‘Incentivization,’ smart growth – Part 3: Growing up smart in Portland


Alan Kandel brings us this article on how Portland has redeveloped because of and become a national leader in transit.  After briefly defining smart growth, Kandel goes on to describe how Portland is working to reach the goals of smart growth using transit-oriented development.  He writes: “Portland Streetcar CEO Rick Gustafson, in ‘Street Smart’ was quoted as having said streetcars ‘”create the right decision-making environment,” for policy and investments that will support compact, walkable, high-density, sustainable development,’ wrote Poticha and Ohland.”  And so it has.  $2.3 billion has been invested within 2 blocks of the streetcar line, including 7248 housing units and 4.6 million square feet of office and commercial space.  And because this is all TOD, parking ratios have actually gone down.  Again, from Kandel:

From the section of “Urban Idyll” subtitled: “’Lessons Learned in Portland,”* listed are five topics of discussion and from the “Reduced parking” topic is this:

“As a result, developers are able to construct mixed-use projects with lower parking ratios than are found elsewhere in the city. Reducing the amount of parking that a developer must build makes a building more financially feasible. Now, with a full understanding of the role that the streetcar can play in affecting the urban environment and market confidence in urban living, developers have begun construction on larger, higher-risk projects in the South Waterfront.”

Reducing parking isn’t only good for developers, it’s also good for the city.  Free parking is maintained at the city’s expense, and it is a huge expense that is often not entirely covered by paid parking, if at all.  Imagine if cities provided free gas for everyone who visited the city, because they were under some mistaken impression that restricting gas use or charging for it would hurt the city economically.  And even with these restrictions, it is still very easy to find parking in Portland, from my experience.  I don’t think car users really have anything to complain about because of TOD in Portland.  It’s good for transit users because it allows them to live and travel without a car.  It’s good for drivers because it gets a lot of people off the road.  It’s good for the city because it lowers their maintenance costs.  It’s good for the environment because it lowers carbon emissions.  It’s good for everyone.

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