Monday, March 19, 2007

A chance to start from scratch

What a difference a river can make. Tonight I attended a citizens' advisory task force meeting for the Clark County high capacity transit system study, which is evaluating development potential for travel options in the Vancouver metro region. I've attended many transportation planning meetings in Portland with Metro, TriMet and ODOT, but with the exception of Columbia River Crossing meetings, this was my first journey into Clark County transportation planning.

The list of differences in planning approaches between PDX and Vancouver is long (the link between land use planning and transportation is a big one), but the energy reporter in me was struck by the absence of peak oil or energy-related costs as primary concerns on the task force's list of priorities. I guess the heightened concern for energy consumption has not yet migrated across the Columbia with the many Portland businesses and property-tax refugees.

When I asked a member of the regional transportation council why there was no specific mention of energy costs or savings related to new, large transit projects, in the task force's list of considerations, his response was that the fuel costs were included generally in the estimated operating costs.

I was amazed. Here's an entire county that's basically starting from scratch to design its first high capacity transit system -- a huge opportunity to get it right from the start -- and it's using the same planning process that it utilized in the 1980s to evaluate the region's options.

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