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Community Building Sourcebook Land use and transportation initiatives in Portland, Oregon

This Community Building Sourcebook highlights land use and transportation accomplishments of the Portland, Oregon, region. This document provides snapshots of the innovative projects, plans and programs that shape the region’s growth.

TriMet provides transportation options for thousands of Portland-area residents every day.

TriMet operates more than 600 buses on 91 bus routes, with 7,625 bus stops and 1,100 bus shelters. The MAX light rail system stretches 44 miles. TriMet provides 8,112 parking spaces in 21 Park & Ride lots around the region, with 36 additional lots shared with churches, retail businesses and theaters. In addition to the fixed route service, TriMet meets the needs of elderly and disabled individuals with the LIFT and medical transportation programs.

Compete to succeed

During the 1960s and ‘70s, many public transit systems were reduced to an extension of the welfare system. The low quality of service reflected the notion that transit riders had no other choice.

TriMet’s success is predicated on the idea that its riders have other choices, and the agency must compete to succeed. The concept of a “total transit experience” reflects the elements of a transit trip that must be addressed in order to attract riders to transit.

The transit patron’s “total transit experience” begins when planning a trip. A potential transit rider may need schedule and route information as well as stop locations. This includes the walk (or sometimes drive) to the station or stop and the quality of the station or stop environment. Transit frequency and ease of transfers are part of the experience, as is the ride itself. Then there’s the walk to the final destination and the ability to complete the round-trip with ease. To meet transit needs as the region grows, TriMet is working to address all of these elements, in addition to the basic job of getting transit service on the street.

TriMet’s planning is grounded in the Region 2040 Framework Plan and the Regional Transportation Plan. This coordination assures land use and transportation will continue to be integrated and mutually supportive, allowing the region to grow smarter, to makes best use of its infrastructure investments and to improve the livability for all citizens of this region.

The region works hard to maximize the significant transit investments by connecting transit with land use. Light rail stations generally have a station area zoning overlay. TriMet and Metro each manage transit-oriented development programs, with TriMet’s largely tied to the use of excess rights of way, joint use conversion of transit facilities or review of significant projects in consultation with partner jurisdictions. More than $6 billion in development has occurred along light rail since the first line opened in 1986.

TriMet’s focus on on-street bus stop amenities and customer information is another aspect of our attention to the total transit experience. TriMet and Metro prepared an inventory of the sidewalk infrastructure used to set priorities for sidewalk and crosswalk needs. New shelters are installed each year. Bus stop maintenance is promoted through an adopt-a-stop program, and new shelter designs help prevent graffiti. Innovations such as the web-based Trip Planner make planning transit trips easy. Transit Tracker provides real-time information about transit arrivals.

Special district

TriMet is a special district of the State of Oregon and is governed by a seven-member Board of Directors appointed by the governor. TriMet’s service area covers much of three counties, nearly 600 square miles with a population of 1.4 million. The Board appointed TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen in October 1998.

A regional payroll tax provided 57 percent of 2006 TriMet operating revenue. The tax is $6.52 per $1,000 on gross payroll. Passenger revenue accounted for 21percent of the budget; state/federal operating grants 13 percent; and other sources 9 percent.