An article by reporter Joe Rose in the Oregonian this morning shares the news that Mayor Sam Adams is cutting a larger slice of the city's budget pie for bikes. But it also seriously implies that that larger slice is taking away funding for motor vehicle projects, which is just plain wrong.
Here's the key paragraph:
In fact, Portland quietly boosted the amount of uncommitted transportation funding it spends on bike projects from just 1 percent to 17 percent — or $2.8 million — in the budget adopted last June. Meanwhile, it slashed the amount allocated to motor vehicle projects by 22 percent.
True. Sort of. Thanks to new money from the state, the amount of money spent on bikes AND cars has greatly increased. The city's General Transportation Revenue this fiscal year is $10.6 million larger than it was last year, so both the bike and car slices of the pie are larger.
The nitty-gritty of this is a bit wonky, so bear with me.
In 2009-2010, Portland allocated $58,852 from its General Transportation Revenue (GTR) to bike projects and $4,480,6888 to car projects. That's a split of 1.12 percent of the budget for bikes and 85.26 percent for cars. Then, the legislature passed a major transportation bill (HB2001), which gave Portland $92 million over the next five years to spend however it wants. Mayor Adams decided to dedicate a large chunk of that money to bikes, but the total spending on car and pedestrian projects grew, too.
In the current budget, 2010-2011, Portland is allocating 17.42 percent of its GTR budget to bike projects, which comes out to $2,761,408 (4,692 times larger!). The amount to spend on car projects in the GTR jumped to $9,888,705, more than doubling, but only 62.37 percent of budget.
So, yes, the percent of the city's transportation money spent on cars has decreased while the percent spent on bikes has increased. But overall, nothing has been "slashed"—there's more money for both modes.
Leaving out these overall budget figures creates the skewed perception that spending on bike projects is cutting into money that would typically be spent on cars. As is, the article is sure to generate a lot of hate mail for the mayor.
For transportation nerds who are interested in where, exactly, that money is all going, a list of bike and car projects being funded with this year's discretionary budget is below the cut.
UPDATE: Joe Rose posted a response this afternoon online. "Yes, the coffers are fuller," he writes. "The story wasn't about the size of the pie, but the size of the pieces." I still think it's highly relevant to mention this size of the pie in a story about the growing size of the pieces.