Monthly Archives: September 2011

Getting Planning and Transportation Right

Jeff Speck, New Urbanist Author and Consultant, spoke September 21, 2011 at Metro Regional Center in Portland, OR on the topic of Getting Planning and Transportation Right.  My Congress for the New Urbanism Cascadia Chapter colleague, Jonathan Winslow, took copious notes at the talk and shared them with us below.  I will add remarks at the end.

Jeff Speck’s Talk:
Considering the audience, feel a better title for the talk would be “Advanced Topics in Planning and Transportation”

5 points to discuss:

  1. Theory of Walkability
  2. Urban Triage
  3. One-ways vs. Two-ways
  4. What we know now about parking (Donald Shoup)
  5. Greenwash

Smartest Person he knows, Andres Duany, made a big mistake criticizing Portland a decade ago

Bicycling big in Portland, make investment in infrastructure and people will bike
-$65,000,000 in 20 years
-Biking in Portland shows whats attainable

Walking cities:
-Save people money and stimulate local economy, from Joe Cortright study
-Cortright ‘Portland Green Dividend’ (
-While other cities building outer loops and more auto accommodations, Portland invested in transit and bikes, skinny streets program and the UGB. 1996 VMT peaked


  • Frame through walkability by both means and measure
  • A REASON to walk: a balance of uses, non-separation of uses
  • A SAFE walk: reality and perception, size of blocks PDX (200 ft blocks) vs. SLC (600 ft blocks), smaller blocks = smaller streets
  • Shear number of lanes – induced demand, wider roads easier to drive get behavior change
  • Mumford quote: widening roads like loosening belt
  • Traffic engineers caused traffic
  • Induced demand works in reverse, remove lanes and roads to reduce traffic
  • Britain stopped building roads, road fighting group disbanded since no longer needed to fight
  • Oklahoma City – walkability study for downtown
    -4-6 lane streets downtown, all arterials with 7000-11000 vehicle traffic counts
    -two-lane streets can handle that 7000-11000 traffic load, streets oversized
    -undertaking program called ‘Project 180’ ( to rebuild every street in 50 block core
    -can use cheap simple paint for changes
    -irony of current oil and gas wealth in city is funding this large streetscape design cost
  • Oversized streets: standards changed between 1950s and 1980s
    -Every street has a design speed and 13′ lanes are highway standards
  • Portland’s skinny streets program is laudable
    -Important to not have one specialty control entire street design
    Parallel parked cars – sometimes remove parked cars for bike lanes, kill stores with removal of parking, trees and parked cars protect pedestrians
    -A COMFORTABLE walk: space and orientation
    -a sense of enclosure, humans love enclosure, ratio of surrounding wall height to ground
    -Columbus, OH street bridge over highway with retail on it, sense of enclosure (‘Cap at Union Station’,[1].jpg)
    -Gresham Civic Drive Station TOD, provides sense of enclosure along street except one small section that loses the sense of enclosure to the detriment of entire street
    (, exposed sidewalk, no parking along this street. Difference between West Coast vs. East Coast new urbanism: West coast gets the transit right, while East coast gets the details right. Whereas Kentlands: liner buildings in front of big box stores good, but no transit only transit-ready.
    -An INTERESTING walk: showed downtown Grand Rapids slide of major street with terrible street frontage of two imposing parking garages on both sides of the street
    ( Demand active streetfronts.

-A dominance of auto uses in cities, can’t transform everything into walkable places
-Most cities want walkability but not enough walkability to go around, must pick winners for walkability
-Have to get people to walk by choice and the first place is downtown, downtown is everyone’s part of town, the gateway for visitors and the oldest/most walkable by design than any other neighborhood.
-Davenport, Iowa example for a street quality analysis. Red (bad) to green (good) color measure on map, not evaluating streets but buildings… measure spatial enclosure and activity.

-ODOT one way happy especially in small towns (i.e. Sandy, OR)
-One ways are destructive: mass momentum of vehicles in one direction with uninterrupted flow. Issue with multiple lanes of cars jockeying between lanes with speed.
-One ways hurt retail and limits visibility and distributes vitality, stores orient to traffic flows at particular time of day, i.e. rush hour homeward bound traffic, limited vitality not day long like with two-way
-13 ft travel lanes in Davenport, IA go on road diets
-AECOM formerly Gladding Jackson traffic engineering firm that is most progressive
-One of best article seen in a long time is article in Governing Magazine called the ‘Return of the Two-Way Street’ on Vancouver, WA Main Street, overnight transformation of street and business doubled


  • Specific change from 4 lanes to 3 lanes (1 in each direction with center turn lane) space for bike lanes or on-street parking on one side
  • T-bone crashes with 4 lane street design with left turning traffic on oncoming traffic (2nd
    opposing lane is the risk)
  • Streets don’t lose capacity with 4 to 3 lane road diet
  • Road paint doesn’t cost money, good cheap solution
  • Use up roadway width with angled parking


  • Donald Shoup has been our thought leader here
  • Parking is not a civil right
  • Don’t start with parking as a revenue generator, can make a lot of money with it but that is not the main objective
  • Parking is a public good to manage well, can adjust price to demand
  • Now can add time to meter with cell phones and also know where parking is available (SF Park
  • Price parking so 1 space is empty at all time (approx. 15% vacancy)
  • Parking choices mirror demand, if undercharge get parking crowding and people don’t shop
  • Know availability and price online, spaces available in right amount
  • Have good alternatives to driving
  • How to get it to happen politically? All money you make goes to public benefit district.
    Pasadena, two districts: Old Pasadena put in parking meters and money went to improvements. Westward Village went with free parking, couldn’t find parking since underpriced at free, area died.
  • With cities, the revolutions now are in biking and parking, have figured out others like TOD.


  • Green Metropolis by David Owen ( Sustainability/dp/B005EP2XYC/), best planning book of 10 years. Manhattan is greenest place, lowest carbon footprint per capita by city form and function.
  • Gizmo Green: Rocky Mountain Institute, just about adding green gadgets on buildings but building located in the middle of the woods and requires long distance auto travel to get there or to run any errand. Walkscore of 20 out of 100. Driving is greatest carbon footprint impact.
  • Location efficiency and building type, location matters. Center for Neighborhood Technology. (CNT) ( maps of location efficiency.
  • Image of the Green house, gizmo green in the middle of nature, misses big picture.
  • Showed image of LEED Platinum building without any transit deep in exurban area
  • EPA Headquarters in Kansas City moved out of downtown into exurban KC into LEED building (former Applebee’s HQ)
  • Jevons paradox: make more efficient brings → costs down → consume even more than before. Sweden carbon footprint went up because people drive so much with energy efficient cars.
  • Sustainable decision is to be in urban environment
    – – –
    end Jonathan Winslow

For me, the most interesting part of the evening was a land use advocate from Washington County who had become thoroughly familiar with Speck’s work and quoted it extensively in public meetings to try to change the outmoded traffic engineering standards of her County.  Such standards prompted Washington County to choose to widen a two lane road to five lanes–over the objections of an organized group of residents.

She expressed gratitude to Speck for his work, but considerable frustration about inability to get more help to turn Washington County around.  She felt that residents in unincorporated areas of Washington County were at a special disadvantage, because, while land use standards were going towards denser, more compact and mixed use, the County’s transportation engineering has not kept up with latest thinking.  Instead, her community (Bethany) “sits outside of any city or jurisdiction that would support it to grow in a sustainable manner.”

She reminded me of the importance of continuing to get New Urbanist tools, thought leaders and designers out there front and center.  Our skills are critical if we are to achieve what Metro is calling “Climate Smart Communities.”