Building the plan
Work to shape a regional transportation funding measure started in January 2019. The plan outlines a vision for greater Portland that invests heavily in improving safety, making it easier to get around, and prioritizing projects that support communities of color.
Investment priorities evolved based on a range of input from an advisory task force and the public through events around the region, online surveys, and public comments.
Work slowed down in March when stay-at-home orders went into effect to slow the spread of Covid-19. The Metro Council, Metro staff and an advisory task force continued to meet virtually to allow physical distancing while engaging communities and moving the work forward.
See the plan
The 10 programs would address key local concerns throughout greater Portland, such as improving safety in high-crash areas. They would deliver free transit passes for most teenagers, more lighting along dark streets and at transit stops, and better connections for walking and biking, among more improvements.
The programs are part of a larger transportation funding package that the Metro Council will soon consider referring to the November 2020 ballot.
"These programs ensure that everyone in the region has an opportunity to benefit from the transportation measure," said Margi Bradway, the deputy director of Metro's planning department.
The measure would raise more than $4 billion and draw another $2.6 in matching funding for transportation projects along 16 major travel routes. Investments would likely be funded through vehicle registration fees and a tax on businesses based on total payroll. The Metro Council is exploring a potential exemption for small businesses.
In February and March, Metro hosted a series of workshops around greater Portland where community members came together to discuss and help shape these programs.
In May, the Metro Council reviewed reports about this engagement. At work sessions on May 26 and June 2, the Council supported including these programs in the larger transportation package and endorsed the allocations.
People who participated in these multilingual community workshops said they want to see programs that improve safety. During multiple engagements about transportation issues in the last year and a half, including at these workshops, people have defined safety differently. For some, safety might mean personal safety on a bus. Security officers may not make everyone feel safer.
Lamarra Haynes, a community engagement manager at Street Trust who participated in the Clackamas County workshop, said the most marginalized people tend to rely on transit. "We know that the most marginalized are violated by law enforcement," she said. "So to have law enforcement on public transit seems counterintuitive to me. It's not safe." TriMet recently announced a pilot program to “reimagine” the approach to ensuring safety for its riders.
For others, safety means having more sidewalks, marked crosswalks and better lighting along streets and at transit stations. These types of improvements would be included in the funding measure. Fidel Cruz Rodriguez, who lives in Hillsboro, drives to different farms throughout the region for work. At one of these workshops, in Cornelius, he said streets seem to be the most dangerous for people walking.
Guillermo Crescencio, who lives in Beaverton, agreed. In his observation, many people who drive do not yield to people walking. He said flashing lights at crosswalks more often than not prompt drivers to stop for people crossing the street. Improving dangerous intersections with more flashing lights is an investment Crescencio said he would like to see happen.
While recognizing the need for improvements, neighbors are also wary of the consequences new infrastructure might carry. “Many of the investments that I’d like to see in my neighborhood could also put us in danger of pricing us out of our neighborhoods,” said Gaby Saldana in Spanish. She lives in Southeast Portland in a neighborhood close to Clackamas County. “It could raise housing costs. I rent.”
At a workshop in Clackamas County, Saldana said her neighborhood has only one grocery store. She said her rent would surely go up if an upscale grocery store were to open in her neighborhood.
Have your say
Attend an online listening session to offer feedback on the draft plan:
Monday, July 6 for East Multnomah County
Tuesday, July 7 for Portland
Thursday, July 9 for Washington County
Saldana and many others strongly support investing in programs that would ensure people stay where they live when their neighborhoods get new infrastructure, new businesses and more travel options.
It would be “very necessary” to pair these programs with affordable housing options throughout the region, said Margarita Interián, who lives in Rosewood in East Portland and who participated in a community workshop in Multnomah County.
Community comments echoed discussions of the Transportation Funding Task Force, an advisory group appointed by the Metro Council President. In those meetings, members expressed the need for programs that focus on anti-displacement and protecting affordable housing.
“We have got to stop this vicious cycle of investing public dollars to solve problems like inequity and carbon emissions and the lack of adequate transit, which then drives displacement of the very people that we're trying to serve,” said Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly at a task force meeting in March.
Young people with the Multnomah Youth Commission and OPAL’s Youth Environmental Justice Alliance had a strong presence at all the community workshops. They advocated for free year-round transit passes for young people, regardless of how much their families earn and regardless of whether they go to school.
That appealed to Veronica Ramos who lives in Northeast Portland and takes transit to get around.
"Some of us have big families, with kids in college or in different schools," she said in Spanish. "I have four [children] but they all go to different schools.” Ramos said in some cases the fare transfer time isn't long enough. That means she has to buy more fares for her and her kids, the youngest of whom is 11. “The truth is it’s a lot of money,” she said.
The Metro Council agreed to support a youth pass program that would cover all high school students in the region whose schools do not already offer transit passes. In its second year, the $9 million program would eventually expand coverage to middle school students, and then to all children.
"This is huge," Bradway said. "We are going to be one of the few metropolitan planning organizations, or regional governments, in the nation that is able to provide free transit for youth. We are setting an example by not only focusing on students but also on young people who are not students."
Bradway said Metro staff will work closely with nonprofit partners and agencies that offer homeless services to ensure young people experiencing homelessness have access to free transit regardless of whether they are enrolled in high school.
"We have a long history of running fair and transparent programs that take into account community voices and public engagement," Bradway said. "Metro has been running federally-funded programs for over 20 years. And we track our progress over time. We are able to show that our investments are making a difference in our community."
Bradway points to a few examples, including the regional flexible funds that has increased biking and walking networks across the region and the transit-oriented development program that continues to increase density near transit lines.
"There's so much need in the region," she said. "We are excited to have more investments through a transportation measure to be able to meet more of the needs of the community."
This month, the Metro Council is expected to consider referring the transportation measure to the November 2020 ballot.
About the Get Moving 2020 Regionwide Programs
Safe Routes to School $4.5 million a year
Sidewalks, crosswalks and other investments that help kids get to school safely.
Safety Hot Spots $4.5 million a year
Crosswalks, signals, and improvements in the region’s most dangerous intersections to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries.
Better Bus $2 million a year
Features that make buses faster and easier to use, including bus priority signals.
Regional Walking and Biking Connections $9 million a year
Connecting off-street paths for biking and walking around greater Portland.
Thriving Main Streets $2.5 million a year
Sidewalks, crosswalks, seating, lighting, street trees and other improvements on the main streets in greater Portland's downtowns, along with a small business support fund.
Anti-Displacement Strategies $2.5 million a year
Community-led strategies to prevent displacement where major transportation investments are planned.
Transportation Corridor Housing Opportunity Fund $6.5 million a year
Preserving affordable housing options near transportation investments.
Bus Electrification $9 million a year
Converting buses from running on diesel to running on electricity and other clean fuels.
Youth Transit Access $9 million a year
Free bus and MAX passes for people ages 14 to 18.
Future Corridor Planning $0.5 million a year
Planning transportation investments to prepare for expected ongoing population growth.
Find detailed information on each in the Metro staff recommendation.