The Mythical World of Transit-Oriented Development: Steele Park in Washington County, Oregon

Introduction

During the past decade, Portland-area planners have embraced Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) as the region’s dominant land use/transportation strategy. They assert that TOD, especially based on light rail, will reduce traffic congestion, increase transit use, and make neighborhoods more livable. Transit-oriented development is generally defined as compact, mixed-use development that concentrates retail, housing and jobs in neighborhoods well-served by public transit. TOD has become so important to local planners that it is now the primary justification for expansion of Portland’s light rail system. Rail advocates concede that light rail is not worth the cost if it is built only as a transit system.

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Is Oregon Really the Hungriest State in the Nation?

John A. Charles, Jr.

If numbers don’t lie, Marie and her two little boys should be going hungry. A high school dropout at 17, she became pregnant, got married, and had a second child all by age 19. She separated from her husband at 20. She brings home $500 a month as a receptionist for a garden products company.

Now 22, Marie (not her real name) has lived in more than half a dozen apartments and houses in east Multnomah County during the past five years. Until recently she relied on public transit, which limited her job options. Last year she bought a small Geo that her day care provider sold at a discount.

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The Mythical World of Transit-Oriented Development: Light Rail and the Orenco Neighborhood, Hillsboro, Oregon

John A. Charles, Jr.

Executive Summary

During the past decade, Portland-area planners have embraced Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) as the dominant land use/transportation strategy. They assert that TOD, especially based on light rail, will reduce traffic congestion, increase transit use, improve air quality, and attract private investment.

Dozens of TODs have been constructed in the Portland region since 1990, with several winning national acclaim. Most have received public subsidies, on the assumption that the public benefits of TOD outweigh the costs. However, little is known about how transit-oriented projects actually perform once they are built, in terms of transit use and auto dependency. The purpose of this analysis—the first in a series of Portland, Oregon TOD case studies—is to begin filling in that gap by analyzing one of the most well-known TODs in the country, Orenco Station.

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