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Building bike parking shelters at Ockley Green Middle School

Building bike parking shelters at Ockley Green Middle School

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Parent volunteers helped erect two bike parking
shelters at a north Portland school on Sunday.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Did you know that you can get a few volunteers together and build a covered bike parking shelter at any Portland Public School?

We wrote about the City of Portland’s school bike shelter program back in 2012. Since then the shelters have popped up at schools all over the city. On Sunday I got the chance to help build one myself at (the newly designated) Ockley Green Middle School in north Portland. It was a fantastic way to create better bike parking at my kids’ school and spend some time with other parents.

In some ways, bike parking shelters do for schools what intersection repair projects do for neighborhoods: The thing you make together is the icing on the community-building cake.

Leading the charge for our project was Joshua Cohen, who happens to be the owner of Fat Pencil Studio, an illustration firm that creates 3-D visualizations (he worked with the city on the Williams Avenue project). His digital mock-ups of the project (see below) were very helpful in guiding us through the build. Cohen is an Ockley Green parent who also spearheaded a project at Chief Joseph Elementary School (adjacent to Arbor Lodge Park) in 2015.

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The official plans from PPS were created with volunteer labor in mind and they require no special permits.
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Looking good huh?! All we need is some corrugated aluminum for the roof and the racks (they’re on the way).
(Photo by Jeff Johnson)

Since I won’t be around to see the finished product (I leave for vacation Saturday), Joshua sent me a few images that he’s drawn up:

shelters2

Using 12 standard PBOT staple racks set at an angle, the shelters will have room for 24 bikes.(Images: Fat Pencil Studio)

Using 12 standard PBOT staple racks set at an angle, the shelters will have room for 24 bikes. (The grey in this image represents a chain-link fence around the shelters.)
(Images: Fat Pencil Studio)

Cohen has spent months working with PPS to get the final go-ahead. The hardest part was finding a location for the shelters on the campus. They ultimately agreed on a site at the rear of school in an alcove sandwiched between two buildings. It’s not an ideal location (right up front where everyone can see it would be better), but the new shelters will be a vast improvement. Currently the bike parking consists of “wave” racks (a design roundly despised by bike parking aficionados) that aren’t covered.

Working from the city’s design drawings, the shelters were relatively easy to erect. That being said, I’d recommend your crew have at least one person with construction/carpentry experience. The total cost of materials is around $1,000 per shelter and you don’t need any special land-use permit to install one. In our case at Ockley the shelters were part of a $5,000 Lowe’s Home Improvement grant.

We spent half a day with about six volunteers and were able to build two shelters. We didn’t have the roofing material and the racks weren’t ready yet, so it’d probably take a solid day to get everything done start-to-finish.

If you’re interested in doing this at your school, check out the official PPS Bike Shelter Guide (PDF) and learn more at the City’s Safe Routes to School website.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Highway amendment fails, Metro committee adopts spending plan

Highway amendment fails, Metro committee adopts spending plan

JPACT meeting.jpg

Yellow signs urging investment in safe routes near schools loomed over local elected and agency leaders as they considered how to allocate $130 million in regional flexible funds this morning at Metro headquarters.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

A nearly two-year quest to raise funds for Safe Routes to Schools across the Portland region came to an end this morning. At the monthly meeting of Metro’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation, elected and agency leaders voted to support a policy direction that will inform how $130 million in federal “flexible” transportation dollars are spent.

“If we are truly committed to solving freight bottlenecks and if we are truly committed to air quality we’d be discussing investments that will improve traffic flow.”
— Paul Savas, Clackamas County Commissioner

Back in August 2014 the Bicycle Transportation Alliance zeroed in on this pot of money as a way to bring Safe Routes funding to all 150,000 of the region’s schoolkids. They built up the For Every Kid coalition with 89 partners and campaigned for $15 million to be dedicated to a mix of programmatic (education and marketing) and infrastructure spending around schools. This morning the coalition filled two sides of the Metro Council Chambers with people holding bright yellow signs that read, “Invest in Safe Routes” and “Don’t Cut Biking and Walking.”

As we reported back in March the proposal up for adoption had nowhere near the $15 million the coalition had hoped for. Instead that number was $1.5 million — or just $500,000 per year for the three-year funding cycle. With that battle fought, and the final vote postponed last month until today, the only remaining suspense was whether or not any JPACT member would try to amend the proposal in a significant way.

And boy did one of them try.

The proposal on the table called for bonding $3.78 million out of the flexible fund pot to create $12 million in revenue for freight and active transportation project development: $10 million for “regional bottlenecks” at the I-205 Abernethy Bridge, I-5/I-84 at the Rose Quarter, and Hwy 217; and $2 million for, “capital investment for active transportation projects, including Safe Routes to School for Title 1 schools, regional trails and other regionally significant active transportation facilities.”

Then came Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas.

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Screenshots from the Paul Savas amendment.

Screenshots from the Paul Savas amendment.

Savas put forward an amendment that would have completely eliminated the $2 million for active transportation projects and he proposed an additional $6 million in project development funds for major highway projects (he named Sunrise Corridor and the Basalt Creek Parkway specifically).

