Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

Commissioner Steve Novick

Official Website for Commissioner Steve Novick

Phone: 503-823-4682

fax: 503-823-4019

1221 SW 4th Ave. Suite 210, Portland, OR 97204

Subscribe to RSS feed

Most Recent

View More

Portland set to approve biggest General Fund investment in transportation in 30 years

This afternoon, the Portland City Council is poised to approve a budget with "the largest General Fund investment in transportation in 30 years," said City Commissioner Steve Novick. The $29 million of discretionary revenues slated for transportation is the largest allocation (adjusted for inflation) since the 1985-86 budget.

"This budget ends a long period of City Hall neglect of our transportation system," Novick said. "We've known all along that gas tax and parking revenues weren't enough to maintain our streets and make them safer, but in the late '80's, for reasons lost to history, the City Council drastically reduced the General Fund contribution. If we had invested this much General Fund in transportation all along, our streets would be in much better shape."

Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat observed that "the General Fund allocation will be focused on basic maintenance and safety needs. We will repave a section of Burnside; repave a section of 122nd Avenue; and make crossing improvements along 122nd Avenue to make it safer for the 10,000 seniors along that street to walk to bus stops and support TriMet’s effort to provide frequent service along 122nd."

The budget also includes $300,000 to begin to expand Portland’s Safe Routes to School programs to middle and high schools.

The $29 million includes the General Fund’s historic allocation to PBOT of about $9 million, which mainly pays for street lighting. The $20 million increase is focused on pavement maintenance and safety. It also includes reconstruction of five substandard traffic signals in East Portland and bridge maintenance at NE Glisan and 90th Avenue.

“In last year’s transportation funding conversation, the Mayor and I consistently heard people say that the City needs to put more skin in the game – allocate more discretionary revenue to transportation,” Novick said. “The allocation of $20 million, consistent with the priorities identified in the Our Streets effort last year, demonstrates the City’s commitment to better maintained and safer streets."

OPB: Taking the Lead on Earthquake Preparedness

Several months ago, OPB started a series titled “Unprepared – Will We Be Ready For The Megaquake?” to focus attention on the earthquake danger faced by the Northwest, and show the public how to prepare ( I want to personally commend OPB for the time and effort they are bringing to arguably the greatest threat faced by our community.

So far they have sent local scientists to Japan to study the Tohoku earthquake, embedded reporters with families living off their emergency kits for a weekend, hosted online chats with experts to answer preparedness questions, and unrelentingly covered earthquakes on the air and the web. They even created a program to enable you to look up your address to see how a Casacadia quake may impact your neighborhood -

I encourage you to check out their website and pay attention to the OPB’s coverage throughout the year, culminating in an hour-long documentary in October. I also hope others in the local media will join OPB in educating the public about earthquakes and sharing how we can become more resilient.

Committed to improving safety on all our streets

"My heart goes out to the young cyclist involved in Sunday’s tragic crash and I commend the lifesaving efforts of first responders and medical professionals. As tragic as the incident is, it's unfortunately not a unique one. We have long known that crossing and signal improvements along Powell Blvd. could significantly improve the safety for everyone sharing the road, whether you’re driving, biking or walking. The City is committed to reaching our Vision Zero goals to move towards zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries. I look forward to continuing to work with ODOT and I hope that these safety improvements will be prioritized, especially on crossings near schools."

Commissioner Steve Novick

Hales, Novick propose 120-day pilot program for taxis and Uber, Lyft and other Transportation Network Companies

(April 17, 2015) Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Steve Novick today proposed a 120-day pilot program that will modernize for-hire transportation in Portland and ensure fair competition between all private for hire operators, including both taxis and Transportation Network Companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The proposal builds on the recommendations by the Private for Hire Innovation Task Force, which Novick appointed in December to examine the issue and recommend how the City should modernize its regulations. Evolving consumer interests, population growth and a booming tourism industry have generated more demand for taxis and other for-hire transportation service. In addition, Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber and Lyft, have emerged as a new model of for-hire transportation service.

Under the proposal by Hales and Novick, the City would lift the cap on taxi fares, so taxis and TNCs could both set their own fares without city regulation. Both taxis and TNCs would be required to provide service to people with disabilities, provide service 24 hours a day/seven days a week and certify that their drivers have passed City-approved background checks. The City will audit these records to enforce compliance. The resolution directs Transportation Director Leah Treat to create and sign an administrative rule launching the pilot program.

“This is a historic deal,” Mayor Charlie Hales said. “We were able to move from confrontation to collaboration, with an open process and tough negotiations that have come up with a result that will improve our transportation system and creates a real win for consumers.”

“The existing taxi companies have had two lines of argument against the pilot. One is, simply, that they should be protected from competition in order to ensure a living wage for drivers and good service for people with disabilities. Given that our best information is that the average net hourly income of Portland taxi drivers is $6.22 an hour, and given the complaints people in the disability community have about taxi service, we are not entirely persuaded by that argument,” said Commissioner Novick, who oversees the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “But the other line of argument is that any competition needs to be fair competition. We agree with that, and in order to ensure fair competition, the proposed framework makes some changes to the task force’s recommendations – and underscores certain features of those recommendations that might not have been well understood.”

The Portland City Council is scheduled to conduct a public hearing and vote on the resolution by Hales and Novick (attached) on at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21. The hearing will be held at City Council Chambers, Portland City Hall, 1221 SW Fourth Ave.

