Despite challenges created by the ongoing pandemic, last week The Street Trust’s 11th annual Oregon Active Transportation Summit drew 95 speakers from around the region, state, and country to talk about the needs and challenges in our transportation systems and how we can address them.

From learning about how transportation advocates can improve media coverage of traffic deaths, to exploring the new public plazas in downtown Portland, and discussing how cities can reach zero auto ownership, this year’s summit demonstrated our commitment to promoting all modes to achieve a safe, accessible, equitable, and sustainable transportation system.

 

Summit 2022 – by the numbers:

  • The Summit included 30 virtual sessions over the course of 3 fun-packed days
  • 158 passionate transportation thinkers and doers attended to Monday’s 3-hour opening session featuring USDOT Civil Rights Office chief Irene Marion, Metro President Lynn Peterson, Youth Climate Activist Cassie Wilson, Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, Washington County Commissioner Nafisa Fai, and N. Clackamas School Board Chair Libra Forde among other community leaders
  • By Day 3, Summit sessions had accumulated more than 1,000 views from over 300 attendees — ta 50% increase over last year’s attendance
  • The experience included 10 fun and engaging in-person events across the Portland metro, including a visit to the Afrovillage MAX conversion and a closing happy hour sponsored by Nelson/Nygaard (thank you!)

 

The Street Trust team was thrilled to bring back some in-person programming and we were humbled by the terrific response we got from attendees and volunteers who helped out. After two completely virtual Summits, it was wonderful to see our friends getting together as a community again. 

Missed the in-person events this year? Below are snapshots of just a few of the exciting adventures put together by The Street Trust and our partners. Watch for video recordings of sessions as they’re posted as well as our summary report coming soon.

Thank you to our generous sponsors!

Promo Poster for Eath Day Run with Sponsors

Happy Earth Month!

 

The Street Trust is teaming up with Nossa Familia, Bivo, and Legwork Local Delivery to amplify Earth Day on Friday, April 22nd. Our partnership with these businesses is part of a larger campaign hosted by Earth Day Oregon that amplifies ways to take action in Oregon on Earth Day. Each of our business partners are doing their part to amplify Earth Day while supporting the work The Street Trust is doing to create a transportation future that is equitable and sustainable.

Thank you to our business partners, to Human Access Project, and to Earth Day Oregon for assisting us in celebrating Earth Day.

Want to get in on the action? Join The Street Trust on a 3.65-mile run celebrating active transportation, community health, and our Earth on Sunday, April 24th.

 

REGISTER for ‘MOVE FOR MOTHER EARTH’

 

 

Dear Friend,

Trust means different things to different people. Here at The Street Trust, we’re working hard to understand and improve trust within our organization, out in the community, and across our programs and efforts.

Building trust is time consuming and often thankless work that can entail stepping back and supporting another’s leadership. It can entail sacrifice in the short term for greater movement building in the long. Sometimes, building trust means giving without strings attached. Maintaining that trust is more artform than science and measuring it can prove challenging. We feel empowered when trust is present and weakened when it is absent.

 

Regardless how you understand the word, we’re working hard to be worthy of the ‘trust’ in our name.

 

Here are a few recent examples of trust-building investments that we’ve made recently that wouldn’t have been possible without you trusting us to do the right things with your financial support:

  • Sending our Policy Transformation Manager to the Office of State Rep. Khan Pham to provide transportation policy support for the entire 2022 Legislative Session
  • Providing fiscal sponsorship free of charge to BikeLoud PDX while they sought non-profit status from the IRS
  • Challenging IP 41 in the courts – a ballot initative that would impede our region’s ability to implement systemwide congestion pricing for demand management
  • Supporting research led by Portland State/TREC that will help policymakers and the e-bike advocacy community understand the best incentives to promote e-bike adoption.
  • Developing the #OurStreets Scorecard, a free-to-the public online, data-democratizing tool that will empower communities regionwide to advocate for projects that meet their needs where they live 

 

Fighting for better policy. Forging strategic partnerships. Founding and staffing coalitions. Educating people from the youngest students to gubernatorial candidates…. the list goes on. At the end of the day, trust is our bottom line and none of it would be possible without you. 

 

Contribute to our TRUST fund today!

 

 

 


Thanks for your interest, this position has been filled.

Are you that person at the potluck who wants to meet everyone at the table? Feel as comfortable behind a database as in front of a roomful of people? Do you think building community power for better transportation options is practically magic? Is translating complicated ideas in easy to understand ways across communities and cultures your superpower? 

