Corporate Location Bulletin
Saying No to Business Expansion:
Portland Chooses to Create Gridlock

The draft Portland, Oregon area regional transportation plan (25 year plan) proposes traffic congestion standards that will allow virtual gridlock to develop (see excerpt from Randall O'Toole column below). The plan would allow that traffic in certain commercial areas, and on freeways and major arterials reach capacity off peak hours and gridlock during peak without improvements being made (Levels of service E and F). This is in contrast to the norm, which is that highway authorities begin to make improvements when roadways approach capacity (Levels of service C and D).

As a result, the 1.3 million population Portland urbanized area, which is already by far the most congested urbanized area of under 1.9 million, (Texas Transportation Institute, 1997 data) will experience even greater traffic congestion and is even more likely to exceed the traffic congestion of Los Angeles by 2015 .

This policy, combined with other regional policies that require higher density development and draw a line beyond which urban development cannot occur (urban growth boundary) have already begun to set Portland up as an elitist community. Housing prices, which were near average in 1990, have risen to the point that they are now among the highest in the nation (and the highest among non-California major metropolitan areas), as a result of the artificial scarcity of land created by the policy.

These factors are likely to make Portland a much less livable community in the longer run and make Portland significantly less attractive for corporate and individual relocation.

Excerpted (with appreciation for permission), from an
e-mail column by Randall O'Toole of The Thoreau Institute


19 March 2000

Metro's Mobility Standards

A "mobility standard" is a method of deciding when capacity should be added to roads. Traffic engineers give letter grades to traffic conditions: free-flowing traffic gets and A and gridlock gets an F. A road that is completely full to capacity gets an E. E is a very dangerous condition; just one little slowdown on the part of some driver and all traffic flow can break down, turning into an F.

For this reason, state and local highway departments have traditionally had a standard of C or D, meaning if traffic on any road exceeded that standard during rush hour, the department would plan some capacity enhancements either on that road or on a parallel route to draw traffic away from the congested road.

Metro has effectively tossed this idea to the wind. The new standards in the Regional Transportation Plan are shown below:

Location Mid-Day Peak Hours
Concept Areas E F
Major Freeways E F
Other Principal Arterials D E
Other Areas D E

The "concept areas" include central Portland (downtown plus Lloyds), regional and town centers, light-rail station areas, and main streets. The "major freeways" include I-84, I-5 north of I-84, I-405, US 26, and 99E from downtown to 224. "Other areas" includes corridors, industrial/employment areas, and neighborhoods.

In other words, Metro is saying that traffic can go to gridlock during rush hours and near gridlock the rest of the day in the concept areas and major freeways, and Metro will see no need to increase capacities. It might see a need to increase capacities on I-5 south, 217, and a few other major routes, but only if they reach gridlock, not just near-gridlock. Notice that nearly all of the "major freeways" are paralleled by light rail or planned light rail.

End of Excerpt

Demographia is "pro-choice" with respect to urban development.
People should have the freedom to live and work where they like.

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