Top Stories 2023

The Biggest Portland Transportation News of 2023

PBOT struggles, Rose Quarter snags, and deadly crashes marked a busy year in Portland transportation.

The Biggest Portland City Hall News of 2023

This year, the city managed to help and harm the unhoused, while leaning on pre-pandemic work models to try to revitalize downtown.

The Biggest Portland Labor News of 2023

Move over "hot labor summer." 2023 was a hot labor year for Portland workers.

Portland's Top VILLAINS for 2023—Ranked!

Portland's villains were especially busy this year... here's who caused the most trouble.

The Biggest Portland Police News of 2023

Big police settlements, a new top cop, and whatever happened to oversight? All that and more in the biggest police stories of 2023!

The Biggest Portland Environmental News of 2023

Oil company lawsuits, asbestos rain, and Rubio disappoints activists: A lot happened in 2023's environmental news.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) fell deeper into a massive budget crisis that's been looming for years. 

PBOT's longtime budget concerns took a sharp turn for the acute when Portland City Council, led by Mayor Ted Wheeler, voted to cut an approved parking fee increase in half. PBOT had already budgeted for the extra revenue from parking fees, expecting to rake in millions in much-needed funds, and bureau leaders strongly decried Wheeler's decision. But things got even worse from there: In September, PBOT announced they were looking at a $32 million budget deficit in the next fiscal year, a funding shortage so dire that bureau leaders predicted nearly 100 layoffs and huge program cuts. However, recent news that Portland's Clean Energy Fund will have a lot of extra money in the bank— millions of which could go to PBOT— leaves some room for optimism. Let's hope they don't use those funds to remove (or attempt to remove) beloved city bike lanes due to pressure from Portland business owners.  

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) ran into snags on its plans to expand I-5 through Portland's Rose Quarter. 

ODOT revealed plans for the Rose Quarter freeway expansion, and safe streets advocates quickly noted the plans to change an I-5 off-ramp near the Moda Center would make it more dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists to travel through the area. Plus, ODOT's plans to toll road users on I-5— which would provide funding necessary for the state transportation agency to complete the Rose Quarter project— were dampened after Governor Tina Kotek put a moratorium on highway tolls until 2026. Kotek's (temporary) kibosh on tolling eventually led to ODOT announcing they'd be putting the brakes on plans to expand local freeways, including I-5, for lack of funds. (Anti-freeway climate advocates say: Too bad, so sad.)

TriMet solidified plans to raise bus and MAX fare, starting in January.

Despite protests from transportation justice advocates, the TriMet board voted to go ahead with a fare increase: Their first in nearly 10 years.

Starting January 1, 2024, an adult day pass for the bus or MAX trains will be $5.60 (up from $5) and the two-and-a-half hour ticket will go from $2.50 to $2.80.

The price of a monthly pass isn't changing.

The public transportation agency hopes the amped-up ticket prices will help them with their budget deficit (what's with transportation agencies and their budget problems!?), which we'll just have to wait and see about. Those who opposed the fare hike said TriMet should try to get their budget in the black by reducing policing on public transportation, which the agency spends quite a pretty penny on. Instead, TriMet announced a "crackdown" on public drug use on their vehicles after a University of Washington study revealed (minuscule) amounts of meth and fentanyl on buses and MAX trains. The agency is also increasing their fare inspection efforts. 

Also, this happened:

Traffic cops are back, but deadly crashes on Portland streets are still high.

In May, then-Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Chief Chuck Lovell announced the bureau would reinstate its Traffic Division after a two-and-a-half (ish) year hiatus. The news was received tepidly by local transportation advocates, many of whom have been petitioning for PBOT to install more traffic cameras on city streets and rely less on traffic cops— who are often biased against people of color and don't seem to care that much about road safety, anyway— to keep our streets safe. PBOT assured the public they'd still implement speed cameras, but they needed the extra help from cops to reduce traffic crashes. 

Then, after a deadly summer on Portland's streets, leaders from PPB and PBOT held a press conference about the rising traffic fatalities. Leaders mainly gave platitudes that didn't resonate with the public, who are tired of fearing for their lives while walking, biking, or taking public transit. The real revelation came after the press conference. Sergeant Ty Engstrom, a longtime member of the PPB Traffic Division, told BikePortland the police approach to traffic law enforcement over the past couple years has essentially been to let people run wild on Portland roads. Police leaders hoped this would "create a stir" so they could get more city funding.

In other words, cops thought if more people died or were injured in traffic crashes, their already-overfunded bureau would get more money. And they were right. (But, yeah, keep listening to rightwing media go on and on about how Portland defunded the police and caused the end of civilization.) 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg came to town.

He talked about the $80 million surge in federal funding from the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act to improve 82nd Avenue.  In a few years, if everything goes according to plan, 82nd Ave will be a "civic corridor," complete with an abundance of crosswalks, better sidewalks, street trees, and a TriMet Frequent Express line. Here's hoping it comes to fruition!