 

The Community Engagement Assistant will focus on two primary work areas: 1) Supporting the Community Engagement Manager in executing the organization’s programs and events (60-75% of the time) and 2) supporting the The Street Trust staff in developing, increasing, and sustaining grassroots community capacity to realize substantial gains in transportation justice (40-25% of the time).

 

Given the current global COVID-19 pandemic, this person will need to remain flexible, staying abreast of and implementing their duties in alignment with up-to-date COVID-19 protocols as issued by The State of Oregon and Multnomah County. We’re looking for a creative self-starter who can innovate to maintain the relevance of public events and engagement in a highly dynamic context. The successful applicant will have the opportunity to influence how the position evolves and to impact whether or not this becomes a permanent position at The Street Trust in the future.

 

Then this job is for you… read the full job description on our website.

Work with The Street Trust!

 

 

Alt text: 2-up image with Twitter post featuring image of auto crashed into telephone pole adjacent to bike share station alongside image of cyclist forced into the street by car parked in bike lane.

 

It’s time for Oregon’s leaders to reject the old—dangerous and deadly—normal and to create a safer mobility system.

 

“We want to welcome you to our WeBike ride, a monthly program to empower women, transgender, and non-binary people to safely ride…” 

CRASH!!! BANG!!! 

We had just kicked off our event outside Hacienda CDC, at the corner of NE Killingsworth and Cully in Portland. The plan for the day was to tour the neighborhood and explore ways that the City of Portland (PBOT) could improve safety not just for people on walking or riding bicycles, but all street users, even those driving. We’d barely finished our introductions when we heard the boom of a crash next to us on the street. A car had slammed into the utility pole right next to the BIKETOWN station where just five minutes earlier several of us had stood in a group to unlock the shared bicycles for our event.1 

You don’t need to be a daily sidewalk or bike lane user to feel how close to home the epidemic of traffic violence is hitting—we’re all feeling it daily, regardless of our travel mode. This week, the New York Times reported per capita vehicle fatalities in the U.S. increased 17.5% between summer of 2019 and the same time in 2020—the largest two-year increase since World War II. Oregon is, sadly, outpacing the national trend, with statewide fatalities up 22% in the same period. And Portland has posted its highest fatalities in three decades.

As we round the bend into a third year defined by COVID-19, we know too well the extent to which the pandemic has exacerbated existing social problems and inequality. This is evident when considered alongside the recent report from our partners at Oregon Walks who found that “people who identify as Black, who are experiencing homelessness, who are Older Adults or who are Persons with Disabilities are all at a disproportionately high risk of being killed in collisions.”

The intensification of vulnerability during the pandemic is reinforced by a recent announcement that 70% of pedestrians killed in Portland last year were people experiencing homelessness; many were living along streets identified in the city’s “high crash network.”

As the reports of these rising fatalities sound alarms, there’s no shortage of attempts to explain away the problem. The NYT analysis referenced above blames “erratic behavior.” For the Portland mayor, homeless camps located near busy streets are the problem. Oregon’s Department of Transportation (ODOT) chalks it up to reckless driving, too few cars on the road, and too few officers to police them.

To me, this feels a lot like blaming a toddler for being cranky all day because they ate birthday cake for breakfast–is it the cake that’s to blame or the fact that it ended up on their plate in the first place?

Let’s be clear: crashes are a function of vehicle speed and volume. People are dying—on bikes, on motorcycles, on sidewalks, and, yes, inside autos—because drivers are going too damn fast. And they’re able to drive that way because our streets have been designed for frictionless driving, not human health and safety. 

We’re glad to see U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg acknowledge the traffic fatality crisis and attempt to address it via his recently released National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS). This Strategy marks an important display of leadership in the right direction. Systemic responses to epidemics are warranted, and we’re happy to see Buttigieg draw a throughline from the lack of safe streets to our inability to shift away from drive-alone trips toward low-carbon modes like walking, biking, and transit. We hope that the guidance issued in his roadmap trickles down quickly (along with adequate funding) to state and local governments.

But we can’t wait for Secretary Pete to come to our rescue: we need to rethink our streets—and our relationship to the streets—rapidly and locally. We can and must take swift action informed by best practices to reduce traffic fatalities immediately.

Oregon is in the top quartile of deadliest states for traffic crashes in the nation and the deadliest on the West Coast. This is a preventable tragedy that can be addressed by investing in a system that’s not as dominated by cars. When you improve the multimodal system and allow people to shift trips from vehicles, you not only reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled, you improve the safety of the transportation system.

A few state-level fixes we could make this month? The Oregon Legislature is considering a bill to authorize civilian review of traffic violations citations initiated by fixed photo radar, photo red light, and dual function cameras. Passing this will reduce costs for local police departments. (Currently in Portland, 100 percent of this review occurs on police over-time!) And more importantly, the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) will soon be directing ODOT how to allocate its one-time windfall from Biden’s infrastructure package.

