Report Shows Portland Driving Less, Using Transit and Alternatives More

Portland Ranks #1 Nationally in Increase of Commuters Who Bike to Work

OSPIRG Foundation

Portland – A first-of-its-kind report by OSPIRG Foundation shows reduced driving miles and rates of car commuting in Portland, and greater use of public transit and biking. 

“There is a shift away from driving in our cities here in Oregon and across the country,” said Celeste Meiffren, Consumer and Taxpayer Advocate with OSPIRG Foundation. “Policy makers need to realize the driving boom is over. Based on these national and local trends, we should be investing in public transit and biking for the future.”

The report, “Transportation in Transition: A Look at Changing Travel Patterns in America’s Biggest Cities,” is based on the most current available government data. It is the first ever national study to compare transportation trends for America’s largest cities. Among its findings:                                                       

The proportion of commuters travelling by bicycle grew in Portland, as it did in 85 of the most populous 100 urbanized areas between 2000 and 2010. In Portland the increase was 1.7 percent, the largest increase in the nation.

• The proportion of workers commuting by private vehicle—either alone or in a carpool—declined in 99 out of 100 of America’s most populous urbanized areas between 2000 and the 2007-2011 period.  

The percent of workers commuting by private vehicle in the Portland urbanized area fell 3.6 percent between 2000 and the 2007 to 2011 period—the 6th largest reduction out of the 100 largest urbanized areas in the U.S.

• In the Portland urbanized area, there was a 7.0 percent decrease in vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) per capita from 2006 to 2011, the 23rd largest percent decrease among America’s largest cities.

• The proportion of households without a car increased 0.8 percent in the Portland urbanized area between 2006 and 2011. This proportion fell in 84 of the largest 100 urbanized areas. Likewise, the proportion of households with two or more vehicles fell in 86 out the 100 most populous urbanized areas during this period, including Portland, where it fell 1.2 percent. 

The study found that cities with the largest decreases in driving were not those hit hardest by the recession. On the contrary, the economies of urbanized areas with the largest declines in driving appear to have been less affected by the recession according to unemployment, income and poverty indicators.

“Politicians in Oregon should support transportation initiatives that reflect these travel trends,” said Meiffren. “We should be investing in the kinds of transportation options that the public increasingly favors.”

Across the nation, young people have shown the steepest reductions in driving. Americans 16 to 34 years of age reduced their average driving miles by 23 percent between 2001 and 2009.

Download the report, “Transportation in Transition: A Look at Changing Travel Patterns in America’s Biggest Cities.”

To read an earlier OSPIRG Foundation report on the implications of the national decline in driving, download, “A New Direction: Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future.”