Portland’s new commissioner-elect sees a carfree future where public transit is free and fast

One of the biggest local consequences of last night’s election is that Jo Ann Hardesty will be sworn-in as a Portland city commissioner in January.

Her presence on the five-member council could have far-reaching implications as we debate and consider major transportation-related issues in the coming years. Hardesty and her new colleagues on Portland City Council will have a say on key issues ranging from mega-projects to micromobility. Since we haven’t sat down with her for an extended conversation yet, I thought I’d share what she’s said on the record thus far.

Earlier this spring when the campaign for the primary was heating up, Hardesty didn’t even mention transportation as an issue on her website. Now she does. Here’s her platform as described on the “Climate Justice: One People, One Planet” page of her campaign website:

I live on Portland’s East side and use our bus system. My experiences as a Trimet rider have helped shape my belief that our community needs access to free and widely available public transportation. I believe in a Portland where you can get where you need to go without using a car and that you shouldn’t be punished for taking the bus by having it take twice as long to get there. This Portland is possible if we prioritize expanding our current system, making it free and securing and expanding our Youth Pass for students. We must make these changes because transportation is the second biggest expense for households after housing. As Portland grows we also need to support options like the SW Corridor Project that Metro is working on, and I look forward to working in coalition with Metro leaders to make these projects a reality.

All of this work needs to be done before we consider congestion pricing. People of color in our community have been pushed to the edges of town, and I don’t believe that it is just to then charge those community members for the privilege to come back for work or play. Additionally, when drivers look for alternatives to taxed roads, we know they will turn to other options. Those roads won’t be prepared for additional traffic and will jeopardize our commitment to Vision Zero. I am committed to building a Portland where no one should die trying to get where they need to go. I also believe that consideration of congestion pricing requires deep community conversations where everyone can participate. Under some models, the money raised through congestion pricing can only be used to build more roads such as freeways. That is not compatible with our city’s climate solution goals and we need to be thinking about how to invest in other modes of transportation. I look forward to working with community advocates and the team at PBOT to supporting the work they have been doing on these issues and to break through the political gridlock that has been holding us back.

A transportation-focused candidate forum in April hosted by the local chapter of Young Professionals in Transportation provided more detailed insights from Hardesty. Here are some excerpts from our coverage of that event:

On Vision Zero:

NAACP Porltand President Jo Ann Hardesty said Vision Zero uses too much of a “punitive approach” and she’d rather see more education. “$247 bucks is excessive for first ticket,” she said. “We need to be creating communities that are walkable and have amenities so that people are able to walk.” Hardesty said it’s “inexcusable” that a “city with so much riches” invests so much in downtown when other parts of the city have been “forgotten.”

On transportation and environmental justice:

A world-class transportation system in Portland would give everyone access to public transit and “the ability to have bicycles,” said Jo Ann Hardesty. She also pointed out that, “We had a ‘housing emergency’ not because 10,000 African-Americans were displaced from inner northeast between 2000 and 2010. The housing emergency came about when white middle-class people found it difficult to live in the city.” Hardesty said Portland needs elected leaders with guts to tell “the real story.” “We need to stop painting this as a progressive utopia where everything is wonderful and where all you have to do is get on your bike and life will be great,” she continued. “That is not for everybody. It hasn’t been that way for people of color.”

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On taming dangerous arterials:

A skeptical Jo Ann Hardesty threw a bit of cold water on the excitement over a PBOT-controlled 82nd Ave: “I wish I believed that the City of Portland taking on 82nd Avenue would make it better. I wish I believed that.” Hardesty added that because parts of east Portland still don’t have sidewalks, “We cannot talk about bike paths without talking about safety for community members who have paid their fair share in taxes and just are not getting the infrastructure.”

On how to stem the rise of fatal crashes involving people walking in east Portland:

Hardesty’s answer to this sounded like victim-blaming to one person I talked to after the event. After saying how some people drive too fast, Hardesty said, “I can tell you there are pedestrians that walk out in front of cars because they think they have bumpers and no one will hit them.” Hardesty added that our streets would be safer if we fostered more “community connectedness” and moved beyond division. “We need to come together and decide what kind of community we want to live in.”

On funding:

To raise money for transportation, Hardesty said she’d put a $2.50 tax on Uber and Lyft rides (which got a loud applause). She also mentioned (perhaps responding to Fish’s tough talk) that while she likes lower speed limits, she’s “absolutely terrified of more enforcement” and that she doesn’t feel safe, “When I hear public leaders talk about enhancing police presence… When we know African-Americans and Latinos are targeted for more enforcement than anyone else.”

On congestion pricing:

Hardesty said, “Before we have a conversation about congestion pricing, we have to make sure the people we pushed out to the edges of our city are not harmed by this policy.” She doesn’t want people who live furthest away from the central city to be penalized and she doesn’t want it to be based on income.

Commissioner-elect Hardesty will also be the only member of Portland City Council to clearly oppose the I-5/Rose Quarter freeway expansion project. Here’s how she responded to a questionnaire from No More Freeways PDX:

“I am also strongly opposed to expanding I-5. There is a disconnect between our vision for 2050 climate justice resolution and freeway expansion, and expanding I-5 should be an absolute last resort to addressing crashes and congestions. I think the funds allocated to I-5 expansion would be better spent towards expanding transit and improving infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Another place to learn about Hardesty’s views is in BikePortland reader Tony Jordan’s editorial endorsement we published back in April.

Do you have experiences with or insights about Hardesty you can share?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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The post Portland’s new commissioner-elect sees a carfree future where public transit is free and fast appeared first on BikePortland.org.

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