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Monday, February 24, 2014

Portland's lessons for Howard County

   I have blogged extensively about Columbia being more walkable and bikeable.   Streets in our community were designed for cars as they were in most suburbs.  We have an extensive bike path system that does give us pathways to use to get from one village to another.  However, too often the street patterns and markings aren't coordinated with the path systems.  Many paths lead to roads with curbs and no clear bike lanes.  If there aren't houses on a street often there are no sidewalks.  The photos below show how roads like Dobbin were never designed to be use in a walkable manner.

  Walking or biking to a shopping center in Columbia was never seen as way to access they areas.

   I recently listened to a TED Conference talk by Jeff Speck who is a city planner and he uses Portland, Oregon as an example of better planning.  He discussed how destructive suburban sprawl is on our environment and our economy.  In the past 30 years we have doubled the amount families spend on transportation.  The average family now spends more on transportation than housing.   This is not news if you have tried to buy a new car recently.  New cars now can cost what a house in Columbia cost in the 1970's.

     The average Portlander spends 20% less on transportation than the average American.  That leaves more of their income for other things like restaurants and entertainment.  In the last 20 years they have increased their college educated population by 50%.  That translates into more local  income and property tax revenue.  Walkable neighborhoods are also related to a lower rate of obesity in other less walkable neighborhoods.
      The 2014 Howard County Capital Budget is supposed to have some money for pathway development and soon the proposed Bike Master Plan is supposed to be released (March?) and may address the need for better marking of bike lanes on some of our roads.  I will follow each of these and report any progress in this area.


    Portland has an image as the place that all the 1960's "hippies" have gone to live.  It is probably the most eco-friendly place in the United States.  This image is humorously depicted in the TV show Portlandia on the IFC cable network starring Fred Armisen from Saturday Night Live.  The show starts its fourth season this Thursday. All three seasons shows are available on Netflix.

1 comment:

b. santos said...

It's kind of hard to compare Portland to Columbia. 2/3 of all workers that live in Columbia leave the county to work. I suspect there is a different work/home distribution in Portland, OR. True, cars are expensive, but houses have also increased in cost. The increase in transportation costs mostly falls in the cost of fuels. The 20% figure probably also takes into consideration the plethora of public transportation in Portland too. Light rail, but, even gondolas are present there, whereas Columbia only has a limited bus system. I agree that the Dobbin Road corridor lacks sidewalks, but let's consider that the original plan was for an industrial park with a focus on warehousing and light manufacturing. Are the industrial and warehousing areas of Portland equipped with bike paths and sidewalks? Dobbin needs time and investment. Also keep in mind that one of the largest bike/ped projects proposed, a link between Lake Kittamaquandi and Lake Elkhorn has faced opposition from Councilperson Terassa. She has been quoted as saying "I like bike paths, just not THIS bike path." Portland has lot's of ideas that we can bring here, we just need to make sure we are comparing apples to apples.