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Council pulls parking mandate after affordability advocates pile into hearing

Council pulls parking mandate after affordability advocates pile into hearing

Portland City Council

Portland City Council: Steve Novick, Amanda Fritz, Charlie Hales, Dan Saltzman and Nick Fish.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Five days after the city council seemed headed for a vote to mandate garages in larger transit-oriented apartment buildings in the Northwest District, it’s put the proposal on hold.

The decision came after opponents of mandatory parking organized a letter-writing campaign and then outnumbered supporters nearly three to one at the council’s Wednesday hearing.

“We’re going to keep coming up against these choices: do we want a city for people or a city for cars?” said one opponent of the mandate, Rachel Shadoan. “I want a city for people.”

She contrasted Portland with her childhood home of Oklahoma.

“My memories of Oklahoma are of endless driving and miles and miles of parking lots,” she said.

Council says permit changes might better block parking spillover

There were also dissenting voices Wednesday, as well as a general agreement that northwest Portland parking policy needs changes. Among the options discussed were higher street parking permit prices, a cap on the number of total permits issued, some sort of restriction on which buildings could be issued permits or a mandate that applied only to market-rate units.

“As long as parking is cheaper on the street than parking off street, people are going to park on the street.”
— Chris Rall

“As long as parking is cheaper on the street than parking off street, people are going to park on the street,” said Chris Rall, one of many who said parking minimums should be used only as a last resort after other measures are taken.

Four of the five council members seemed responsive to that combination of ideas. Only Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she supported parking minimums for new buildings in the district. But she withdrew that proposal without a vote after it became clear that no other commissioners were eager to endorse it.

“I’ve learned today that there’s a lot of tools at the disposal of NW that we haven’t really explored,” said Commissioner Dan Saltzman. “I don’t want to see this disappear into the ether. I think there’s a sense of urgency, at least in my mind, anyway. I think we owe people in NW one way or the other a decision very soon.”

“This hearing has caused each of us to think about this problem in new and different ways,” said Commissioner Nick Fish. “I love the suggestion that there may be a new and hybrid idea out there that’s worth exploring. I love the idea of looking for a different way of rationing and pricing.”

“Parking minimums are extremely problematic,” Commissioner Steve Novick said. “If you increase the cost of something, you increase the cost of something. There is no way that requiring parking to be built does not drive up the cost.”

Novick said it might be possible to use Northwest to “pilot” new parking permit policies.

Today, the city’s parking permit policy doesn’t cap the number of permits in a given zone. In Northwest Portland, that means a $60-per-year parking permit is sometimes referred to as a “hunting license.” Once it completes a planned expansion, Northwest District’s will have 4,700 spaces available to Zone M permit holders. The city has issued more than 9,000 Zone M parking permits.

As part of Wednesday’s action, the council agreed to make it legal to let institutions like Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital rent out their unused spaces during off-peak hours. That could free up “hundreds” of new parking stalls, a Legacy executive said.

Developer: each parking stall adds $50,000 to building cost

nw portland new units

Each bar represents one building; the vertical axis shows the number of units in each. Buildings marked in orange would have been illegal under the proposed new rule.
(Data: Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. Chart: BikePortland.)

As we reported Tuesday, city data show that most new buildings in the Northwest District over the last eight years that have at least 10 units are being built with more than they would have be required to under the proposed rules.

But a few projects, accounting for 23 percent of the area’s new housing supply over that period, have less. One large project, the Tess O’Brien Apartments that start pre-leasing 124 studios of about 330 square feet next week, has no on-site parking at all.

Some people, such as Northwest District resident Iain MacKenzie, said mandatory parking rules would block such niche projects that cater to lower and medium-income people, most of them without cars. MacKenzie, who covers the development industry on his site, predicted that on-site parking would force developers to build projects with smaller numbers of higher-end units.

The one developer who showed up to testify Wednesday said that if the rules were passed, his firm would simply stop building anything with more than 30 units in order to avoid building any new parking.

“The cost of the parking stalls — they’re around $50,000,” said Frank Stock, vice president at MDC Construction. “If you just do the simple math, that’s decades to recover that cost.”

Others testifying in opposition to the minimums included Sarah Iannarone, who finished third in May’s mayoral primary; Margot Black, an organizer of Portland Tenants United who was speaking for herself; and Tony Jordan of Portlanders for Parking Reform, who had worked for weeks to organize opposition to the proposal.

“Northwest Portland has a toolbox full of parking management strategies at its disposal,” Jordan said. “Expanded permit zones, new meters, the recommended shared parking that we’re asking for — and pretty soon we should have better permit programs available as well. So I think there’s much less risk right now in waiting to see how these more flexible and equitable policies play out and then adjust them to work better, rather than applying a policy that might not work very much and certainly would exacerbate the housing crisis.”

Resident: Garages are needed so children can live in Northwest

117 NW Trinity 1912
117 NW Trinity Place, built in 1912, is one of many Northwest District buildings with no on-site parking.

Most of the handful of people who testified Wednesday in support of mandatory parking said they share the civic goals of those on the other side.

“Of course we need more housing,” said Wendy Chung. “Of course we need less cars.”

But Chung predicted that 330-square-foot studios with no on-site parking would become filled with “single professionals.” If all new buildings were required to have on-site parking, she said, then more people with children or disabilities would be able to live in the area because those people, she said, need to own cars.

Chung noted that apartments in MacKenzie’s 89-year-old building, which has no on-site parking, are renting for several hundred dollars less than smaller apartments in the new Tess O’Brien building. She said she wished that new market-rate units like Tess O’Brien weren’t allowed in her neighborhood at all — only buildings that would offer below-market rents.

Many of those backing the mandate, including three members of the Northwest Parking Stakeholder Committee, emphasized that they were asking only to be treated like the rest of the city. In 2013, the city began requiring most buildings with 30 or more units to have parking, even if they’re next to a frequent transit line.

“I see the parking minimums as a little bit of a tourniquet to stop the intense bleeding,” said Karen Karllson, a member of the committee which had voted unanimously to back the plan with new minimums included.

“I don’t remember that kind of unanimity in our past discussions,” Commissioner Fritz noted.

Novick: Citywide permit option might come to council within months

Street fee press conference-1

Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick.

Commissioner Fish, for his part, reminded the room Wednesday that the 2013 citywide mandate was “never meant to be the final product” and tweaks might be appropriate.

“We called it an interim solution,” he said. “We’re long overdue, actually, to take a look at it. … It appears to be creating incentives to smaller-scale development, which is quite contrary to our development plan.”

One possible solution before the city is to move on a proposal that a team at the Portland Bureau of Transportation spent most of last year developing: a new residential parking permit system that would enforce parking overnight, cap the total number of permits, and could charge more than $60 per year.

