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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

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Goal 2: Provide Transportation for a Growing City

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 outcome do we want from this goal?

  • Better transportation options for everyone, offering better access and reliability, and removing burdens for historically marginalized communities.
  • Improved mobility for everyone by making sure that every new, non-freight trip isby walking, biking, or taking transit.

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.