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Put people first when mulling transportation's future

As the mother to a nine-month-old baby, I think about the future more now than I ever did before. Recently several of our lawmakers — including my Forest Grove representative, Susan McLain — visited to hear what our community wants for our transportation future. Transportation is going to be a big issue in the upcoming legislative session, and with limited resources, our legislators have a big task when it comes to funding a package that meets our state’s needs. So what does a better transportation future look like?

We need to ensure that we can accommodate a growing community in ways that do not make us more dependent on cars and freeways. Many, like myself, commute into Portland for work. Max service to Forest Grove or rapid bus transit here would reduce driving and help us get to work faster. But also, my vision for Forest Grove includes a Pacific Avenue complete with electric charging stations, as well as state-level incentives for electric vehicles. These changes would make it easier for families like mine to get an EV to use as our Portland-commuting car, saving us money on gas and keeping our air clean.

There are some things we’re already doing that other cities should emulate. Forest Grove is lucky to have a free service called Grove Link. It’s a bus that picks people up around the city and takes them where they need to go within Forest Grove, encouraging people to drive less. Having recently moved back here, we’ve met neighbors and new friends on the bus, building our community. With the right transportation package, we can support our community and Grove Link by converting the buses to biofuels or electricity, like Lane Transit District did in Eugene. Their purchase of electric buses is estimated to reduce the lifetime fuel and maintenance cost by $500,000 per bus purchased.

It isn’t often noted, but our lawmakers have already made progress. Thanks to the Clean Electricity and Coal Transition Bill, soon Oregon’s electricity will come from cleaner sources like wind and solar — so electric vehicles will truly be clean. They also voted the Clean Fuels Program into law this past year, giving us more options at the pump to keep costs and emissions down. Both of these bills make the future brighter for my family and yours. It’s a great start.

When I think about the future for my baby, I want her to enjoy the same clean air and active childhood that I did, to be able to play and bike in the neighborhood safely. This upcoming session, I urge lawmakers to be bold in creating a people-focused transportation package that prioritizes families, safety and clean air. In doing so, you’ll facilitate community and you may even save lives. You’ll also be leaving behind a legacy for our kids that we can all be proud of. Devon Downeysmith lives in Forest Grove with her family. She is the Director of Climate Communications & Outreach for Oregon Environmental Council.