Commissioner Savas said we need more and wider highways because car and truck congestion is causing 30% more toxic fumes to be spewed into the air. “If we are truly committed to solving freight bottlenecks and if we are truly committed to air quality we’d be discussing investments that will improve traffic flow,” he said.

Once put to the committee for discussion, Savas’ amendment was quickly denounced.

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Councilor Chase was having none of Savas’ amendment.

Metro Councilor Sam Chase was not thrilled:

“I would really speak out and say that this is not the right approach… We are often looking at one strategy to address freight issues in our region and I think we’re missing the bigger picture… By taking out active transportation, by taking out those components that take cars off the road, we’re fighting against our own economic development strategy. If you talk to business leaders they talk about quality of life and active transportation is part of that. I think it’s short-sighted… I think we need to protect the active transportation investments for the future of our region.”

Savas also wanted to reduce high capacity transit bond commitments by $5 million. TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane said those cuts would be, “Fundamentally nearly fatal to our capacity to advance these projects.”

And then came the final nail in the coffin: Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp — representing the cities of Clackamas County — said that even he could not support Savas’ amendment.

Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas.jpg

Mr. Savas garnered no support for his highway-building amendment.

When the vote on his amendment was called, Savas was the only JPACT member to vote “yes” on his amendment. It failed 15-1. And that wasn’t the only lonely vote for Savas. He was also the only person to vote against the policy package that was ultimately adopted.

Here’s a chart showing how the $130 million will be spent (we added a label for the Safe Routes money because the small slice was so hard to see):

Regional Flexible Fund adopted spending categories (2019-2021).(Chart by Metro)

Regional Flexible Fund adopted spending categories (2019-2021).
(Chart by Metro)

When the dust settled, Safe Routes to School didn’t do anywhere near as well as advocates had hoped — but there are some positives.

In addition to the $500,000 per year in Safe Routes program funding, there’s the $2 million in project development and capital investment that will will be split up between capital investments in Safe Routes projects near Title 1 schools, regional multi-use paths, and other active transportation projects. And on the infrastructure side, the adopted proposal includes $26 million for active transportation projects. Another small step for Safe Routes is that improving access to schools has been upgraded to the highest priority in project selection criteria.

This $130 million in spending will be spread out across three years, 2019-2021. The next step is for agencies and jurisdictions to come up with project proposals. Those lists are due to Metro by August and will be out for public comment in October. A final funding decision will be made in January 2017.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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After delay, Metro again faces vote that pits Safe Routes money against highways

After delay, Metro again faces vote that pits Safe Routes money against highways

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A bike train at Trillium Charter Schoool
in north Portland.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

The regional Metro committee that controls $130 million in federal funds continues to consider an increase in money for road widening rather than for safety improvements to streets near schools.

JPACT, the committee of 17 regional officials, was due to vote last month but decided to postpone its vote until next Thursday.

At play are $17.4 million in new money created by last year’s federal transportation bill. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance and other nonprofits in the For Every Kid Coalition have led a two-year campaign to secure much of that money for Safe Routes to School infrastructure across the region, which improves crosswalks, sidewalks and bikeways near schools. Their proposal would prioritize “Title 1” schools, those with higher rates of child poverty.

Safe Routes to School has existed for 15 years in Portland and has apparently led to big increases in walking and biking. A Metro program would extend it to the suburbs.

As of March, 3,500 people had sent postcards and emails to Metro urging this to be the priority.

However, some JPACT members feel that the best way they can improve the regional economy is to reduce freight congestion, and that the best way to reduce freight congestion is to make roads wider. The BTA has found itself playing defense to protect the budget that currently goes to active transportation infrastructure.





In an effort to lock down votes, the BTA sent its members another action alert on the subject this week, urging people to contact JPACT members with the following request:

JPACT meeting-2

What will they do?

In light of the $17.43 million dollar increase in available funding this cycle, we ask you to support the safety of our community — from our kids to our grandparents — as they travel along and across roads throughout the region with:
• A minimum of $1.5 million for SRTS programs as part of the Regional Travel Options program
• At least $5 million in dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School infrastructure projects within the one-mile radius of schools, an important start toward the estimated $43 million dollar need
• A minimum of $27.7 million for active transportation infrastructure that increases safety for people walking, bicycling, and accessing transit
• Policy that supports equity and prioritizes Title 1 Schools

We urge you to vote no against any amendments that reduce funding for active transportation or reduce the $3.5 million proposed for Safe Routes to School programming, Safe Routes to School capital projects, and trails.

You can get the relevant email addresses here, or click this email link to auto-create an editable email on the subject.

The structure of JPACT gives more influence to people who live in less populated areas. Multnomah County gets one JPACT vote for its 775,000 residents; Clackamas County gets one vote for its 395,000.

Whatever JPACT decides, it would be possible for the Metro Council — a majority of which told BikePortland in March that they would almost certainly oppose reducing the share for active transportation — to overrule the vote and send the decision back for revisions. (Unlike JPACT, Metro council votes are distributed proportionally by regional population.) But Craig Dirksen, a Metro councilor from southeast Washington County who also chairs JPACT, told us that he has “never seen it happen and I would be very surprised if it happened.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Metro proposal rejects Safe Routes to School, spends more on freight routes

Metro proposal rejects Safe Routes to School, spends more on freight routes

A Safe Routes to School event in 2010. The Metro regional government is proposing to start supporting the program in suburban schools, but not to increase funding for accompanying street improvements near those schools.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

A two-year campaign for regional funding of better biking and walking near schools, backed by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and other advocacy groups, is in tatters.