Commissioner Novick said Wednesday that he had been holding back the permit policy in order to do public outreach on its thorniest question: how to decide who gets to be first in line for the limited supply of street permits. He said he expected it to come to council “within the next few months.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Comment of the Week: Candidate Eudaly on her transportation background

Comment of the Week: Candidate Eudaly on her transportation background

chloe eudaly

Chloe Eudaly.
(Photo via Eudaly campaign)

We’re always glad to see the subject of a story show up in a comment thread. When the subject of a story happens to be a political candidate on her way to hundreds of thousands of ballots in a few months, that’s even better.

Thursday morning, Portland City Council candidate Chloe Eudaly jumped (politely but authoritatively) into a discussion about her positions on transportation and housing. It was taking place beneath our post about her late surge to make the November runoff against sitting council member and Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick.

Her transportation thoughts are, she admitted, weak on detail so far. But they’re strong on credibility — among other first-rate literary references, they included a story about her time biking around Amsterdam with one of the best-known writers about urban bicycling, “Dishwasher” Pete Jordan.

Here’s what Eudaly wrote, partly in response to Terry Dublinski-Milton’s observation that she hadn’t returned a Bike Walk Vote questionnaire:

Hey Everybody, I am very sorry I didn’t get the questionnaire back before the primary. This has been a hectic four months for me — working, parenting and campaigning — and I’m afraid because there was no deadline attached it kept getting buried by more time sensitive stuff. I will submit the questionnaire soon, in the meantime I can tell you a bit about my relationship to bikes, cars, and public transportation…

I lived car free for many years in my 20s and prioritized living within biking/walking distance to work. However, two things have changed in my life since I hit 30 — I had a kid who happens to have a severe physical disability and uses a wheelchair (he’s now 15) and we’ve been pushed out of the central city by rising rents in the past decade. To complicate matters, parents of kids with disabilities don’t always get to choose where their children attend school, so while we have always lived within walking distance of our neighborhood schools (currently Woodlawn/Jefferson) he was never able to attend them. There is no safe way for me to transport my son by bicycle, nor is there enough time in the day for us to exclusively use public transportation (I work full time and am a single parent), especially considering we sometimes have to wait for 2-3 buses just to board if the wheelchair spot is occupied. If you have kids, please imagine a situation where no one else has a vehicle that could accommodate your kid, you can’t ask a friend or neighbor to grab them in a pinch, and they cannot get themselves to or from home — this is my situation. So, I own a wheelchair van and a bicycle. I drive about half as much as the average person, and I rent more fuel efficient cars for my very occasional road trips, but I am dependent on the van until or unless I can create a life for us where home/work/school/medical services are close-in and reliabely accessible by public transportation (which probably means living near a Max or streetcar line).

I do enjoy riding my bike (a Linus Dutchi I bought from my friend Kim at North Portland Bicycle Works — one of the few off the shelf bikes I can ride as I’m just a little over 5′ tall), although I feel somewhat ruined for cycling in Portland after spending a few days tooling around Amsterdam on bikes with my friend Pete Jordan, who’s the author of In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist. Pete, a former Portlander and avid cyclist, planned to spend a school year studying urban planning in Amsterdam in 2002 and he never left! I’m looking forward to talking to him about his take on how Portland is measuring up on bicycle transportation.

I got interested in urban planning, humane architecture, and transportation issues as a teenager when I stumbled upon books by Bernard Rudofsky (Streets for People) and Christopher Alexander (A Pattern Language). I’m probably not going to have every answer you want right now because I’m someone who really needs to dig into issues and get a broad grasp before I start asserting opinions and suggesting policy solutions, but this is what I can say for certainty right now: Safe and accessible streets for pedestrians and cyclists are a priority for me and we need to be creating them across the city. I’m interested in what Bike Portland has to say about equity across our neighborhoods in regards to things like sidewalks, crosswalks, and bicycle infrastructure. When people cannot safely walk in their neighborhoods and many people with mobility challenges (growing in numbers with our aging population) are virtually housebound due to living in inaccessible neighborhoods, it’s hard to get them excited about spending $$$ on bike paths. I’d personally love to see continued and increased collaboration between bicycle advocates, disability advocates, and neighborhoods around these issues.

I’m also interested in incentivizing living close to home (some cities have special home loan programs for people who commit to this), improving our public transportation system including making it more affordable for low income riders like Seattle is doing, preserving and increasing housing in the central city for low income and moderate income earners in order to reduce commuting among other things, and creating more events along the lines of Sunday Parkways where we at least temporarily take back our streets for other purposes. Since most of our cities were designed around the automobile, it’s hard for a lot of people to conceive of why we’d want it any other way, we need to start showing them. xc

It’s worth noting that Novick would have had a harder time biking around Amsterdam with Jordan, because of his own physical disabilities. He tried to ride a bike while growing up outside Eugene but (as he put it once) “kept falling off” and hasn’t biked himself since. That hasn’t stopped him from gradually being a solidly pro-biking commissioner over the last four years, notably by choosing to take huge heat over the walking and biking improvements he fought to keep in the gas tax package.

We hope Eudaly will fill in her own policy perspectives on the ways biking can help create a less car-dependent city for everyone — and that the next five months will include some healthy debate between them over how to make biking improve the lives of more Portlanders, whether or not they personally can ride a bicycle.

Eudaly’s personal history sound like a potentially great foundation.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Portland’s 10-year quest for transportation revenue: A short historical recap

Portland’s 10-year quest for transportation revenue: A short historical recap

Safe Sound and Green press event-2.jpg

Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams makes the case for local transportation funding in 2008. Ted Wheeler, then the Multnomah County chairman, is in the background.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Tuesday’s vote to create a local gas tax, coupled with the previous week’s new fee on large trucks, marks a milestone for the City of Portland.

Though it’s only a small share of what it’ll take to achieve the city’s goal of making car ownership fully optional by vastly improving its walking, biking and transit systems, revenue from the gas tax will triple the city’s standing budget for new walking and biking infrastructure, from $3.5 million to $10.5 million per year. Those investments will demonstrate that this stuff works — and, as we argued last week, they’ll help deliver further economic growth that Portland will be able to reinvest in itself.

It’s enough to make you wonder what might have happened if the city had gotten this burst of new investment the last time it tried to: in 2008.

That wasn’t the first time the city has tried to raise significant new money to preserve and improve its streets. But it was the first one BikePortland covered in detail, so we’ll start our recap there.

Adams speaking with reporters
in 2008.

