Comment of the week: Portland’s road-diet deadline

Comment of the week: Portland’s road-diet deadline


Southwest Naito Parkway, pre-redesign.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

How long is it supposed to take to drive across town?

Your answer to that question probably depends, more or less, on how long it took to do so when you moved to town.

That’s one of the ideas behind a comment BikePortland reader Carl Abbott added to Tuesday’s story about this week’s experimental redesign of Naito Parkway. Extrapolating a bit from the Naito situation, Carl speculated that as Portland’s buildings fill in and grow up, its streets might start filling up, too.

By reallocating traffic lanes on streets defined as having excess capacity, the city is essentially engaged in a citywide traffic slowing enterprise as drivers will keep seeking out alternative routes until all arterials move at the same slower speed (see the classic essay on The Law of Rush Hour Traffic Congestion by Anthony Downs). How the next 100,000 Portlanders fit with this goal is not clear, but there will certainly be tensions along the lines of the apartments without parking spaces conflict.

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If those next 100,000 Portlanders make the same transportation choices that Portlanders make today, our city will choke on its own traffic. Meanwhile, it’ll get politically harder and harder for the city to do what it needs to do in order to change that fate: to reduce the space dedicated to cars in order to improve more space-efficient modes like mass transit, walking and biking.

It’s worth noting that on many Portland streets (for example, Southeast Powell and Southwest Barbur boulevards) traffic has actually been falling despite the region’s steadily rising population. But it’s not clear whether that’ll continue — and if it doesn’t, it’s all the more reason that today’s generation of Portlanders owes it to those who’ll come in the future to act to improve our city while we can. Let’s find ways to reassign our road space before it’s too late.

Yes, we pay for good comments. We’ll be sending $5 and a little goodie bag to Carl Abbott in thanks for this great one. Watch your email!

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