Download a PDF of Charlie Hales’ responses.
Portland’s Climate Action Plan demands we drastically reduce driving from current levels. The Portland Plan aims to create 20-minute neighborhoods in Portland, places where people can get around quickly and easily by walking or biking (with 70% of commute trips in 2035 by foot, transit, or bike). Right now only 27% of commute trips are on foot, transit, or bike. Why do you think more Portlanders do not walk, bike, or take transit for transportation, and what will you do to help Portland meet its goals and become an even better city to walk, bike and ride transit?
As great as our City is in providing transportation options, we still have a long way to go, particularly due to deficiencies in infrastructure and service. Many areas have poor bus service with long headways throughout the day, and particularly at night, hindering our ability to be a true 24-hour city. Not everybody works 9–5 in Portland, nor should they be forced to be because of a lack of transit choices. We also don’t have enough options in enough neighborhoods, whether it be transit, sidewalks or safe bike routes.
As Mayor, I will create a Capital Construction Fund in the City budget, funded in part by the reduction of overhead and inefficiencies in all bureau budgets. We will not just depend on Portland’s share of federal and state gas taxes to fund these necessary transportation facilities. This will allow us to begin to make good on City promises to build sidewalks, pave streets and stripe bike lanes, sharrows and other improvements in neighborhoods throughout Portland. We also must continue to resist pressure from ODOT, the Portland Business Alliance, or any other backward-looking organizations who advocate for more lanes as “the solution” to congestion. And we must zone more of the city for walkable mixed-use development.
fair funding share
One of every four Portland residents (about 150,000 people) is too young, old, infirm or poor to drive. Would you support a city policy to dedicate at least that percentage (25%) of PBOT’s budget for walking, biking, and access to transit projects?
While PBOT’s current budget shortfalls restrict the City’s ability to immediately pledge an exact percentage to bike, walk and transit access projects, I think 25% is a legitimate goal. As Mayor I will commit to increasing the percentage each year of my administration until the 25% threshold is met.
contributing to transit's success
Transit is the backbone of our regional transportation system. The Federal Transit Administration considers a 3-mile radius around transit stops to be the catchment area for linking walking and biking to transit. While the city does not run the transit system, it provides access to transit, some of the sidewalks at transit stops, subsidizes the streetcar, and helps pay for transit youth passes. Which investments would you prioritize to support the transit system?
In my nearly 10 years as City Commissioner, during many of which I was the Commissioner-in-Charge of PBOT, I had a very close and successful relationship with TriMet, and would continue to work hand-in-hand with them on the design of an even better transit system. I think one key area of the City’s focus should be on constructing more sidewalks to increase safe access to transit stops across the city. City Council also must quickly develop a strategy – beyond merely helping TriMet lobby in Salem – for helping them achieve the financial stability necessary to stop annual fare increases and cuts in service. We should be figuring out ways to increase service and reduce fares, particularly in this economic climate.
I also have already met with TriMet leadership to create a plan to restore and broaden service, including the ability to have TriMet fares built into ticket costs for sporting and cultural events. I’m also working on a plan with the airline industry to create the first airline ticket-free transit pass system in the nation. Another priority in this partnership: keeping universal student passes in the hands of Portland’s kids.
critical pedestrian investments
For most of the last decade, the Portland Bureau of Transportation has spent about $50,000 a year on new sidewalks, which has done little to meet long-standing needs in historically underfunded areas. Engineering requirements, right-of-way shortages, and other factors mean sidewalks are expensive to build (though compared to highway interchanges, they’re very cheap). How can we create more safe space for people to walk in difficult budget times?
As mentioned above, I will begin to solve the problem by creating and on going Capital Construction Fund. It’s foolish to think that we can fund basic city infrastructure on left over gas tax revenues and systems development charges, particularly in times of economic upheaval. With an ongoing capital fund, we can begin to address those longstanding needs.
funding shortfalls and innovation
PBOT has a $16 million budget shortfall for 2012, and ODOT is dramatically short of funds, and falling behind on maintenance responsibilities. Meanwhile, we still lack complete networks of safe ways to get around without a car. Many economists and transportation advocates are excited about the idea of using pricing signals to improve our transportation system. Congestion pricing, demand-responsive parking rates, street maintenance fees, and internalizing the externalized costs and benefits of transportation modes (for example, the CDC estimates $1000 in annual health care savings from every active person) are especially promising. What would you do to bring in more money for our transportation needs? Do you support parking taxes, street fees, or demand-responsive parking rates?