October 15, 2007: Then-Transportation Commissioner Sam Adams unveils a new revenue plan called “Safe, Sound and Green.” “The Portland component will consist of two revenue sources: a new 3 cent City gas tax and a SMF (pronounced smiff, Street Maintenance Fee),” Chris Smith explained on Portland Transport. “The SMF will average $4.50 per month for residents and run from a $10 or $20 for small businesses to $1,000+ for large retail sites. The SMF will be collected on water bills and both residents and businesses will be able to earn discounts by voluntarily undertaking certain ‘green’ activities.”

December 2007: A city flier makes the case for the program. “The last gas tax increase was in 1993. This means that funding for transportation safety and maintenance has not kept pace with the increasing demand or inflation and as a result, the City of Portland faces a $422 million maintenance unmet need. Multnomah County faces a $485 million shortfall for their bridges. In addition, our community faces an estimated annual economic impact of $412 million associated with needless deaths and injuries on Portland’s streets.”

Oregon Petroleum Association director
Paul Romain at city council in 2008.

January 9, 2008: Adams brings the proposal to city council. “Many neighborhood, business, and transportation activists are here to testify on the proposal,” BikePortland reports from City Hall. “Most will lend their full support but there are others in the room who plan to testify against the proposal. Among them will be noted alcohol and petroleum industry lobbyist Paul Romain.” Romain threatens to gather signatures take the issue to the ballot in 2008 alongside Adams’ anticipated run for mayor.

January 14: Adams tactically breaks the proposal into three separate actions, an attempt to triple the cost the gas industry would face for gathering signatures against it.

January 23: Romain backs down, agreeing not to put the fee on the ballot in exchange for some rate cuts from Adams.

January 30: The city council votes to pass Adams’ plan. “The plan would be a huge boon to bicycling in Portland, with nearly $30 million (out of $400 million total) going toward bike safety improvements,” BikePortland reports. But that same day, Romain and the Oregon Petroleum Association change course and say they will take it to the ballot after all.

Feb. 5: Mayor Tom Potter says the council should put the issue on the ballot.

Feb. 6: Adams agrees to do so, promising a high-profile fight to November.

July 24: After a city poll shows only 55 percent support for the street fee measure, Adams (by this point the mayor-elect) kills the proposal. “We will wait for the economy to get better,” Adams tells the Mercury. “In the meantime hopefully we will get some help from the state.”

A 2012 Oregonian headline essentially
blamed bicycles for potholes.

More twists and turns followed, including a 6-cent statewide gas tax hike in 2011 that ended up delivering less money than expected because driving declined so quickly during the recession. The city of Portland found new revenue in parking meters and a leaf collection fee; it also found new expenses when Adams committed millions to Tilikum Crossing and a new Sellwood Bridge.

All of this set up the bewildering saga of 2014, which essentially resurrected the Safe, Sound and Green concept, then retooled it as a progressive income tax, then scrapped the income tax in hopes of another statewide gas tax hike, which fell through, which led finally to Novick’s decision to return to probably the simplest possible proposal: A voter-approved gas tax.

Then, this week, after 10 years of internal and external rhetoric and countless news articles on the subject, voters got to vote.

Then, this week, after 10 years of internal and external rhetoric and countless news articles on the subject, voters got to vote.

And they voted for it.

After inflation, the four-year, $64 million package Portlanders approved this week is 40 percent smaller per year than Adams’s original proposal, and it’ll last 73 percent less time before returning to voters for possible renewal. But it’ll have essentially the same results — pavement preservation, walking improvements, biking improvements.

And unlike Adams’s proposal, every cent will come from a new tax on an activity that it is the city’s official policy to discourage: driving a car.

It’d be easy to see this saga as a pointless circus, and it’s certainly resembled one sometimes. But here’s something else to remember: 10 years is a long time in the life of a city like Portland.

This is a city where low-car households (more adults than autos) have been accounting for 50 to 60 percent of population growth for years. It’s a city that added 5,000 new apartments in 2012 and 2013 — and reported an estimated 5,000 additional daily bike commuters in 2014. It’s a city where auto registrations per resident are down 8 percent since 2007.

We are the Portlanders we’ve been waiting for. This week, we proved it.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Late returns push bookseller Chloe Eudaly toward runoff with Novick in November

Late returns push bookseller Chloe Eudaly toward runoff with Novick in November

chloe eudaly

Chloe Eudaly.
(Photo via Eudaly campaign)

Looks as if Portland’s sitting transportation commissioner will get to spend the next five months running against the candidate for whom he had nothing but praise Tuesday night.

Commissioner Steve Novick took 43 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election, sending him toward a runoff with what many people (including him) seemed to assume would be the relatively well-funded architect Stuart Emmons.

But Chloe Eudaly, owner of the independent bookstore Reading Frenzy and a co-founder of the Independent Publishing Resource Center and the tenant-focused Facebook community The Shed, has spent the last 20 hours first eating into Emmons’s lead, then (at 7:30 pm Wednesday) zooming past him for a lead of almost 1,000 votes.

By that point, Eudaly had 14.8 percent of the vote to Emmons’s 14.2 percent. It was a thin margin, but there are probably fewer than 10,000 votes left to be cast for either candidate (assuming that the two continue to take about 30 percent of the vote between them). Eudaly’s gains over Emmons have been not just growing but accelerating with almost every new release of ballots, making the chances of an Emmons rebound seem slim.

Soon after the 7:30 results, Eudaly was claiming victory over Emmons on Twitter:

Eudaly, a first-time candidate, has spent $18,000 on her campaign so far. Emmons has spent about $116,000 and Novick about $312,000.

Novick’s big lead in the primary and his incumbent status put him in a strong position for the general election. But the November election also seems likely to have a much larger and different electorate, as Novick and Eudaly share the ballot with the national presidential race. It’s not entirely clear which local candidate that might help.

Eudaly has had a laser focus on housing affordability during the race so far, to the near exclusion of discussing transportation. Its only mention on her website seems to be an endorsement of “less driving” among several things she describes as necessary steps to environmental sustainability. With the mayoral election off the table, Portland’s remaining undecided council seat will probably take a high profile in the six months to November, pushing the candidates to take positions on many issues.

We’ll be eager to be part of that push.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Ted Wheeler is Portland’s next mayor; new local gas tax will improve streets

Ted Wheeler is Portland’s next mayor; new local gas tax will improve streets

Sunday Parkways September 2015-7.jpg

Ted Wheeler crosses Tilikum Crossing during Sunday Parkways in September 2015.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland

Portland’s next mayor is a Multnomah County commissioner turned state treasurer who embraced protected bike lanes and more neighborhood greenway traffic diverters from almost the start of his run for office.

Ted Wheeler was drawing 58 percent of Portland’s primary vote Tuesday night, easily defeating opponents Jules Bailey and Sarah Iannarone, among others.

