New MPO Task Force Rolls Up Its Sleeves

November 30, 2009

Focus_DecLand Use, Transportation

and Climate Change

By 1000 Friends of Oregon

As the issue of global warming occupies center stage on the national and international arena, here in Oregon, attention is focused on a newly appointed committee looking at how Oregon can combat global warming pollution from cars and trucks.

Metropolitan Planning Organizations

Created under last session’s House Bill 2186, the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) Task Force on Greenhouse Gas Emissions is charged with evaluating how integration of land use and transportation planning can help Oregon’s large urban areas reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The task force will make legislative recommendations for the February 2010 session.

The task force’s 16 members include legislators and representatives from Oregon’s six metropolitan planning organizations. Groups also represented include AAA/Oregon, Oregon Home Builders Association, Oregon Environmental Council, and 1000 Friends of Oregon. Policy Director and Senior Staff Attorney Mary Kyle McCurdy represents 1000 Friends on the task force.
The task force has an ambitious charge and a very short window of time to complete it. The task force is currently scheduled to wrap up its work at its December 4th meeting.

Scenario Planning:

Best Practices from Around the Country

The process by which local governments integrate land use and transportation planning is often referred to as “scenario planning.” The process usually involves computer modeling of alternative land use scenarios and possible transportation systems to serve those scenarios.

In a presentation to the task force on state of the art scenario planning efforts from around the country, several important themes emerged:

•    a strong public involvement component is crucial to obtaining citizen support for local plans, and;
•    scenario planning can be successful even when regional governments don’t have the legal authority to implement land use plans (which is the case for all Oregon MPOs except for Metro in the Portland area).

Why Climate Change &

Scenario Planning Matter

Transportation accounts for over one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon. If we’re going to meet our greenhouse gas reduction targets, we must make our larger urban areas more climate-friendly.

Scenario planning creates a tremendous opportunity to make our communities more sustainable and livable. When asked recently how he would define a livable community, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “If you don’t want an automobile, you don’t have to have one.”

Rather than a new burden, scenario planning can offer many benefits, including:

•    Reduces household costs and generates economic benefits: Transportation is the second largest expense for most households. In communities with better transportation choices, families can save a bundle. Every dollar saved on imported oil is money available for local goods and services that benefit Oregon’s economy.
•    Supports healthy lifestyles: In many communities, people have no choice but to drive. Even short trips can’t be done by foot or on a bicycle. This has led to more sedentary lifestyles where people don’t get the exercise they need. Smart growth reduces commute times and supports walking and bicycling.
•    Reduces infrastructure costs and protects valuable farmland: Many studies comparing compact growth to sprawl have found that compact development generates net savings on the total costs of buildings, land, infrastructure and transportation. Curtailing sprawl helps reduce pressure to expand urban areas onto Oregon’s valuable farmland.
•    Gives consumers what they want: A 2007 study by the National Association of Realtors found 83% of Americans want to live in communities that allow them to use their car less often.
•    Protects the environment: Transportation generates more than one-third of Oregon’s global warming pollution and is a major contributor to air quality problems like smog. Every mile not driven keeps about one pound of heat-trapping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.alternatives

How to Get Involved

Let MPO Task Force members know that creating more livable communities is important to you. You can find a list of task force members on the Task Force website. Remind them that:

•    Linking land use and transportation through scenario planning will help provide better transportation choices in your community;
•    Legislation should implement scenario planning on a reasonable timeline;
•    Communities should receive adequate funding to ensure that planning produces best results.
1000 Friends of Oregon is a statewide land use planning resource and environmental advocacy organization. Its website is http://www.friends.org/ .

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