“We got left on the cutting room floor.”
— Gerik Kransky, Bicycle Transportation Alliance

Though the most recent federal transportation bill sent $16 million of new flexible money to regional government Metro, Bicycle Transportation Alliance Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky said a Metro proposal circulated last Friday would dedicate none of that to the “Safe Routes” infrastructure program proposed by the BTA.

The organization had organized 3,500 residents to send postcards and emails to Metro’s elected officials in its support.

Among many attempts to demonstrate support, the coalition organized and videoed an evening meeting in East Portland where one person after another testified in five languages that they feared to walk on the streets near their homes.

Metro’s proposal might even increase the amount of money going to freight-related projects. That’s even though five of Metro’s seven elected councilors told BikePortland earlier this month that they would probably not support slicing off more of this program for motor vehicle travel when the state and region already get hundreds of millions of dollars each year for that purpose.

“These are the only sort of flexible dollars that we have in the region,” Kransky said Wednesday. “This is the wrong place to go for those new freight projects.”

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Current spending vastly favors highway widening and freight projects (black line) over biking and walking projects (green line).

At recent spending rates, the region’s active transportation network won’t be built until the year 2209. The region’s current road plans would be finished by 2057, and its mass transit plans by 2040.

Metro council could decide to veto proposal

The proposal circulated Friday could send up to $12.5 million of flexible dollars to freight projects, compared with $9.23 million if the current freight program were simply adjusted for inflation.

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JPACT Chair Craig Dirksen.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

How could this happen even though every Metro councilor we spoke with a few weeks ago said they would almost certainly oppose dedicating a larger share of flexible money to freight?

In part, the answer is that the Metro council itself doesn’t have direct control over federal transportation spending. Instead that money is allocated by a 17-member Metro committee called JPACT, the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation, which is made up mostly of elected officials from local governments.

But the Metro council does have one bit of control over JPACT: it could vote to veto the JPACT decision and send it back for revision.






That almost never happens. Craig Dirksen, the Metro councilor who chairs JPACT (and casts the deciding vote there in the event of a tie) told us he’d be “very surprised” if the council were to override JPACT on this issue.

“The way we like to do business is we have conversations with one another and we come to consensus before we vote, so that everybody can be satisfied with what comes out of the discussion,” Dirksen said.

In other words, Metro — the only elected regional government in the country — strives to be a no-drama zone.

All the sitting Metro councilors, with the possible exception of President Tom Hughes, could be described as progressives on transportation issues. Four of the seven (Sam Chase, Carlotta Colette, Kathryn Harrington and Bob Stacey) tend to strongly support infrastructure that reduces the region’s auto dependence. But the agency’s culture of consensus (and the theoretical threat of a suburban revolt against the agency) means that officials who see ever-expanding auto infrastructure as essential to the regional economy have substantial influence, too.

The structure of JPACT also gives more influence to people who live in less populated areas. Multnomah County gets one JPACT vote for its 775,000 residents; Clackamas County gets one vote for its 395,000.

Metro vote set for April 21

rff chart

Under the proposal, new money (the red band above) would be split mostly between transit and freight projects.

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance, whose campaign for Safe Routes has been underwritten in part by the American Heart Association, does seem to have scored one much smaller victory: up to $2.1 million in new Metro support for Safe Routes programming in schools, enough to create walking and biking education and encouragement programs around the region like those the BTA currently provides in Portland schools.

Kransky said the BTA is glad to have that in the proposal, but described it as a small silver lining. The For Every Kid Coalition (led by the BTA along with Upstream Public Health, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Oregon Walks, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, the Asian Pacific-American Network of Oregon and the Community Cycling Center) had asked Metro for $15 million for Safe Routes infrastructure.

“We got left on the cutting room floor,” he said.

There’s still a possibility that Metro could de-fund its other active transportation priorities in the coming years in order to guarantee projects near schools. And it could guarantee that its upcoming transit projects include lots of walking and biking projects that help people reach transit stations.

But neither of those options would meaningfully increase the amount being spent on walking or biking — even as the region considers tying up some of its scarce flexible funds so it can take out long-term loans that would increase the amount it spends on motor vehicles.

The JPACT vote is April 21. The For Every Kid Coalition is pushing a last-ditch effort on social media to block the proposed increase in freight funding.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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Correction 1:40 pm: An earlier version of this post said $17.5 million in new flexible funds will be available from the federal government. It’s more like $16 million.

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Counting votes at Metro: Will the region invest in walking and biking near schools?

Counting votes at Metro: Will the region invest in walking and biking near schools?

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Biking to school in North Portland.
(All photos by Jonathan Maus unless otherwise noted)

With Portland’s locally funded Safe Routes to School program seeming to pay clear dividends — biking, walking and rolling to primary school became more popular than driving in 2010 and have kept rising — the case for bringing the idea to other cities may seem strong.

