NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 21, 2004

Transit-oriented development -- dense, walkable neighborhoods centered on accessible mass transit -- have been promoted by many urban planners as a solution to vehicle congestion. However, Portland, Oregon, is experiencing unexpected problems with its transit-oriented development projects, according to the Cascade Policy Institute. Furthermore, it appears that residents of these developments don't use mass transit to get to work.

Researchers at the Portland-based think tank studied Steele Park, a high density development of small single family homes and apartments located near Elmonica light rail station. They discovered that the goal of creating more mass-transit users has not panned out:

  • The development was designed with limited parking, assuming one car per family; however, most families have more than one car -- even three or four cars -- and they have no choice but to park them on sidewalks, and at corners, while using their garages for extra storage space.
  • The limited parking and narrow streets prompted the Oregon Fire Chiefs Association to write a letter to officials in 1997 noting that developments like Steele Park create obstacles for firefighters.
  • Cascade researchers observed the Steele Park development during one morning rush hour (6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.), and discovered that out of 73 trips leaving the development (including bike, autos, pedestrians), only 11 trips ended at the light rail station, with only four people actually walking to the station.

The principal planner of with the Washington County Department of Transportation has admitted that the Steele Park development is a "long range fiasco."

Source: Michael L. Barton, Ph.D. and John Charles, "Steele Park: Another MAX Fiasco," Cascade Commentary no. 2003-32, Cascade Policy Institute, November 2003.


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