How Bureaucracies Fiddle While the World Burns

As we head into the 2017 session, we are repeatedly assured that the Legislature intends to focus on a “transportation package” — meaning more money spent to help more people move around more and more, the number one cause of greenhouse emissions. The “frequently asked questions” put out by the Oregon Sustainable Transportation [sic] Initiative shows that the bureaucracy that put forth the “Statewide Transportation Strategy” is like the Star Trek “Borg,” which assimilates its opponents and incorporates them into its own objectives.

Statewide Transportation Strategy Frequently Asked Questions
 
What is the Statewide Transportation Strategy?
 
The Statewide Transportation Strategy (STS) identifies short- and long-term actions and strategies to create a transportation system that will be effective in reducing transportation-related GHG emissions in Oregon while supporting other societal goals such as livable communities, economic vitality, and public health. Three key travel markets to monitor for GHG are ground passenger and commercial services, freight, and air passenger.
 
The STS is part of the larger Oregon Sustainable Transportation Initiative (OSTI), an integrated statewide effort being undertaken jointly by the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Land Conservation and Development Division to reduce transportation-related GHG emissions.
 
Why is Oregon taking on this effort?
 
The STS is part of OSTI and takes into consideration how the energy landscape is changing, as well as the need to sustain a strong economy while creating healthier, more livable communities and greater economic opportunity. The STS was called for by the Oregon Legislature in Senate Bill 1059 (2010) and House Bill 2001, which were crafted to help the state meet its 2050 goal of reducing transportation- related GHG emissions.
 
ORS 468A.205 – Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions Goals
House Bill 2001 (2009)
Senate Bill 1059 (2010)
 
Why do greenhouse gas emissions matter?
 
Oregon’s transportation infrastructure is vulnerable to the anticipated impacts of climate change such as increased wave heights causing significant erosion along the coastline and threatening highways and more intense precipitation events causing flooding and increasing the incidence of landslides across the state. Already ODOT has experienced an increase in repair costs and delays for motorists and shippers related to extreme weather events.
 
Other impacts from climate change include diminished water supplies and impacts to agricultural productivity, adverse health impacts such as an increase in heat- related and respiratory illnesses, and suffering ecosystems such as Oregon’s forests, grasslands, and watersheds.
 
Why should Oregonians care about GHG emissions reduction?
 
Over the forty year horizon of the STS, factors such as population growth, a changing economy and an aging transportation infrastructure will all require our attention whether or not we decide to take comprehensive action on climate change. The actions we employ to reduce GHG emissions will also create:
More efficient transportation systems that help people and goods travel more quickly and easily.

Reduced transportation costs for individuals and businesses. Increased choices for how people travel, including opportunities for biking, walking, and public transit.
 
Why focus on transportation?
 

The travel of Oregonians and movement of goods consumed by Oregon’s households and businesses produce a large amount of GHG emissions – approximately a third of all emissions. Furthermore, Senate Bill 1059 directed the Oregon Transportation Commission to develop a strategy to reduce GHG emissions from transportation related sources in order to help the state achieve its GHG reduction goal of 75 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
 
While the focus of OSTI and the STS is on transportation, the Oregon Global Warming Commission, Governor’s 10-Year Energy Plan and others are addressing GHG emissions from other sources such as electrical power generation and industrial energy use to help meet the state’s goal of reducing GHG emissions.
 
How was the STS developed?
 
The STS was developed through a comprehensive two-year scenario-based planning process involving extensive research and technical analysis, as well as policy direction and technical input from local governments, industry representatives, metropolitan planning organizations, state agencies, and others.
 
Those strategies identified as the most effective at reducing GHG emissions with the fewest apparent negative impacts were selected to create the STS recommendations for the three travel markets (ground passenger and commercial services, freight, and air passenger).
 
What kinds of actions and strategies are included in the STS?
 
The STS identify a broad suite of strategies in transportation systems, vehicle and fuel technologies and urban land use patterns that are found to be effective in reducing transportation-related GHG emissions. These consist of approaches that can be taken at the local, regional, state, and national level to help the state meet its GHG emissions reduction goals.

Are taxes and fees considered in the STS recommendations?
 
Some of the potential STS strategies of the STS look at funding sources and pricing mechanisms. All STS strategies are on the table for discussion to determine what is practical and will best meet state and economic goals. These strategies will also be further evaluated in Phase II: Implementation.
 
Does the STS create new laws or regulations?
 
The STS is neither directive nor regulatory, but rather points to promising approaches that should be further considered by policymakers at the state, regional, and local levels. Collaboration and coordination among jurisdictions and private industries will also be important. In the future, some regulatory action may be needed to implement certain STS strategies, establish incentive programs, or encourage program exploration and participation.
 
When will the STS be finalized?
 
The development of the STS is one step in a multi-year planning and implementation process. With the acceptance of the STS on March 20, 2013 by the Oregon Transportation Commission, the Department is now focusing on STS implementation.