Don't spend time on GreenStep

Oregon’s state government has many emissions — laws, rules, common sense, nonsense and optional things that state officials would really like Bend to do.

A recent example in the optional category is that the state wants Bend to use a software model called GreenStep. GreenStep models greenhouse gas emissions. City officials should resist the request.

GreenStep seems a nice model. A user plugs in things such as household income data, the mix of vehicles in a community, road and transit information. The model produces outputs including greenhouse gas emissions. Tweak the inputs and planners can get an idea of how the model says it might change the outputs.

The federal government liked GreenStep so much it used GreenStep as a basis for its own model.

The state also needs a tool like GreenStep, because the Legislature said it did. The Legislature mandated that the Portland area model ways to reduce its emissions to state targets by 2035.

You can’t model without a model.

But Bend has no such requirements. It’s optional.

Still, there is a state push for more communities to use it. Oregon Department of Transportation officials say that begins in Gov. John Kitzhaber’s office. It is mentioned indirectly, for instance, in the governor’s 10-year energy action plan. ODOT is even willing to pay Bend and other communities to use GreenStep.

Corvallis recently decided to take up the option and has a contract with the state. The estimate for Corvallis is that it will take one person working half time for six months on GreenStep, ODOT said.

Why shouldn’t Bend march in step?

Bend city officials have been repeating the refrain that city staff was cut to the bone and needs to focus on what’s essential. The state declared modeling is optional for Bend. And if city staff or Bend’s Metropolitan Planning Organization staff can stop what they are doing and spend six months devoting maybe half their time to GreenStep, then what were they doing before that was so unimportant?

GreenStep is also not magically predictive. Brian Gregor, a senior transportation analyst for ODOT and the developer of GreenStep, gave a presentation at Portland State University last year about GreenStep. He said the answers to moving the greenhouse gas numbers are: cleaner vehicles, cleaner power and more transit.

We all knew that already.

Bend does not need more time on optional tools to make decisions. It needs money to make things happen. It needs to find answers to how to pay for transit. It needs to find a way to keep its roads paved, keep up with police and fire protection, and make sewer upgrades. It needs to sort through its urban growth boundary remand with the state.

Time on GreenStep could be better spent.