OTC needs to address the traffic epidemic by steering these resources away from a funding mix that prioritizes drive-alone trips toward active transportation, public transit, and Safe Routes to School infrastructure, education, and safety programs, prioritizing those interventions and investments with the greatest climate and equity impacts. This is no time to undersign the deadly status quo by directing these funds to roadway expansions in conflict with our safety goals. 

The City of Portland, ostensibly a global leader in transportation innovation, could also act swiftly to reduce its traffic fatalities. Instead of sweeping vulnerable people off streets by emergency declaration, it could by the same authority (and with the same money) reduce vehicle speeds, clear intersection corners, and improve lighting in high-crash areas. (Reducing speeds from 40 to 20 MPH increases the likelihood that a vulnerable street user survives  a crash by 70%.)

Portland needs to rethink its public safety budget, beginning with reallocating funding set aside to hire police officers toward completing unfunded and shovel-ready projects in PBOT’s High Crash Network. Expediting implementation of the “Nearer Term Recommendations” from the Pricing for Equitable Mobility Task Force would generate revenue to enhance investments in programs like the “Transportation Wallet” that encourages travel modes other than driving alone. 

And finally, back to NE Killingsworth where this story started. PBOT is currently rushing through a paving project on that street which would leave that community with minimal protection from crashes just like the one we witnessed. Instead, project managers need to slow down and meaningfully engage residents to achieve the highest standard of protection for this already marginalized community – protection that could have possibly stopped that car this past Saturday from making it onto the sidewalk at all.

Making our streets safer is not going to be easy, but failing to act now will only continue the deadly trends, exacerbating disparities in communities with historical underinvestment. Investments in safe routes to school, pedestrian improvements, and safe ways to bike and access transit help strengthen the entire transportation network by reducing traffic fatalities and congestion, as well as improving public health. But sufficient funding is critical to provide these enhancements to the network.

It’s time for Oregon’s leaders to reject the old—dangerous and deadly—normal and to create a new mobility system and safe streets that keep our people safe and moving in the right direction.

By Sarah Iannarone, Executive Director

This post originally appeared in the Oregon Way substack.

sARA

Make Your Voice Heard B&W

 

Transportation advocates have long been pushing for safer streets and greener transportation policies to address the high rates of traffic fatalities and the fact that 40% of Oregon’s carbon emissions come from transportation. Today, we need your help to convince statewide policymakers to take bold action to invest in a sustainable and equitable transportation system.

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has put together different scenarios for how to spend the $1.2 billion of federal funding received from the Investments, Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA). Out of this massive investment, $412 million are considered “flexible funds.” While one of the scenarios does commit more to public and active transportation – areas that have been profoundly underinvested with enormous negative climate and equity outcomes – all of them take a “spread it around” approach, allocating at least $54 million to expansion and maintenance of highways.

ODOT and the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) must adopt an investment approach that does right by communities that have been overshadowed and underfunded. ODOT should also follow the Governor’s Executive Order calling for a reduction in GHG emission and all investments with these funds should be evaluated for their climate impacts. 

Over the last few weeks, state legislators, individuals, and leaders from multiple advocacy groups have commented to ODOT demanding a more thoughtful allocation of the funds in line with our values and now ODOT needs to hear from you! 

We’re asking you to provide input to the decision in three ways. (We’ve provided assistance below this list to help you complete these tasks):

  1. Fill out ODOT’s open house survey including “ratings” for the different programs and scenarios and the option to add comments. (Need ideas? We’ve included key points and suggestions below). The results of this survey will be presented to the OTC. 
  2. Submit a comment through the OTC public comment form.
  3. Provide oral comments at the OTC virtual meeting on February 17 (12:30 to 2:30 PM). Comment timeslots are limited, and you must sign up by at least 4pm the day before the meeting – information is posted on the OTC meeting website.

The OTC will make the final investment allocation decision at the end of March. We’ll keep you posted about ways to engage as the conversation progresses. 


As promised – our advice to help you craft testimony:

  • No money should be allocated to “Enhance Highway” 
  • If money must be allocated to “Fix-It” it should be limited and prioritized for projects with the greatest climate and equity impacts
  • Invest in programs with better safety, climate, and equity impacts: Safe Routes to School, Great Streets, and Local Climate Planning
  • Prioritize spending on areas where, due to constitutional restrictions, Highway Trust Fund money cannot be spent.

For the survey, we suggest the following ratings. (More detail about our take on these areas below.)

