Economic study

Active transportation projects offer strong returns on investment, economic study finds

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Investments in active transportation provide many types of benefits related to safety, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, physical activity and the economy. Metro, the Oregon regional government for the Portland metropolitan area, wants to better understand the role of these investments in building stronger communities in their region and in implementing the Metro 2040 growth concept.

Led by Portland State University in partnership with Metro, the Metro Active Transportation Return on Investment (ATROI) study examined twelve projects built in the greater Portland area between 2001 and 2016. These twelve 2040 catalyst projects were evaluated to determine whether investments in active transportation had significant effects on the local economy. 2040 Catalyst Projects renovate busy commercial streets with pedestrian-friendly treatments to catalyze economic development in 2040 centers, main streets or station communities.

Redesigned streets can improve economic conditions by creating attractive, walkable business districts, providing access to diverse destinations, local businesses and jobs. Almost all projects focus primarily on pedestrian improvements, such as improved sidewalks (new, widened, etc.), safer level crossings (signals, rectangular speed markers, curb extensions, crosswalks, signage, ramps, etc.), improved bus stops, landscaping (trees, swales for rainwater management, etc.), lighting and public art. A few projects also included new bike lanes or bike lanes, shared lane markings, and/or bike parking.

PSU researchers Jennifer Dill, Jenny Liu and Marisa Zapata evaluated two main components:

  • A quantitative analysis of the economic impact of 12 active transportation projects on busy commercial streets.
  • A qualitative assessment of the projects to help tell the story and understand the other benefits and impacts of each project. This was done through stakeholder interviews, online surveys and existing feedback recorded from other projects (intercept surveys, TOD resident surveys, etc.).

“Taking both a quantitative and qualitative approach was important, so we could better understand the numbers and hear directly from people, including customers and business owners, about the value of projects. However, our work was done mostly in 2020, we had to get creative with how we found these people, including an online survey and social media,” Dill said.

Overall, the research team found positive effects on business activity in the retail and/or food sectors, demonstrating that the potential economic benefits are not limited to more urban areas. from the city of Portland:

  • 75% of project sites experienced measurable economic gains in the food or retail sectors after implementation.
  • Layering complementary investments (eg, light rail stations and transit-oriented development) has the potential to yield the greatest benefits.
  • Projects that did not see positive effects tended to have higher traffic volumes and/or speeds. Projects are more likely to reach their full potential when they reduce the effects of an automobile-oriented environment and create less stressful and more comfortable places to ride.

“The findings reveal that these types of investments can have positive outcomes in locations outside of downtown and downtown Portland, especially when combined with other planning and infrastructure investments. , but that we need to address the negative effects of high-speed, multi-lane arteries,” Aneth said.

Together, they help us understand many of the benefits of these recent active transportation projects that previously used flexible regional funding. One of the most important findings of the study is to inform policy makers, business owners and the general public in the region during the recent public comment period on the Regional Flexible Funding Allocations (RFFA) of Metro for transportation projects. With 29 project proposals on the table, it’s important to have context and data on what has been effective in the Portland area.

Study finds cycle lanes have positive economic impact

More information:
Study on the return on investment of active transportation in the metro (2022).

Provided by Portland State University

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