Columbia Slough, N: Overcrossing $2,328,040.00

            Burgard-Lombard, N: Street Improvements. $8,940,604.00

            Argyle on the Hill, N Columbia to N Denver Ave. $11,773,032.00

            47th, NE (Columbia – Cornfoot):Roadway & Intersection Improvements

            Alderwood/Cornfoot Road Intersection

            NE Cully Blvd $5,255,633.00

            NE Columbia Blvd/MLK $1,029,430.00

            Twenties Bikeway $1,837,572.00

            (Marine Drive, 6th to 185th) Bikeway $2,130,835.00

            Seventies Greenstreet and Bikeway,(Killingsworth – Clatsop) $4,227,056.00

            NE/SE 122nd (NE Airport Way to SE Powell Blvd) ITS $515,703.00

            NE Airport Way (I-205 to NE 158th Avenue) ITS $278,251.00

            Gateway Regional Center, Local and Collector Streets $32,648,540.00

            NE Glisan St,(122nd – City Limits): Multi-modal Improvements $3,100,241.00

            NE Airport Way & 122nd Intersection $1,053,905.00

            NW Burnside at Skyline Road $1,850,716.00

            Skyline, NW (Hwy 26 – City Limits): Bikeway $8,088,812.00

            Yeon/St. Helens, NW: ITS $885,499.00

            Division Fastlink (SE Grand to 122nd Avenue) $11,180,220.00

            Fifties Bikeway, NE/SE (Tillamook to Woodstock) $1,595,049.00

            SE Flavel Drive $7,294,088.00

            Foster Fastlink (SE Powell to 90th Avenue) $745,368.00

            122nd, SE (at Morrison): Pedestrian Overcrossing $78,641.00

            SE 136th Avenue (Division to Powell) Bikeway $6,090,590.00

            SE Barbara Welch Road $20,191,557.00

            Foster Rd, SE (136th – Jenne): $16,963,856.00

            Powellhurst/Gilbert Pedestrian Improvements $1,473,288.00

            SW Capitol Highway $9,613,958.00

            SW Garden Home/Multnomah $1,931,033.00

            SW Hamilton Street $12,420,360.00

            Macadam, SW (Bancroft – Sellwood Br): ITS $401,794.00

            Stephenson, SW (Boones Ferry – 35th): Multi-modal Improvements $1,438,592.00

            Total $414,511,240.00

          • David from Eugene

            It is a requirement of the State law controlling SDCs that the SDCs [ ORS 223.309] that before a establishing a SDC the local government must prepare a list of the projects they intend to spend the SDC revenues on. It appears that this is Portland’s SDC project list. In many jurisdictions the project list is maintained as a “rolling list”, that is as projects are completed new projects are added to the list. The list can be changed, with public notice, at any time. And most important the jurisdiction establishing the list does not have to have the funding on hand for the projects at the time the list is established. So the fact that the City of Portland has $414,511,240.00 of projects currently on its SDC project list does not mean they currently have the money, only that they hope to have it sometime in the future.

            All the projects on that list are capital projects that the City of Portland believes adds some capacity to the system. For that reason a portion of the funding or about 25%, by their estimates, should come from Transportation SDCs. They are silent as to where the remaining funding will come from. Based on my experience in Eugene, I would guess that it is some mix of Road Fund (i.e. gas tax), local improvement districts, bonds and state and federal transportation grants. If that is the case only that portion that comes from the Road Fund could be used for road repairs and then at the likely cost of not building the project.

            Transportation funding operates in the land of extremely limited fungibility. Moving money from project to project or from capital projects to maintenance is very difficult when it is possible at all. Additionally, assuming the local government is willing to put up a local match, normally 20%, state and federal money is available to fund some capital projects. To my knowledge there are currently no state or federal controlled money available for road maintenance. So the local governments are on the hook for the whole cost of road repairs. As there is not enough money to build new projects and maintain the existing road system, local government has to make choices; like do the spend $2 million on road repairs or do they use it as the local match for a $10 million capital project they need? An interesting question, even before the “Bronze Plaque” aspect is factored in. For those that have not heard the phrase, it refers to the dedication plaque placed on many capital projects like bridges and buildings that list the officials in office when the project was dedicated, and the fact that you cannot hang a bronze plaque on a maintenance project.

