Mecca for TOD
Portland, Oregon, known for its wet weather and micro-brewed beer, is the destination of choice for those seeking to better understand transit-oriented development. This is understandable — Portland is ahead of the curve when it comes to coordinating transportation and land use and creating dense, walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods with a lot to see and do. You can take light rail into downtown from the airport, easily walk to hotels, restaurants, shops, and parks, and take the streetcar all around the Pearl District, downtown, and the new South Waterfront District – still under construction -- and from there take an aerial tram to the Oregon Health and Sciences University high atop Marquam Hill.
Reconnecting America recently took two groups on a Portland TOD tour: elected officials and planners from cities along the proposed Foothill extension of the Gold Line in Southern California, and AARP’s (the American Association of Retired People) national Consumer Committee, which is considering whether promoting TOD should be made a policy priority for AARP. The Southern California group took the MAX Blue Line to suburban Beaverton Round, Orenco Station and Hillsboro, and spent considerable time walking in the Pearl, the lively and urbane neighborhood that’s grown up around the streetcar. The tour prompted much soul-searching about density and development among the suburban Southern California delegation, and there was general agreement that everyone needs to think more ambitiously about using the large public investment in light rail to help achieve public goals such as sustainability, affordability and walkability.
AARP’s Consumer Committee also toured the city via MAX and the streetcar, and spent time talking with the seniors living in Station Place Tower, a LEED Gold-Certified affordable senior housing development on transit. Both the AARP and Southern California delegations met with city staff, developers, and other local policy-makers including Metro Commissioner Rex Burkholder and TriMET General Manager Fred Hansen. AARP has made Livable Communities a policy priority as a way to positively affect the health, mobility and economic well-being of older Americans, and the AARP board will now decide whether to make TOD a key element of this initiative.