Wheeler also set himself apart on transportation issues by endorsing a local gas tax to improve Portland streets on the day he announced his campaign — a position that rapidly became conventional wisdom among local politicians and won a narrow victory Tuesday night.

“Portland is unique,” Wheeler said in his victory speech. “Portland’s on the move. Portland’s best years are still ahead of it.”

Bailey drew 16 percent of the vote, Iannarone 10 percent. Bruce Broussard, who didn’t make it to any candidates’ forum we saw but distinguished himself on transportation issues by speaking out against a redesign of Foster Road intended to improve safety by replacing two passing lanes with a center turn lane and bike lanes, was in fourth place with 4 percent, followed (in descending order) by Sean Davis, David Schor and Patty Burkett.

Novick will head to runoff in November

novick brown others

Portland Transporation Commissioner Steve Novick, right, with Oregon Walks Executive Director Noel Mickelberry and gas tas campaign manager (and Oregon Walks board president) Aaron Brown.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

The gas tax package, which included promised biking and walking improvements in every quadrant of the city as well as pavement repairs for various crumbling streets, was up by 4,268 votes as of 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, enough for 51.6 percent of the vote and enough for The Oregonian to call the race.

With 43 percent of the vote in his race, Portland Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick looks to be headed to a runoff with either architect Stuart Emmons or bookseller Chloe Eudaly. Emmons was slightly ahead of Eudaly Tuesday night, with 15 percent of the vote to her 13 percent.

Novick has been a solidly pro-biking vote on the Portland City Council, though he’s never made it one of his signature issues. He’s also established himself as probably the most vocal progressive on parking policy, speaking in favor of demand-based pricing, and on housing infill, which he has called essential to affordability in the city.

Emmons and Eudaly haven’t gone out of their way to stake out positions on bicycling, though Emmons did send us a photo of himself biking the Eastbank Esplanade a few months ago. On his website, his only stated position on transportation is that “our streets need attention.” Eudaly has made housing affordability, especially for tenants, her signature issue. Whichever of them comes out ahead, expect more coverage of this race in the coming months.

“It looks to me like I’m probably going to a runoff in November against the Oregonian editorial board, which is fine,” Novick told attendees of his election-night party. The newspaper’s editorial board has been a particular foe of Novick’s, endorsing Emmons and being the only local significant media outlet to oppose the gas tax he championed.

Wheeler win could start to reshape City Hall this year

Safe Sound and Green press event-3.jpg

Then Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler at a
2008 event calling for new local transportation funding.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Wheeler’s election is likely to immediately reduce Mayor Charlie Hales’ influence on the city council as commissioners maneuver for good relationships with Wheeler. In Portland’s unusual system of government, the mayor’s only significant power over his other commissioners is the ability to assign them administrative power over the city’s various bureaus.

Last year, Wheeler reportedly told an Oregonian columnist that he wanted to take the city’s transportation bureau for himself. In a March interview with BikePortland, he described that as an “offhand comment” and that he wouldn’t make any such commitements.

Also at stake: the city council is approaching a series of crucial votes on its comprehensive plan this summer. The plan, which shapes the city’s zoning maps, pits advocates of infill and housing supply against people who oppose changes to Portland’s physical appearance.

Here’s how we summarized our 45-minute conversation with Wheeler last March:

• Like his opponents, he supports expansion of protected bike lanes and neighborhood greenways. Though he backs the gas tax ballot issue, he thinks it won’t raise enough for those projects to make the investments he thinks are needed.

• Though the Portland Business Alliance, the regional chamber of commerce, announced its endorsement of Wheeler the day we spoke, Wheeler said he’s never discussed transportation policy with them. He said he does not agree with the notion (sometimes expressed by the PBA) that auto capacity should not be reduced on major arterials.

• He stepped back from a previously reported statement that as mayor he would take the transportation bureau; he said that was an “offhand conversation” and he’s made no decisions.

• His plan for transportation funding is to pass a gas tax in the short run, then get the 2017 state legislature to allocate more state and federal road taxes to cities like Portland. In the long run, he doesn’t think the city should let any of its pavement degrade, and thinks the city needs incremental steps to improve its credibility among voters.

• His first priority for all transportation investments is safety improvements east of 82nd Avenue. He doesn’t think all new transportation investment should happen there but he thinks East Portland should get the large majority to make up for decades of underinvestment.

• Though he supports increasing housing density by re-legalizing duplexes and garden apartments in residential zones, he thinks there’s some validity to the argument that new tall buildings can make nearby housing more expensive. He doesn’t see a tradeoff between “historic preservation,” which he values, and keeping housing affordable.

• Unlike his opponent Jules Bailey, Wheeler sees “training” as inadequate to addressing apparent racial profiling of people biking and walking by officers in the Portland Police Bureau. Deeper cultural change in the bureau is necessary, he said.

Other races

bob stacey

Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, up for election Tuesday but unopposed, paid early respects at the election night party for Steve Novick and the gas tax but said he had to get to a Richmond Neighborhood Association meeting.

Also Tuesday, Commissioner Amanda Fritz and incumbent Gov. Kate Brown won in anticipated landslides, Fritz with 70 percent of the city vote. Jessica Vega Pederson, who had a pro-biking record as state legislator, was elected to the Multnomah County Commission in an uncontested race in southeast Portland. Karin Power, who won a seat on Milwaukie’s city council two years ago on a pro-biking platform and has helped lead that city’s recent political embrace of biking, won an uncontested Democratic primary in the 41st legislative district.

Brown, a Democrat, will face Bud Pierce, a Republican legislator who has promised to “end gridlock once and for all” by adding lanes to every “major freeway.”

Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, a longtime bike commuter who is maybe the single most pro-bike politician in the region, was elected to a second four-year term to represent southeast Portland in the regional government. His colleague Sam Chase, who represents inner northeast, north and northwest Portland and took the lead on Metro’s recent work to approve mountain-biking trails on public land north of Forest Park, coasted to reelection with 77 percent against Colby Clipston.

In Bailey’s county commissioner district in inner southeast and west Portland, Sharon Meieran and Eric Zimmerman are headed to a runoff. The same is true for Lori Stegmann and Amanda Schroeder in Gresham and east county. (Expect BikePortland coverage of these county races, which will shape the future of the Burnside Bridge and Sauvie Island, in the months to come.)

Gas tax work could start in fall

treat bike

Portland Transportation Director Leah Treat with her official city vehicle, an e-bike, outside the gas tax election party.

The four-year, 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax will raise an estimated $16 million for each of the next four years, of which 44 percent would be earmarked for safety improvements to local streets — mostly improvements for walking and biking.

