Last week The Street Trust’s Policy Transformation Manager sent the letter below to the Oregon Tolling Program about the Regional Mobility Pricing Project. TST will continue to keep the pressure on leadership to use congestion pricing for what it is for–reducing congestion–not for paying for more highway lanes and car infrastructure at the expense of bike, pedestrian, and transit investments..


“The Street Trust is a membership advocacy organization amplifying the voice of street users from across Greater Portland. We work at the intersections of an ongoing transportation crisis. Every day, our unsafe and incomplete public streets threaten our lives and livelihoods. Together, we can stop preventable death resulting from racial and social inequality, inadequate safety, and the climate crisis. For that reason, we are working hard to overcome the political gridlock that ignores these most urgent needs.

Given these priorities, The Street Trust is focused on advancing a regional system that manages demand and prioritizes multimodal infrastructure. We are strong proponents of the emerging use of pricing as a tool to help manage traffic demand, address urgent climate concerns, and improve equitable access to other modes in our transportation system. However, The Street Trust supports using pricing as a tool to manage transportation demand, not as a revenue generator for expanding capacity for drive-alone trips.

 

The language in your draft document states that the purpose of the Regional Mobility Pricing Project is “to implement congestion pricing to manage traffic congestion and to generate revenue for priority transportation projects.” This is unacceptably vague and as such, we ask that you please clearly describe the characteristics of a priority transportation project, especially as it relates to the stated goals of “support[ing] multimodal transportation choices to provide travel options and reduce congestion” and “provid[ing] benefits for historically and currently excluded and underserved communities” and “reducing contributions to climate change effects” (p. 7).


We are gravely concerned that every project listed on the Urban Mobility Office’s website is centered on freeways or freeway expansion.The Street Trust believes the future of Urban Mobility is multimodal, not auto-centric. Oregonians deserve more than a “pave now, pay later” investment in the midst of a long-overdue climate justice reckoning and recalibration.

Throughout the draft document, there is not a single mention of induced demand. A
clear explanation of this principle and its consequence is a critical element of transportation planning discussions; thus, the final purpose and need statement document must include an explanation of induced demand.

As leaders in the discussion of congestion pricing, it is important that ODOT embraces its responsibility for driving an essential cultural shift towards the elevation and prioritization alternatives to the carbon-intensive, drive-alone trip. This project is an extraordinary opportunity to help Oregonians understand that the things they’ve perceived as free have actually been quite costly, causing harm to our most vulnerable communities for decades and that without urgent, strategic, and innovative intervention, they will continue to do so.
Finally, we ask that you move forward with a commitment to equity by ensuring you spend sufficient time and resources engaging and taking direction from the multiple generations of communities that have suffered negatively from your previous freeway projects, with a specific focus on Portland’s Black community members displaced during the original Interstate 5 construction.
We remain appreciative of the work you’ve done and are excited about the potential for our state to emerge as a national leader on innovative, equitable, and impactful transportation policy. Please do not hesitate to reach out to The Street Trust if we can support you in this important work.”

Many thanks,
André Lightsey-Walker
Policy Transformation Manager
The Street Trust

Advocacy work is painstaking and thankless. #TST staff attend hours of public hearings, write letters, and show up to testify week in and week out so your voices are represented in these discussions. But we need your support to make sure that pricing is implemented to reduce congestion and not to pay for more highway lanes at the expense of bike, pedestrian, and transit investments.

Donate today to support TST’s advocacy work ensuring fair and effective pricing in the Portland metro region.

Last month, The Street Trust’s Policy Transformation Manager sent the letter bellow to City Council to support Portland’s Bureau of Transportation and Bureau of Planning and Sustainability in developing an implementation plan for a suite of equitable mobility fees and investments based on principles recommended by the Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility Task Force.

Dear Mayor and City Council Members:
My name is André Lightsey-Walker and I am the Policy Transformation Manager at The Street Trust, a multimodal advocacy organization and registered lobbying entity with the City of Portland.
Today is a day to celebrate! I’m happy to share both my excitement and appreciation of the work the Taskforce has brought forward and I want to commend not only their outcomes but also – and perhaps more importantly – the groundwork and processes that have led to their final recommendations.
The Street Trust supports the Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility (POEM) Taskforce recommendations and encourages City Council to formally adopt these recommendations and to move quickly towards an implementation plan.
We are here today to support you as you navigate potential points of contention surrounding these recommendations and align your bureaus to ensure that they are implemented equitably, directed to do so with requisite urgency, and from a position of leadership both regionally and nationally.