  • Station 2 (Survey 1): Areas to Invest
    • Safe Routes to School – 5
    • Great Streets – 5 
    • Fix-it – 1
    • Enhance Highway – 1
    • Local Climate Planning – 5
    • ADA Curb Ramps – 3
    • Business and Workforce Development – 4
    • Match for US DOT Competitive Grants – 3
    • Maintenance and Operations – 1
  • Station 3 (Survey 2):  Funding Options
    • Fix-It – 1
    • Public and Active Transportation – 5
    • Enhance Highway – 1
    • Balanced – 1

More Detail on the Areas of Investment:

  • Safe Routes to School: The Safe Routes to School program builds bike lanes, sidewalks and street crossings around elementary and middle schools. This is a grant program that always has many more applications than it can fund, and provides direct investment in community-identified projects.
  • Great Streets: Many state highways that pass through communities focus on moving traffic and do not adequately address the needs of people biking, walking, or riding transit, nor do they adequately support community and economic vitality. Great Streets is a new program that could provide much-needed focus on people instead of vehicle movement.
  • Fix-It: There is no question that repair of roads and bridges is an expensive and important investment. However, regardless of the amount of money allocated to ODOT, the agency always lacks adequate funding for repair and maintenance.  ODOT has historically chosen to spend unrestricted money on large-scale roadway expansion projects over investing in maintenance and operations.  ODOT needs to shift to systemically prioritizing maintenance instead of expansion and spend our dollars efficiently to make our system whole. Our low ratings for “Fix-It” in this survey reflect our belief that these important investments need to be built sustainably into the budget, and ODOT should not be bailing itself out with this one-time windfall. 
  • Enhance Highway: “Enhance highways” means building new roadway. It is a scientific fact that “enhancing” or expanding highway infrastructure increases miles driven and, in turn, greenhouse gas emissions. This relationship between road capacity and traffic is well established as the “fundamental law of road congestion” or “induced demand.” Because of this, ODOT’s intention to expand highways directly contradicts Governor Brown’s executive order calling for a 45 percent reduction of GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2035. If Oregon intends to meet these goals, highway enhancement is not an option and no money should be allocated to it. (It’s worth noting that adding roadway capacity also reduces congestion only in the short term, and we’ll all just end up stuck in the same traffic on wider roads with more other vehicles.) There are plenty of other reasons to avoid “Enhance Highway” investments – they create new maintenance obligations on top of the existing ones that ODOT has demonstrated very little interest in meeting, and lead to more driving which leads to more injuries and deaths. 
  • Local Climate Planning: The state’s Department of Land Conservation and Development is proposing making cities, counties and metropolitan planning organizations across Oregon update their transportation plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation system. This money would support rapid implementation of those rules, which will support climate and equity outcomes across the state.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act Curb Ramps: ODOT is required by a lawsuit to build ADA-compliant curb ramps. While ADA-compliant curb ramps are extremely important for accessibility, this work – which should have been done long ago – should also be covered by ongoing funding, not by this one-time windfall.
  • Business and Workforce Development: ODOT is investing in internal programs that train new construction workers and support businesses owned by women and people of color so they can compete for ODOT contracts. 
  • Match for U.S. DOT Competitive Grants: The U.S. Department of Transportation will hand out more than $100 billion for competitive grants. Most programs require grantees to provide at least 20% of the total project funding. ODOT would like to use some of the IIJA federal money to replace state funding on various projects, so they can use that state funding as a match to apply for grants to get more federal money. This could be good or bad, depending on what grants ODOT applies for.
  • Maintenance and Operations: This money would be spent on regular highway maintenance activities like patching potholes, plowing snow, and other day-to-day work. As with the Fix-It category, our low ratings for this investment option reflect our belief that maintenance needs to be built sustainably into the budget, and ODOT should not be bailing itself out with this one-time windfall.

 

Pro-shelter protesters stand adjacent to busy Portland Arterial

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

SAFE STREETS AND HOUSING ADVOCATES RESPOND TO EMERGENCY DECLARATION: DO NOT USE TRAFFIC DEATHS AS JUSTIFICATION FOR ENCAMPMENT SWEEPS; MAKE OUR STREETS SAFER AND EXPAND HOUSING OPTIONS WITH URGENCY

To: Portland City Council
Cc: Local Media

February 4, 2022

This week’s release of the Traffic Crash Report by the Portland Bureau of Transportation shows the devastating reality of how dangerous our current streets, roadways, and other facilities are. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler shared on his own takeaway via social media: “Portlanders deserve safer streets, roads and freeways.” Indeed, all community members deserve better, which is why we strongly object to the emergency declaration to sweep encampments and further displace unhoused community members from alongside our most dangerous roads. The presence of unhoused people does not make our streets unsafe; rather, poor roadway design, ongoing neglect and deferred maintenance, recklessness in the form of speeding, operating a vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol, and other dangerous behavior are all well-documented reasons why there is this alarming uptick in deaths.