Among other things — including various sidewalk and crosswalk upgrades around the city — the project list includes new funding for protected bike lanes in downtown Portland; two neighborhood greenways connecting much of East Portland to the Gateway Transit Center; a neighborhood greenway on NE 7th and/or 9th Avenue in inner northeast Portland; a neighborhood greenway on NW/SW 20th Avenue connecting the Northwest District to Goose Hollow; and $2 million a year for biking and walking improvements near schools, which would be chosen in partnership with local school districts.

In an interview Tuesday night, Portland Transportation Director Leah Treat said that gas tax money will start to arrive in “late fall.” The city will then be able to start paving selected streets and to start planning the first round of safety improvements.

“We’re ready to get to work,” Treat said.

Correction 10 am: A previous version of this post got Ted Wheeler’s current job wrong. He’s the state treasurer. We regret the error; it was a long night.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Five myths and a fact about the gas tax on Tuesday’s ballot

Five myths and a fact about the gas tax on Tuesday’s ballot

buczek walking

SW Barbur Boulevard at Capitol Highway. The city’s proposed gas tax would add a sidewalk to Capitol Highway, connecting to Barbur Transit Center. Most Portlanders like sidewalks, so the oil industry prefers to refer to them as “other things.”
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Despite endorsements from big business, small business, every significant mayoral candidate and seemingly every civic or nonprofit organization in town, two major institutions oppose the gas tax on Portlanders’ ballots Tuesday: the oil industry and the Oregonian editorial page.

Last week, a poll showed the measure with a narrow lead. The oil industry responded Wednesday with their latest mailer (the “no” campaign has raised $165,000 so far, half of it from out of state) claiming that a tax on their product would be the worst idea ever.

gax tax flyer

But even amid fearmongering campaigns like these (do you suppose a growing city might have any needs in addition to road repair?), there are also a lot of honest misconceptions going around about this gas tax.

So, in the knowledge that something like one third of Oregonians don’t fill out their ballots until the last few days, here’s a quick guide to some myths (and one truth) about the gas tax that you might find helpful in discussing it with friends and family.

1) The gas tax would burden poor people

No, it wouldn’t. The 10-cent-per-gallon tax would raise $16 million per year, which comes to $5.18 per month per Portland household. (Yes, that’s per household, not per person or per adult. It also assumes that 100 percent of the cost would be passed to residents, which it wouldn’t.)

There are definitely households in Portland for whom $5.18 a month would be a significant burden. These households do not own cars.

2) 44 percent of the gas tax revenues would go to improving walking, biking and public transit access

Absolutely true! This is a very good reason to support the tax. It would pay for much-needed projects such as sidewalks on Capitol Highway, neighborhood greenways in East Portland, separated bike lanes downtown and crosswalk markings all over the place.

Portlanders pay $3,270 per household per year just to fuel and maintain their motor vehicles, let alone purchase and store them. This, not a 10-cent gas tax, is a huge burden on poor people. You may have also heard that it’s having some bad effects on the planet. You may have also noticed that local streets and freeways have become crowded with people driving their cars.

There is only one way to change this situation while growing economically: reducing driving. The changes to our streets that this gas tax would fund are a benefit for people who would like to use biking and public transit to get around but don’t currently find it safe, comfortable or convenient to do so and are therefore using their cars instead.

If you hate congestion, you should vote for the gas tax.

3) Spending money on anything except pavement maintenance is fiscally irresponsible


Yes, Portland has a huge pavement maintenance problem and every dollar spent on pavement maintenance saves us $10 in the future. This is another very good reason to support this tax.

But pavement maintenance is not the only thing in the economy that has a return on investment. Increasing walking, biking and public transit does that too — in fact, it may have an even higher economic return than pavement maintenance.

Portland’s economy is doing well in part because our past investments in walking, biking and public transit are delivering economic returns.

Just about every city in the United States that paved its roads 100 years ago is facing a big problem as deferred maintenance comes due. Portland is actually doing better than many, because compared to most cities, our economy is going gangbusters. Why has Portland been adding jobs so fast that we can almost shrug off last month’s massive Intel layoffs? Why are public budgets gushing cash, giving us money we’re rapidly reinvesting in things like schools and bus service and affordable housing? In large part because 40 years of smart growth have turned Portland into a really nice place where people are really excited about living and working.

Chris Anderson, a local entrepreneur and walking-biking advocate, phrases it in an interesting way: walking and biking improvements in a city are self-financing, because every dollar invested delivers economic returns in reduced collisions, pollution, travel costs and so on, which can then be reinvested in more improvements.

We don’t know if that’s true, but it is definitely not true that the only device for making money is a steamroller. When The Oregonian editorial page and the oil industry use this as an excuse to oppose a gas tax, that’s the argument they’re trying to make.

4) A local gas tax is less efficient than a state gas tax

Theoretically, this would be true … if only we could count on our state to use the money wisely. Sadly, we can’t, so this is false.

We know exactly what the state government would like to spend gas tax money on, because it attempted to pass such a tax last year: widening freeways.

More lanes for suburban freeways are a great way to keep fuel taxes flowing indefinitely. They are not a good way to solve anyone’s problems for more than a few years.

This city-level tax would go toward two things: first, maintaining pavement we already have; second, reducing our local economy’s dependence on cars and therefore on this tax. Win win.

5) The gas tax excludes diesel, so trucks are getting off free

Nope. The city council unanimously approved a special trucking tax on Wednesday, and the freight industry is furious about it.

6) People who bike won’t have to pay the gas tax

False. 85 percent of Portlanders who bike to work also own cars. (For the record, so do 78 percent of BikePortland readers.) Bike users will pay every time they fuel up just like everyone else. The difference is that, if the gas tax passes, roads will be better and more people will choose to use bikes and transit. That’ll let those people fuel up less often — and people who still use cars won’t have to sit in traffic behind them.

If your household has to pay $5.18 a month for something, it may as well be that.

Ballots are due to ballot drop box sites 8 p.m. Tuesday. Obviously, BikePortland recommends a “yes” vote.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Street Roots survey turns up differing priorities in mayor’s race

Street Roots survey turns up differing priorities in mayor’s race

Portland Mayor Debate-20.jpg

Mayoral candidates Ted Wheeler, left, and Bim Ditson.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Street Roots, Portland’s first-rate paper about homelessness and housing issues, sometimes asks questions about the closely related subject of transportation.

A questionnaire distributed to the mayoral candidates and published last week includes a quick window into the ways different candidates think about mobility issues.

The question:

Please place the following items in order of priority as mayor.

