Metro-area leaders: prioritize active transportation & transit — for our children, our health, our climate

The Oregon Legislature requires the Portland metropolitan region to reduce per capita greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cars and small trucks by 2035, and the deadline for coming up with the plan is December 31, 2014 — less than two months away. Some local decision-makers are now bickering over the details of the plan and threatening its future, despite the fact that Metro, Portland’s regional government covering the tri-county area of urbanized Clackamas, Washington, and Multnomah counties, has been working with regional partners on the strategy for how to get there for the past four years.

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Pacific Northwest region, has been engaged with Metro and regional leaders on the importance of Climate Smart planning — the proposed plan is a solidly researched strategy that includes realistic tools to move the region forward toward a Climate Smart future. We support the work that Metro has done and the strategy as proposed; it crosses over from state mandated and future quality of life GHG reductions to include positive impacts on transportation, land use, equity, health, economy, and the environment. How the Metro region chooses to plan for and implement strategies addressing GHG reduction will profoundly shape our region for decades, truly for centuries — and if we do it right, will have immense positive beneficial impacts on the everyday lives of children, residents, and businesses.

(c) Jonathan Maus, BikePortland

As many will realize, a Climate Smart Strategy, by its nature, must be prescriptive to a certain degree in order to reach its goal. The flexibility allowed within the proposed plan is both useful and essential in our diverse region, but to ensure we reach our goals, these strategies also require strong leadership and thinking that will lead the way for our region to become Climate Smart.

Unfortunately, some regional leaders are attempting to derail the plan and the many benefits it would provide to our region for health, air quality, climate, and quality of life for people of all ages and abilities. Perhaps most unsettling have been some remarks that indicate a desire to continue business as usual through what amounts to highway expansion — a strategy that has been neither proposed nor proven to reduce GHG emissions.

The Climate Smart Strategy, which offers numerous options for leaders around the region to achieve the GHG reduction target required by the Oregon Legislature, will achieve many other benefits that our region embraces — by creating walkable, bikeable, mixed use communities that serve people of all ages and abilities. This will require greatly increased investment in transit, pedestrian infrastructure, and bike facilities — and we welcome it.

Take action now!

The Metro region Climate Smart Scenarios plan has broad support – more than three-quarters of people who responded to surveys supported most of the elements in the plan. Our region’s decision-makers will be discussing and forming their final position on this issue several times over the next month, with a final decision required by December 31. Now, it is up to us to ensure decision makers in our region  recognize the importance, inherent in this Climate Smart work, of supporting our region and our region’s children long into the future — for they will be the ones who benefit, or suffer, from the decisions made today.

This urgent issue needs your help in the next two weeks – decision-makers need to hear from you. Please take a moment to e-mail your local city and county elected officials, Tri-Met, ODOT, and the Port of Portland to share your support for prioritizing public transit and active transportation in our region’s efforts to combat climate change and improve the health of our communities and the future of our children.

Read the full text of the comments we submitted to Metro here (pdf).

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