Earlier today I delivered the following testimony to Portland City Council as Executive Director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance:
“Mayor Hales, Members of City Council, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. I’m Rob Sadowsky, Executive Director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and I’m here to testify in regards to the transportation utility fee proposal. The BTA supports raising new revenue to fund basic maintenance and safety of our transportation system.
“We think it’s appropriate for everyone to make contributions towards the maintenance and safety of the streets we need to get around. Portlanders are following the national trend of relying on our cars less, but we still rely on a declining source of revenue that only captures value from automobile trips with the gas tax. We agree that treating transportation funding like we treat other city utilities makes more sense in the long term. The street fee is also a layered solution that complements the existing gas tax.
“I’d like to share some resolvable concerns with the current proposal and would like to see changes before we arrive at our final position on the issue. It is imperative that the City works to reduce the burden on our lowest income Portlanders with a steep discount for low-income households to ensure that they do not bear a disproportionate impact from the costs. The BTA strongly believes that no family should have to choose between paying for safe streets and paying to feed their family. We trust that our friends in the affordable housing sector can work with the City to help resolve these concerns.
“Additionally, we would like to see the fee used in a way that encourages motor vehicle trip reductions. I’d like to share two personal examples.
“When I ride by Beach School every morning I see scores of parents bringing their kids to school by foot and on bikes. And whenever I stop by Hopworks in the evening, the steps they’ve taken to encourage their customers to arrive by bike impress me. The BTA would encourage the City to grant discounts or a waver of the fee to groups who make an active investment in reducing their and their customers’ maintenance burden on our roads.
“Safe and well maintained streets are worth paying for. We applaud City Councilors, and especially Mayor Hales and Commissioner Novick, for taking on this tough issue. As everyone in the United States, from the Federal Government to the State of Oregon to our local communities, grapple with declining transportation revenue and increasing maintenance costs, it is refreshing to see the City of Portland step up with a proactive solution. We look forward to supporting a proposal that is equitable, fair, and supports the vibrant culture & neighborhoods that make us love our City.”