Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Portland’s Failed Experiment

Portland Oregon is the municipality being idealized and emulated by Dane County environmentalists Kathleen Falk and Dave Cieslewicz. Their plan to create a Regional Transit Authority, necessary to raise tax dollars for building fixed rail transportation, is specifically related to their desire to re-create the Portland experiment. Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute reviews the real effects of money, policy and government idealism on a region.

Debunking Portland: Urban planners have long believed in a land-use-transportation connection that would allow them to manipulate one through the other. So Portland plans land uses to try to reduce the amount of driving people do while it plans transportation to try to slow the conversion of rural land to urban purposes.

The Portland Myths: Portland planners and officials have done their best to promote claims that their integrated planning process is successful. In particular, they say that: 1. Investments in transit and land-use changes promoted by planning rules have significantly reduced auto use; 2. Transit-oriented developments have proven commercially successful and have moved many people out of their cars; 3. Rail transit has, in turn, stimulated billions of dollars of land-use developments; 4. The urban-growth boundary and other planning rules have significantly reduced sprawl; and 5. Portlanders love their plans.

Problems with Portland’s Plans: The previous discussion has already hinted at some of the major drawbacks of Portland’s integrated land-use and transportation planning. These include the following: 1. increasingly unaffordable housing prices. 2. Increased traffic congestion. 3. Higher taxes or reduced urban services as tax revenues are diverted to rail transit and transit-oriented development. 4. A reputation for having an unfriendly business environment, leading to higher unemployment.

All the myths are false. All the problems are true. The lesson of Portland is that physical structures do not change individual attitudes. Everyone who votes in Dane County should read this article before consenting to be taxed at 6% per transaction.

Kathleen Falk and Dave Cieslewicz do not care what the people of this county want. Their loyalty is to an ideal and they will limit our mobility as much as necessary in order to create their version of the proper relationship between mankind and nature. They are hoping an uninformed voter base allows them to continue on with their misguided vision. Let’s not be stupid.