Check back soon for Day Two of Oregon Active Transportation Summit!
It’s that time of year again! The tulips are coming out and so is the collaborative voices of people in activist, environmental and political seats, not only here in Oregon but nationally. You may have remembered my write-up about OATS last year. This year they were a little more forceful in their “rebranding” to ATS by hashtagging with #ATSummit and things like that. However, their wifi login name was OATS, so all I could think of was the poor celiac participants that were feeling targeted at the event.
They’ll get over it.
Last year was a birthday gift to myself. This year was a gift-gift to myself. I also wanted to follow-up on a lot of the equity conversations they were having about multi-modal use in the area for people that are of low-income, have limited access, disenfranchised, live in historically ignored or areas of disrepair or lacked safety and what kind of discussions there were around engaging with those communities.
So without further adieu, my re-cap from the last couple of days!
I did not attend on Sunday, but there was a half day filled with a variety of mobile workshops and ending in drinking at the hotel bar. I always say that it better than the other way around. Some may or may not agree with me.
Monday Morning Plenary
It was super difficult for me as I woke up in the wee small hours of the morning, bleary eyes and foggy-headed. I got delivered to the event around 7:30am to check in and all that, snagged some swag, grabbed some fruit and found a seat where I could see and hear but wasn’t so close to the front that I felt like I held an important role in transportation advocacy. Because I don’t. Though I did have a backpack full of stickers.
Leah Treat, Director over at Portland Bureau of Transportation opened up the morning. She talked a little bit about her history; about embracing Vision Zero, the safety of people and children. In fact during the two days, children were used as scare-bait a lot. Which irritates me. I’m an adult and I want to live when I am using the road as well. She talked about her son getting hit by a driver last summer, but luckily getting away with just scratches. How that was an awakening for quite neighborhoods like her’s that she needed to take extra precautions to keep safe. She talked about also looking at it from the driver’s side; road rage or slight of hand. . . she truly believes that roadway deaths are preventable and it’s our responsibility to prevent them; not just an issue for the city, the state, transportation department alone; but everyone’s responsibility.
This sounds really good, but I swear that the majority of what she said is regurgitated from her City Club luncheon talk from OATS last year. Don’t quote me on that. And maybe it’s because I’ve been hearing the same thing over and over and over again through the years but have yet to see drastic measures taken that it’s lost the passion and the meaning that politicians try to put behind it.
Ms Treat talked about speed being a critical factor to address. It’s ironic that she mentioned this while down in Salem at that very moment (or maybe a little later, but that day) congress was discussing to raise speed limits. Here in Portland, a couple of critical fatality corridors have been successful in lowering their speed limits in the last six months. (SE Division and E Burnside if you are keeping tabs).
A statistic that Ms Treat spouted out, but I have no citation for, 3% of the roadway network here in Portland make up the “high crash corridor” in which 53% of the fatalities happen on. We have at least 3 schools located on those 3%, libraries, etc. If you are here in Oregon, check up on HB-2621. This proposed bill is in attempts to prevent that kind of shit from happening.
Ms Treat ended with engaging with folks about the magnitude of the problem. They just launched VisionZeroPortland.com this week. Check it out!
She then introduced Paul Steely White. I’m not super-activisty, so I don’t know if I am supposed to know who he is. He’s from New York, he’s the executive director for Transportation Alternatives. He’s hilarious. He’s engaging. I could have listened to him all day. I wonder if he has a TedTalk. I still probably wouldn’t watch it because I don’t watch those things and I’m too lazy to google to see if he does or not, but he should. From my understanding if you have a TedTalk, you’ve made it.
He talked about the history and development of the automobile; how back in the early 1930s, you literally had thousands of children dying in the streets when the automobile was first developed. This is what I don’t understand. Usually when a product causes that many injuries and deaths it’s recalled due to its lack of safety. I mean, I would really love to be playing with lawn darts right now, but because of whining safety police that’s just not happening. So, why are these weapons of mass destruction not only exempt from this sort of regulation but instead exemplified and ameliorated?
I guess this falls under the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” category.
When I was in high school, I was on the debate team. One year the topic was that ‘Congress would create a something or other limiting or preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction.‘ My partner, Glenn and contended that landmines were “slow-moving WMDs” and were able to glean a crap-ton of information regarding the devastation that they create in war-torn and 3rd world countries. We were unbeatable for the simple reason that people didn’t know how to argue against us.
