Leaders from across the region on Friday, April 11, seemed willing to invest more — perhaps significantly more — in transportation.
More buses. Smarter roads. Better sidewalks and bikeways. All gathered support from the morning gathering of dozens of elected officials.
That support isn’t surprising. The leaders were spending on a currency of moral imperative, guided by a budget they’ve already laid out in policies that have been adopted from city councils and county commissions from across the region.
And they have all sorts of reasons for these grand plans: they "need" to cut "tailpipe emissions", and reduce traffic congestion, and improve peoples' health, and.... There's only one little thing that they don't have, and that's known in technical parlance as "a way to pay for it". And so it is that with their typical great reluctance, they're looking at tax increases. Who could have seen that coming?
Being politicians and planners, it hasn't occurred to them to look at the real world. If it did, they'd find that driving has been in decline for nearly a decade and is projected to continue to decline even more as increasing numbers of baby boomers retire. Moreover, since cars and trucks use fuel most efficiently (translation: fewer emissions) when moving at speeds for which they're designed, the best way to achieve their goal involves maintaining the roads so that vehicles aren't forced to slow to a crawl in order to dodge the mallards paddling around in rain-filled potholes, and timing streetlights to ensure that traffic flows smoothly.
To date, their efforts have been geared toward increasing congestion as a means of forcing people out of their vehicles and onto public transit. Yet if they quit spending billions of tax dollars on fixed rail lines that don't take people where they need to go and focused instead upon restoring bus services, they'd likely find that rather than continually losing ridership (as has been the case for the past thirty years), they'd likely see increases.
PORTLAND, Ore. — People are driving less, and their vehicles have become more fuel efficient.
While those might be considered positive trends, a potential decline in gas-tax revenue is one reason the Oregon Department of Transportation says it is on track to spend about $500 million less on construction in 2020 than during the peak of the stimulus in 2009.
Five years ago, the department's construction programs totaled about $800 million. That's projected to plummet to $300 million in 2020, the agency says.
The decline would hit all aspects of Oregon transportation, including roads, rail, bridges, bicycle lanes and pedestrian-safety projects.
So instead of focusing on roads and bridges, the politicians and planners keep pushing bicycles and rail; their spiffy new bridge, currently under construction in the Willamette River, is entirely rail-and bike-centric. So is their yearned-for "Columbia River Crossing" over the Columbia River. They seem incapable of looking at the real world and learning from what they see; instead clinging doggedly to their vision of utopia. And they're mystified as to why people don't trust government.