Some people have transportation options. Others don't have "options" at all | Editorial | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

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Some people have transportation options. Others don't have "options" at all


mong the things that can be said about the foibles of humanity, one thing seems to be true: We don't always choose the things that are good for us. When given a choice, most kids would choose the cookie over the vegetable—even in spite of a parent's passionate arguments about the many benefits of the veg.

People sometimes have to be told, sometimes by a parent, sometimes by a body tasked with working toward the greater good of a community, how to act.

So it goes with the debate over the city's integrated land use and transportation plan, which, among its many tenets, seeks to increase people's transportation choices and cut down on the reliance on cars.

According to the Bend Metropolitan Transportation Plan, the "Oregon Transportation Planning Rule (TPR) requires that the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) and the local jurisdictions in the urban area develop measures and benchmarks that will demonstrate that the Bend area is increasing its reliance on non-automobile modes."

Drivers aren't left out of the equation. The Plan also outlines a number of "aspirational" projects, yet unfunded, to address roadway system needs, including congestion in the central city, the Bend Parkway and portions of Hwy. 20 and Greenwood Avenue.

Is a focus on alternative forms of transportation a "war on cars?"

If it is a war, and Open Streets its battle, it's a paltry skirmish. The other 364 days a year, you can call what happens on the streets nothing short of a "war on everything besides cars." During the Open Streets event Sept. 17, streets in midtown Bend and the Maker's District were closed to cars for four hours, allowing families with young children, the elderly, people with limited mobility and everyone else a chance to populate those streets (many that don't offer sidewalks that would otherwise allow people to roam freely) without the fear that can come from riding close to auto traffic.

Families were out on the streets, for once, because they felt safe enough to do so. The other 364 days a year, the "war" of watching out for auto traffic is back on for those folks.

Part of a larger nationwide movement that's been going long before Bend got in on it, Open Streets is aimed at highlighting "equitable transportation designs" and, reducing dependence on motor vehicles by encouraging active transportation. It's the baby-step that can get kids and adults to consider riding, walking or skating as transportation. It may also be a vegetable, when those kids and adults would prefer a cookie.

But let's not forget a few other important items in the description of the "war on cars." First, some people are not at war with cars. They simply can't afford them, and want options in their community that allow them to get to work and the grocery store safely.

And then there's the environmental impact of choosing driving over alternative forms of transport. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 27 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. in 2015 were created by the transportation sector; not a small amount.

If you're tired of people trying to compel you with the vegetable-like argument that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the right thing to do for the planet, perhaps a more economic argument will suit your fancy. For one, drier, hotter summers and longer fire seasons have a direct effect on the local economy.

According to a 2008 report from the National Resources Defense Council, "decreases in snowpack, less snowfall, earlier snow melt, more winter rain events, increased peak winter flows, and reduced summer flows have been documented. Scientists have recently attributed more than half of these changes in the West between 1950 and 1999 to the effects of heat-trapping pollutants." That includes the pollutants your car makes.

If you can't draw the line to how hotter, drier summers affects business, simply take a look at how the town of Sisters has suffered economically during this latest spate of wildfires.

Still, in places such as Europe, Asia and even Portland, Ore., many people choose alternative forms of transportation not because they prefer the vegetables over the cookie— but also because the traffic got bad enough, and concurrently, the infrastructure existed to allow them to choose not to drive. In short, they do it because they have to, and because they can.

We support our local and state government's efforts to cut down on driving. We aim to be on the side of history that favors getting out of our cars, if and whenever it's possible to do so.

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