As a regional advocacy organization, The Street Trust has identified equitable pricing as a strategic priority (and opportunity) to achieve greater mobility, equity and climate goals across the greater Portland metro area. We ask that The City of Portland not only support but lead implementation demand management of our transportation system by forwarding the POEM Task Force’s recommendations from your seat at the table in ODOT tolling discussions. You have the opportunity to set precedent at a pivotal point in the region’s history, where conversations of pricing are coming up at the local, regional, and state levels. Let’s work collectively to reestablish Portland as a global transportation leader and use our influence and successes as a model for how urban areas can do pricing right.

These are highly uncertain times in which you’re leading, and when discussing pricing options it may be tempting to center your priorities on revenue generation. It’s going to be important in this pivotal moment that you remember to prioritize changing travel behavior as opposed to generating revenue. The decisions you are making surrounding the POEM recommendations have the potential to positively transform our city and establish a tangible dedication to achieving the safety and climate outcomes we hope to achieve.

I encourage you all to remember that the primary goal of these recommendations is to reduce traffic demand and support congestion relief. Potential revenue should be looked at as an opportunity and tool to double down on your impact, by using the generated funds to continue to help reduce said demand and improve equitable outcomes in our transportation system.
When facing pushback to POEM recommendations, we must understand that the bulk of opposition stems from a perspective of Portland residents, old and new, who have traveled along and experienced city streets where policies and investments have prioritized the movement of automobiles over people… often, quite literally right over them. As long as we continue to prioritize drive-alone trips in our policies and investments, we will continue to see the creeping pollution, traffic violence, climate deterioration, and preventable death in our streets associated with those choices.
Many people, not unsurprisingly, are angered by the prospect of paying for something they’ve cognitively established as free. Whether it’s plastic bags, parking in their neighborhood, or crossing a bridge, and response to this change is natural. As leaders in our community, you have the opportunity to play a key role in helping people better understand that the things they’ve perceived as free have actually been quite costly, causing harm to our most vulnerable communities for decades.
And they will continue to do so without urgent, strategic and innovative intervention.

 

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

shows there is a national trend in traffic fatalities EVEN amidst the decrease in VMT associated with the pandemic. The City of Portland is no different: our streets are deadly, and we’ve already lost at least 51 lives to traffic violence in 2021. The Street Trust echoes PBOT’s proclamation that one death in our streets is too many, so we must collectively upend our auto-centric paradigm and prioritize the mobility of our most vulnerable street users first. We still have a unique opportunity to implement changes before returning to normal travel patterns. The Street Trust believes quick action on these recommendations will lead to more significant impacts and better outcomes for our community.

 

I ask for your continued leadership as we move forward in showing Portland and beyond, that designing streets for people is justice in action.
Thank you for your time and consideration,

A. Lightsey-Walker
André Lightsey-Walker
Policy Transformation Manager, The Street Trust
[email protected]

Advocacy work is painstaking and thankless. #TST staff attend hours of public hearings, write letters, and show up to testify week in and week out so your voices are represented in these discussions. But we need your support to make sure that pricing is implemented to reduce congestion and not to pay for more highway lanes at the expense of bike, pedestrian, and transit investments.

Donate today to support TST’s advocacy work ensuring fair and effective pricing in the Portland metro region. 

Multimodal Transit Street

 

The Street Trust’s 2021-2023 Strategic Plan calls for “a complete, safe, low-carbon, multimodal transportation system that contributes to equity in access, opportunity, health, and prosperity for people and communities across the Portland Metro Region and beyond.” It all sounds great, but what do we mean by multimodal?

 

For many people the concept and characteristics of a multimodal transportation system is new and sometimes unclear, which is why I, your new Street Trust Policy Transformation Manager, am here to offer some insight as to what we mean when The Strust Trust demands for a “multimodal” system and why we think it’s important. 

 

A multimodal transportation system is one that offers more than one way to move around. For example, in the Portland Metro region there’s already a diverse suite of modes people use to get around. People can drive, walk, ride the streetcar or bus, hop on a scooter or one of Biketown’s shared electric bikes. However, not everybody has equitable access to all these different modes, and the ease of use and efficiency of each mode is affected by a history of disproportionate investment in infrastructure centered on private automobiles. 

 

Having multiple modes at hand is only one small piece of the multimodal pie. Another critical (and historically underfunded) piece, is infrastructure that allows for convenient, safe and accessible use of other modes. The cost and impact of these investments vary tremendously from mode to mode, but in a complete multimodal system, a single investment or piece of infrastructure can have a positive impact on many modes. For example, look at mobility lanes, which benefit cyclists, skaters, scooterers, and people with limited mobility.

 

Street users deserve a robust and connected suite of transportation options that allow them to safely travel anywhere they need to go. After more than a century of dominating our streets we think it’s time for cars to make way for the future and share the road.

 

If you live in the Portland metro area and want to improve multimodal transportation in your neighborhood, become a member of The Street Trust or volunteer with us when we hit the streets to improve the road network.

 

Image Source: Wikipedia Commons