Post-Event Recap: Meeting of the Minds
July 30-31, 2008
The Meeting of the Minds event brought together 288 invited participants to Portland, Oregon to consider four policy areas important to the surface transportation system of the Portland metro area in particular, and other urban areas throughout North America:
- Overall strategies for transportation systems sustainability
- Vehicle fuel options to reduce energy consumption and emissions
- Urban design and development to reduce automobile driving
- Technology and road pricing to improve mobility
The program brought together speakers from across the U.S. and Canada who presented information and led discussions on a range of issues and opportunities that now confront the transportation system. The program now provides links to selected presentation materials.
There was an active discussion of what speaker Mike Meyer termed "capital ideas" that could reshape the transportation system of the Portland region and the western part of North America to be sustainable in the face of environmental, economic, and social challenges.
These broad questions were asked and answered:
What are some 21st century challenges and opportunities we now face?
- Emerging non-sustainability of a way of life and economy traditionally providing and depending upon high mobility of people and goods on a declining cost curve
- Declining petroleum supplies driving up the cost of traditional liquid fuels gasoline, diesel for transportation
- Declining public revenues from the petroleum-based fuel tax that pays for transportation infrastructure
- Restraint on carbon emissions into the atmosphere as a matter of government policy responding to global climate change
- Population growth and expanded mobility demands in the northwest U.S.A. and western Canada caused by population in-migration from nearby regions facing severe water shortages
- Declining infrastructure investment (covered in a pre-meeting briefing paper)
- Ongoing deployment of new technologies bearing on mobility and access
Note: The post-meeting survey found that 92% of respondents believed the current transportation model is not sustainable.
How must our transportation system change to address these challenges?
- Aggressive local and national steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Urban zoning, design standards, public subsidies, and other land use regulations and incentives to establish more compact, mixed use urban areas that attract residents and commercial tenants who take advantage of non-automobile mobility choices, thereby manifesting reduced personal vehicle miles traveled in daily economic and social life
- User fees on road use and personal vehicle parking that generate revenue and provide incentives for reduced driving in peak demand periods (covered in a pre-meeting background paper)
- Carbon taxes and parking taxes to provide economic incentives for lowered vehicle use
- A continent-wide coordinated effort from government and business toward new energy sources for transportation
- A growing share of vehicle power from the electric power grid, with all that entails for the management of the electric network (covered in a pre-meeting briefing paper)
- New systems and incentives for encouraging higher private vehicle occupancy
- Intelligent, technology-intensive vehicle flow management of cars, buses, and trucks to increase the hourly people-moving capacity on existing roads
- Systematic knowledge sharing and technology transfer between urban regions
- Removal of barriers to private sector investment in public transportation infrastructure and systems
- A continuous, high level of infrastructure support for walking and bicycling
Note: During the meeting, the electronic polling revealed that 92% in attendance believed that designing and implementing road pricing pilot projects within the next 5 years is a good idea. 71% thought that at least doubling the market share of urban trips in Portland taken in carpools and buses (now about 20 %) would be a good goal.
What are the immediate next steps?
- Action to educate and mobilize the public on the coming crisis
- Active support of political leaders who pass new laws and continue existing programs in support of changes listed above, as well as initiate new efforts. Initiatives taken by Oregon Governor Kulongoski.
- Active, Internet-enabled networking by committed professionals (like those attending this event) to support learning and action among and between different urban regions
- Active evaluation of costs and benefits of alternative public investments in order to allocate limited problem-solving resources toward development and implementation of sustainable solutions in an environment with many problems, some not transportation related.
- Focused efforts to achieve initial demonstration and pilot implementations of new system capabilities
Several areas of mobility fell outside the scope of the presentations and discussions at this meeting:
- Freight mobility (but covered in a pre-conference briefing paper)
- Optimizing the mix of rail versus road-based public
- Rural transportation
- Intercity and international transportation
- Marine ferries
- Telecommunications substitution for physical mobility telework, e-shopping, online education
Post-meeting polling of participants, 34% response rate:
- Important learnings
- Topics that could have been covered but were not
- Other electronic polling questions that could have been asked
Six pre-meeting background papers were issued:
- Road user fees
- Infrastructure funding deficiencies
- Plug-in electric hybrids
- Transportation choices
- Toward more sustainable cities
The organizers sincerely appreciate the investment by sponsors and participants at the 2008 Meeting of the Minds in Portland, Oregon.