Who will profit from "zero emissions delivery"?

An alert reader reminded me that when Portland City Hall touts an "innovative" "public-private partnership," it's a good idea to start following the money. In particular, the reader thought I should think about who will rake in the dough when the city's absurd new rules forbidding gas-powered trucks from making deliveries in parts of downtown kick in.

It isn't much of a mystery. The KGW version of the story gets right to it:

Rivera said the city plans to partner with B-line Sustainable Urban Delivery, a local business that specializes in zero-emissions delivery tricycles and will provide incentives to companies as they work to adjust to the new rules. 

Larger trucks will be able to drop loads at the B-line warehouse, on the central eastside, where they can be broken into smaller shipments and delivered by tricycle.  

“This is an innovative way to see if we can start to use smaller, cleaner, greener vehicles to have less pollution, less carbon emissions and safer streets,” Rivera said. 

Uh huh.

So who is B-line? It's a for-profit company that's been operating in town for more than a dozen years. It was founded and is run by a guy named Franklin Jones. Here he is in the early days, schmoozing with then-City Councilman "Legend" Dan Saltzman (the Dandy Dan Ryan of his day) shortly after Jones arrived here from the Bay Area and started the company.

As best I can tell, B-line, which is an assumed business name for Freeroot Ventures, Inc., operates a warehouse on Southeast 7th Avenue and a small fleet of electric cargo tricycles. The B-line warehouse space appears to be one of several businesses in a larger, 18,000-square-foot facility, known as the Redd, owned by a limited liability company associated with EcoTrust, the ultimate player in the nonprofit industrial complex.

It looks like B-line employs about two or three dozen people. Its tricycles have display boards on the sides of the cargo bins, and B-line sells the space to advertisers. The company says it also rents out some of its warehouse space to clients. 

The delivery system at the heart of the operation is pretty straightforward. Clients have their deliveries made to the B-line warehouse, rather than to the clients' own places of business. B-line then loads the stuff into one of its cargo trikes, and a bright-eyed, fit-looking young person rides the trike from the warehouse to the clients' shop. Somehow this is good for the earth.

You could certainly argue about whether this really cuts down emissions. If a delivery is coming from points west or south, it's hard to see how driving the truck over to Southeast 7th, instead of just stopping downtown, improves air quality. But it gets more bikey toys on the street, and that's what Portland "transportation" regulation is all about. The bureaucrats are absolute dictators about it. And B-line is their darling du jour.

Anyway, it looks like a legitimate enough corporation. If B-line's clients, who seem to be mostly in the food business, want to spend their money on this dubious virtue-signaling, so be it. It's kind of amusing, actually, "Portland Weird" in its most harmless sense. But when the city starts forcing people to use the B-line service, the whole scene takes on a decidedly different look, regardless of the "incentives." 

You have to wonder whether other shippers are being offered a chance to play. UPS has electric cargo trikes, I think. Is the "partnership" deal being put out to public bid? Is it required to be? 

If you believe this is really some noble experiment, I've got an aerial tram I want to sell you, again.


  1. Oh, and one more thing: The people who play a race card at every turn really need to stop. They're embarrassing themselves.

    "Nearly 40% of Portlanders who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color live within 1.2 miles of the city’s biggest sources of air pollution such as freeways and industrial facilities. This exposure increases vulnerability to chronic health conditions like cardiovascular damage, asthma, and more. An effective Zero-Emission Delivery Zone and other clean freight solutions begin to reduce nearby air pollution, bringing direct health benefits to those neighborhoods, while also providing economic opportunities for zero-emission carriers."

    1. Good intentions always have unexpected consequences. I hope this results in some good.

    2. I don't know how to link to it, but there was a delightful post on the Bike Portland blog a few years ago detailing the failed effort to run a bike freeway down NE 7th. Basically, they had polled all the relevant stakeholders except the people who actually lived in the neighborhood. Ron Herndon stepped in and put the kybosh on the idea, forcing the kids to move the freeway a few blocks east. Anyway, the comments were FILLED with a bunch of twenty-something "don't those people know what's good for them?" diatribes along with a healthy amount of "who the F is Ron Herndon to tell us what to do". Like I said, delightful. I'll bring that post into discussions every now and then when the youths start talking about how much they care about minority communities in town. They always stammer and repeat the same "don't they know what's good for them" lines. This town is just the best.

      I can't wait to hear Mr. Herndon's thoughts on tricycles cutting through his neighborhood.

