First published in Around the O on February 1st 2019. Autonomous vehicles will have wide-ranging impacts on the form and function of cities, including significant changes to urban design, transportation and municipal governance, members from the UO’s Urbanism Next program explained during a recent bipartisan forum in Washington, D.C.
“Autonomous vehicles are not a transportation issue, they are an everything issue,” architecture professor and Urbanism Next Director Nico Larco said at the briefing. “We need to have everyone involved, including those interested in housing, community development and economic development. This is going to affect all of us.”
The briefing, last month at the Library of Congress, is regularly convened by U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, and Rodney Davis, a Republican from Illinois. It brings together practitioners, policymakers and thought leaders on transportation policies and practices, especially in metropolitan areas.
“Transformational changes in the transportation sector require new ways for governments of all levels to pay for infrastructure,” said Rebecca Lewis, a professor in the UO School of Planning, Public Policy and Management, who serves as research director for Urbanism Next. “Less parking means less revenue, but empty seats in cars and curb drop-off zones could be new revenue opportunities.”
Larco and Lewis also led a discussion about the potential role of legislators and federal authorities to help cities purposefully direct any disruptive changes that have already begun.
Blumenauer and Davis joined Larco and Lewis in speaking to a room of around 100. Blumenauer hosted a congressional briefing featuring Larco in June.
“Portlanders continue to lead the way as we usher in the 21st century of transportation,” said Blumenauer. “Nico, Rebecca and the entire Urbanism Next team are doing critically important work to prepare cities for changes in automation, sharing and e-commerce. I look forward to continuing to work with them to promote more livable and equitable communities.”
Urbanism Next is a center created by faculty members in UO’s Sustainable Cities Initiative and UO Portland, with support from the UO Presidential Fund and UO Portland. The center provides information, applied research and direct assistance to municipalities on the effects of emerging and fast-developing technologies that matter for cities, such as autonomous vehicles, small-footprint modes of transportation such as scooters and bikes, e-commerce, and the sharing economy.
UO faculty members were also in Washington, D.C. to participate and present at in the annual Transportation Research Board meeting, a program of the National Academies of Sciences. Larco and Lewis were joined at the conference by UO professors Marc Schlossberg and Anne Brown.
“The presentation in Washington demonstrated that the production of new knowledge isn’t enough,” said Schlossberg, professor in the UO School of Planning, Public Policy and Management and co-director of the UO’s Sustainable Cities Initiative. “Getting that knowledge into the hands of people who can put it into practice is equally critical.”
Working with Blumenauer, Urbanism Next is proposing a national clearinghouse, where stakeholders and city planners can find comprehensive, organized and vetted research on the effects of emerging technologies on cities, including design of transportation systems and neighborhoods, as well as impacts on real estate, municipal finance, and issues of equity, health and the environment.
Blumenauer noted that U.S. Rep. DeFazio, a Democrat who represents Oregon’s Fourth District, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is a partner in the effort to establish a clearinghouse to collect, conduct and fund research on the influences of highly automated vehicles on land use, design, transportation, real estate and municipal budgets and for other purposes.
—By Rachael Nelson, University Communications