Metro Rogue of the Week?

A recent edition of Willamette Week (Wed., Oct 28) named Metro the “Rogue of the Week” for its completely inconsistent actions on global warming. On the one hand, Metro proclaims the importance of reducing greenhouse gases in its policy statements, while on the other hand it releases a draft regional transportation plan that will increase transportation greenhouse gases by 50 percent over current levels
What’s going on here?

Metro expects a million more people by 2035. A million more people is about a 50 percent increase in the region’s population, so Metro projects about 50 percent more driving, resulting in a nearly 50 percent increase in transportation emissions (more than a third of all climate change-causing emissions are from transportation).

In other words, the regional transportation plan is a “business as usual” projection of past trends. It predicts that we won’t bike, walk, or ride buses and trains more in the future than we do today, because we won’t improve our neighborhoods, main streets and downtowns to make them more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. We won’t build enough transit improvements, trails, paths, or sidewalks, to make it easier and safer to choose not to drive. So traffic and pollution will go up 50 percent.
And we’ll fail to win the competition for new jobs with other regions around the country, because we won’t give employers more ways to move goods efficiently—we’ll only give them more traffic.

That’s not acceptable.
In Oregon, we do things differently. And we can solve this challenge differently as well. We can and should develop more transportation choices that focus on operating our roads and bridges more efficiently—not expanding them with more and more lanes to move more and more traffic. We can invest in the region’s 2040 growth management plan, encouraging more jobs, housing and community services in walkable, transit-served main streets and town centers, ensuring that more of our existing neighborhoods are within an easy walk of more everyday destinations.
National studies have shown that this kind of “smart growth” reduces residents’ and workers’ need to drive by 25 percent.

That’s why I asked each member of the Metro Council a year ago (in a November 26, 2008 letter) to design its transportation plan to achieve reductions in greenhouse gases by 2035, by selecting a mix of land use changes and transportation improvements that will make that achievable.
The Metro Council missed this chance to get it right. I look forward to giving them another chance at it about a year from now, as the new President of the Metro Council.