This Song Won’t Win a Grammy, But May Help Stop a Freeway Project

By Mark Taylor from Rockville, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

May 14, 2018; Next City

“A 73-year-old folk singer testified before the Portland City Council on a freeway construction project—through song,” reports Rachel Kaufman in Next City.

Paul Rippey “serenaded the Portland City Council,” reports the Oregonian. The song, writes Kaufman, was intended as a “musical protest to the Rose Quarter Improvement Project, a $450-million plan to add lanes to Interstate 5. It’s meant to make it easier to drive through the central city. Opponents point out that making it easier to drive will only encourage people to drive more —the phenomenon known as induced demand—and say that the money would be better spent on public transit.

If the project is stopped, it won’t be Portland’s first such successful effort. In 1974, notes Kaufman, Portland became “the first major US city to intentionally remove and not replace an existing highway,” creating what is now a waterfront park. “More recently,” Kaufman adds, “a plan to build a new bridge over the Columbia River was killed in 2014, after skeptics argued that the $2.8-billion project just north of Portland would not adequately address congestion.”

As for the city council, Bike Portland reports that at least two of the five commissioners appeared amused, but “Mayor [Ted] Wheeler … looked a bit uncomfortable and he moved on with the agenda immediately with nary a word of thanks or appreciation.”

You can judge for yourself if you watch the embedded Youtube video on the Bike Portland site (the song begins at about 8 minutes, 35 seconds into the meeting).

Induced Demand
In the 60s we built the interstate. In the 70s and 80s they were working great.
In the 90s and aughts we said, “Well, let’s add another lane.” And, now by god, they want to do it again.
But it should be clear the system is broken and adding more lanes is just a futile token.

Because the thing we need to understand is induced demand.

Oh we all like to drive around town, but you can’t help noticing how much it’s slowed down. And adding more lanes is never done, because if we build them they will come.

And the thing we need to understand is induced demand.

I wish Tom McCall was still alive. He tore down Harbor Drive. And now Dennis Buchanan has gone away. He blocked the Mt. Hood Expressway.
But don’t let us ever forget. That these brave people took a lot of shit. People of courage, people of goodwill—well I know we’ve got that kind of leader still!

But the thing they need to understand is induced demand.

Oh I know we’ll need more buses and MAX, that’s just the hard cold facts.
But the way to get the highways off our backs is with a comprehensive congestion tax.

And the thing we need to understand is, induced demand.

In the 60s we built the interstate, let’s stop the madness now before it’s too late.

And the thing we need to understand is, induced demand.

—Steve Dubb