02-19-2017  10:43 pm      •     

OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon plans a transportation equity demonstration Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 8 a.m. and then participation in the TriMet Board Meeting an hour later, both at The Portland Building, 1120 SW 5th Ave. The big issue on the agenda is increasing validation for a bus transfer from two hours to three.

We hear it so often these days that we don't even bother to stop and think about it anymore: Portland is the most sustainable city in America, and the hallmark of our green city is its world class transportation system, replete with modern MAX trains, shiny streetcars and lots and lots of eco-friendly bicycles. But a closer look at the numbers reveals a starkly different reality.

The regional agency in charge of our public transit system -- TriMet -- has reduced service to the lowest levels per capita since 1975, when it was just getting off the ground. A quick look around at our transit infrastructure will tell you that a lot has changed since the mid-70s, but what is less obvious is that our population growth has far outpaced our investments in public transportation. And what is worse, TriMet's strategy so far seems to be to balance its budget on the backs of those who can least afford it and, in an ironic twist, those who use the system the most: transit-dependent bus riders who are disproportionately low-income folks and people of color, single transfer users (monthly passes are too expensive in one lump payment) and the backbone of the system.

But it doesn't have to be this way. For more than six months now, OPAL has been working on a common sense, community-generated response aimed at restoring value to our transit system in the face of service cuts and continued fare increases -- the Campaign for a Fair Transfer. The campaign has two goals: to extend transfer times to 3 hours on the bus and MAX for all daily boardings and to extend transfers through the end of evening service for all boardings after 7:00 PM. This policy change is as simple as ABC. A) It will allow people to meet their basic needs on the bus including a reasonable roundtrip like going to the grocery store and back.  B) It is a win-win for TriMet and the community. If the new transfer policy is adopted, it will actually make TriMet money in the short-term and the long-term. C) There are untold cost-savings that will result from the public health benefits of the increased transit ridership this new transfer policy will create. From the decreased carbon emissions to the reduced levels of physical and mental stress that riders experience when they miss connections and can't meet their everyday needs as a result, this new transfer policy will be good for Portland's people and its environment.

If we're going to continue to call ourselves a sustainable city, we need to get our priorities in order. In a recent Portland Mercury article ('Sizing up the Streetcar' by Alex Zielinksi), Portland State University professor and economist Eric Fruits had this to say about our transportation priorities: "Looking at the bigger picture, streetcars are expensive art. The streetcar cannibalized the bus system." Where is the sustainability in that? Transit-dependent communities, who contribute the least to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, bear the greatest burdens of our collective policies and choices, even as continued disinvestment in public transit moves opportunities for positive health outcomes farther out of reach. Where is the sustainability in that? If we're going to continue to call ourselves a sustainable city, we need to focus on common sense, community-generated, win-win solutions. If TriMet wants to truly earn its moniker as a "world class transportation system", it should adopt the Campaign for a Fair Transfer.

For more information, contact OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon at 503-928-4354 www.opalpdx.org

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. 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Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. 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