Portland, An Urban Update

Long touted as the ultimate in urbanology on the West Cost, this update from New Geography reveals a far different picture than urban myth, such as the fact that more than 90% of growth is occurring in the Portland suburbs rather than downtown.

Another surprise is that Sacramento is more densely populated than Portland.

An excerpt.

Among urban planners, there is probably not a more revered urban area in the world than Portland (Oregon). The Portland metropolitan area and its core urban area , principally located in Oregon, stretches across the Columbia River into the state of Washington. Nearly four decades ago, the state of Oregon adopted strong urban planning requirements, including the requirement of an urban growth boundary. Two principal purposes of the resulting policies (referred to as “smart growth,” “urban containment, “compact cities,” etc.) were densification and transferring travel demand from cars to transit.

Portland’s progress toward these objectives has been modest, at best. Most growth has continued to be in the suburbs. There has been only modest densification, and employment has continued to disperse from the core. At the metropolitan area level, travel by car remains virtually as dominant as before and traffic congestion has intensified materially. Finally, house prices have been driven up relative to incomes.

Portland: A Dispersing Metropolitan Area

Like virtually all major metropolitan areas in the world, Portland has experienced substantial dispersion. The core county of Multnomah peaked at more than two thirds of the metropolitan area population in 1930, as defined in 2000 (Note 2). By 2010, Multnomah County had dropped to one third of the metropolitan area population.

The dispersion has continued in recent years, though there has been core growth (as has been the case in many metropolitan areas). Between 2000 and 2010, the area within two miles (three kilometers) of Portland City Hall grew more than 20 percent. However, this was only five percent of the metropolitan area’s growth. In the inner ring extending to five miles (eight kilometers) from City Hall, the growth was only three percent, well below the metropolitan area’s overall 15 percent growth rate. More than 90 percent of the metropolitan area’s population growth was outside a five mile radius.

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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