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Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility (POEM)

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Looking for meeting materials and information related to the Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility (POEM) Task Force? Visit our Task Force page here! 

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Why consider a new approach to pricing?

The City of Portland’s Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility (POEM) project started with a question: Should we use pricing strategies more intentionally in Portland to create a more equitable and sustainable transportation system? Between 2019-2021, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) in partnership with the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) convened a community task force to explore this question and advise the City on next steps.

Our transportation system today doesn’t work for everyone. And with 600,000 new residents expected to live here by 2040, many of the problems we’re experiencing now—like worsening traffic, increased risk of crashes and rising carbon emissions—are due to get worse. These challenges disproportionately impact Black, indigenous and communities of color (BIPOC), low-income Portlanders and persons with disabilities.

Regional interest in pricing—sometimes called “congestion pricing,” “value pricing” or “decongestion pricing”—has increased in recent years as we grapple with how to combat these challenges and better manage our roads.

Pricing refers to strategies that involve charging people for driving or using roadway space. These charges can vary based on different factors, for instance, how congested the roads are, the time of day, or what type of vehicle is using the road. By applying a charge, pricing can help people consider the impact of their travel choices and encourage certain behaviors (like carpooling, traveling at off-peak hours, or using other, non-driving options when possible).

Pricing strategies explored through the POEM project include:

  • Prices on parking
  • Prices on vehicle-based commercial services (e.g. private for-hire trips and urban delivery)
  • Highway tolling
  • Cordons or area pricing
  • Road usage or per-mile charges

What is “equitable mobility”?

The POEM Project seeks to explore the relationship between pricing policies and equitable mobility. The POEM Community Task Force has developed a working draft Equitable Mobility Framework to inform decision making and guide policy analysis around pricing strategies. The Equitable Mobility Framework was inspired by and adapted from the Greenlining Institute’s Mobility Equity Framework. It is a living document and will continue to be refined throughout the POEM project process. 

Why take a closer look at pricing now?

  • Crowded roads hurt our health, our economy, and the climate:
    Regional modeling shows that by 2027, almost one-third of the region’s roads will be congested or severely congested (Metro Regional Transportation Plan, 2018). As people and goods spend more time stuck in traffic, this costs our economy money and worsens our quality of life. The transportation sector also accounts for approximately 42 percent of regional carbon emissions, and as fossil fuel-powered vehicle trips increase, so does the climate impact.  BIPOC Portlanders, low-income individuals and people with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by these costs.

     
  • Building more roads is not an option:
    We have limited space, and building more roads is very costly, both financially and environmentally. Furthermore, evidence shows that expanding road space leads to more driving—a phenomenon called “induced demand.” If we add more lanes as a solution to growing congestion, the problem will only continue to get worse.

     
  • A proven congestion management strategy:
    Cities around the world have demonstrated that pricing strategies can help reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips and support more efficient, sustainable and equitable transportation modes. In the U.S., New York City, Seattle, and San Francisco are all implementing or considering pricing strategies.

POEM Community Task Force

The POEM Community Task Force began meeting in January 2020. The City appointed Task Force members following a two-month, open recruitment process in late 2019. The Task Force was comprised of 19 members representing diverse perspectives, interests and expertise from across our community. The group met monthly between January 2020 and July 2021.

The Task Force’s charge, as defined in its charter was to: “inform PBOT and BPS as they consider if and how new pricing strategies could potentially be used more intentionally to improve mobility, address the climate crisis and advance equity for people historically underserved by the transportation system in Portland, including, but not limited to, BIPOC, low-income Portlanders and people with disabilities.”

Download PDF file POEM Task Force Charter (341.87 Kb)

Download PDF file POEM Task Force Roster (1.54 Mb)

Find past meeting materials

Task Force recommendations

Recommendations formally adopted by the Task Force can be found below:

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Moving to Our Future: Meeting our core goals

Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility is a key strategy identified in Moving to Our Future, PBOT's 2019-2022 strategic plan

This project helps advance PBOT’s goals around moving people and goods by helping make the most efficient use of our limited road space and providing transportation options for a growing city. It is also part of our commitment to advancing transportation justice through all of our work.

Regional Coordination for Better Mobility

The City of Portland, Metro and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) are all working on projects that consider ways to price transportation to address challenges related to equity, climate change, congestion, and safety. Each agency makes decisions for different parts of our region’s transportation system.

Each has separate projects underway to help address issues specific to those geographies. The three agencies are coordinating their efforts to leverage each other’s work, learn from one another and share findings. Learn more about ODOT's Tolling Projects and  Metro Regional Congestion Pricing Study.

Related Documents

Contact

Shoshana Cohen

Project Manager, Analyst III, Mobility, PBOT

Emma Sagor

Climate Advisor, American Cities Climate Challenge, PBOT

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