But the For Every Kid Coalition that’s been lobbying the regional government Metro to put $15 million into a regional Safe Routes to Schools program is competing for cash with two major forces: public transit and private freight. As Metro continues to accept public comments on the subject, we wanted to share what its councilors are thinking.

So we called all of them.

Five of the seven people on the Metro council responded. (We left two messages each with the two who didn’t: President Tom Hughes and Councilor Carlotta Collette.) Here’s what we learned:

“We would be making a big mistake if we were to reduce the amount of active transportation dollars.”
— Sam Chase, Metro Councilor

1) This debate is almost entirely about a collection of federal transportation dollars, granted automatically to Metro from multiple sources and rolled into a program called “Regional Flexible Funds.” For the three years from October 2018 to September 2021 — those are the years currently up for discussion, but they’re also sure to be the starting point for future negotiations — it’ll come to about $130 million total.

For comparison’s sake, one mile of sidewalk might cost about $1 million. Portland’s proposed 10-cent gas tax would raise about $15 million for each of four years.

2) This money is probably going to be divided into five different categories. First, $48 million comes off the top to pay down loans TriMet took out in order to build the region’s various MAX lines. Second, about $16 million is being set aside for new purposes; it’s essentially “new money” created by the recent federal transportation bill. Third, $28 million goes to three smaller Metro programs that subsidize dense development, underwrite marketing efforts like the annual Bike Challenge and upgrade traffic signal hardware. Finally, the remaining $38 million is split 75/25 between the last two sources: 75 percent to walking and biking projects and 25 percent to freight-related projects.

Here’s what that would look like on a chart:

rff chart

3) There will almost certainly be unanimous support on the council for preserving what’s known as “the 75/25 split” in that last pot — that is, the relative width of the orange and purple stripes. “It would take convincing to get me to do something different,” said Metro Councilor Craig Dirksen. “We would be making a big mistake if we were to reduce the amount of active transportation dollars,” said Councilor Sam Chase.

4) Every Metro councilor we talked to is open to supporting Safe Routes to School somehow, but each currently has a different plan for doing so. Councilor Bob Stacey, for example, doesn’t envision greatly increasing the total amount of money going directly to active transportation (he seems inclined to spend the new $16 million on mass transit projects instead) but would support making sure that all $28.5 million of Metro’s active transportation flex funds be spent near a school. Councilor Kathryn Harrington, meanwhile, thinks the new money could be split between school projects and off-road paths.

With over 3,500 messages from their constituents being delivered in support of better biking and walking near low-income schools (thanks to an organizing effort by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance), the Metro councilors are under substantial pressure to deliver something seen as a win for Safe Routes projects.

But they’re also facing pressure to spend money on freight improvements (like time-saving traffic signals near Port of Portland land) and public transit improvements (like the Southwest Corridor rail or rapid bus near Southwest Barbur, or the Powell-Division Corridor express bus).

And at the moment, one or both of those seem to be getting priority on the Metro council. Of the councilors we talked to, only Harrington and Chase seemed to be putting forth plans that wouldn’t simply carve new Safe Routes funding out of other money already being spent on biking and walking.





Here’s more on what each councilor said. Keep in mind that this is all preliminary to their final decisions; we only asked them to talk about their thinking on the issue, not to guarantee their votes.

Kathryn Harrington – represents Hillsboro, Northern Beaverton and Forest Grove

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Kathryn Harrington, right, with Westside Economic Alliance Executive Director Pam Treece.
(Photo: Metro)

Freight access issues and other improvements for autos are important, Harrington said, but Metro and the state have plenty of other money that can be spent on them.

“These flexible funds, the heart of these funds is to help build communities and to help people 8-80 move around through our region,” Harrington said. “They only account for less than 5 percent of the overall transportation dollars that we have. … The [federal] FAST Act directs a lot of funding toward roadways and highways that we as individuals take advantage of, but we also have investment needs for transportation options in our communities that help bring communities together.”

Harrington was one of several councilors who brought up the council’s recent “Climate Smart Communities” plan, which sets ambitious goals for boosting biking and walking even faster than it would boost transit. But the plan, she noted, is mostly unfunded.

“Now is the time for us to put the resources behind that agreement,” Harrington said.

Harrington didn’t say she was committed to finding $15 million for Safe Routes, but said she’s receptive to the idea, especially in the areas surrounding the region’s 124 schools where more than half of students are from households poor enough to receive federal aid for lunch. But she wanted to balance that against the continued construction of regional paths like the Council Creek Regional Trail.

Shirley Craddick – represents East Portland, Gresham and Damascus

Policymakers Ride - Gorge Edition-51

Shirley Craddick, right, with Nancy Hales at the Cycle Oregon Policy Makers Ride in 2013.

Craddick backs Safe Routes investment but says Metro more time to study which schools should get biking and walking infrastructure nearby.

“Because we have such a limited source of funds, we need to be able to focus funds wisely,” she said. “What are the least safe intersections that effect children? That’s where we should be focusing on first.”

Craddick doesn’t think that’ll be possible in the current cycle, so any federal funds for Safe Routes would need to wait until 2022.

