Reconnecting America People * Places * Possibility

TOD in 3D: How transit oriented is the Portland region?

This blog post is reprinted with permission from
TOD heat map The transit orientation measure in 2D doesn't necessarily convey the significant differences in readiness to support transit-oriented development across the region.

Research shows that a few key measures can strongly predict the readiness of an area to support walkable, mixed-use development and help residents live a lifestyle with less reliance on a personal automobile. Metro's Transit-Oriented Development Program’s new transit orientation measure is a composite of these important elements.

The five P’s of transit-oriented development

Traditionally, true transit-oriented development has been said to possess three D’s – density (residential and/or employment), diversity (e.g. mix of uses, ages, income groups) and design (pedestrian scale and orientation). For the purpose of better capturing "urban character" in a composite measure, a more holistic view of the transit friendliness of station areas and corridors is proposed.

TOD heat map
The transit orientation measure in 3D more clearly displays relative readiness of the region to support transit-oriented development (view from the southeast).

The five P’s used for this analysis are as follows:

  • People: The number of residents and workers in an area has a direct correlation with reduced auto trips
  • Places: Areas with commercial urban amenities such as restaurants, grocers and specialty retail not only allow residents to complete daily activities without getting in a car, but also improve the likelihood of higher density development by increasing residential land values
  • Physical form: Small block sizes promote more compact development and walkability
  • Performance: High quality, frequent bus and rail service makes public transportation a more reliable means of getting around and can lead to less driving
  • Pedestrian/bicycle connectivity: Access to sidewalks and low stress bikeways encourages more people to walk or cycle to transit and neighborhood destinations

The two-dimensional map above and three-dimensional image to the right display the composite map, or transit orientation score, of the five P’s for the Portland region. The region’s diversity is reflected in the range of scores, from transit-oriented areas with a strong combination of the five factors described above to transit-adjacent communities where transit service is not strongly supported by the surrounding built environment.

  • Transit oriented: Areas that are most likely to support a transit lifestyle; describes more densely populated areas served by high quality rail and/or bus transit, good to excellent pedestrian/bicycle connections, a finer grain of blocks, and a supportive mix of retail and service amenities
  • Transit related: Areas that possess some, but not all, of the components of transit-oriented development; generally describes moderately populated areas served by higher quality transit, a good or improving pedestrian/bicycle network, and some mix of neighborhood supportive retail and service amenities
TOD heat map
View from the west with Hillsboro and Cornelius in the foreground and Gresham in the background.

Transit orientation measure

  • Transit adjacent: Non-transit areas or areas close to quality transit without possessing the urban character that would best support it; generally describes low to moderately populated areas perhaps within walking distances of higher quality transit stations or corridors, but lack a combination of the street connectivity, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and urban amenities to more fully support the level of transit service

Note that station areas and major bus corridors that score well are not limited to close-in Portland neighborhoods. Many outlying station areas and corridors, especially those in or near the historic downtowns of suburban communities, also exhibit strong blends of the five P’s.