• Increase parking
• Bike infrastructure
• Low­ or no-fare public transit

Here’s what they said:

Jules Bailey

1. Low- or no-fare public transit
2. Bike infrastructure
3. Increase parking

Patty Burkett

1. Low- or no-fare public transit
2. Bike infrastructure
3. Increase parking

Sean Davis

1. Low- or no-fare public transit
2. Bike lanes
3. Increase parking

Bim Ditson

1. Bike infrastructure
2. Low- or no-fare public transit
3. Increase parking

Deborah Harris

1. Low- or no-fare public transit
2. Increase parking
3. Bike infrastructure

Sarah Iannarone

1. Low- or no-fare public transit
2. Bike infrastructure
3. Make downtown a car-free zone

David Schor

1. Low- or no-fare public transit
2. Bike infrastructure
3. Increase parking

Jessie Sponberg

1. Low- or no-fare public transit
2. Bike infrastructure
3. Increase parking

Ted Wheeler

1. Low- or no-fare public transit
2. Bike infrastructure
3. Increase parking

So, to recap:

• Only one candidate, Ditson, put bike infrastructure above cheap transit.
• Only one candidate, Harris, put bike infrastructure below more auto parking.
• Only one candidate, Iannarone, decided that she was so strongly against increasing auto parking that she would refuse to put it on her list at all.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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One week after forum, Ted Wheeler fields transportation questions

One week after forum, Ted Wheeler fields transportation questions

Portland Mayor Debate-23.jpg

Portland mayoral candidate Ted Wheeler.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Portland mayoral candidate and seeming frontrunner Ted Wheeler could imagine using decongestion charging to unclog Portland roads but isn’t ready to back a dedicated bus lane on Powell or Division.

He’s also a fan of dedicated bike signal phases and supports “rationing” auto parking as long as it’s done in conjunction with improved transit and biking options, but isn’t willing to specify how that rationing might take place.

Those were the takeaways from a blog post Wheeler put up Monday in response to questions that BikePortland and the advocacy group Oregon Walks relayed to him on Twitter after he was among the candidates to miss a mayoral candidates’ forum about transportation issues last week.

Here’s the full text of Wheeler’s responses. Some of the questions seem to have been paraphrased a bit, but not so much that their meaning was changed.

First question to candidates: “how would you allocate resources to meet our #visionzero goals?”

One death on our streets is too many. Already, 2016 traffic fatalities in the city of Portland total 11. This time last year we were at 6. It’s not about reinventing the wheel. I would continue the good work already being done by the Vision Zero Task force, especially around making equitable decisions and following the data.

The data is telling us we’ve got to focus our efforts in East Portland, and along these high crash corridors, like Foster, Sandy, Marine Dr, 82nd, and 122nd. A person living east of 82nd Ave is two and a half times more likely to die in a motor vehicle crash than someone who lives west of 82nd.

In high pedestrian traffic areas, we need more crosswalks. At intersections, where data shows cyclists are more likely to be involved in a crash, we need to look at separated bike lanes and right turn signals.

With a gas tax measure on the ballot, there’s a possibility that we’ll be seeing new revenue for street repair and traffic safety. As we maintain and repair our roads, we should be smart, data-driven, and strategic about how we prioritize safety measures like crosswalks, turn signals, and separated lanes.

Second question: “what are your ideas for improving parking policy in regards to how we manage our transportation system?”

There is no doubt that unlimited free parking encourages people to commute using their cars. Conversely, making parking more scarce or more expensive will discourage car trips. We must recognize that parking is the only way some can access education and employment, and has benefits for tourism and the local economy. Parking is just one factor in our transit strategy and it must be balanced with others. Rationing parking should be offset by greater investments in public transit and safe bicycle infrastructure. I would utilize data and modeling to help determine the right mix of parking by type, location, and price given both our overall transportation goals and the needs of our citizens.

Third question: do you support increasing the financial burden of driving on roadways to better incentivize alternate modes of transportation?

When it can be done in a way that’s equitable, absolutely. More and more people are chasing affordability to the East, but the jobs are still in the Western part of the region. That creates a couple challenges for people who are already struggling financially. The first is that they have longer commutes to work. The second is that there are fewer public transit options.

Am I in favor of incentivizing people to get out of their cars? Yes. Do I think a single mother with two children should be penalized for driving her kids to get groceries in an area that’s poorly served by transit? No.

That means we are going to have to do a lot better when it comes to creating accessible, affordable public transit options East of 82nd. I will continue to be a vocal champion for these investments.

Fourth question: would you remove a general vehicle travel lane on Powell/Division to make way for bus rapid transit?

Before making a commitment, I would like to review the data. I would like to know if there is sufficient demand projected for bus rapid transit, if there is enough capacity to support general vehicle travel once a lane is removed, how this change would affect related arterials like 162nd and 144th which have no bus lines, and what the costs and necessity of this project are relative to other important transportation priorities.

By contrast, candidate Jules Bailey (who attended last week’s forum) said he supports a move toward decongestion charges on crowded roads and demand-based parking prices, but drew a few boos when he didn’t directly answer the question about a dedicated bus lane on Powell. On bike safety, Bailey endorsed protected bike lanes and traffic diverters on neighborhood greenways, as his opponents have.

And as we previously reported, candidate Sarah Iannarone (who, like Wheeler, missed the forum) followed up the morning after the debate with answers of her own: she called bus rapid transit “useless” without a dedicated lane in the central city; she endorsed demand-based parking prices and an end to minimum parking requirements; and she said she’d improve walking safety in East Portland by (among other things) removing space from cars on wide streets like 148th. She didn’t answer the question about decongestion charges online, but has previously endorsed the concept of demand-based tolling on freeway bridges.

The primary election is May 17. If none of the 15 candidates gets an outright majority, the top vote-getters will advance to the general election in November.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Mayoral candidate David Schor: The BikePortland Interview

Mayoral candidate David Schor: The BikePortland Interview

Portland mayor candidate David Schor-3.jpg

David Schor in the BikePortland office March 24. He’s pushing for a government that offers more or better services, starting with affordable housing, and charges higher taxes to provide them.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Every mayoral candidate talks about helping low-income renters. But only David Schor has a plan for raising enough money to do so in a major way.

“It would just be a shame if all the work that Portlanders put into building this beautiful city were put to waste because we couldn’t afford to live here.”
— David Schor

The concept Schor describes as the “central plank” of his campaign is a $200 million program to build affordable housing in the city for lower-income Portlanders. He’d pay for it with an 8 percent marginal income tax on all income over $350,000. He says about 2,000 to 6,000 households would pay each year: literally the city’s top 1 percent.

He wants to use that money to gradually transition to something like 15 or 20 percent of the city’s housing being owned by the public, which he sees as a model successful in many cities outside the United States. He’d combine this with a raft of other tenant-support measures like community land trusts and support for tenant-led advocacy and organizing.

