As a veteran of Metro Council (Portland’s regional planning authority) — including a seven-year stint as president from 2003 to 2010 — David Bragdon has been around the block when it comes to Oregon transportation politics. And for the past decade he’s been executive director of TransitCenter, a nonprofit foundation that funds and conducts research and advocacy to improve public transit across the U.S. Before that he led a planning office for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Suffice it to say, Bragdon has a mix of experiences in advocacy and government that I feel BikePortland readers could learn  a lot from. So when I heard he was leaving his post at TransitCenter and was making a stop in Portland to visit family, I figured it was a perfect time to invite him into the Shed for an interview.

David and me in the Shed.

I hadn’t talked with Bragdon since I stayed at his apartment in Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, so I wasn’t sure what direction our conversation might go. Many of you are likely aware of Bragdon’s sharp criticisms of the Oregon Department of Transportation (which he insists on calling the Oregon State Highway Department). I opted to not rehash all of that (although we do touch on ODOT’s Portland megaprojects). Instead, we talked about a range of issues including: how advocates can influence government, what PBOT should look for in their hiring of a new director, PBOT’s budget woes, why he doesn’t trust ODOT, TriMet and transit governance, and more.

A few highlights:

  • Bragdon said his biggest regret from his 12 years at Metro is allowing himself to be “duped” by ODOT’s dishonesty.
  • He makes the case for why Metro should take over a leadership role of TriMet.
  • His opinion on transit enforcement and why he thinks there’s a roll for armed police response.
  • Why he thinks the plea of “We are out of money,” from PBOT is not a good strategy.
  • Why he thinks PBOT staff and the quality of TriMet’s bus service deserves more credit than it gets.

Listen to the episode in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts. And make sure to subscribe so you get the latest episodes first. Note that I’m leaving for vacation tonight, so the podcast will take a break for a few weeks. Expect fresh episodes the first week of March. Thanks for listening.

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