Support funding safe streets in Portland

UPDATE: On Monday, October 13th, from 3-5pm, Portland City Council will have its first work session on the fee after months of feedback from committees representing businesses, non-profit, low-income, and transportation groups. Portland City Council and Mayor Hales need to hear from you now that safety is important to you and essential to the city. Please consider attending (no public testimony) to demonstrate to City Council the support of safety and equity by Portlanders.
At Council Chambers, 3-5pm on 10/13.

Funding to ensure and maintain safety on our roadways is as critical to our regional prosperity as it is to livability for Portlanders. Portland has an exemplary program of education and encouragement programs that promote safety and healthy travel options for our kids through Safe Routes to Schools, but many of Portland’s schools sit on or near busy and unsafe streets, and that puts our children—many of whom want or need and do walk or bike to school—at risk of both traffic accidents as well as health problems that arise from not getting enough physical activity.

The connection between transportation and public health is indisputable; the ability to design and build safe streets both possible and necessary. One key way to improve the safety as well as the health of Portlanders—especially our young, minority, and ageing populations, who are most likely to be injured or killed in the simple act of walking to their destination—is through building and maintaining safe, comprehensive, active transportation routes and networks. Choice in our transportation system not only allows us the opportunity to be active and healthy in our daily travel, it also provides all members of the community equitable opportunities to safe and healthy transportation options.

Whether you live, work, study, pray or play in Portland, now is the time for you to speak out strongly in support of safety in transportation projects across the City of Portland.

Email City Council.

This week, The Safe Routes to school National Partnership and 13 other organizations working for affordable housing, active transportation, and healthy, livable streets submitted comments to City Council detailing our position on the proposed new funding mechanism. City Commissioner Steve Novick and Mayor Charlie Hales, among other city leaders, are pushing to increase funding for the bureau through a new transportation street fee, and they are close to putting forth a progressive fee proposal that will be more equitable and fairly distributed to make our streets safer and better connected.

We support a progressive revenue structure with strong discounts for low-income members of our community — and only if it prioritizes safety for people of all ages and abilities. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership supports more money for safety and prioritizing projects within a mile around schools, which would also greatly benefit all the people living in and traveling through our neighborhoods. The project list tied to the street fee should dedicate significant funding to high crash corridors, completing the network of crosswalks, sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and transit station improvements, and should not simply focus on maintaining the status quo of pavement on the streets. To be successful, the safety allocation must match or exceed the amount dedicated to maintenance.

In order to strengthen the proposal and ensure the City Council can pass this fee to fund urgently needed safety projects, they need to hear from you that safety and equity are important components.

On Monday, October 13th, Portland City Council will have its first work session on the fee after months of feedback from committees representing businesses, non-profit, low-income, and transportation groups. Portland City Council and Mayor Hales need to hear from you now that safety is important to you and essential to the city.

If you’d like to see safer streets created and maintained throughout Portland and around our schools in the next ten years, take action now by sending an email to City Council.

Thank you for speaking up for our kids and other vulnerable road users through safe and healthy streets!

More details below.

Revenue Design:

  • Although everyone contributes revenue for our transportation system – in gas taxes, vehicle registration fees, and property taxes – not all residents have benefited equally. Our most vulnerable residents have borne the greatest burden with each passing year that we have failed to maintain our streets and improve safety infrastructure in all areas of the city.
  • The proposed “tiered income-based” fee can ease the burden on low- to moderate-income households. A progressive tiered income-based fee must have an income exemption of $25,000 for individuals as well as a $200 fee cap for the highest earners, which represents a mere maximum 0.4% tax rate in the highest bracket. This proposal helps move us towards a city where everyone can prosper.

Total Revenue:

  • The city has identified more than $90 million annually in safety and maintenance transportation needs. The overall dollar value must be high enough to warrant the effort, and the current $40 million revenue proposal eliminates many needed priorities, especially for safety. This amount should not decrease further, and the City of Portland should look at increasing the overall amount of revenue annually that goes directly to transportation projects by funding the administration of this new revenue source using other city resources.

Use of Funds:

  • We live in a city with massive disparities in the allocation of safe infrastructure for getting around. Geographically, pedestrians in the region’s poorer outer neighborhoods are three times more likely to be killed in traffic compared to pedestrians in wealthy neighborhoods (Source: From 2008-2012, the pedestrian fatality rate in the Portland metro region is more than twice a likely higher poverty areas; 3.5 per 100,000 in census tracts with poverty rates less than 15%, and 12.8 per 100,000 in areas with poverty rates over 25%.  Governing Magazine online http://www.governing.com/gov-data/pedestrian-deaths-per-capita-by-poverty-rates-for-metro-areas.html).
  • Safety is an essential priority. The project list tied to the street fee should dedicate significant funding to high crash corridors, needed safety projects around schools including completing the network of crosswalks, sidewalks, protected bike lanes, access to transit, and transit station improvements, and should not simply maintain the status quo of pavement on the streets. The current expenditure plan to balance approximately 50% for maintenance and 50% for safety is the very minimum allocation to safety that is acceptable.

Sunset:

  • The current proposal only partially meets the needs for our city. If the program is benefiting the public interest, we want the future Council to have the ability to continue it. A ten year sunset provides the future City Council the opportunity to decide whether to renew the fee.

Below is a map of the safety projects proposed by the city (click to enlarge), which will only be funded if we prioritize safety improvements over paving only projects and raise enough revenue to ensure these projects are completed.

Potential Safety Projects Map 2

Send an email to Portland City Council now.

Here are the individual email addresses in case you’d like to reach a commissioner separately, or if for any reason the above link doesn’t work:

Charles Hales, Mayor: mayorhales@portlandoregon.gov

Commissioner Nick Fish: nick@portlandoregon.gov

Commissioner Amanda Fritz: amanda@portlandoregon.gov

Commissioner Steve Novick: novick@portlandoregon.gov

Commissioner Dan Saltzman: dan@portlandoregon.gov

Thank you for speaking up for our kids and other vulnerable road users through safe and healthy streets!

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