“This is going to be something that’s going to take a while,” she said. “We need to bring the school districts together; we need to bring the advocates together.”

She doesn’t support any reduction in spending for freight access.

“[The] freight mode is probably as challenging as the bicycle mode,” she said. “We obviously need to focus on our economy and make sure that freight can get around like it should.”

Sam Chase – represents northern Portland and downtown

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Sam Chase at a Metro open house in 2014.

Chase definitely isn’t opposed to transit spending, but he stands out as the councilor saying most clearly that biking and walking have been underfunded compared to transit.

“We are so grossly short on active transportation goals,” Chase said. “It’s going to take more than 100 years to build out our active transportation goals. We should be able to do it in 30 years.”

That’d take four times the money — more than RFF could offer even if it completely eliminated spending on freight.

“Even if you took it from 75 percent to 100 percent, you’re still at just a tiny fraction of the transportation resources for our entire region,” Chase said. “You’re still looking at just a tiny fraction of resources going to active transportation. So we’ve really got to identify strategies that will get significantly more resources into that transportation solution, which may include approaching voters at some point.”

Chase disagrees with Craddick’s call for a regional Safe Routes plan before money is spent.

“I don’t see a huge need for more process,” he said.

Chase said he’s trying to find a “compromise strategy” that would fund both biking/walking and mass transit.

“I understand that people are going towards transit, and that’s an important priority also,” Chase said. “But we also need to find a new way to bring significant resources into Safe Routes to School.”

In particular, Chase is not a fan of locking up RFF money for 20 years to pay off transit construction bonds; he’d rather just spend money up front but not commit to the loan payments. But he’d bow to the group if others insist on that.

“If the general consensus is that we need a larger amount of resources to prepare projects for the Southwest Corridor, Division Corridor,” Chase said, “then I’m OK with that.”

Bob Stacey – represents southern Portland

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Bob Stacey speaks at a rally last month for regional Safe Routes funding.

Stacey was the one councilor who called us before we called him — he heard that we were working on a story and wanted to make sure he could share his take.

“I am one Metro councilor that’s voting yes for $15 million for Safe Routes to School, and I intend to stick by that as we negotiate the contours,” Stacey said. “I have been so impressed by the strength of their support and by the strength of their logic that I participated in that rally at Metro last week at which they submitted several thousand postcards to members of the JPACT committee.”

Stacey’s suggestion for doing that is twofold: first, he wants to use one of Metro’s smaller programs, the regional travel options fund, to pay for more Safe Routes education programs in schools. This would come out of money currently being spent on other education and marketing programs around the region.

Second, he wants to change the criteria for the existing biking and walking funds to make sure some or all of the projects serve schools, especially ones with many poorer children.

“I can easily envision spending all 75 percent on Safe Routes to School mobility projects,” Stacey said.

Stacey is also deeply opposed to spending future federal windfalls on auto capacity projects, something he said happened in the last few years with minimal political debate.

As for the new $16 million, Stacey said his top priority is to help build the Barbur and Powell-Division transit corridors. (It’s worth noting that both of those would get federal matching funds to improve biking and walking connections to transit.)

Craig Dirksen – represents Wilsonville and southeastern Washington County

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Craig Dirksen, then the mayor of Tigard, at a BikePortland Get Together in 2010.

Dirksen also chairs the committee of local officials (the Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation) that has direct control over the federal dollars.

“Metro doesn’t really have the authority to override JPACT,” Dirksen said. “The most we can do is if we disagree with it, we have the authority to send it back to JPACT and say ‘try again.’”

He thinks that’s unlikely.

“I have never seen it happen and I would be very surprised if it happened,” Dirksen said. “The way we like to do business is we have conversations with one another and we come to consensus before we vote, so that everybody can be satisfied with what comes out of the discussion.”

Dirksen said he never makes decisions in advance of hearing from everyone, but in general did not seem interested in reducing either transit or freight spending for Safe Routes.

“The mama bird comes back to the nest and there’s a lot of open beaks and only so many worms,” Dirksen said. “As the economy grows and we see greater congestion, greater demand for moving goods around the region and whatnot, we run the risk of starving that option as well if we choose to do something else.”

As for mass transit, he said: “If we want to move forward with these future projects, be they Southwest Corridor or Powell-Division or whatever, we need to find a source for that as well.” Locking up the new federal money for transit bonds, he said, “would be in line with what we’ve done in the past.”

Dirksen seemed open to Stacey’s plan to carve Safe Routes money out of existing biking/walking money, though he might not go as far as allocating all of it for the purpose.

In fact, he said, many potential Safe Routes projects near schools are probably already in Metro’s Active Transportation Plan.

“I would guess that a lot of the projects in there would probably qualify,” Dirksen said.

JPACT’s next meeting is Thursday, March 17. If you’d like to contact the councilors to let them know what you think (whatever it might be) the For Every Kid Coalition has a page to help do that.