Portland is not alone in this upward trend, unfortunately: all across our state and nationally people are dying on roadways. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg acknowledges this national crisis and has taken steps to coordinate a response through the new National Roadway Safety Strategy. Nowhere in any transportation study, advocacy campaign or community forum seeking to address our roadway safety problems has it been suggested that unhoused people and encampments should be swept or outright banned as a partial solution to this crisis.

The deaths that our communities grieve over is a direct result of prolonged underinvestment, bureaucratic disarray, and broken promises that advocates for safe streets and those experiencing the brunt of our housing and economic crisis have consistently raised to decision makers at every level of governance. In June of 2021, Portland City Council unanimously passed the Paving the Pathway from Streets to Stability ordinance  (#190478), which codified our approach toward outdoor shelters and provided the regulatory tools we need to build six Safe Rest Villages (SRVs). City Council approved $24.9 million in the first tranche of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) dollars to build up six SRVs around the city. These shelters remain unbuilt, and the demand for appropriate housing and shelter continues to outpace the availability of temporary, much less permanent options.

Even if we did have ample capacity to shelter everyone potentially displaced through this emergency order, the Oregonian reported this week that it’s unlikely that most people swept from their residences would even know they have an alternative: 95% of unsheltered Portlanders said city workers didn’t offer shelter before camp sweeps. City officials proposing this emergency declaration are fully aware of the 9th Circuit Court ruling in Martin v. Boise that unless there is enough shelter space for the homeless population of Portland, we cannot prohibit them from camping outdoors on public property. Sweeping unhoused people without viable options for them to safely relocate and shelter is inefficient, ineffective, and inhumane. 

We need to – and can – act urgently to save lives. The City of Portland’s elected leaders can take bold action to do that without further jeopardizing those living on our streets. Swift action can be taken to:

  • Issue an emergency resolution to close down high crash corridors and intersections to auto traffic and reduce speed limits to 20 MPH on all city-owned facilities and roadways 
  • Rebalance the city’s public safety budget to address the traffic fatality epidemic, beginning with reallocating funding set aside to hire 67 police officers to complete unfunded and shovel-ready projects in PBOT’s High Crash Network
  • Fully fund Portland Street Response citywide
  • Immediately fund, implement, and enforce the “vision clearance” of approximately 350 intersections citywide, beginning with those located on high crash network streets
  • Develop Safe Rest Villages (SRVs) quickly using a low-barrier model that is driven by the needs, hopes, desires and lived experience of people experiencing the trauma of homelessness. Ensure that the City develops SRVs equitably and that they are allowed throughout the city 
  • Move to expedite implementation of the “Nearer Term Recommendations” from the Pricing for Equitable Mobility Task Force
  • Quickly convert existing vacant structures into housing that would meet the needs of people sleeping unsheltered in places that pose a risk to their personal safety, following recommendations in the Here Together Coalition’s Road Map
  • Invest more boldly and urgently in Housing First and other proven models that quickly and humanely support people’s direct transition back into permanent homes. 

 

Sincerely, 

Oregon Walks
The Street Trust
Verde
OPAL Environmental Justice
Portland Forward
Getting There Together Coalition
Human Solutions
Imagine Black
No More Freeways Coalition
Street Roots Advocacy
Our Portland PAC
Portland: Neighbors Welcome
Northwest Pilot Project
Impact NW
Sunrise PDX
BikeLoud PDX
1000 Friends of Oregon
Right 2 Survive
Outside In
Urban League of Portland
Portland Jobs with Justice
Central City Concern
Transition Projects, Inc.

 

A Pacific Northwest winter provides so many exciting bicycling environments: relentless rain, very cold temperatures, long hours of darkness, snow, and ice!

Here are 10 tips to help you bike in some of the conditions winter might present.

And if you’re a member of The Street Trust or Business for a Better Portland, join us for an hour-long virtual Winter Biking Clinic on January 24th to learn even more.

