City Commissioner Steve Novick released the results this afternoon from a $28,000 phone survey asking voters what the cash-strapped Portland Bureau of Transportation should fund with new taxes and fees.
Surprise! Portlanders want sidewalks and crosswalks.
The survey of 800 registered voters, conducted by Davis Hibbits & Midghall, says eight of ten people said they wanted the city to dedicate money to "sidewalks and safety features in places where children need them to get to school and seniors need them to get to transit."
The same number of people said they wanted "more crosswalks and flashing light signals on streets with dangerous intersections and bus and transit stops."
Novick offered an actually unexpected announcement at today's City Hall press conference: He's asking City Council to dedicate $1 million of this year's city budget to walking safety improvements, most of them in East Portland.
Novick says the budget request is for 15 sets of flashing beacons at crosswalks at the city's most dangerous intersections—two in Southwest Portland and 13 in East Portland. (Note: These numbers have been changed from Novick's original estimate.)
"East Portlanders have reasons not to be happy," Novick says. "However much money we raise, I am confident we are going to invest a lot of money on safety improvements in East Portland."
By another measurement, road paving remained the most popular item. More than a quarter of voters surveyed from Jan. 16 through 21 said the city's first priority should be sealing the city's crumbling roads and repairing potholes.
But pollster Adam Davis says the biggest change from 2007—when then-City Commissioner Sam Adams asked Portland voters about his street-fee plan—is that citizens are more concerned about walking safely.
"Public concern about pedestrian safety has grown significantly," Davis says.
In a City Hall press conference this afternoon, new PBOT director Leah Treat described the increased priority for walking projects as important new information.
"Had we relied on surveys that we had done fairly recently," Treat says, "we would have been off the mark."
The public outcry for sidewalks and crosswalks has grown since 5-year-old Morgan Maynard-Cook died last February after being hit by a car while trying to cross Southeast 136th Avenue.
Novick says the survey doesn't tell PBOT how much money it can raise with new taxes and fees—but it does tell the city what projects voters will support.
"Based on this research," Novick says, "it's clear that people are somewhat more supportive of safety and maintenance than they are of, say, paving gravel roads. It says that we start with what is absolutely necessary in terms of safety and maintenance and then move on from there."