Correction 5:21 pm: An earlier version of this post incorrectly described Metro’s support of past MAX construction bonds. TriMet issued the bonds; Metro sends payments to TriMet to help pay them down.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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For Every Kid coalition takes $15 million ‘safe routes’ funding push straight to regional leaders

For Every Kid coalition takes $15 million ‘safe routes’ funding push straight to regional leaders

Safe Routes rally at Metro meeting-4.jpg

Rally outside Metro headquarters this morning.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

For Every Kid, a regional coalition that wants more money for biking and walking infrastructure around schools, made their strongest statement yet when they brought their message to Metro’s regional headquarters this morning.

At their monthly meeting in April, Metro’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation (JPACT) will decide how to spend an estimated $125 million in regional flexible funds. This coalition — which includes the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, the American Heart Association, the Community Alliance of Tenants, the Community Cycling Center, Oregon Walks, Upstream Public Health, and others — is asking JPACT to allocate $15 million of those funds to spread the Safe Routes to School program across the region.

The $15 million ask is a bold move because competition for these flexible funds (so named because they come from federal sources not tied the Highway Trust Fund and can therefore be spent on anything) is fierce. The For Every Kid coalition has support from several state legislators and hundreds of families and kids from all over the region. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance has made expansion of the Safe Routes program one of their five main advocacy campaigns and they’ve tapped into partnerships at schools throughout Portland for support.

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JPACT member and Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington flips through a stack of postcards in support of Safe Routes to School.
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Velia Mendoza and her daughter Karen addressed JPACT members (through translator Lale Santelices).
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The rally outside the JPACT meeting.

A mom from Bridger Elementary School in Southeast Portland shared a video presentation during the public comment period at the meeting as about a dozen other parents, kids, and coalition staffers stood in the back of the room with homemade signs and banners. The video showed road conditions around Bridger where huge potholes, a lack of sidewalks and unsafe crossings make it hard for some families to walk and bike. Velia Mendoza and her daughter Karen testified to the committee, saying, (in Spanish, through a translator), “When I take my daughter to school there are a lot of cars that go really fast and we don’t feel safe. This is why I’m asking you to fund $15 million for Safe Routes to School.”

Metro typically allocates this pot of money in two phases: Step 1 ($75 million) and Step 2 ($50 million). The For Every Kid coalition is focused on Step 1 because that’s where allocations are made to region-wide, programmatic investments as opposed to infrastructure projects, which get funded in Step 2.

JPACT is made up of county and city commissioners, agency leaders, mayors, and other elected officials from around the region. For them to support this $15 million they would have to make a stand for Safe Routes funding and possibly take money away from other funding set-asides that include paying down bonds for past transit investments, general planning costs, and Metro’s travel option education and transit-oriented development programs. While JPACT will make a recommmendation about how these funds should be spent, the seven-member Metro Council will make the final decision.





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Metro Councilor Bob Stacey spoke at the rally.

One of those council members, Bob Stacey, has already publicly vowed to support the Safe Routes funding. He rallied alongside parents, children and advocates with the For Every Kid Coalition in the courtyard of Metro headquarters this morning within earshot of the JPACT meeting. “Thank you for speaking truth to power,” Stacey said. “I’m going to vote yes for the $15 million. I’m a grandfather and my grandkids are lucky. They can bike and walk to school. But I’ve met kids who can’t, and everyone has the right to walk and bike to school.”

“If Safe Routes funding is not made a priority, the next child killed on our streets will be on JPACT’s hands.”
— Susan Kubota, Families for Safe Streets

Another speaker at the rally was Susan Kubota. Kubota was thrust into transportation activism in 2007 when her 19-year old niece Tracey Sparling was killed after a truck driver rolled over her as she waited for a traffic light in the bike lane at West Burnside and 14th. Kubota is now a member of Oregon and Southwest Washington Families for Safe Streets, a group made up of people who have lost loved ones in traffic crashes. “This money help make sure there are no more members of Familes for Safe Streets,” she said. “If Safe Routes funding is not made a priority, the next child killed on our streets will be on JPACT’s hands.”

If JPACT doesn’t OK the $15 million, the Metro Council could overrule them. It’s rare and unlikely Metro would go against their own advisory committee; but it’s certainly possible. For Every Kid would only have to convince three of the remaining six (after Stacey) Metro councilors to join them. Given past records and general interests, it seems like Sam Chase (who joined me for a European bike study tour in 2013), Kathryn Harrington (who took video with her phone of Ms. Mendoza’s testimony), and Carlotta Collette might be sympathetic.

The BTA’s Advocacy Director Gerik Kransky has been in the trenches of these funding negotiations for years. He knows how hard it will be to get JPACT’s support this time around. “We’re pushing for something that’s big and new and we’re going to have to create a lot of space in the politics,” he shared with us in a recent interview.

The For Every Kid Coalition says this dedicated, multi-year funding is necessary so planners and school officials can build Safe Routes programs and maintain them for the long-haul. Their plan would prioritize schools in low-income areas and invest in infrastructure imnprovements within a one-mile radius of the campus. Those infrastructure investments would be complemented by education and encouragement programs — all of which are needed to realize the potential of Safe Routes to School programming.

As we just reported, Safe Routes is moving the school transportation needle in the Portland area. But much more investment is needed to continue that upward trajectory. The BTA has put out an action alert urging members to contact JPACT members and Metro councilors.

