Sunday, March 26, 2017

Legislative Update - Week 9ish

There's an important Legislative sausage-making date coming up, so it might be time to check in on things at the Capitol.

The design, circa 1936
(State Capitol 75th anniversary site)
Early Look at a Possible Transportation Package

BikePortland had a nice piece on some early sketches for the Transportation package.
  • $107 million/year for transit
  • $15 million /year for Safe Routes to School
  • $10 million/year for All Roads Transportation Safety (see here for Salem projects currently funded by this - notably, the new buffered bike lanes and crosswalks on middle Commercial between Oxford and Winding Way)
  • $4 million/year for trails
It's underwhelming. Those are statewide amounts that would be allocated competitively. Far from sufficient to meet total need.

BP cites a very careless statement - an outright mistake or a problematic casualness in speech - on how it might be funded and staged:
ODOT Assistant Director Travis Brouwer testified to the committee about the safe routes proposal. About the quarter-mile policy, he said, “Let’s at least get those close-in areas because that’s where the higher volume roads are.” “What we’d anticipate,” he continued, “Is that after we finish the quarter-mile in 10 years, we’d get to the next quarter-mile in the next 10 years, and so on.”
As several have pointed out, this badly states the growth rate of a circle or a series of rings. The next nth+1 ring is much larger in area than the nth one immediately inside it, 2n-1 to be exact; they are not equal sized. (The 2nd ring is 3x the size of the first, the 3rd is 5x times, the 4th is 7x, etc. The progression is the difference of squares, a series of increasing odd numbers!) So you can't simply slice the rings and say each one will take a decade and use the same amount of funding.

Moreover, that's a 40 year vision for each mile of distance! The project will take generations on this view!

This is how ODOT really "thinks" about non-auto travel, no matter how much lip service they give to "active transport." (This is the same kind of logic that calls the Salem River Crossing a boon for people who walk and bike!)

Taxing Bikes

There's also increasing talk of an excise tax on bicycle sales. Not a licensing scheme, but more or less a sales tax.

If it is used as sugar to make a substantial gas tax increase taste better, well, it could have real symbolic and rhetorical value. If policy-makers would then use that to rebut claims that "bicyclists don't pay," it would be valuable to be able to dismiss that canard finally and decisively.

There are also questions about regressiveness. Should the HUB have to collect this tax? Is it fair to tax used and inexpensive bikes that people might depend on for low-cost transportation.

And the evergreen question, if we want to encourage bicycling, why are we taxing it and not increasing taxes on gas or cars, things that cause trouble?

Much will depend on how such a tax would fit into the total scheme and plan. But it might be a battle worth losing for a larger set of more strategic wins.

ODOT Audits and Agency Competence
Faith in ODOT has seemed hard to come by. They won't release audit documents and a second audit from the Secretary of State found problems with shady bidding practices that ODOT doesn't police adequately.

But interestingly, so far in public anyway, there hasn't been much talk about reforming ODOT or altering the Transportation Package in any meaningful way. From here, not following the process particularly closely, the whole thing looks mostly like business as usual: We will have too much highway and roadway expansion, not enough on alternatives to driving, and no structural change at ODOT.

This year, there's a calendar that actually shows the deadlines for the Session. In years past these deadlines have seemed like secret lore confined to insiders, so it's nice to see them published finally. Two are coming up. Friday, April 7th, and Tuesday, April 18th will yield a significant winnowing and show much about what actually has momentum. In order for bills to remain alive, they will need to have work sessions scheduled by the 7th and actually held by the 18th.

Advocacy Frameworks

Here again are some of the advocacy frameworks announced before the Session:
The Bills Themselves

So here are some of the bills working their way through the process.