            So while may look like there is lots of money available that could be spent on road maintenance the reality is that there is very little. Which is why local government are actively seeking additional revenue to pay for street repair.

          • We are building our way into congestion

            City of Portland
            Office of Transportation

            Capital Improvement Program (CIP)

            Executive Summary

            This Capital Improvement Program (CIP) request directs nearly $350 million of investment into Portland’s internationally renowned transportation infrastructure . Already a leader in transit,
            bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and smart urban planning, Portland’s transportation CIP continues to focus on key issues critical to the long-term economic health and livability of the City.

            Building on our past successes, this plan includes projects to expand our already highly acclaimed light rail system to add the downtown south-north leg, extend our award-winning Streetcar to the east side, and improve traffic access into the South Waterfront District. We
            continue to help realize Metro’s 2040 plan with village centers and main street developments in Gateway, St Johns, Cully, Division, and Burnside . Local streets will be brought up to standard and existing assets rehabilitated, including key bridges such as the MLK viaduct, Burgard Rd Overcrossing and Foster Road Over Johnson Creek . We will invest in important freight routes to keep goods and services moving, key to sustaining our local economy.

            While PDOT’s resources are limited, we have leveraged the contributions of several funding partners to focus our investments on those areas that will have the greatest impact on our system.
            By prioritizing among our many needs according to criteria carefully developed in accordance with City goals and our own new strategic plan, this plan represents a balanced, progressive approach toward realizing the vision of a safe, effective, multi-modal transportation system.

            Portland Office of Transportation (PDOT) plans to invest over $292 .6 million into the City’s transportation system in the next five years and leverage an additional $72 million or more of funds directly spent by its regional partners . While the types of projects vary widely, the following areas stand out as top investment priorities:

            Preservation and Rehabilitation ($32 .4 million)
            A top capital investment priority is preservation and rehabilitation of its $8 .1 billion in transportation assets . The principal funding sources of this program are federal funds, state funds such as Oregon Transportation Investment Act (OTIA), and General
            Transportation Revenue (GTR), PDOT’s discretionary funding source . Federal funding for the program has been dwindling over the years . Rehabilitation and preservation projects are not rated highly on federal grant allocations.

            GTR allocation for this program has increased $2 million since 2005 . This is due to the reallocation of GTR from operating maintenance to capital maintenance program . The City still has unmet pavement need. As a result, preservation and rehabilitation program
            is still woefully under-funded.

            Centers, Main Streets, and Neighborhoods ($203 .3 million)

            The Centers and Main Streets program is principally funded by federal grants and development grants from the Portland Development Commission (PDC) . These projects implement the vision contained in the Regional Framework Plan adopted through Metro to create pedestrian-friendly urban centers and a more livable city . Another objective is to invest directly in neighborhoods, an important element to developing vital town center. A third objective is to mitigate the density . Increased density means more congestion
            unless we can offer effective alternatives to single-occupant automobiles for getting around. Fortunately, Portland area residents have embraced transit as a viable alternative.
            Federal grants with some local match dollars fund the Streetcar, light rail extensions and Burnside.

            Economic Health ($56 .9 million)

            A major focus of this capital plan is to improve the area’s economic health, principally through urban renewal and improving freight movement . A significant portion of PDOT’s CIP program is urban renewal oriented, funded by the Portland Development
            Commission. Transportation plays the role of service provider, working with funding partners to ensure that the transportation portion of the urban renewal projects is completed properly . Funding for urban renewal comes primarily from tax-increment financing . Freight projects address the movement of goods in the region along main
            arterials . The freight program is funded primarily by state grants (including OTIA grants), federal grants, and system development charge funds.

          • David from Eugene

            Exactly what is the point you are trying to make? I am not arguing that there is not a lot of money being spent constructing a variety of transportation projects but rather that most of that money is of limited fungibility and thus is not available to be diverted to street and road maintenance. And while there is some fungible money, one of the “costs” of diverting that money is likely the total cancellation of the transportation project from which the money was taken.

            There may be merit in canceling or indefinitely delaying all transportation projects and diverting all fungible monies to street and road maintenance, but I do not believe that is a politically viable proposal.