Back to Paul Steely White. . . he recommends the book; “Fighting Traffic” by Peter Norton. Says that any transpo wonk should have it in their collection. He talked about the work that TA is doing and the trends that they are seeing. He says that companies are relocating to complete streets that are bike/ped friendly and see it as a profit motive. They are often seeing up to a 49% retail increase from this move.
Transportation Alternatives is badass. They are going after all the agencies that aren’t taking pedestrian rights seriously. They are trying to get more safety, more public space, more safety cameras, higher infraction violations for motorists that break traffic rules, etc.
Noel Mickelberry from Oregon Walks ended the conversation by announcing that they too have launched a new webpage: OurHealthyStreets.Org/VisionZero
Breakout Session 1
Walking in the Street: Grappling with the Complexity of Equity and Walkability
Active transportation infrastructure investments are not distrubuted equatably. In urban, suburban and rural areas, those with the least means and fewest transportation options often live admidst the most hostile walking environments. Though the situation is evident, the problem is complex and solutions are evasive. How do our investment choices, housing policies and societal mores reinfoce this inequity and what can be done to redress it? This roundtable session will enable a multidisciplinary conversation about walkability and equity in all its complexity.
Moderator: Kenny Asher, Community Development Director, City of Tigard
Justin Buri, Executive Director, Community Alliance of Tenants Dana Dickman, Transportation Planner, Alta Planning + Design
Sheila Greenlaw-Fink, Executive Director, Community Partners for Affordable Housing
Mee Seon Kwon, Center for Intercultural Organizing
Noel Mickelberry, Executive Director, Oregon Walks
Dick Schouten, Washington County Commissioner
Bandana Shrestha, Community Engagement Director, AARP
Ellen Vanderslice, Walking Advocate, retired PBOT Capital Projected Manager, AIA
Kenny Asher from the City of Tigard opened with a conversation on equity and diversity. He mentioned how the struggle was just as much of our grandparent’s world as it is ours which means that we have a problem here. If you think it’s impossible to make a difference by yourself, just remember Julia Butterfly Hill, whom in Humboldt County during a despite with the lumber company in 1997 ended up living in a 1000 year old redwood for two years to save it from getting cut down. As a side note, I just read that it was vandalized a year later after the lumber company and Hill came to an agreement. Which means to me that everything you put effort to just goes to shit and you can’t have nice things. . . I digress.
Tigard is a very suburban city. The kind that many families strive for in many ways. They have over 50k people that mostly drive. They also love their trees and are considered a “Tree City USA.” They have Pacific Highway which also carries over 50k cars daily. They have a pretty thorough trail and multi-use system that runs through the city. You can get to places like the library if you want to risk crossing Hall Blvd, which is historically unsafe for pedestrians. When going around town, you might see people walking their dogs in subdivisions but in regular areas you don’t really see people walking. You see people waiting for buses and that kind of stuff, but not walking for the fun of it. Many of the streets that were laid 30 – 60 years ago are populated by lower income and minority groups are difficult to access and have no infrastructure. Mr. Asher states that they can’t feasibly build sidewalks everywhere. If they were to just build sidewalks on one side of the road everywhere that there were none in Tigard, it would take them about 47 years.
To me, it tells me that it can be done. And that he just gave a timeline for it. I fail to see the problem. Maybe I’m just an optimist.
(Excuse me, my notes got a little choppy here. I used my ipad to type instead of paper. Trying to change my habits and reduce paper consumption where I can. So, I may not attribute things to who said them during this breakout session.)
I wanted to give you a ton of information that you might like. I’m pretty wonky, though. So what kind of gift can I give you? I know! How about Trimet’s 2013 ‘Title V1 Report of the Tri-County Metropolition Transportation District of Oregon’ (255 pages)?? Just thinking about that makes me weak in the knees. In it are charts of “Limited English Proficiency” areas as well as graphs of minority usage etc. I’ll compliment that with Metro’s 2012 Title V1 ‘Limited English Proficiency Plan‘ subtitled aptly ‘Metro’s LEP Plan Needs Assessment and Implementation Plan‘ – BEST. SUBNAME. EVER. (Coalition for a Livable Future also has some stellar information!)
Brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department.
Justin, from CAT, my personal hero. Seriously, I talk about CAT at least a dozen times a week at work. Meeting him at the event was like meeting a hero. He thanked me and told me he had to go to the bathroom. It was like. . . so personal! Anyway, he talked about the difference between meeting with landlords and tenants. Landlords will want to provide and develop parks and gardens; to beautify the neighborhoods. Tenants are concerned about safe and healthy housing. What he, and CAT are concerned about is how we can incorporate housing into the equity plan.
