In recent years, Portland has been growing. Fast. Each year tens of thousands of new residents now call the city home. In many ways this is a good thing. It speaks to Portland’s attractiveness as a city and the opportunities it offers. But the influx of new residents does come with challenges. One of the most visible is the increased congestion we experience on our roads.
We have thousands of new residents and an expanding economy. But we can’t build new roads to accommodate that many new drivers. Portlanders understand this. In a recent poll, nearly 70% of Portlanders agreed that building new roads was not a viable solution to traffic congestion. If we can’t build our way out of this problem, then we must find other ways for people to get from place to place easily, safely, and sustainably.
Portland has very ambitious goals for transitioning people away from driving alone and into alternative modes of transportation such as bicycling, public transit, and walking. Successfully making this transition allows us to lower carbon emissions and make Portland the city we want it to be. To meet these goals, we must begin implementing major changes to the way we build, price, and allocate our roads in the city. And we must do this together, with an evidence-based approach, so that we deliver clear benefits to all Portlanders.
This begins with an understanding that the status quo is not an option. Not only will inaction lead to more congestion, it will also serve to reinforce and worsen inequities in our transportation system. Communities of color and low-income communities already contribute a disproportionate share of their income to transportation, while seeing less benefits than white and wealthier Portlanders. Unmanaged, new and emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles and ride-hailing services could exacerbate these inequities. Lack of access to transportation options already exacts a heavy cost on people’s lives by limiting economic opportunity, reducing time with family and friends, and harming individual and community health.
Additionally, the negative effects of growth and congestion are not distributed equitably as measured by both race and income. Gentrification has disrupted existing neighborhoods, displacing communities of color and low-income residents to the car-dependent periphery. Thus, those who can least afford it are increasingly required to travel farther, at greater cost, with fewer options, and with more delay.
What measurable outcomes do we want from this goal?
- People have increasing access to multimodal travel options and key destinations
- Portlanders increasingly choose to bike, walk, ride transit, and use other modes that move more people in less space than driving alone
- Businesses can move goods reliably to key destinations
How does providing transportation options advance equity?
- Mitigating financial burdens. Each policy and investment decision must consider what the desired outcomes and measures will be for racial equity. As we propose significant changes to the way Portland residents get where they need to go, it is necessary to measure who is paying for and who is benefiting from these changes.
- Understanding the impacts of gentrification and displacement on transportation. Costs can be measured in direct fees as well as the overall housing and transportation costs of historically marginalized communities. We must also measure the environmental and social costs of our transportation options measured in air quality and displacement from traditional neighborhoods. Benefits, on the other hand, can be measured through better transportation options in specific communities, whether through new investment or increased service. By serving our most vulnerable residents better, including people with disabilities, we will deliver a better transportation system for everyone
How does providing transportation options reduce pollution?
- Roads less traveled. City Council adopted ambitious goals for reducing carbon emissions, much of which depends on a large reduction in vehicle miles traveled. PBOT’s Transportation System Plan aims to achieve these reductions through a significant shift in modes traveled by 2035. In order to meet our climate imperatives, this strategy aims to measure progress in near-term increments, providing regular updates to leaders and stakeholders on how our initiatives are performing
- Moving more people, not more vehicles. With an evidence-based approach and cost-benefit analysis, we can speed investment, scale up successful pilots, or correct course where necessary. This could mean any combination of building new projects, shifting our priorities in the public right-of-way, or pricing congestion in response to demand. An overall focus on moving people and goods—rather than the number of vehicles—will help us reduce carbon emissions.
Objective 1: Expand and improve transportation facilities
Accelerate and build projects for walking, biking, and taking transit while simultaneously planning for what this growing city needs in the future.
- Build new high-priority pedestrian crossings and sidewalks.
- Increase investments in transportation facilities for walking, biking, and taking transit.
- Build a protected bikeway system in the central city that connects to the broader bike network.
- Fund and build major transit lines and trail corridors in partnership with other agencies, including the new Southwest Corridor light rail and the Division Transit Project.