  1. Fender up! Full-coverage fenders will keep that dirty, gritty water and slush on the ground from getting on you, but they also prevent it from making its way into your bike where it will slowly grind away at your drivetrain.
  2. Clean your chain. Wiping your chain clean and applying lube more often throughout the winter will keep your bike running smoothly. Also wipe accumulated snow off your chain as it builds up.
  3. Shield your glasses. Get a visor for your helmet to keep rain and snow off yoBiking in snowur glasses. Or you can make one: remove the button from the top of a baseball cap and it will fit nicely under a helmet.
  4. Wool is warm! Wool keeps you warm even if it gets wet. There’s no great vegan alternative to wool so whether or not you’re wearing wool:
  5. Layer up. Wear base layers under jeans, jeans under rain pants, two pairs of gloves, two pairs of socks.
  6. Re-waterproof gear. Check your soggy rain gear’s tag or online to see howto reactivate it–many items just need a spray-on or wash-in coating andthey’re like new. 
  7. Bring extras. If you’ve got room to stow extra gloves, socks, or even shoes, do it! You’ll use these extras to replace wet items or to add as extra layers.
  8. Avoid wet metal. Metal plates and grates can be slippery in the rain so go around them whenever you can.
  9. Long stops. Give yourself extra stopping space when the ground is wet–especially if you have rim brakes rather than disc brakes.
  10. Light up! You’re required to have a front light visible from 500 feet away, but a stronger light that illuminates potholes and other hazards is great for riding in the dark.

Join us with your lunch on Wednesday, January 26th to learn even more about biking in winter. Email [email protected] if you haven’t received your invite yet or to check the status of your membership. Not a member yet? Join for $5 a month or $40 a year here.

Winter Biking Clinic

 

The Street Trust had an unprecedented year in 2021. Even as the pandemic continued to disrupt our society, our organization dug into an intensive rebuild with an eye to the future and took action to ensure we’re making an impact across the Portland metro region and beyond. Despite unique challenges, TST pushed the region closer to a complete, safe, low-carbon, multimodal transportation system that contributes to equity in access, opportunity, health, and prosperity for all.

In 2021, the organization hired an Executive Director; forwarded state legislation to get more funding for people walking, biking, and rolling; recruited 18 new esteemed and diverse board members across both the 501c3 and 501c4 boards; published our 2021-23 Strategic Action Plan; and kicked off the #OurStreets campaign – an intensive effort to build tools and community power for better transportation outcomes across the Portland metro region

But don’t take our word for it! We went straight to our team on the ground for their wins from 2021 and their aspirations for 2022 …

2021 was a breakaway year for our advocacy work. Over the past year, we revived and rebuilt The Street Trust Action Fund, our 501c4 political arm. The Action Fund board members represent diverse experiences and perspectives, who aspire to work together for greater credibility and influence in the politics of the greater Portland region. Working in complement to the efforts of our 501c3 arm, they are going to focus on the politics of elevating multimodal transportation as a priority issue at all levels of government and in all parts of the region. Building in greater power will help hold leadership accountable for making real progress in improving transportation options for people in their communities.

TST managers André Lightsey-Walker and Anouksha Gardner at the 2021 Alice Awards.

Policy Transformation Manager André Lightsey-Walker worked intensively in 2021,  writing letters to agencies and officials calling for more equitable, climate-smart mobility options, and serving on committees at every level of government to shape better outcomes. He is most excited with how the organization built up our “capacity and presence at a diverse variety of tables,” adding, “We’ve been impressing folks everywhere we go and building healthy relationships.” André is optimistic that 2022 will bring more opportunities, “to come together in person for walks, rolls, and gathering in Our Streets!” 

 

Partnerships are critical to our work, and this year our Strategic Partnerships Manager Anouksha Gardner made connections that emphasize our commitment to building alliances across many sectors and throughout the entire Portland metro region.

She worked hard in 2021 refreshing existing relationships and building new ones, including signing reciprocal memberships with members of the freight, technology, and business sectors, including Forth Mobility, B-line, and Business for a Better Portland. By adding Killer Queen Cyclery and Icicle Tricycles as new business members, Anouksha kept TST true to our biking roots.

Anouksha also connected with large institutions whose commuters and political influence can work with us to shape the future of Portland, such as Kaiser Community Health and Portland State University. When it comes to community-based organizations, Anouksha kicked off collaborations with Historic Parkrose, Unite Oregon, and the Rosewood Initiative as part of the #OurStreets campaign.

 

Supporting the next generation of walkers and rollers continues to be central to our programming. Education Director Lindsay Huber is proud that, despite school closures and distancing, TST helped schools and students host multiple successful Walk+Roll events in 2021. “We were also very proud to add 123 Oregon schools to the list of schools across the United States celebrating Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day with support from Ruby Bridges herself! This event encouraged students to learn about racial justice and apply it to active transportation.”

Walking and rolling to school isn’t possible without a safe way to get there, which is why TST is thrilled with Safe Routes To School Coordinator Nicole Perry’s hard won successes in 2021, including new safe routes for students attending Linwood Elementary and Sojourner Schools in Milwaukie. 