  2. You know what else is within that zero-emission delivery zone? A giant office building that houses a giant law firm that has an incredible track record of winning lawsuits against the city.

  3. If I could electric bike within 3mi of the parcel lockers (where carriers deliver for Amazon etc anyway) in lake grove or hillsdale, multnomah village & garden home where I wasn’t likely to get mugged, won’t take up space in someone’s driveway with a car, use the traios/cut thrus & avoid traffic/the freeway and claim the mileage for 4-6 hours in the AM, skip car registration & maintenance on something with 500,000+ parts vs. ~10,000 at most, hard to go wrong (in theory).

    Ups states the vehicle must be enclosed & insured for their gig workers, I believe Uber eats used to specify car & <10yr old.

    That’s more a corporate policy (& legitimate concern) that could be more inclusive and evolve some for the benefit of gig workers.

    Mandating it for the benefit of 1 or 2 trike companies in the name of less noise and emissions (probably locally only, which isn’t zero?) in a zombie downtown already bleeding business and foot traffic?

  4. Boy! Howdy! I am sure glad I moved out of Portland a couple of years ago (when mortgage rates were low and RE sales were hot).

    It's only going to get worse when Joann and her seven dwarves/clones re-invade the City Council under charter "reform". Mapps will prob run for the ceremonial post of Mayor...only to get slapped down by the Hardesty-led City Council. He'll resign before his term is over.

    1. I don’t respect “spineless Ted”. Sadly, his talk is cheap. But, JoAnn’s unpublished goals frighten me.

  5. A government mandate tailored to direct business to a specific provider. Seems legit.

  6. If I could invest in Virtue signaling I'd be a Billionaire...

    1. The legislature just approved $200M in funding that should be right up your alley. Go get your share!

  7. Politicians like ribbon cuttings, marketing stuff to the public & kickbacks?

    Scores high on all that.

    I guess every day can be tricycle parade day & will be a holiday soon-enough since there basically won’t be any businesses remaining downtown for…
    …various reasons (until 1-2 buyers get all of it?)?

    Electric bike (or interpretation thereof?) really might be ok in neighborhoods as a supplemental thing or delaying truck delivery some for non-essentials for a bunch of shitty American suburbanites tsking up a ton of space on the truck for shipping shoddy lightweight (maybe bulky like a crappy plastic play structure made of oil from half way around the world or something?) crap from all over the world that gotta have it yesterday & be able to return ship it after trying it out that’ll probably be in the dump/landfill (at best) soon-enough?

  8. When I hear tricycle, I can't help but think of the guy from Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In

    1. ^speaking of Rowan, Mr. Bean & the 3-wheeled bad joke of a British ‘micro-car’ (classified as a motorcycle safety-wise, basically) Reliant Robin that also has a cargo model?

      It’s sort of a faded British empire version of an East German Trabant; better in some ways, worse in others, both laughable?

      Tricycle is usually bad news; we learn they basically suck from an early age?

      Most are tippy & few offer hardly, if any, advantage over a 4 wheeled craft apart from rolling resistance, tight space maneuverability & weight (sprung or unsprung depending).

      No aero advantage to speak of, unstable unless it has 2 front wheels and only 1 rear, but those often have cargo carrying disadvantages as well as traction, if that matters/no good if transmitting any significant power thru a single rear wheel as the drive wheel.

      The single rear maneuverable compact forklift type material movers on the backs of trucks are neat, the odd nerd recumbent is neat as a concept snd other world markets Gen 1 Honda Insight FWD w/single rear wheel ultra aero slippery & light weight fuel sipper hybrid?

      Mostly, I think of jokes for 3 wheeled craft;
      -Harley trikes rolled out of rich retired dentist’s trailers to make noise and annoy everyone / no social benefit at great expense sharing the brain cell with the rest of their cohort poseur mean-mugging on weekends that functions as their George Costanza rascal scooter moral equivalent to noise and otherwise pollute, be a waste of space & $60k+ of disposable income…please every Harley rider and boomer reactionary die off & don’t reproduce if your offspring is as useless as you!
      -Childish plastic / shoddy substandard toy you can’t wait to ditch / upgrade from along with training wheels for a proper bicycle & first taste of freedom & distance from your parents.
      -Reliant Robins comically tipping over in skits/sketches & episodes of Mr. Bean.
      -George Costanza in Seinfeld milking it / pretending to be disabled to get a make-work job and being as obnoxious as possible with his powered scooter while not actually having any (known major physical) disability…


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