Sunday, February 26, 2012


The same year Portland began implementing its urban growth boundary, Neil Goldschmidt became mayor. Goldschmidt quickly recognized that the land-use-transportation connection could be exploited to political ends, and this insight would make him the state’s largest powerbroker for decades to come.
In 1974, Goldschmidt canceled a major interstate freeway project before it broke ground. Aside from the usual gripes about a freeway reducing nearby property values, Congress had just passed a law allowing federal highway funds to be used on capital improvement for public transportation. More public transportation looked like a good way of helping Portland stay within its urban growth boundary.
The problem was that the feds had allocated so much for the highway project that the city couldn’t possibly absorb it all in buses. Goldschmidt had to find an irrationally expensive new mode of public transportation, and thus began liberal America’s love affair with “light rail.” And light rail had another advantage over buses, namely that the laying of tracks and the placement of stations allowed Goldschmidt even more power to manipulate land use, making him a kingmaker among developers. Naturally, Goldschmidt’s pioneering of a public works project distinguished by its exorbitant cost earned him a job as Jimmy Carter’s secretary of transportation.
Vaunted though it might be, Portland’s light rail system hasn’t been the success its planners hoped. It’s called “light” rail not because the trains are less heavy, but because it’s more lightly used by the public than, say, New York’s subway or Washington, D.C.’s Metro. Over the course of the 1980s, the city’s first light rail line was finally completed, and the percentage of Portlanders using public transportation declined.


Steve Fung said...

The Weekly Standard,run by Bill Kristol,is hardly a beacon of journalistic integrity.That article is full of sour grapes and conservative opinion by the author.

Al M said...

Well conservatives r people too!

Al M said...

Are you saying Steve that the history that is outlined in that article is wrong?

It didn't happen like that?

It makes sense to me, taking out the labels..

I admit I don't know anything about the weekly standard.