City telephone poll puts PBOT’s possible monthly street fee at $8 to $12 per home

City telephone poll puts PBOT’s possible monthly street fee at $8 to $12 per home

Sidewalk to nowhere-2

NE Broadway and Vancouver Avenue in 2011.
(Photos by J.Maus/BikePortland)

An 800-person phone poll that wraps up tonight is offering some new insight on the city’s leading ideas for raising money for transportation projects.

BikePortland reader Ethan Jewett, who received a call Friday on his family’s land line, said the “main options” presented by the pollster were an $8-per-month flat fee on each household to pay for road maintenance and safety improvements, and a $12-a-month fee that would also pay for better bus service in low-income areas.

Whatever the plan, it would need to be either approved by city council or referred to voters, probably this November. The Portland Bureau of Transportation has said both options are on the table.

Portland has about 250,000 residential households, so an $8 fee each month on every household ($96 per year) would turn up $24 million annually, minus costs for administration, collection and unpaid bills. That’s in line with the $25 million figure that longtime citizen budgeting volunteer David Hampsten estimated in January.

Another $12 million a year would be just about enough to create one new frequent-service bus line, or to upgrade a few infrequent bus lines to frequent service. (The 12, one of TriMet’s longest frequent lines, costs about $14 million per year if you don’t set aside money for future retiree medical benefits, which TriMet doesn’t.)

Jewett’s poll suggests that the city is also considering some sort of fee on businesses, though it’s not clear if that’d replace some of the fee on residents, or match it.

City spokesman Dylan Rivera confirmed Monday that this is the second of two planned surveys: “One of many ways we are gathering public input on what should be included in a transportation funding package.”


Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick at a PBOT town hall in February.

Earlier this year, a different city poll queried residents on which improvements were most important to them, and turned up very strong support for walking and for maintenance of major streets, as well as a perhaps surprising amount of consensus about bike improvements across ages, geographies, and social groups. Now, the city is moving to test the public appetite for specific revenue measures.

Here’s Jewett’s full summary of the poll he received Friday evening, with his notes:

All the questions were framed as “road maintenance and improving walking and biking safety”

Main options polled:

  • $8/month flat fee on residents for road maintenance, and safety improvements
  • $12/month flat fee for residents to also include increasing bus service in low income areas

Within those, they wanted to know if the following things would change my opinion:

  • Oversight body for spending funds
  • exemption for low income
  • having business fees cover half
  • if leaf service fees were canceled as a result (all but one leaf area, St Johns, is is an affluent neighborhood)

They also polled funding options that were claimed to have been suggested by the public:

  • A few schemes pegged to income tax (Example was a person w/ $50k income would pay $15/month)
  • A couple were assessed with property taxes

Jewett added that he told the pollster that he’d oppose such a proposal, saying it seems to lack “a vision for walking and biking that is not about avoiding cars killing people, but actually encompasses the vast community and person benefits of active transportation.”

“This lack of vision is why we just get to look at other cities’ photos of amazing and creative ways to return the built environment being people-friendly (the new bridge notwithstanding),” Jewett wrote by email. “There was no information of what percentage would go to ped and bike stuff either, so it could be a total shaft and fund potholes and the City part of freeway projects for all I know.”

Opinions run deep on this issue, and Jewett’s views aren’t the only ones. We’ll see how other Portlanders think when the city releases the results of the poll, which Rivera said began making calls on Thursday and will wrap up this evening.

Meanwhile, the city is preparing for a second round of town halls, these focusing on the possible ways to raise the money it says is desperately needed:

  • Wednesday, April 16: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, 10301 NE Glisan St.
  • Thursday, April 17: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Kaiser Permanente’s Town Hall, 3704 N Interstate Ave.
  • Thursday, April 24: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 SW Capitol Hwy
  • Thursday, May 1: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Woodstock School, 5601 SE 50th Ave.

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