In 2022, TST will work hard expanding our offering of Walk+Roll programs, including a Winter Walk+Roll event to encourage students to get to school safely in cold, rainy, or snowy weather with active transportation; and an Earth Month event in April to help students think about the impact of how they travel on the environment.

 

Despite the pandemic, The Street Trust also continued our critical work in the streets. Community Engagement Manager Madi Carlson, “loved that the 2021 Move More Challenge expanded beyond biking and included walking, scooting, transit, and more in a bigger effort to reduce car usage.”

In addition to the Move More Challenge, Madi hosted inclusive WeBike rides and supported or led other bike rides throughout the year. This included two community rides hosted by Teatro Milagro in SE Portland: Día de la Madre in May and Día de los Muertos in October. She also worked with the City of Portland over the Summer to host an event at Gateway Discovery Park and an events action table in Old Town for the ‘Here for Portland’ weekend. To help fill the void so many of us felt with no formal Sunday Parkways, Madi led our efforts to activate the street outside Teatro Milagro every Sunday in August to create “mini Sunday Parkways.” In 2022, Madi is hoping to return to “more in-person programming for the Oregon Active Transportation SummitBike Commute Clinics, and The Street Trust member events!”

 

Community Engagement Manager Madi Carlson hosting the parklet TST hosted in Oregon City for Parking Day.

TST also deployed grants to support activations that transformed streets across the region into people-oriented spaces. In September, Grants & Impact Manager Henry Latourette Miller obtained a grant from SPIN and worked with the local business community to set up a parklet in a parking space in Oregon City as a part of International Parking Day. He was thrilled to organize the Oregon City event, which, “proves our commitment to serving the entire Portland metro, while featuring a partnership with the local business association, demonstrating our ambition to create innovative alliances across many sectors.”

In a perfect harmony of furthering our mission while building up our community, our biggest street activation of the year was our annual Alice Awards, which we transformed into a lively, intercultural block party at the Friends of the Green Loop’s Ankeny West space. Along with allowing our supporters and allies to gather in celebration of transportation leaders for the first time in over a year, the block party was also an opportunity to take over a full lane of West Burnside Street, one of Portland’s most notorious arterials. 

White Lotus and Dragon Dancers performing at TST’s 2021 Alice Awards

Looking to the future, In 2022, we’re going fight for you from the literal intersections of a public health crisis in which unsafe and incomplete public streets threaten our lives and livelihoods. We’re going to refuse to settle for an autocentric transportation system that worsens disparities and sacrifices our future. We going to stand firm in the belief that we can stop preventable death resulting from inequality, lax safety, and climate change. And we are going to do everything we can to win policy transformation and major investments that save lives, reduce barriers, and expand opportunities to the people and neighborhoods our current system neglects.

In 2022, our work will be defined by a continued commitment to investing in advocacy, education, community, partnerships, and impact. The #OurStreets Community Mobilization Campaign is now underway, with planned collaborations with Rosewood Initiative, Historic Parkrose, and Unite Oregon set to take place this spring. We are supercharged with new faces and new energy ready to take the work of The Street Trust to new heights. 2021 was a year of big changes and bold moves. 2022 is the year those seeds we planted will bear fruit.  

But we can’t do any of this without you. Together, we can have greater impact advocating for public investments that make our region more livable, equitable, and healthy. As a new year begins, please make sure your membership is up to date, gift a membership to street users you love, and sign up to volunteer. In 2022, we’re going to reclaim our streets, and our future – but we can’t do it without you.

 

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Picture of I5 Bridge

Oregonians deserve transportation options that are safer, greener, more accessible, and more equitable than in previous generations.

 

By Sarah Iannarone, Executive Director

Passage of President Biden’s long-awaited $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (“IIJA”), earlier this month set the transportation sector atwitter with words like “once-in-a-generation,” “transformative” and “climate game-changer.” When added to money already coming Oregon’s way from the Feds, the IIJA means the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) stands poised to spend about $4.5 billion over the next five years. 

As the 2022 election cycle heats up, candidates, electeds, and agency heads are banging the git-er-done drum in unison. They argue we should leverage this deluge of dollars to break the political gridlock and push through a suite of major interconnected highway expansions around the Portland metro region. The drum beating has reached a rapid tempo. One director is pushing for action while the “stars align,” as he said in his update to the bi-state legislative committee overseeing a proposed I-5 bridge project across the Columbia River.

It’s hard not to match the drumbeat, but ODOT is plagued by cost overruns on major projects alongside a half-billion-dollar annual maintenance backlog. The chance to increase revenues through tolling, now expanded thanks to the passage of HB 3055, has distracted ODOT from pursuing good policy and centered its focus on trying to find a way out of a financial pothole. 

