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Monday, February 27, 2012

Yes, PBOT's Budget is Abysmal. No, It's not Because PBOT's Crazy for Bikes.

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 1:58 PM

The Oregonian's front page, above-the-fold article yesterday was all about the Portland Bureau of Transportation budget cuts. The story hits home some good points, but in my opinion, its framing is misleading.

On the page, the article was headlined, "Portland Road to Ruin" with the subhead, "What's a priority: Bike routes, conferences, and staff. What's not: Repaving and cleaning your crumbling roads. And it's only getting worse." (Online, the piece has a much more mellow headline). PBOT is certainly in a bad spot. As the O article (and our coverage last month and last fall) notes, the city has known for years that the transportation bureau was staring down a funding crisis and now is having to cut core services. But saying bike routes are a top priority that suck away money from road repaving is not true.

First of all, the amount PBOT spends on bike projects is smaller than most Portlanders would expect. In 2010, the city planned to spend 5.5 percent of its capital budget on projects with "bike elements" (which includes bike-specific infrastructure like bike lanes, but also bigger sidewalk and greenway projects that other modes use, too).

From a cuts perspective, I'd argue that street repaving and bike projects were actually cut equally, not with bikes as the vampiric top priority. PBOT's proposed budget calls for cutting $1 million from street preservation, which means the city will only repave 15-20 miles of streets, instead of 40 miles. But the street repaving budget is $9.5 million, so slicing $1 million is a 10 percent cut. PBOT also plans to cut 10 percent of the $1 million neighborhood greenway budget, which is the cash used to make streets like NE Going and SE Spokane better for bikes.

The Oregonian also dug up this interesting comparison of PBOT staff time broken down by what mode of transportation they're working on:

The time spent on passenger vehicle issues increased five percent, while the time spent on bike issues stayed the same. To me, that says PBOT is clearly not prioritizing bike projects over projects for other vehicles.

There are clearly problems with how PBOT gets revenue and where that money goes, but next time you hit a pothole, don't blame it on those damn bicycles.

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