First, as I’ve mentioned already in my campaign, upon taking office I will complete a line-by-line review of every Bureau’s budget and reduce overhead and eliminate inefficiencies, particularly in internal operating costs.
Then, I will look at any combination of short-termrevenue options to enable the City to meet its basicresponsibilities of maintaining the transportationsystem we have, and systematically building themissing pieces. Some of these short-term measuresmight be local, as opposed to waiting for regionalconsensus of federal action.
Longer term, we must move to some pricingmechanism like those you suggest. I believe that likemany other policies, the Portland metro area willpioneer these concepts for the nation, rather than waitfor the federal government to embrace them.
choices and public perception
Critics of bicycle, pedestrian, and transit projects mistakenly contend cyclists, pedestrians, and transit users don’t pay their fair share in road taxes and other user fees. How would you make the case for allocating funds and limited street space for bicycle, pedestrian, and transit projects?
The impact on our infrastructure (including from a maintenance standpoint) from walking and biking is negligible and, of course, most bicyclists and pedestrians also drive and therefore pay gas taxes and parking fees. We (I, too, am a transit rider/pedestrian and a cyclist) also contribute critical positive benefits to our community by not creating air pollution and congestion. I have been a major player in changing our local understanding that the right-of-way belongs to all citizens no matter what mode of transportation option they choose (yes, including skateboards). Just as the right-of-way needs to be shared safely by all users, funding for transportation improvements needs to be fairly distributed.
There is significant concern about the silos between departments in the city – an issue that has been noted by candidates for years. A recent partnership between the Bureaus of Environmental Services and Transportation to get traffic safety benefits through smart sewer investments became very controversial. What would you have done differently? Where the goals of PBOT overlap with the goals of various other departments (for example, sustainability, equity, public safety, parks, water), what would you do to improve collaboration to most efficiently use our resources?
The problems with the safety benefits through sewer investments issue were primarily the result of very poor communication and explanation by the City. I’m very interested in moving beyond the rhetoric and the unnecessary feud between transportation users and we can only begin to do so by having better communication with the community. I am no beginner when it comes to making the case for a progressive transportation program in our city, nor in getting bureaus to work together on shared policies and programs.
Traffic-related crashes are the top cause of death and injury for Oregonians aged 1 to 34. In 2011, 319 Oregonians were killed in traffic crashes, including 15 cyclists. Pedestrian injuries and deaths are a serious problem in Oregon, with one serious injury a day and one death a week. In 2010, 18 pedestrians died in Portland. Traffic speed is the leading factor in crashes (even above alcohol), and one of the largest contributors to whether a crash is fatal. Is safety the highest priority of the transportation system? If so (or if not) what policy and implications does that have, especially when it comes to slowing cars and protecting vulnerable roadway users? What specific policies and projects would you support to improve safety?
I have decried the high number of pedestrian deaths in the city for years, pointing out that often more Portlanders died by being run over than were murdered each year. It’s a senseless loss of life and the City has a critical responsibility to ensure the safety of all its citizens, including drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, runners and anyone else using the street. During my tenure as Commissioner in-Charge of Transportation, I aggressively increased the amount of traffic calming projects built in neighborhoods across the city and also instituted photo radar to slow down drivers. As Mayor, I will continue to emphasize those things and keep up with new research so that we can bring the most effective solutions to Portland.
CRC highway mega-project
There has been a huge amount of pressure to build the most expensive public works project in the region’s history, the five-mile long highway project known as the Columbia River Crossing. Despite being a multi-billion dollar project, bicycle and pedestrian facilities involved are substandard, including an under-highway mile-long path that is mostly only minimum-width and a five-block corkscrew detour into Vancouver, all for a facility designed to serve the next 100 years. The project is diverting billions of dollars from other regional priorities to build an expansion that won’t solve congestion. What are your views on the mega-project? What, if anything, will you do to stop funding for this mega-project until it becomes consistent with our biking, pedestrian, and climate goals, as well as our budgetary priorities? Would you work to stop the City of Portland from lobbying for funding for it at the state and federal levels?