“If we allow us to be taken out one by one, we will — we’ll all be displaced one by one,” Schor said in a March 24 interview with BikePortland. “It would just be a shame if all the work that Portlanders put into building this beautiful city were put to waste because we couldn’t afford to live here, [if the city] were handed off to a completely different set of people that didn’t make that investment themselves.”

For better or worse, lower-income housing is clearly Schor’s main issue. It’s not that he’s uninformed about other things — as much as any candidate in the race, he’s built an understanding of how local government policies work and can hold forth calmly on everything from tax increment financing to racial profiling. But outside his core area, Schor gets weaker on describing an actual course of action. He admits that he has no clear road map to preventing Portland roads from crumbling and no specific understanding of where or how to build the singletrack he thinks the city needs. (Schor’s deepest personal connection to biking is mountain-bike recreation.)

Still, Schor isn’t a one-issue candidate. He has strong opinions about transportation, for one thing, and a clear sense of how it fits into a successful city.

Here at BikePortland, we didn’t originally intend to include Schor on our list of mayoral interviews, instead drawing the line at the three candidates (Jules Bailey, Sarah Iannarone and Ted Wheeler) who have raised enough cash to hire dedicated campaign staff. But after seeing him in two debates and hearing from several readers, we decided Schor was worth talking to as well.

Here’s what we learned from the conversation:

Like every candidate we’ve spoken with, Schor supports the proposed 10-cent gas tax ballot issue even though he feels it raises only a “drop in the bucket” of the city’s needs for biking and walking infrastructure. “It has the potential to be regressive,” he said, “but is also similar to a carbon tax, so on balance I think it’s a good way to go forward.”

Like every candidate we’ve spoken with, Schor says safety should be the top priority guiding road investments, starting with safety for people walking and biking. “We need to make the investment in east Portland that we have not been making for the last 30 years,” he said. “It’s a safety thing, and east Portland is where the safety problems are the worst, so it’s obviously where the investment needs to be focused.” Schor says there should still be room for targeted investments in bike infrastructure elsewhere; he mentioned Barbur and Terwilliger as places in need of it.

Schor lives in a six-plex near Clinton Street in southeast Portland. He’s a fan of the new traffic diverter near his place. “It’s great,” he said. “I don’t take the same route that I used to drive; I have to turn on specific streets to get to my house from different directions, but I’m totally fine with that, because I see the manifest improvement for people who are biking on that street and I know how important that arterial is for people who are commuting in and out of downtown Portland. It’s a very good tradeoff and it’s making the best use of our existing infrastructure. … There’s going to be some places where we slow the [driving] system down, but the more that that motivates people to get on transit and on bikes and walk around, then the more we’re achieving our purpose.”

More firmly than anyone we’ve talked to, Schor opposes the Portland Development Commission funding itself by building parking garages. “It just seems like a perverse incentive” for the government to keep encouraging driving, he said. Because he feels the PDC’s current revenue system — tax increments from urban renewal areas — focus intense investment on particular areas, he thinks it should possibly cease to exist despite its past effectiveness at raising money for projects like as Portland Streetcar.

On neighborhood parking issues, Schor is uneasy about charging for street parking because “my understanding is the actual permit charges could get pretty steep pretty fast.” But he said he supports “rationing parking spaces” with pricing, perhaps using a sliding scale by income to prevent housing displacement.

He supports shifting the 9.5 million of Metro regional flex funds currently spent on freight toward walking and biking infrastructure — though he confused Metro with Multnomah County as the agency in charge of that money.

Portland mayor candidate David Schor-1.jpg

On his affordable housing income tax, Schor says he doesn’t think many wealthy people would move out of Portland rather than pay it. “They understand the value of what they would be getting for the money,” Schor said. “A lot of people who would have already left town for tax burden reasons have already left.” In any case, he said, he’s open to other suggestions, but feels that he’s the only candidate proposing a revenue stream large enough to actually solve the housing problem for poor Portlanders.

For middle-income Portlanders and market-rate housing, Schor says the main solution is more housing supply, starting with changing development fee structures and other policies to incentivize more buildings like the six-plex he lives in. But he balks at that level of development in the city’s widespread R5 zones, saying it’s a better fit in R1 and R2.5 zones.

Schor seems to know policing issues better than many, having worked as a lawyer for the ACLU and Oregon Justice Resource Center. He says disproportionate police stops of Portlanders of color, which statistics show fall even harder on people biking or walking, is “totally inappropriate” but that “right now we’re basically blind” because the Portland Police Bureau doesn’t collect detailed enough statistics about where and who the problem is coming from. Most police do a good job, he says: “It’s a small percentage that is doing most of the discriminatory enforcement.”

Schor has maybe the sweetest part-time job of anyone in the race: in addition to working as an assistant attorney general for the Oregon Department of Justice, he picks up seasonal shifts at Mount Hood Meadows snowboarding around to locations on Mount Hood to check out the conditions there.

Schor’s first bike was a Huffy BMX that he got while growing up in Corvallis. He upgraded to a 10-speed as a teen and began using a bike for transportation after that. Though he has sometimes commuted by bike in the past, his most recent ride was on the Springwater Corridor in summer 2015.

If you’d like to hear our full one-hour exchange with Schor, check it out below:

We won’t be taking four hours to do a full transcript of the talk with Schor. And despite the many other candidates also saying remarkably progressive things about transportation, Schor will be our last big sit-down interview before the primary. This’ll give us the time to do the play-by-play election coverage that will keep people informed.

Election Day is May 17. If no candidate gets more than half the vote, the top vote-winners will advance to the general election in November.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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Seven Portlanders share their views from last night’s mayoral forum on transportation

Seven Portlanders share their views from last night’s mayoral forum on transportation


Voters: Kristin Sweeney, Charlie Tso, Laura Krull.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Six Portland mayoral candidates sounded off on transportation issues Monday night in the first (and possibly the only) event of the 2016 election season to focus exclusively on transportation.

Hosted by the Portland chapter of Young Professionals in Transportation, the event drew candidates Deborah Harris, Jules Bailey, Jessie Sponberg, Sean Davis, David Schor and Bim Ditson.

Ted Wheeler, by far the best-funded candidate and one of the clear frontrunners, didn’t make it. Sarah Iannarone, who with Wheeler and Bailey is one of the three candidates who have raised enough money for a dedicated campaign staff, initially RSVP’d but didn’t turn up for the forum either.

Iannarone wrote online Tuesday that “as a single, working mom and candidate, sometimes I have scheduling conflicts beyond my control.” Monday night on Twitter, Wheeler offered to field questions digitally. (See below.)

But we also came to the debate wanting to hear from some important players in this election that BikePortland hasn’t yet interviewed many of: voters.

So after the event, we talked to seven attendees to get a few thoughts the debate, the candidates, and the race so far.