- Leverage state investments to maximize benefits for Portlanders, such as projects along outer SE Powell Boulevard and 82nd Avenue in East Portland.
- Utilize “quick-build” projects that allow us to respond to community safety and livability concerns while simultaneously encouraging active trips on neighborhood streets.
- Develop specific plans for high-need, high-growth centers, especially in East Portland, that will increase safe, and convenient options for underserved communities.
- Accelerate the conversion to electric vehicles.
Indicators and Sample Measures
- Less Driving Alone
a. Active transportation mode split (including bike- and scooter- share) in capital project areas
b. Transit ridership on enhanced routes
c Percent of residents with commutes that are not in a single-occupancy vehicle
- Network Connectivity
a. Change in percent of major streets with sidewalks on both sides
b. Increased mileage/percentage change of protected or improved bikeways
a. Proportion of capital investment that is made in historically underserved communities
b. Proportion of large capital projects with anti-displacement strategies
Objective 2: Make the most efficient use of our limited road space
Use the limited space of our public right-of-way to achieve the optimal movement of people and goods.
- Replace level-of-service metric with one that measures the efficient movement of people and goods, and make this a core measure in all PBOT operations.
- Develop clear practices for allocating space in the public right-of-way when either public or private development occurs.
- Prioritize transit traffic by implementing key projects and maximizing the use of existing transit needs.
- Pilot a flexible curb zone that supports more people and more movement, and for efficient delivery of freight.
- Upgrade signal systems so they can manage speed, give priority to transit, and collect data to help improve our management of the transportation system.
- Increase transportation options, such as bike-share and e-scooters that are able to move more people sustainably in our limited public right-of-way.
Indicators and Sample Measures
a. Change in how many people move through areas where right-of-way has been reallocated
b. Change in transit travel times and reliability on enhanced routes
c. Change in hours of delay of freight
Objective 3: Make walking, biking, and transit more attractive options
Share more information about incentive programs that support residents’ adoption of new modes of transportation. Manage congestion by encouraging alternatives to driving alone whenever possible.
- Expand adoption of existing programs, and develop new ones, that are community-led and provide information and incentives for walking, biking, and taking transit, such as SmartTrips and the Transportation Wallet.
- Develop and implement a Commute Trip Reduction program for Portland employers.
- Complete a multiyear Transportation Demand Management Action Plan which guides the bureau in how to integrate transportation demand management into programs and projects.
- Advocate for demand management through pricing on Oregon Department of Transportation freeways to mitigate existing inequities, improve safety on local roads, and reduce carbon emissions.
- Produce a regional pricing model with key partners that allows us to evaluate different demand management strategies in combination with levels of transit investment.
- Implement an equitable pricing strategy in partnership with the community.
- Implement new permitted parking programs and multimodal strategies that reduce vehicle ownership in growing parts of the city.
Indicators and Sample Measures
- Mode Choice
a. Change in car ownership
b. Changes in travel behavior by demographic
c. Number of vehicles entering the central city
a. Usage rates of parking, both on-street and structures
b. Variability of travel time by mode
a. Change in housing and transportation costs
Objective 4: Link transportation to land use more effectively
Collaborate and partner to improve land use and transportation planning efforts for major developments and corridor projects. Deliver better outcomes for residents.
- Collaborate with city bureaus and partner agencies to integrate plans for balancing jobs and housing and increasing access to essential services, starting with the Southwest Corridor, East Portland, and Northeast Portland.
- Develop and implement new review guidelines to ensure new development yields investments in infrastructure for walking, biking, and taking transit, rather than using standards for automobile level-of-service.
- Expand programs to support transportation options that align with affordable housing efforts and major transportation improvements.
- Strengthen the value of the central city as a vibrant commercial center accessible to all Portlanders.
- Update the freight master plan to support better movement of goods and a vibrant, sustainable economy.
Indicators and Sample Measures
a. Average travel times to jobs and critical services, specifically from underserved communities
b. Dollars invested from development to infrastructure for traveling without driving alone
c. Residential and commercial rents and property values following new infrastructure investme