My View: New roads aren't answer to congestion
Anti-government libertarian John Charles weighed in with an April 25 op-ed on House Bill 3231, which would allow the formation of special taxing districts to finance limited-access highways. Contrary to Charles' goofy endorsement, this bill would simply create more of the problems it purports to solve. His support could be due to the fact that a large chunk of his funding comes from a libertarian dark-money group, Donors Capital Fund.
Charles ridiculed opponents' arguments as "comical" and "used for decades." However, our arguments have indeed been used for decades because they are based upon facts and evidence, rather than snarky bumper-sticker reasoning and misleading statistics. It is simply true that (1) new highways threaten farmland, (2) increased auto traffic will indeed undermine Oregon's climate change goals and, as has been proven all over the world for decades, (3) we can't build our way out of congestion.
Even the mayor of road-building mecca Houston, Texas, recognizes that the "traditional strategy of adding capacity, especially single-occupant-vehicle capacity on the periphery of our urban areas, exacerbates urban-congestion problems."
PriceWaterhouseCooper, a fairly credible research source, opines: "Over the past several decades, brute construction to meet the needs of drivers has been the default approach for many cities and emerging nations. Yet this strategy has merely generated more traffic, and instead of one congested route it has created two."
Charles goes on to either deliberately or carelessly misuse statistics. He claims "after a 20-year spending binge of $3.7 billion for new rail lines, TriMet's share of daily commuting in Portland actually dropped from 12 percent in 1997 to 10 percent in 2016."
Gosh, wouldn't the relevant statistic be the total number of riders? Last year, total TriMet ridership was 110,985,034, a 42 percent increase since 1997 (and resulting in over $8 billion in new development), twice the rate of population growth, which has been substantial.
Charles goes on to claim that vehicle emissions are "so minor" and that "vehicles sitting in gridlock have per-mile emissions of infinity." Well, it is also true that vehicles sitting at home in the garage, while the owner rides the train to work, have per-mile emissions of zero.
On the other hand, there really is no reason to have this debate in the first place. Examples abound of effective ways to move our stuff and ourselves around, all over the world in cities both much older and far newer than Portland, Oregon. We can stop speculating about what works and what doesn't. And mass transit provides the highest quality of life. HB 3231 is just another attempt to profiteer off of public property and revenue.
Sorry Mr. Charles, but large-scale cooperative efforts (aka "government") are more efficient and effective when it comes to many things, but especially mass transit.