Perhaps nothing shows the absurdity of Oregon’s conflict over transportation emissions than the idea that one “the technological and infrastructural wonders” we enjoy is “the ability to order merchandise from around the world and have it delivered over night.“
Online shopping and rapid delivery is precisely what has brought the world to the abyss, and the idea that we will find some magic potions that will allow this shopping and energy-intensive mode of consumption to continue past 2020, much less as we approach 2050, simply announces that the authors and participants in this “strategy” are not to be taken seriously, much less to be trusted.
Benefits of the 2050 Vision
The potential benefits of achieving the Statewide Transportation Strategy 2050 Vision extend far beyond the critical goal of limiting the adverse effects of climate change. In fact, bringing about these advancements could result in a broad array of positive impacts to society when compared to a “business as usual” future. Such benefits include:
● Household savings – Lower vehicle miles traveled, lower household vehicle ownership rates, and the ability to enjoy amenities through mixed-use developments and access to public transportation, bicycling, and walking help households to spend a lower percentage of their incomes on transportation. Less vehicle travel, improved fuel economy, and more transportation options help to protect households from dramatically increasing petroleum fuel costs. More compact communities and less sprawl reduce the costs associated with providing electricity, water and other utilities per resident, while improved public health has the added benefit of lowering health care costs for Oregonians.
● A stronger economy – Reductions in petroleum fuel consumption frees more money to be spent locally and invested in the Oregon economy. A reduced dependence on petroleum and a shift to more diverse fuel sources helps insulate Oregon’s economy from shocks due to instability in world oil markets.
Substantial reductions in the amount of fossil fuels consumed per capita result in household cost savings and more investment in the state economy. Reduced delay and congestion improves the reliability of travel, benefiting employers, employees, and shippers. More efficient transportation and land use systems allow existing roadways to accommodate a growing economy. Lower pollution levels and more active travel help lower health care costs.
● Safer roads – Bicycle and pedestrian improvements are designed to maximize visibility to motorists. Additionally, on Oregon’s roadways, lower rates of vehicle travel and new intelligent transportation systems significantly reduce crash rates. Reduced crashes also result from slower speeds on some routes.
● A healthier public – Mixed-use communities, increased transit service levels, and more transportation options (e.g., bicycling, walking) lead to more active and healthy communities, including lower obesity rates. Improvements to air quality result in lower incidences of asthma and other related diseases.
● Less time wasted in traffic – Shorter travel distances and more convenient travel options result in greater transportation system performance. Lower personal vehicle travel frees capacity for freight and other commercial travel that is important to the state’s economy. Delays are reduced by improved traffic management and reductions in the number of crashes.
● Energy savings – Improved vehicle efficiency, new alternative fuels, and lower vehicle usage result in energy savings.
● Cleaner air and water – Heavy trucks, aircraft and private vehicles run on cleaner and more efficient energy, thus, lowering per capita emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. This results in cleaner air and fewer environmental impacts from the extraction, refinement and transportation of fossil fuels. By burning and distributing less gasoline and diesel and by accelerating adoption of alternatively fueled vehicles, other toxic air pollutants, such as benzene, are reduced, improving overall air quality.
While there are benefits of the STS Vision, there are also costs. For example, building infrastructure and providing services necessary to make multimodal travel options available would be costly. The total magnitude and effect of the various costs on Oregon’s economy could not be predicted because of the uncertainty of economic changes across the nation and world and technological and social changes that occur. These things are very uncertain.
For example, who 40 years ago would have predicted the impact of the internet and cell phones today? Because of this uncertainty, the pathway forward to implement the STS will include continued monitoring and evaluation of trends that affect the validity of the vision and its implementation. In addition, as implementation of STS strategies moves forward, the potential economic effects of appropriate candidate implementation measures will be analyzed to determine the likely effects during the implementation timeframe and to develop programs that minimize adverse effects.
The 2050 Vision
A Vision that is Bold, but Plausible
Viewed from today, the 2050 Vision for transportation may seem ambitious. Indeed, many of its components will require significant advancements in technology and infrastructure. But to imagine what is possible in 40 years, simply look to the past.
Who in 1970 could have predicted the technological and infrastructural wonders enjoyed today? Fiber-optic and wireless networks spanning the nation; the power of a room-sized computer in the palm of the hand; vast quantities of the world’s information accessible with the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger; the ability to order merchandise from around the world and have it delivered over night. Many achievements that would once have seemed impossible are now ubiquitous, commonplace parts of daily life.
Each of the elements in the Statewide Transportation Strategy 2050 Vision were carefully selected for plausibility based on existing research, development, and practice. In fact, much of the groundwork for the 2050 Vision has already been laid, such as:
● Alternative fuels – The first electric vehicles and electric fueling stations are already available throughout the state and the nation, while research continues to expand the battery power and driving distance of electric vehicles.
● ITS and other technologies – Many of the intelligent transportation systems (ITS) technologies needed to improve detection of roadway and traffic conditions and to provide drivers with real-time cost and delay information have already been developed, and require only deployment and integration with existing facilities and vehicles. Smart phone applications are already providing users with convenient public transportation information, connecting commuters with carpooling options, and offering many other services.
● Air traffic modernization – Congress has taken up the Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen program, which will convert radar-based air traffic control to satellite technology, improving the efficiency and reducing the delay of commercial and freight aircraft.
● Freight efficiencies – The Oregon trucking industry has made significant strides in improving fuel economy in recent years and continues to seek innovative ways to increase efficiencies, which are tied directly to revenues.
● State planning efforts – State agencies continue to engage in long-range planning efforts such as the Oregon Transportation Plan, Oregon Freight Plan, and other current and ongoing plans that explore the feasibility of actions required to prepare for the future of transportation in Oregon.
Some of these advancements, such as widespread adoption of new technologies, will require investment and innovation by the federal government and private industry. Developing new and ongoing funding sources for infrastructure will remain difficult, as unforeseen circumstances and other societal priorities continue to compete for attention and dollars. Overcoming these obstacles will require a range of actions at state, regional, and local levels, as well as cooperation from public and private entities beyond Oregon’s borders.
The challenges may be great, but the opportunities are greater. Achieving the 2050 Vision will help continue Oregon’s legacy of leadership and yield far-reaching benefits for generations to come.