The agenda just has a bare minimum, and the City has posted no additional materials to the project website. You'd think that the survey alone would generate a rich memo and report. Maybe they'll be posting more after the meeting.
On congestion, a few recent items converge and point to ways that our subsidized and underpriced road and auto storage systems harm city vitality. With misaligned incentives and pricing signals, we are making things worse rather than better.
Free Ice Cream and Long Lines
When it comes to our road system, every rush hour is like free cone day at Ben and Jerry’s. The customers (drivers) are paying zero for their use of the limited capacity of the road system, and we’re rationing this valuable product based on people’s willingness to tolerate delays (with the result that lot’s of people who don’t attach a particularly high value to their time are slowing down things for everyone).
If Ben and Jerry’s were run by traffic engineers, instead of smart business people (albeit smart business people with a strong social minded streak), they’d look at these long lines and tell Ben & Jerry that they really need to expand their stores. After all, the long lines of people waiting to get ice cream represent “congestion” and “delay,” that can only be solved by building more and bigger ice cream stores. And thanks to what you might call the “fundamental law of ice cream congestion” building more stores might shorten lines a little, but then it would likely prompt other people to stand in line to get free ice cream, or to go through the line twice. But, of course, with zero revenue Ben & Jerry would find it hard to build more stores.
There was also a note about pollution today. A common greenwash for lane expansion is that free-flowing traffic emits less pollution than idling traffic that is slow or stuck. But if this is true for a single car, the increase in free-flow also induces more trips and longer trips, and this aggregate effect cancels out any benefit from reducing idling.
On pollution we don't quite get around to talk about driving less, instead focusing on "clean fuel" and the need to electrify - which means fleet replacement, consumers buying a whole new round of cars. Fleet replacement generally maintains the whole autoist paradigm.
The Lung Association called on the Oregon Legislature to do more to counteract air pollution.
“More can be done to clean our air and save lives,” Nyssen said. “Implementing Oregon’s clean fuels program, working to reduce exposure to diesel pollution and reducing carbon emissions are all within grasp in our state.”
And consider parking.
From UCLA on Parking and the City:
In his new book, Shoup reiterates and distills the earlier 800-page work into three recommended parking reforms designed to improve cities, the economy and the environment:All Made Worse by "Free"
“Each of these policies supports the other two,” writes Shoup. They counteract what he describes as “three unwisely adopted car-friendly policies” that arose from the beginning of the automobile age: separated land uses, low density and ample free parking to create drivable cities while undermining walkable neighborhoods.
- Remove off-street parking requirements
- Charge the right prices for on-street parking
- Spend the parking revenue to improve public services on the metered streets
Shoup persistently advocates for removal of off-street parking requirements, allowing developers and businesses to decide how much parking to provide. Charging the “right price,” or lowest price — varying dynamically throughout the day — that can keep a few spaces open, will allow convenient access, ease congestion, conserve fuel and reduce pollution caused by unnecessary idling and block-circling. In support of the third point, Shoup hypothesizes, “If everybody sees their meter money at work, the new public services can make demand-based prices for on-street parking politically popular.”
Our problems with congestion, with pollution, and with parking are all exacerbated because we underprice and subsidize drive-alone trips.
One of the most important things the Congestion Relief Task Force can do is to start talking about autoist subsidy and its true costs to city budgets and city vitality.
The Task Force meets Friday the 20th at 7am in Public Works, third floor, at City Hall.