Portlanders are increasingly choosing to take transit, walk or ride a bike to work. A fair number are even bypassing the commute altogether and working from home. By including workers who carpool, about 40 percent of workers are getting to work without driving alone in a car.
In 1990, 68 percent of commuters drove alone to work. By 2000, that number was down to 64 percent. As of 2011, less than 60 percent of Portland workers are driving alone to work, whereas the regional average is above 70 percent, and the national average is over 75 percent.
2011 Portland (City Only) Commuting Characteristics
Source: 2009-2011 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimate.
For Portland, the steady decline in driving alone to work — about 4 percent per decade — can, in part, be attributed to better infrastructure that makes it easier for people to choose active transportation options.
Most notably, from 1990 to 2010 commuting by bicycle increased from 1 percent to 6 percent. In 1996, fewer than 150 miles of bikeway facilities existed in the city. By 2008,Portlandhad more than 300 miles of bikeways.
While walking stayed relatively the same during that period (around 5 percent), transit use increased from 10 to 12 percent. And working from home more than doubled, from 3 percent to 7 percent.
While the City continues to make progress, its goal is for 70 percent of commuters to either take transit, bike, walk, telecommute or carpool in the next two to three decades.
This is a daunting challenge, but it is possible. Some cities are already there. We can learn from them and find inspiration in what they’ve done not only to address sustainable transport — but equitable mobility as well.
From Berlin to Beijing, Copenhagen to Curitiba, Bogota to Zurich, Dresden to Shanghai, Barcelona to Paris, and even New York City to Amsterdam — all of these cities have urban forms and transportation systems that cultivate a way of living that makes it easier to get around in ways other than by private automobile.
For Portland to do the same, we would do well to study, and perhaps even apply, some of their tools and programs. These actions increase social capital and improve overall mobility and access for all while reducing greenhouse gases.