  • SB 2 - Sen. Courtney's bill on enhanced penalties for cel phone use and distracted driving. HB 2597 is also on cel phones and distracted driving. (City Council formally supported HB 2597.)
  • SB 493 - Creates new crime, "assault in the fourth degree" on a vulnerable road user.
  • SB 556 - Creates offense of driving with dog in driver's lap.  
  • HB 2102 - Looks like it relaxes some of the penalties for DUI convictions 
  • HB 2355 - On collecting data on traffic stops and racial profiling. 
  • HB 2409 on camera speed zone enforcement. BikePortland had an interesting piece about its autoism and something of an internal contradiction: "Red light cameras have speed sensors but the speed data isn’t part of the citation process; and photo radar vans that watch for speeding aren’t allowed to cite for red light infractions. This bill combines those two technologies into one system...[But] one of its provisions is troubling: People will only be cited if they are going 11 mph or more over the speed limit." A 10mph difference has enormous consequences for lethality in a crash when you are walking: At 30mph it's a coin-flip you will survive; at 40mph death is a near certainty.
  • SB 426 - Repeals low-carbon fuel standard 
  • SB 557 and HB 2135 - New statewide greenhouse gas emissions goals and a carbon market
  • SB 748 requires the EQC to adopt a carbon pollution permit program 
  • SB 958 looks rather like something aimed at oil trans or pipelines, requiring Department of State Lands to use in evaluations a "balancing test that weighs potential environmental harm of proposed project against public need."
  • SB 988 for creating of "alternative fuel" corridors on highways, with dispensing and charging stations
  • HB 2110 for replacing older diesel engines with newer, more efficient, cleaner diesel engines. (City Council opposes this because of the expense of truck replacement.)
  • HB 2468 requires the Environmental Quality Commission to adopt statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits
  • HB 3161 requires ODOT to "establish pilot program to assess how products that department or contractor for department procures affect emissions of carbon dioxide." Also HB 3162
Funding (and Project lists eventually)
  • SB 38 - Looks like a generic funding bill for ODOT. The current project list in it is old and will almost certainly be replaced. Maybe this will be the "transportation package" eventually.
  • SB 5530 - an ODOT budget
  • HB 2288 - Funding for ConnectOregon
  • HB 3230 - Funding for Safe Routes to Schools
  • SB 35 - On raising the DMV reporting threshold for crash damage, from $1,500 to $3,000. (Many bikes are worth less than $1,500, and this would make it harder to enter crashes into the system for reporting and insurance purposes. This is an autoist bias.)
  • SB 547 would basically kill off the MPO system check Portland area METRO (update - see 2nd comment below, as it is about MSDs not MPOs), reducing it to an easily ignored "advisory" function. (Interesting, from Senator Thatcher of Keizer)
  • HB 2440 - An attempt to remove HOV lanes on I-5
  • HB 2461 on robot/autonomous cars. Also SB 981, HB 3119,
  • HB 2532 - A proposal for a quantitative scoring system for the STIP, including a requirement for "least-cost planning" (this one looks a little interesting)
  • HB 2667 - A proposal for a Vision Zero Task Force. BikePortland covered the first committee hearing on it. Unsurprisingly ODOT is opposed, and prefers their weak "safety" plan.
  • HB 2682 - A proposal to make it easier for cities to set speed zones and remove the need for ODOT approval (Portland is driving this and BikePortland has an extensive discussion)
  • Two proposals for TNC regulations. The City opposes one (HB 3157), and supports another (HB 3246). Also HB 3043 on background checks, HB 3093 on drug-testing,
  • HB 3073 for safety belts on school buses
  • HB 3199 for a study on increasing transit ridership
Here are our area Legislators. 

It's never a bad time to write or call and say, "yay bikes! boo carbon!" etc.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

By email a reader sends word of another bill, and this one is very curious indeed!

SB 10, sponsored by Senator Courtney, allows for cities to declare a Transit Agency is a bust, and to ask the Governor to appoint a new board of directors.

Here's the actual language:"Provides that directors of certain mass transit districts are appointed by Governor instead of elected....The governing body of the most populous city in a metropolitan statistical area may by resolution propose creation of a mass transit district if the governing body finds that area-wide mass transit needs cannot be met by local transit operation."

It's hard not to read that as aimed at Salem and Cherriots. Maybe Senator Courtney has some other transit district in mind. Maybe there is a general problem statewide. Grants Pass, Medford, and Bend-Redmond are all also "metropolitan statistical areas" in addition to the usual suspects in the Willamette Valley. But is sure looks like Salem fits the intent here!

Something to watch as the reader suggests!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Another comment and correction by email:

"SB 547 is for Metropolitan Service Districts not Metropolitan Planning Organizations. Portland Metro is the only MSD in Oregon, and it is a State created entity. MPOs are Federal government created entity. Portland Metro is just one of eight MPOs in Oregon."

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

BikePortland has news on a couple of bills...

HB 3230 for SR2S passed out of committee


HB 2682 for Portland to set local speed zones without ODOT also passed out of committee