          • We are building our way into congestion

            David said

            So while may look like there is lots of money available that could be spent on road maintenance the reality is that there is very little. Which is why local government are actively seeking additional revenue to pay for street repair.
            # David from Eugene on 2008-04-03 11:19

            I have only given two examples of pots of transportation money that could be used to fix roads but are diverted to other projects.
            Just the matching funds alone could do a lot to fix our roads if we stop funding pipe dreams!

            We have bad roads because our transportation planners like it that way.

  • Eddie

    I live about 2 blocks from a MAX station in N. Portland, and used to work in Hillsboro, a short dedicated shuttle hop from a station there. Assuming I always arrive just as a train is pulling into the station, travel time was 91 minutes each way. Without traffic, the drive by auto was 13 minutes, in horrid rush hour, 45-75 minutes. This experience leads me to cringe whenever I hear someone extolling the time-saving virtues of the MAX system.


    I’d really like to see a lane-mile study done of the Portland road system. I’d like hard figures on miles of automobile lanes now and in the past. I know for a fact that in North Portland, with the removal of lanes from Interstate, Portland (Rosa Parks Way) Blvd, and Denver, just to name three of many, that “lane-miles” have significantly dropped over the past decade. I have a sneaking suspicion that the figure has declined since the late 1970s, as the population has grown.

    For my money, I’m not eager to pay one more cent into the transit budget until the amount of driveable roadway begins to increase, not decrease. I don’t want to be told that constricting arterial roads to single lanes is an “improvement.” I don’t want it insinuated that thousands upone thousands of cars moving at less than 15 mph around the city is somehow beneficial to the environment.

    Stop with the chicanes, speedbumps, bike boxes, traffic circles, pedestrian islands blocking turn lanes, and every other shenanigan designed to impede traffic, and perhaps the citizenry will no longer begrudge a budget.

    • David from Eugene


      A couple of thoughts, currently the time lag between inception and completion for a major road or transit project is well over ten years. Which means the projects we start today should be those that we will need in the future not what we need today. This is not to say that current unmet needs should not be a consideration in the planning process, just that they should not be the only consideration. Given the increasing world demand for oil, the likelihood that we have or soon reached the global peak oil point and the weakening dollar it is likely that the pump price for gasoline will continue to rise. The question is at what point will the pump price change the driving habits of Americans and in what way.

      I think that before a major transportation project that is conceived today is completed we will have seen a change from the private automobile to public transit in some form for daily commuting. If that is the case then the prudent thing is to invest public money in mass transit so that the system is there when the public demands it.

      As a point of reference, the chicanes, speed bumps, pedestrian islands and the like are there because the residents of that street requested (i.e. forcefully demanded) that something be done about the speed of traffic on the street in front of their house.

  • Eddie

    David from Eugene….

    First off, although new freeways or major expansions do indeed often take ten years to complete, I cannot see that as an argument to never ever expand a road system. Since Portland’s last major freeway expansion gasoline has more than tripled in price, and the population has increased by nearly 50%, yet there are many more cars per capita at use. This would tend to suggest that gas prices are not necessarily going to end private auto use anytime in the near future.

    Furthermore, having attended neighborhood meetings where we’ve been informed of coming “traffic calming” in the area, I can attest to the fact that it did not come here due to complaints by any residents. It came as part of the overall transit plan for metro, a plan to enhance the multi-modal aspect of roadways… mostly by reducing the ability to carry auto traffic.

    It is absurd to think that, as a whole, people would work to return to the transit standards of the 19th century, in the face of emerging alternate fuel sources for private transportation. I suspect in ten years you’ll be seeing more high-mileage diesels, fuel cell cars, plug and go electrics, and synthetics on the road. Lighter, stronger composite materials are coming down in price, allowing for lighter, more efficient vehicles, and yet, here in Portland, we’re planning for the day that everyone spends half their day in mass transit. I don’t see it coming.

    Finally, I can assure you that removing two lanes from Portland/Rosa Parks, removing two lanes, then blocking the turn lane with pedestrian safety islands from Denver, speed bumping secondary arteries, and all the rest of the traffic calming that has occured in our neighborhood took a lot less than ten years to go from concept to completion. It would take as little time to restripe and bulldoze out the obstructions.

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