City’s new 2-year transportation ‘workplan’ steps up to Vision Zero

City’s new 2-year transportation ‘workplan’ steps up to Vision Zero

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This is PBOT’s biggest Vision Zero commitment to date.
(Detail from PBOT’s Portland Progress: A 2-Year Workplan.

The City of Portland has released a new plan aimed at re-energizing their Bureau of Transportation.

“We will be ambitious, and we will be accountable. We will move forward quickly and efficiently within two years to make this plan a reality.”
— Leah Treat, PBOT Director

Portland Progress: A 2-Year Workplan comes at a time when the bureau is suffering from stagnation, communications crises, the defeat of the Our Streets revenue push, and lack of a clear vision for the future (or a political champion to take them there).

In an introduction to the plan, PBOT Commissioner Steve Novick said it was needed because, “We need to revitalize the Bureau.”

PBOT Director Leah Treat has wanted to release a plan like this ever since taking over the bureau. During her job interview in June 2013, she told us that if she became director her first priority would be to, “stand up the agency from the bottom up and make sure that I have talent inside the agency… And to instill a sense of vision and mission with the agency and inspire each and every one of them to be excited about public service and what we do.”

As for how PBOT will move forward now that a politically-bruising push for new revenue is on hold, Novick said that the Portland Progress plan is, “a path forward with or without Our Streets revenue.”

The plan is split into five chapters…

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And there’s a sixth section, Shoring Up the Foundation, meant to serve as an internal workplan to be used by agency staff.

Here’s the key summary of how the internal plan relates to the public plan:

“While the outward-facing workplan lays out the many actions and initiatives we will undertake in service to Portland residents and businesses, this workplan articulates what we will do to make our internal operations more effective. This service comes in many forms: a renewed commitment to training, better communication within the agency, more effective ways of telling the outside world what we do and the value of the services we provide. The workplan also includes improvements to internal processes and continued attention to financial planning and financial systems.”

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When it comes to investing in staff, one of the actions listed in the plan is to expand and improve PBOT employee bike parking at their downtown and maintenance buildings. Another piece of the internal plan to keep our eye on is a promise to “evaluate the current interplay” between the Active Transportation, Traffic, and Signals divisions of the bureau.

Also in the internal plan, there’s an entire chapter on communications with goals listed to create a PBOT Communications Plan and a Public Involvement Plan. On that note, PBOT says they’ll hire a new “public involvement specialist.”

In the public-facing workplan, the meatiest chapter is on Vision Zero. We hinted a year ago that Treat would use this plan as a way to codify her commitment to Vision Zero, a belief that we should not tolerate any transportation deaths.

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Graphic in the Vision Zero chapter showing where street crossing improvements are needed.

The plan lays out several ways PBOT will approach this lofty goal. They’ll use a mix of street design that focuses on the most vulnerable users, educating the public and strengthening driver education, and enforcement.

Here are a few of the specific promises/actions in the Vision Zero chapter that caught our eyes:

  • Bike-Streetcar Safety: Develop and initiate research project for bike-streetcar safety.
  • New/Updated Greenways: Complete a Neighborhood Greenways Assessment Report, which includes design and maintenance recommendations for five new or upgraded neighborhood greenways, by 2016.
  • Central City Safety: Complete planning and begin project development for the Central City multimodal safety project.
  • Experimental Speed Zone: In 2015, complete the development of an Experimental Speed Zone Process, a method that will enable PBOT to evaluate speed limits on some city streets, and submit to ODOT and the Oregon Speed Zone Panel for review and approval. If approved, implement the new process and initiate a comprehensive evaluation of speed zones on all collector and arterial streets in East Portland.
  • Safe Routes Expansion: For school year 2014-2015, expand Safe Routes to Schools program to work with all public middle and elementary schools in the city. For 2016, explore expanding program into 10 high schools
  • Vision Zero Plan: Complete a comprehensive Vision Zero plan. Every two-years, complete a 2-year safety report and dashboard.
  • Targeted Safety Messaging: Select three specific audiences to target for safety messages each year and develop specific messages, outreach strategies, and metrics of effectiveness for each. Monitor existing and future safety programming and report on effects.

In the “Build The Future” chapter, we noted how PBOT applies the term “equity” to transportation: “What equity does mean, though, is having the same functionality, the same connectivity, the same opportunity to access the goods, services, and opportunities to enable individuals and communities to thrive.”

We’ve seen many plans from PBOT, and many people are no longer impressed until there’s action. Treat is promising to be accountable for this latest proclamation of “bold and audacious” goals. In a statement she said she plans to “move forward quickly and efficiently within two years to make this plan a reality.”

Time will tell.

Learn more and download the plan here.

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