JPACT is expected to make their decision on April 21st.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

— News Editor Michael Andersen contributed reporting to this story

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Driving to school hits a new low in Portland after 15 years of ‘Safe Routes’

Driving to school hits a new low in Portland after 15 years of ‘Safe Routes’

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(Graphs: Portland Bureau of Transportation)

Portland pupils keep riding cars to school less, and walking and biking more.

Survey data released by the city Wednesday show a continuing upward climb in active transportation to school. Among Portlanders in kindergarten through fifth grade, walking, biking and otherwise rolling to school became more common than traveling in the family vehicle sometime around 2010 and has more or less kept climbing since.

If the trend continues, more than half the city’s primary schoolers will be walking, biking, skating or scootering to school by 2025 or so.





It’s worth noting that riding in a car isn’t the only thing becoming less common; riding a school bus has been, too. Here’s the detailed trend. (Note that unlike the chart at the top, the last few data points include students from grades 6-8 as well as younger ones.)

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The city breaks out survey data by school. If a school you care about has been surveyed, the latest data is here.

Coincidentally, the news comes just as the For Every Kid Coalition delivers a big bundle of testimony to Metro in favor of creating a regional Safe Routes program. The coalition’s $15 million ask would include a bit for instructional classes (that the Bicycle Transportation Alliance might teach), but mostly for biking and walking-friendly infrastructure improvements to the streets immediately surrounding Portland-area schools.

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Portland voters will also have an option to give their own booster shot to these efforts in May when they consider a 10-cent gas tax hike that would send a large share of its proceeds to biking and walking upgrades to streets near Portland schools.

Learn more at SafeRoutesPortland.org.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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New BTA policy looks to make its biking advocacy more racially equitable

New BTA policy looks to make its biking advocacy more racially equitable

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Diego Hernandez, a Reynolds School District board member running for the state legislature, speaks at a BTA event Tuesday advocating for Metro to fund safer streets in East Multnomah County through a regional Safe Routes to School program.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Portland’s largest biking advocacy group has, for the first time, created a written policy to help it fight racial disparities in transportation.

“The reality of Portland is that while we are one of the whitest cities in America, it’s not going to be a white city forever.”
— Rob Sadowsky, BTA

As the most bikeable areas of Portland grow even whiter and many less bikeable areas grow even more diverse, the group says it needs to focus more on building “a community where everyone from all racial backgrounds has access to safe, healthy, and affordable transportation options.”

“The reality of Portland is that while we are one of the whitest cities in America, it’s not going to be a white city forever,” Executive Director Rob Sadowsky said Wednesday. “Over half of Portland Public Schools students already are students of color.”

(Update 2:50 p.m.: Looks like Sadowsky was about 6 percentage points off: 44 percent of PPS students identify as something other than white. “I got it from the Coalition for Communities of Color and just trusted them,” he writes. “The gist of point remains the same.” It’s also worth noting that David Douglas students who live in Portland might push the citywide white public school student population under 50 percent. Thanks to commenters Random and Daisy for getting us straight on this.)

This new focus is arriving alongside what’s probably the BTA’s single biggest campaign at the moment, the For Every Kid effort to convince Metro to dedicate a share of its federal money to a region-wide Safe Routes to School program.

At a meeting near the Portland/Gresham border Tuesday night, the BTA teamed up with the Community Alliance of Tenants to give speakers of five different languages a chance to talk about their desire for streets safe enough to comfortably walk and bike on: streets with more lighting, more stoplights and fewer drunk drivers.

Cristina Palacios

Cristina Palacios, safe housing project coordinator for the Community Alliance of Tenants, said Tuesday that she lives in Fairview and works in Lloyd Center area. “I get jealous when I see the kids there,” she said. “They look so cute with their helmets, biking with their parents.”

“Our solutions for ‘make big streets safe’ in East Portland, they look very different from what we’re looking for on Barbur,” Sadowsky said.

The “Racial Equity Policy Statement” approved by the BTA’s board includes this passage:

• We have not consistently stood with culturally and community-based organizations in countering displacement caused by gentrifying investments including bikeway improvements.

• Our organization and our movement have not done enough to listen to the concerns and priorities of communities of color.

• With more than 50% of youth in our schools being people of color, we cannot afford for these inequities to persist and for an increasingly smaller percentage of our community members to share in community prosperity.

• We know that diversity in cycling exists and the number of people of color biking continues to grow. People of color are leading the US biking boom.

• Metro’s Regional Active Transportation Plan found that “in the 4-county region, nonwhite householders make a greater percentage of their trips by walking, bicycling and transit than white householders.”

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To get these goals done, Sadowsky said the BTA will recruit a diversity task force that includes people both on and off its staff and create an “action plan with clear accountability and metrics, including prioritizing budget allocations and staffing, which will result in measurable results on a yearly basis towards achieving action plan goals.”

Elizabeth Quiroz, a member of the BTA’s four-person advocacy team, now has the additional title of equity manager. She said that the BTA’s approach to more equitable advocacy is mostly about changing its processes for selecting policy priorities, since its current staff and volunteer base don’t necessarily know what communities of color need and want.

“We realize that we’re not experts,” Quiroz said Thursday. “There’s a lot of disparities, a lot of transportation burdens, and they’ve been distributed unequally, specifically in communities of color. … A lot of these groups haven’t really been at the table, haven’t been part of the decision-making.”

