Portland: "The Trip Not Taken"

Uploaded by Etheoperatorsmanual on 22.04.2012

Narrator: Can what cities do locally really move
the dial toward national sustainability?
Portland, Oregon, shows what's possible.
70% of all the oil consumed in America
is used for transportation.
But congestion wastes a huge amount,
perhaps 16% of all the oil imported from the Persian Gulf.
Despite our best efforts, we are still
taking 10% of the world's petroleum supply
just to get back and forth to work every day.
Narrator: Congressman Earl Blumenauer
represents Oregon's third district, including Portland.
He heads up the Congressional bike caucus.
And his city started finding solutions some 30 years back.
You know, one of the things we did was,
we have an urban growth boundary, and what that is,
is a ring around the city of Portland
and its surrounding suburbs, so that we cannot
kind of sprawl out and we can't become Los Angeles.
Narrator: Between 1950 and 1990,
America's urban population grew by 90%.
But cities' land area grew more than 250%.
Remarkably, Portland bucked that trend of urban sprawl.
Key decisions made include a move from investment
in freeways into transit and also to integrate
transit planning with land use planning.
Narrator: Along with region-wide thinking,
Portland now has an infrastructure
that emphasizes mass transit, along with something
this city pioneered in the 19th century...
It may be easy to parody Portland's love affair
with all things green including the cycling community.
But putting bikes to work has practical advantages
if they can be made into something used
for more than pure recreation.
That's the purpose of what's called the Oregon Manifest,
a design challenge to come up with clever and practical ways
to transport packages as well as people.
A decade ago it was hard to find
a bike that was not a racing bike
or a mountain bike or a touring bike.
Now any bike shop that you walk into,
in the city of Portland anyway, you'll find city bikes,
bikes that are really made for commuting to and from work,
from riding to the park to the grocery store.
Narrator: Half of U.S. car trips
cover less than 10 miles, and short trips
where engines make a cold start
are the most gasoline intensive and polluting.
So if city bikes like these became mass-produced
and popular and if every one of the nation's
more than 100,000,000 households
substituted one 5-mile trip each day,
the nation would save $36.5 billion on gasoline.
Already one young entrepreneur has put Portland's
non-polluting pedal power to work
and made a business of it.
We use these large tricycle trucks to deliver
products into a two mile radius of the urban core for Portland.
We deliver everything from bread and produce
to office products to water to cycle parts.
Each trike can carry about 800 pounds.
They're all electric-assisted.
So it's a hybrid human and electric power.
The less congestion we have,
our goods and services move faster.
We're an international global city.
We have to be scrappy, so bicyclists
are about reducing congestion.
Over the past 2 1/2 years we've helped
displace over 25,000 truck or van-based deliveries.
And when you start to look at the overall greenhouse gas
reduction and avoidance, day by day it's not very much,
but cumulatively it really starts to stack up.
Narrator: Cycling may be an outward and very visible sign
of a transition away from cars, but the region's
mass transit network also has serious numbers.
We have been electrifying
our transportation for 30 years here.
And today there's literally about 150,000 boardings per day.
And that means that people who otherwise might be traveling
around in cars are traveling around in electrons.
As a result of how we put the pieces together
in Portland over the last 1/3 of a century, Portlanders
voluntarily drive 20% less than the national average.
This translates into a dollar savings
for the typical household
of more than $2,500 a year.
And that's money that stays in our community.
It is not going to Houston or Saudi Arabia, Japan or Germany.
Narrator: Portland's leaders talk about the trip not taken
as something that saves money and benefits the environment.
Currently more than a quarter of Portland's workforce
commutes by bike, carpool or mass transit.
But planners are working on the next giant step
in low carbon transportation, electric vehicles.
I think we get to the point where electric
vehicles will be able to do, you know, 98% of the personal
transportation needs, and of course that's mainly
in the cities and the suburbs.
Narrator: An average Portlander's daily commute
of 20 miles could easily be powered
by a single battery charge.
So Electric Avenue is a test site to get ground truth
on how people might use e-vehicles.
We think the next 10 to 30 years is going to be
focusing on individual passenger vehicles like the ones behind me
and also on urban freight and service vehicles,
those parcel delivery trucks, the post office.
Narrator: Those vehicles also make lots of short trips
with starts and stops, producing emissions
and using up a lot of fuel.
Nationally, companies like Frito Lay are competing
with others like Federal Express to see
who can deploy the most low emission delivery vehicles.
Tailpipe emissions are the single
greatest source of emissions in our major cities.
So I think probably every mayor,
everywhere, supports the idea
of getting more vehicles on their local roads
that don't have tailpipes.
Narrator: Portland's original plans concentrated
on land use and transportation.
The focus for the future is the neighborhood.
The goal is what's called a 20 minute neighborhood
with most everything a family needs
in easy walking or biking distance,
where kids can learn how to ride safely to and from school.
Earl: This effort of integrating the pedestrian,
streetcar, bike, along with mixed use development,
it is enriching the experience of going
to the store, going to visit a neighbor
and makes us a more sustainable, cost-effective community.
Narrator: Portland's transportation innovations
have direct economic benefits.
By actually doing the right things here,
we've built this base of great export.
We've got solar firms, wind firms.
We have firms focused on energy efficiency
with hundreds and hundreds of employees.
And they're locating here or they grew up here because
we were trying to do something and we built demand here.
We're one of the cheapest cities
on the west coast, because we offer options other than
having to own a car to live and work and have a good life.
I think just like anything you're trying to do,
whether it's a business or a government or a city,
good things don't happen by accident.
You need to have some good plans.
We can reduce that carbon footprint while we provide
economic opportunities for our citizens and others.