Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Portland’s Green Dividend

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CEO’s for Cities

What if you could add $2.6 billion annually to your local economy?

That’s what Portland has effectively done by getting its citizens to drive just 4 fewer miles a day, according to a briefing paper by our colleague Joe Cortright called Portland’s Green Dividend.

As a result of enacting a growth boundary, increased density, mixed land uses, and investments in public transportation, walking and biking, Portlanders are saving time and money on transportation that gets funneled back into the local economy.

For most people in Metro Vancouver, the benefits of the transit investments have been concentrated into Vancouver (and its east side at that) Burnaby, New Westminster and North Surrey. The savings of time and money are a hard sell in communities like Langley, where the increased density is there but isolated in miles of ‘green belt’. The region as whole does not compare badly with other cities – in the USA. But that really has been a facile comparison. (And as it happens we tend to do better than either Portland or Seattle.)

Even so it is one that Kevin Falcon is incapable of understanding. He is determined that we end up as spread out as Minneapolis/St Paul, or maybe Kansas City (either of them, it doesn’t matter which). For he is acting simply in the interests of those who stand to profit from property development. And since we are, by and large, a property owning democracy, a lot of voters in the outer suburbs think they will benefit. But once the newly widened freeway is even more plugged up than it is now, and all that open space that makes the suburbs so desirable is covered in “little boxes, all made out of ticky tacky, and they all look just the same”, I wonder who they will blame?

Written by Stephen Rees

August 13, 2007 at 11:10 am

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