"Portland Bypasses Progress" (September/October) misses one key point about transportation/land use around Portland, Oregon, and the proposed Western Bypass highway. By not rebutting the assertion that the roadway will increase the tax base, author Marcia Lowe gives in to the notion that only roads can provide such increases. Any transportation project creates an opportunity to expand the tax base, while some pose smaller capital outlays.
The construction of a rail line would generate economic activity around the stations. The development of residential, retail, and work space in the vicinity of rail stations is higher in density than in auto-dependent areas. This condensed land use reduces the length of roads, water lines, and other new infrastructure that local governments would have to spend tax dollars building and maintaining.
Another aspect that makes mass transit projects more appealing than roadways is where the money spent on their use goes. Of every dollar spent on gasoline, approximately 85 cents leaves the region. Most of each dollar spent on mass transit fares supports the transit company's employees, all of who live in the region, and these employees then spend their money in the region, generating further economic activity.
Developments created with mass transit in mind are well complemented by walking and cycling, for there are fewer cars and shorter distances to travel.
If politicians want to be popular come election time, they will opt for a transportation future that does not include more automobiles, and it is time we demand it.
New York, New York
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Last updated: 4 April 1999