Under the proposed framework:

  • The rules for fares will be the same for TNCs and taxis: The City will lift the cap on fares and, as always, have no minimum fare.
  • Background check requirements for taxis and TNCs will be the same. Both can use City-approved third-party background check providers and the City will audit random samples to enforce compliance.
  • Taxis and TNCs will implement service performance measures to ensure timely service for people with disabilities.
  • The TNC companies will not be allowed to pick up passengers until permits have been certified.
  • Taxis and TNCs will both be required to offer 24/7 service. Neither will be allowed to reject trip requests based on the shortness or length of the journey.
  • The City prohibits disclaimers of liability for negligence or other tortious conduct contained in Terms of Service and requires that all tort claims be governed by tort law in effect at the time of a claim.

The framework differs in some respects from the private for hire task force recommendations the City Council heard last week. It does not include a cap on taxi fares. It also includes specific language on TNCs’ legal liabilities.

The Task Force is recommending a two-phase approach, which still guides City action. Phase 1 includes a 120-day TNC pilot program, during which time market data will be collected and analyzed. During Phase 2, the Task Force will assess the market data and solicit public input that will inform recommendations for an overhaul to all of the City’s PFHT rules. The Task Force’s final report is expected this summer and will include recommendations for all modes of for-hire transportation, including taxicabs, TNCs, accessible for-hire transportation service, Limited Passenger Transportation companies, pedicabs and shuttles.

Hales and Novick thanked the Task Force for its recommendations, which were the basis for the resolution. “This task force did the City an incredible service by tackling these tough issues in a very tight timeframe,” Hales said.

“Thanks to the task force, the City Council can rest assured that our pilot program has been thoroughly vetted,” Novick said. “The task force did groundbreaking work, and I look forward to their report this summer on broader for-hire transportation issues.”

The City of Portland has been regulating private for hire transportation for more than a century, and that responsibility was moved in July 2014 from the Office of Management and Finance to the Portland Bureau of Transportation. For more information about private for-hire transportation, visit:

PFHT Innovation Pilot Program

To file a complaint about taxi service, call 503-865-2486 or email

Reno 9-1-1: Nurse Triage Edition

As you know, the United States spends far more on health care than other industrialized nations. That excess spending is a drag on our economy. So I see one of my jobs as a City Commissioner as looking for ways to reduce unnecessary medical spending. And as Commissioner in charge of Portland’s 9-1-1 system, I have a little piece of the health care system, because many 9-1-1 calls are medical calls. And although many callers absolutely need to get an ambulance to the emergency department (ED) right away, research shows that our system generates a fair number of unnecessary emergency room visits.

Some jurisdictions have reduced unnecessary ambulance trips to the ED by having 9-1-1 direct some callers to a “nurse triage” line. Last week, I joined a group from the Portland region on a trip to Reno, Nevada, where a Nurse Health Line offers 24/7 access to assessment, clinical education, triage, and referral to health care and community services. Reno believes that this service ensures that people get the right kind of care at the right time when they call 9-1-1 with a medical concern. The site visit offered some important insights that we can use here in Portland.

Reno’s program, which is managed by REMSA (Regional Emergency Management Services Authority, a nonprofit ambulance service), provides patients with quicker access to medical information and more care choices from a team of specially-trained experienced registered nurses. REMSA’s nurses don’t substitute for primary care, but they help patients access the right level of care, including connecting uninsured patients with available resources.

In Portland, a similar initiative would require collaboration between Multnomah County, which is responsible for providing Emergency Medical Services, and the City, which is responsible for providing 9-1-1 service. It would also require an investment - both financial and non-financial - from the health care community. The group that traveled to Reno included: 

  • Multnomah and Clackamas Counties
  • Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency in Vancouver
  • AMR, which provides ambulance service in Multnomah County
  • Health Share of Oregon
  • FamilyCare Incorporated
  • Providence Medical Group

My personal observations after reflecting on what I learned in Reno include:

  • We cannot overstate the need for excellent community outreach. Reno decided to offer a non-emergency phone number for anyone to call with any medical issue or question. At the same time, they triage some lower acuity calls from 9-1-1 to the Nurse Health Line. Regardless of the approach, we would need to allocate time and resources to develop the new program for the community.
  • All partners must engage early to design a program that will work here in Portland. REMSA engaged a broad array of partners in the areas of health care, community, quality improvement, and technology. The group that traveled to Reno from Portland is a great start for the range of stakeholders who would need to be involved for an initiative here.
  • Dedicated funding is critical – but if we have the right stakeholders involved, the value will far outweigh the cost. REMSA received a $9.8 million Health Care Innovation grant from the federal government for their Nurse Health Line. Their grant funds expire later this year, and they are planning to sustain the innovation by working with partners and insurers who have realized savings because the Nurse Health Line has kept people out of ambulances and emergency rooms. Without a federal grant to help us get started, Portland would need to have the partners together at the start to align the value of this innovation with those who would benefit.
  • We must make outcomes a priority. REMSA has carefully established its goals for the Nurse Health Line and collected data to track progress toward those goals. Preliminary results show the line saved over $3 million over fourteen months by avoiding 2,296 emergency department visits and 414 ambulance transports. REMSA has also tracked the safety of the Nurse Health Line and has identified zero adverse outcomes --- and, they ask patients about their experience and receive comments like, “I love the program, you helped me through a hard and scary time.” If we decided to move forward with a similar initiative here in Portland, we would need to identify and track these kinds of outcomes from the outset.