There was a lot of talk about where we focus our investments. Do we put them where there is great need or where there is great payback? We talked about reducing speeds, sidewalks, the desire for low-income housing, etc.
The lady from AARP talked about the stereotypes of becoming older. Just because you are aging doesn’t mean you develop a disability. More older and aging adults are living at home and not moving into facilities, which is changing the dynamic of housing, transportation and the such. She talked about the change in the economy as we roll up to a time when up to 76 million baby boomers are going to be retiring soon and then a few years down the road 80 million generation Xers are all on their way to retiring. It’s a very interesting time for transition in those respects.
But going back to Tigard. . . apparently there is a new subdivision being built in that area called River Terrace. Mr Asher talked about how they were hyper-focused on it not becoming suburban sprawl and that they wanted to continue with their dedication to complete streets in their “smarter, cheaper, quicker” methodology that they had created for themselves. They went in at the start and immediately began cutting in walking trails and bike paths to connect with commercial areas so people can walk or bike from their housing areas.
Staying ahead of the game, this group! It was really very interesting to listen how they are trying and have been trying to bring accessible transportation to hard to reach areas and assist neighborhoods and communities that are on limited incomes, have different cultural backgrounds and more. Unfortunately a lot of that work is retroactive instead of preventative. And we all know it’s easier to start from scratch than it is to go in and fix something that has already been “fixed” multiple times before.
Monday Lunch Plenary
After the first breakout session we were all ushered back into the Governor Ballroom at the Sentinel Hotel for a working lunch. The topic was; “Achieving Equity in Local and Regional Planning: Tools to Help Planners and Community Stakeholders.” I actually was paying attention. Melissa Wells with PolicyLink from Washington DC was speaking and I was planning on attending a workshop with her after lunch so the topics were interesting to me. As I mentioned earlier that I am trying out paperless note-taking with various levels of success.
I had the wherewithal to section my note-taking by each session that I went to. However, it’s true. My ipad mini slipped off my lap and to grab it I slapped the flat of my hand on its screen. Apparently that is “Apple Code” for Select+All+Delete. It was a great conversation. I’m not going to reconstruct notes from my brain, though.
After lunch, I slipped into the Open Table Discussion: Operationalizing Equity in Transportation. What I really liked about this is that it wasn’t a programmed discussion. I showed up a few minutes before the conversation to Heidi Guenin of Upstream Public Health and a friend of mine here in Portland’s biking community. (Also, an amazing lady. She just got back from a year of traveling around the world with one of my bestest and oldest Portland friends. Heidi goes the “extra mile” so to speak when it comes to everything, whether it’s friends, outreach, volunteerism and more!) We, with the other attendees set the chairs in an oval shape to accommodate better communication throughout the room. Melissa Wells joined us, and though there were only about a dozen people present, we had a great conversation!
Unprogrammed opportunity for an open table discussion following the lunch plenary. You are invited to bring further questions about Policy Link’s work, efforts within Oregon to increase equity and inclusive governance and strategies for operationalizing equity in Oregon and within your own spheres of influence. Please come grapple with crucial issues with other Summit attendees.
And grapple we did! Well, maybe not grapple so much as politely converse about the state of our city and counties. Questions that you can ask yourself when you are working on a project are things like; “How can I bring up the conversation of equity?” “How can I bring up the conversation of community inclusion?” Why should you care about these kinds of questions? If you don’t you’re a racist bigot. Asshole.
Anyway, if you are in some sort of role where people are benefited by the work that you do, think about prioritizing projects which benefit underserved populations first. They’ve begun doing this in Los Angeles, CA on their road projects planning – I was told. I have no basis to tell you if this is fact or not. I just choose to believe that everything said at OATS is true.
It would be great if we could just say, “Here’s what I would like to do. Here’s what I would like you to get excited about.” The real world doesn’t really work like that and it’s frustrating when you’re working with partnering agencies; especially on projects that you’re mandated to do. Heidi mentioned that when she is on a committee that she likes to convene a side-committee for capacity building. I think that’s a great idea to grow as a team and to develop a solid foundation.
There was talk about how we get information to the community. There is a very strict procedure for when people are coming to the government and there are certain ways that information gets disseminated to the community. Even when people have the chance to testify there’s far fewer voices to be heard. How do we encourage our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends and family to get involved? How do we that know the procedures assist those that don’t.