Quiroz said that as part of the BTA’s effort, it’s “looking to our other colleagues like the CCC that have advanced more in this work.”

Sadowsky said that many white-dominated nonprofits have a tendency to “stand outside of the community, on the other side of the fence, and throw things in.”

“Our role is not to throw solutions over the fence,” he said. “Our role is to open that gate so solutions go both ways, and to listen, first and foremost, to what communities want.”

karen woman

A woman speaks in the Burmese Karen language at Tuesday’s event. “It’s 15 minutes from my home to school and we need to cross three streets and it’s very dangerous because there are no lights or signals,” she said. “When a car comes we have to run very fast because if we walk slowly we worry that the car will hit us.”

He said the BTA’s spending some of its energy trying to ensure that its work benefits people of color will also ultimately make the group better at making biking better for white people.

“Just from a survival mode, it makes sense,” Sadowsky said. “But it feels right. It’s exciting. It’s almost reinvigorated some of our staff’s energy. … People used to say, ‘Oh, that’s east of 82nd Street, I’m not gonna live there.’ People are all of a sudden saying, ‘I’m going to have to live there because I can’t afford to live anywhere else.’”

Correction 12:45 p.m.: A previous version of this post gave the wrong school affiliation for Diego Hernandez. Also at 12:45 p.m.: Added comments from Quiroz.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org


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Safe routes to school coalition takes message to east county tonight

Safe routes to school coalition takes message to east county tonight

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The flyer for the event was written in four languages.

Tonight in eastern Multnomah County an unusual cast of characters will gather to speak out in support of safer routes to school. I say unusual because biking and walking advocacy doesn’t often happen east of I-205.

The event tonight is being organized by the For Every Kid Coalition in partnership with the Community Alliance of Tenants.

This coalition is pressuring regional politicians and policymakers to dedicated more funding toward Safe Routes to School. Specifically, they want $15 million in federal “flexible funds” to go toward the program. The effort is one of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s five main advocacy campaigns that emerged after federal set-asides for the Safe Routes program have all but dried up.

The rally tonight will take place at the Rosewood Initiative, a community development organization located over three miles east of I-205. Here’s more about the event from a BTA press release:

Multicultural Families to Call for Safer Streets in East Multnomah County – Communities will speak up in seven languages for health and safety of their kid

… Multicultural community members and elected officials from East Portland, Gresham, Fairview, and Troutdale will discuss concerns around the disproportionately worse street-level safety and community health in their neighborhoods.

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… Too many families in East Multnomah County don’t have the necessary safe infrastructure—sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes—in their communities to support healthy activity for their families…

Community members who usually struggle to advocate for their children because of a language barrier will participate using translators speaking Spanish, Nepali, Karen, Vietnamese, Russian, and Burmese.

It’s a significant event for reasons far beyond simply winning much-needed funding for safer streets.

Part of the event will focus on empowering a broader segment of people in our region to speak up about this issue. There will be “Community testimony training” prior to a panel discussion and organizers say we can expect to see “passionate parents learning to advocate for the health and safety of their children.”

This event also highlights a growing effort by the BTA and other active transportation advocacy groups to expand their coalition beyond the usual suspects. The Community Alliance of Tenants, for instance, is a statewide tenant-rights organization that develops leadership skills for low-income renters so they can speak up against unfair treatment. We highlighted testimony from CAT’s leader Jusin Buri in a post last month.

Learn more about this effort at OurHealthyStreets.org.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org


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Safe routes coalition: Too many kids unable to join Walk and Bike to School Day

Safe routes coalition: Too many kids unable to join Walk and Bike to School Day

Ride Along with the Stedman Family-5

Safer infrastructure would shift this traffic equation.
(Photo @ J. Maus/BikePortland)

By a scan of headlines and social media feeds, last week’s International Walk and Bike to School Day was a big success. But the full picture reveals a more sobering truth: The vast majority of kids didn’t walk or bike to school.

This morning, Our Healthy Streets, the coalition behind the “For Every Kid” campaign, an initiative that aims to offer safe routes to school funding and programs to every student in the metro area, released a statement highlighting the many schools who didn’t participate.

According to the coalition, 115 schools in 12 cities across the Metro region took part in the event, but over 300 schools could not participate.

“It was so much fun to see these little bright people, so earnest and excited walking and riding to their school,” said Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba in the statement. “The sad thing was the long, long line of cars waiting to drop their kids off and the little ones that really wished they could have walked but their mom thinks it’s too dangerous. She’s probably not wrong.”

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The same goes for Tigard says Woodward Elementary parent Eric Reynolds: “Many families did not participate in Walk and Bike to School Day because of dangerous intersections caused by inattentive driving. There are also gaps in the sidewalks with no shoulder to walk in and you are forced into the road with speeding traffic.”

As we reported last week, this coalition (which includes the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, the American Heart Association, the Community Alliance of Tenants, Oregon Walks, Upstream Public Health, and others) has the support of many state legislators. Together they’re ramping up pressure on Metro to commit more dollars to safe routes programs.

Learn more at OurHealthyStreets.org.


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