I have been consistent in my answer from day one of my campaign – I believe in a fundable, buildable Columbia River Crossing, and the one on the table is neither. It’s disingenuous for candidates to say otherwise at this point (much less than to say different things to different audiences). We are at a point in time in this process where not only do we have an opportunity to reduce the cost significantly but to make sure the key components, like light rail and other transportation options, are duly accounted for in the final result.
You know my record… from stopping the Water Avenue Ramp to insisting on a two-lane Sellwood Bridge that respected the Tacoma Main Street plan, to insisting that the Yellow line be sited in two former travel lanes on Interstate Avenue. I will make sure that the City of Portland stands for, and lobbies for, projects that advance our values… and can actually be built. The CRC is finally starting to move toward what I have been saying since last June.
While light rail and streetcar efforts have generally managed to find funding over the past two decades, bus investments have been cut. At the same time, transportation costs are often more than 20% of a household’s budget, and many households are too poor to drive to meet all of their daily needs. How would you ensure low-income communities receive equitable investments to improve their access to transportation? How should the Office of Equity influence transportation decisions?
I have been very troubled by the series of fare increases instituted over the last decade by Tri-Met, but it’s not all their responsibility – the City has a ways to go in ensuring equity.
Under my leadership, Bureaus will not be assigned until I am satisfied that EVERY Bureau has built-in to their work plans equity in service distribution. As I mentioned earlier, I plan to work closely with TriMet and the Legislature to ensure that good bus service is available throughout our community.
Portland State University research has found stores adjacent to bike corrals (on street bike parking) have experienced increased foot traffic. Travel Oregon has used bikes as a significant theme in their advertising for tourists and attracting the creative class. Do you see investments in biking, walking, and taking transit as effective and efficient tools for economic development? If so, how forcefully and publicly will you make this case?
I believe Portland’s accessible and bike-friendly environment is a great asset for its citizens and a great quality that we need to promote whenever and wherever we can. I agree strongly that such an environment helps promote the city and its economy, and I will continue to be a leader, as I’ve always been, around the region, the state, the country and the world.
My lifelong belief in these principles, and my ability to put them into action in policies and projects, are what have earned me recognition like the BTA’s Alice B. Toeclips Award, the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence and the Distinguished Leadership Award from the Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association.
So, THAT’s how forcefully and publicly I will CONTINUE to make the case!
Do you have any specific accomplishments improving biking, walking and transit in Oregon or other places?
I’ve built my career, both in the public and private sector, on the improvement of transit options in Portland and around the country. As Portland City Commissioner for nearly 10 years, and a good part of that time as Commissioner-in-Charge of Transportation, I am proud of many specific accomplishments. I fought, and in fact temporarily stopped the final planning and engineering of the Hawthorne Bridge improvements, to find additional funds that resulted in the far-wider sidewalks enjoyed today by thousands of pedestrians. I helped bring the final funding for the cantilevered pedestrian walkway and bikeway attached to the Steel Bridge that helps make the Eastbank Esplanade such a success. Under my tenure, the City added hundreds of miles of bike lanes and sidewalks throughout the city. And I led the charge to fund, complete and launch the Portland Streetcar, Airport MAX and Interstate MAX, and in the case of Airport MAX not only did we bring it in under budget, but 10 years before it was scheduled to be completed.
As a Senior Vice President at HDR, I spent nearly 10 years helping cities throughout America- places like Phoenix and Salt Lake City- move from a post- World War II idea of how to move people around into the modern world of transit, educating city leaders on the need to adapt to a changing worldone that must be responsive to climate goals, to public health goals and an increasing public demand for a better way. I am proud to have helped dozens of cities follow Portland’s lead; now I’m ready to WIDEN that lead!
What makes you a viable candidate?
- I love this place.
- That passion shows.
- I will outwork my opponents, street by street, doorstep by doorstep, neighborhood coffee by neighborhood coffee, to hear from Portlanders about how to make this great city even better.
Anything to add?
I want your support and will be very proud to have it!