Heidi brought up an excellent point at one point in the conversation which I would like to share with you in my own words. (So I hope I don’t butcher it or lose the essence of what she was saying.) I am a person with a disability. I sit on a equity committee at my work. However, just because I am a woman with a disability sitting on a committee at my work, that does not mean that I speak for all women with disabilities and that I share the perspective of all women with disabilities by any stretch of the imagination. My goal is inclusion of many. I’ve always told people; I don’t care how you vote. I just want you to vote. (That’s not really true. I do care a little.) What I want to know is what you need! If I feel that I need a crosswalk near my home, is that due to a consensus of neighborhood concern for safety, or my personal irritation of having to wait several minutes to cross the road? It’s about that involvement, engagement and communication. Maybe everyone wants the same thing, but they don’t know how to tell anyone.
There are a ton of different ways to engage with your neighborhood and the community at large. Events, flyers, door-to-door, etc. Think about how you engaging at a federal level, state, county and city. Heck, even neighborhood level – let’s bring it in tight. Secretary Fox has been focused about talking to congress about getting local government involved in development; how priorities change and how they priorities investments.
All in all, it was a good conversation – that was just a tidbit. It left me pretty empowered and ready to get involved with some more community organizing!
And then there was the 3rd Breakout Session for Monday.
Fixing Suburban Roads, From Barrier to Busy Bikeway: Opportunities to make key, comfortable connectionsDoes your community have roadways that make key connections, sometimes the only connection, but currently serve as barriers to walking and biking? Is the barrier simply just crossing the street? Explore and discuss various design options, talk about how they can evolve through the life of a roadway and discuss potential challenges to implementation in this interactive workshop. Come ready to have healthy debates about the merits and tradeoffs of shared two-way side paths vs one-way protected bike lanes, RRFB’s vs HAWK’s and mountable curbs vs delineators.
Moderator: Jenna Stanke Marmon, Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Manager, Jackson Co.
Shelley Oylear, Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator, Washington Co.Elizabeth Stacey, Project Leader, Region 3, ODOT
Rob Inerfeld, Transportation PLanning Manager, City of Eugene
I want to say a few things about this session before I begin talking about it. It started at 3pm. I had been awake since 6am. The day before I had gotten up at 6am for a terrible mountain biking trip but great hiking up in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest up at the Siouxon Creek Trailhead. I did eat. Fruit and quinoa, veggies and mushroom. I think I was just done. I was irritable.
Shelly Oylear had some amazing before/after photos. She is a civil engineer, urban planner. I can’t remember if it was her or Rob Inerfeld that said; “We’re spending money, we’re spending a little extra to attract a wider range of the population.” Regardless of who said it; hells ya! If you can get that added-value that will last longer and work for 90% of the community instead of 55% of the community wouldn’t you be willing to look into that?!
They talked about the fact that intersection treatments should be looked at during any street updates. And as a bonus they talked about this “Facility scenario criteria.” You want to look at the context, not the classification. Check out the context and expected user type then look for opportunities to apply these treatments. It’s so simple, it’s like duh!
Rob Inerfeld had some amazing slides as he talked about the treatments that they have applied to Eugene. Something to be aware of in your endeavors. HAWK signals cost approximately 150k, RRFB on a three or five lane road will almost always have an island in the center for pedestrians and thus will run you 30 – 60k depending on island (AKA porkchop) features.
Elizabeth Stacey lives and works in Roseburg, Oregon and started off her portion of the session by stating that Roseburg is “the timber capital of the world and focused on industry, not commuting.” She described her town, mentioning some prime locations; the tallest building being the VA medical center. The fact that they are a senior heavy community. She stated that they looked at Eugene’s Bicycle Master Plan to get an idea on how to develop theirs; which they put out for the first time in 2009. On the bright side, she did mention that they have a lot of multiuse hiking trails. She talked about the three railroads they have going through town, the brand new public safety center and historical building. She did mention that they have a very active, but very small bicycle and pedestrian community that does speak up.
Everything this woman said, however was; “With approval of the railroad industry” this and “with approval of the railroad industry” that. I realize that you might have a lot of difficult workarounds with your contracts and right-aways, but she really didn’t have much to show for it. Just excuses for being a shill to the timber industry. I just kept thinking to myself; “Why don’t we go back to the slides of Eugene and unincorporated Washington Co?” Alas, I got so frustrated, I ended up walking out about halfway through.
Sometimes even BIKELEPTICS need naps.
Check back soon for Day Two of Oregon Active Transportation Summit!