The fact is ODOT is severely overextended, yet wants Oregonians to trust them as they embark on a speculative freeway widening scheme intended to address congestion and get Portland-area traffic – especially freight – flowing like it’s 1966 when I-5 construction was completed. Even if ODOT’s new Urban Mobility Office – created expressly to coordinate the freeway expansions and concurrent tolling project – could successfully execute its mission, the logic behind its policies is fundamentally flawed. 

We cannot build ourselves out of the congestion hole with freeway expansions, so ODOT needs to put down its shovels and stop digging.

On top of the climate and racial justice impacts of interstate freeway widening, the projects simply cost too much and fail to deliver on the congestion relief or free-flowing freight mobility they promise. ODOT’s insistence on these projects is especially worrisome because we know that better policies exist. For example, we need to be dynamically pricing the system to manage demand (for example, by increasing the cost of driving at peak hours). And, we should be investing in walking, bicycling, micromobility, and transit to unclog our roadways and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Every lane mile of highway ODOT builds costs taxpayers millions of dollars while  adding drive-alone trips  to the roads when we need to be reducing the number of cars on the road and the miles they travel. 

Instead of dancing to ODOT’s beat, legislators and the Oregon Transportation Commission need to seize this opportunity and direct ODOT to start banking on the ROI of active transportation and transit investments if they hold any hope of unraveling gridlock and getting our state’s green leadership back on track. (And no, electric vehicles will not save us.) 

We have less than a decade remaining to change course and preserve this planet for future generations. At COP26 in Glasgow this month,mayors from across the globe announced that investments in public transit must double to meet our climate goals. Those investments should not perpetuate the status quo.

Oregon’s transportation system contributes 40% of Oregon’s GHG pollution,and serves as the setting for the deaths of hundreds of people every year, while injuring exponentially more. It fails to serve people who don’t drive or own cars – approximately 30% of Oregonians don’t drive, according to a recent presentation to the Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee. The maintenance of the status quo will only increase the ongoing impacts of systemic racism that have resulted in people from Black, Brown and Indigenous communities being more reliant on walking, biking, and public transit to get where they are going and more vulnerable to danger. The disproportionate burden borne by already trauma-impacted and vulnerable members of our community is unacceptable. We cannot continue to invest in a system that leaves so much of our population underserved and behind.

The health impacts and disparities of our current system should be argument enough for ODOT to change course from status quo investments. Oregonians deserve transportation options that are safer, greener, more accessible, and more equitable than in previous generations. Unfortunately, for every good dollar in the infrastructure package dedicated to climate resilience, active transportation, and transit, there are two more that incentivize driving alone and perpetuating an unjust and outdated system. This is no time to be taking one step forward and two steps back with our mobility investments. 

The windfall to Oregon from this infrastructure package (along with Build Back Better Act, should it pass) is a rare opportunity to make equitable, climate-smart investments. These are the investments that the Oregon Legislature, Transportation Commission (OTC), and local DOTS previously told transportation advocates were not possible because “we just don’t have the money for that.” Now, that excuse doesn’t have a wheel to drive on.

We can upend the status quo by taking a few, critical steps (in no particular order): first, completing the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan; second, exponentially increasing transit service and coverage across and between our urban areas; third, transferring our orphaned state highways to local communities; fourth, engage and learn from representative and inclusive organizations, such as those leading the Clean and Just Transportation Network; and, fifth, ensuring that we will have frequent high-capacity transit, local bus service, and active transportation infrastructure across the Portland-metro region, including along the I-5 corridor and across the Columbia River.  

Unfortunately, what we’ve heard from ODOT thus far is too much money planned for major highway projects and far too little committed to reducing and regulating greenhouse gas emissions — projects that would align with Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order on Climate Action. When asked by the media at a briefing last week whether ODOT’s future infrastructure spending would reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), Assistant Director Brouwer could not comment. 

When it comes to transportation infrastructure spending in Oregon, the only correct official answer should be, “Yes, it reduces VMT and GHG.” 

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to focus on building a future transportation system that works for all Oregonians — one that is equitable and safe for people of all races, genders, zip codes, ages, and abilities. When our descendants look back at us in this moment a century from now, will they thank us for blessing them with mobility that is universally safe and accessible – a human right, even – or did we leave them more of the deadly and polluting system that we unfortunately inherited from our forebears a century ago?

 

Note: This essay originally appeared in The Oregon Way, Nov 26, 2021 sign up for their mailing list for the first look at our quarterly contributions to their newsletter.