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Resource Center

Livable Portland: Land Use and Transportation Initiatives November


More than $8 billion of new development has occurred in light rail station areas. A study of MAX Blue Line light rail station areas found that development occurring after light rail investment has an average development density or Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 0.65 more than the average FAR for development outside of station areas. This means that for every 1,000 square feet of land area developed, station area taxlots realized an additional 650 square feet of building area. The rate of development within Blue Line station areas was 69 percent higher than elsewhere within a one-mile corridor extending along the light rail alignment. Low and moderate value lots within Blue Line station areas redeveloped at twice the redevelopment rate reported for low value lots outside of station areas.

Even as transit has become an amenity with value to a growing market segment, we continue to be mindful of the critical assistance transit can provide low income households. Through its joint development program, TriMet has made land available for more than 350 affordable housing units. Furthermore, according to AAA the average cost of car ownership in the U.S. in 2009 was $8,487 per year based on 15,000 miles of driving and gas priced at $2.60 a gallon. Even after deducting the cost of a TriMet annual transit pass, eliminating that car could free up $627 a month for rent, a mortgage, education, quality childcare, retirement savings or other household choices.

Applied across our region, savings on transportation costs are substantial. Residents of the Portland region on average travel four miles less each day than those in comparable cities in the United States. That means the region drives 2.9 billion fewer miles and saves $1.1 billion in travel costs (fuel, vehicle wear and tear, insurance, permits, etc.) annually. The value in annual travel time savings is estimated to be $1.6 billion.

TriMet is, of course, just one member of a team. The 1.7 million residents of this region, tens of thousands of businesses, thousands of neighborhood, business, and community groups, one nationally unique elected regional government, and 26 city and county jurisdictions have contributed to these successes. We sometimes disagree about details but we all share the same general vision of a livable, prosperous region surrounded by viable farms, forests and recreational opportunities.

This publication tracks the evolution of our light rail system, describes the land use planning efforts that support vibrant station areas and illustrates our approach with selected transit-oriented developments and self-guided tours. Through these pages you will see how partnerships among regional agencies, local governments, private sector investors and citizen activists have shaped this place. We try to learn from our own experiences, and we want to share with you what we can to help your region pursue its own vision. We hope the examples in this book will help.