Kristin Sweeney


Sweeney said she lives in North Portland, near Lombard and Mississippi, and commutes by bike across the Columbia River to East Vancouver three days a week. The proposal from several candidates — Schor, Sponberg and Ditson — that bike traffic should be carried by a “parallel network” away from main streets caught her attention.

“The whole parallel network idea is interesting to me,” she said. “It would be nice if it happened. But it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen.”

She wants candidates to be proposing ideas that would more immediately improve the city — including helping change the way people think about bikes.

“Just today I had a sort of heated discussion with someone who left the door open in the bike lane,” she said. “Honestly, the thing that makes me feel unsafe is that I assume people are angry at me.”

Patrick Rafferty


Rafferty said he’d been following BikePortland’s interviews and that it was too bad Iannarone had been absent.

“Sarah seems like my girl, I think,” he said. “She’s thinking really big, I think — bigger than most. .. Portland is great. But the way it got great is by thinking big.”

Rafferty said he was a little surprised that Iannarone was promising to move toward a car-free area downtown within 10 years rather than within her first four-year term.

“She’s not thinking unreasonably big,” he concluded.

Rafferty aded that he also thinks Wheeler, Shor and Bailey are “fine” and that Ditson seemed to be running the campaign that he wished Bailey were running.

“They’re all fine except Sponberg,” Rafferty said.

Lale Santelices


Santelices, a program staffer for the Community Cycling Center (where she is, among other things, a coordinator for the family bike-fun club Andando en Bicicletas en Cully) said that as a noncitizen immigrant from Chile, she’s not a voter. But she’s very active in local issues and engaged in the race.

She was talking with Ditson when I approached, and said she had liked what he had to say. She also expressed warmth toward Harris, noting that she is a woman of color on a stage dominated by white men. Still, she said she felt let down by all the candidates.

“I am not very impressed,” she said. “Everyone was trying to let me know that they’re bikers too. Fuck that! I don’t want you to be a biker if you haven’t biked. … You don’t need to be a biker to have empathy for biking.”

“If anybody had said that, I would have been like, ‘yes!’”

Laura Krull


“I thought Jules did a good job and I thought assistant attorney general [Schor] did a good job,” Krull said.

Charlie Tso


“I felt there was a little bit of dodging the question, I wish they would have been a little more straightforward,” said Tso. “I think Jules was knowledgeable on a lot of this but I don’t know if he came across as someone who was willing to stand up.”

Tso said he wished Iannarone had attended.

“I really wish Sarah had been here,” he said. “She’s the one I’ll vote for. She’s the one who I think understands the fundamental issues.”

Ted Buehler


Buehler is one of the co-chairs of activist group BikeLoudPDX. He said he’s fully undecided in the mayoral race, and Monday’s debate hadn’t changed that.

“When somebody hits the mayoral seat, they have a certain amount of political capital that they can burn on specific projects,” he said. “And since I think transportation is our most pressing concern, bicycles in particular, I want to hear them saying that they’re going to push for bicyclists.”

On the other hand, Buehler said, “I think the bicycle constituency is strongest when it’s seen as a swing voter bloc.” Buehler said that when former Mayor Sam Adams was caught lying about his sexual relationship with a young aide, he knew that biking supporters were in his base and he had to burn all his political capital supporting other groups.

“So I suppose that I’m happy that more of them aren’t really pushing bicycles too much,” Buehler said.

He added that he realized this was a contradictory set of opinions.

Jodie Beechem


Beechem thoughtfully disclosed up front that she’s Ditson’s girlfriend and plans to vote for him. But she was happy to share further thoughts.

“I thought everybody did well,” she said. “It seemed like everybody was on the same page.”

Besides Ditson, she said, she “really likes” Davis and Schor.

So what was said at the debate? For those of us who’ve been following their past statements, the candidates didn’t break a lot of new ground. That’s actually a good sign for transportation policy: even without transportation-focused debates, every candidate on the stage has received enough of these questions before to know the language of the issues fairly well and have a well-developed set of positions.

“Ozone” is Sponberg’s Twitter handle.

To me (though, OK, I’m biased) the most striking thing about the debate was that every single candidate present signed on to some aspect of the so-called Shoupian view of auto parking: that if people have to pay a market rate for the cost of the space their cars require, the whole transportation system will work better.

(Harris mentioned the statistic, first cited by parking economist Donald Shoup, that something like 30 percent of congested downtown traffic consists of people circling the block for parking spaces, at least in some cities.)

The next question was also about transportation economics: decongestion pricing. Already in use in Singapore, Stockholm and London, the idea is that charging people to drive on busy streets during the busiest hours helps the system run more efficiently by shifting nonessential auto trips to other modes or times. The usual proposal is to use that toll money to improve public transit and active transportation, which makes it easier for people to avoid the decongestion charge by using a mode that doesn’t increase congestion for everyone else.

I didn’t get Bailey’s response on Twitter, but the former professional transportation economist endorsed this concept Monday, as he had in our interview last month.

As I said above, Iannarone (who did get to Rontom’s about 30 minutes after the debate wrapped up and talked with people there) and Wheeler both made efforts to share thoughts on Twitter. On Tuesday Iannarone retweeted this Twitter user’s answer to the parking question:

And added:

On bus rapid transit:

And on another question, about specific plans to improve walking in East Portland:

We haven’t heard from Wheeler yet, but we’ll update this post if we do.

It’s safe to say that in almost any city in the country, a slate of mayoral candidates saying everything above would be a transportation reformer’s hopeless dream.

Not a single candidate spoke up to argue that people who drive everywhere would be harmed by these positions; the only objections to higher parking prices and congestion costs were that they would disproportionately burden poor people. Not a single candidate promised to locate a secret bottomless pit of developer profits that could build neighborhoods out of parking shortages. Not a single candidate claimed that it’s not worth investing in buses because people prefer their cars. Not a single candidate dismissed the notion that Portland can greatly increase its share of trips on bicycles.

It’s troubling that two major candidates didn’t show. But it’s also true that candidates have extremely difficult schedules, sometimes getting invitations to two such forums on wildly different subjects in a day. Iannarone’s policy positions aren’t dramatically different from any that were shared Monday night. Neither are Wheeler’s, though he’s never been immersed in transportation issues the way Bailey and Iannarone have.

As several of the people we interviewed at the top of this story pointed out, there’s room for these candidates to improve. But the happy truth about Portland is that most people who are engaged in public life, including every one of these candidates, agree on the most fundamental questions before the city.

The Portland consensus gives us an opportunity that few cities have. And there’s no telling how long it’s going to last. That’s why it’s going to be so important, in the next few years, for us to choose a mayor who won’t squander it.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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