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Portland’s green policies add $2.6B to local economy

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Economist Joe Cortwright
(File photo)

Economist Joe Cortright has just released a white paper titled “Portland’s Green Dividend” that claims our city’s land use and transportation policies, combined with our high rate of transit and bike use contribute $2.6 billion to our local economy every year.

[Download the full PDF here.]

This economic impact, Cortrights says, flies in the face of critics that say our economy will be stunted by encouraging public transit and non-motorized vehicle travel,

“Skeptics view biking, transit, density and urban growth boundaries as a kind of virtuous self-denial, well meaning, but silly and uneconomic. Critics see the seeds of economic ruin. They claim planning, policies and regulations that restrict use or access to resources impede growth and lower household income.

Both the skeptics and the critics are wrong. Being green means Portlanders save a bundle on cars and gas, and local residents have more money to spend on other things they value, which in turn stimulates the local economy.”

(Graphic: Joe Cortright)

According to Cortright, one of the primary drivers of this economic boon is that Portlanders travel an four miles less per day than the national average. Four miles doesn’t sounds like much to you? Cortright does the math:

“The Portland metro area has roughly 2 million residents. If Portlanders traveled as much as the typical U.S. metro resident, that would produce 8 million more vehicle miles per day or about 2.9 billion more miles per year.

…the cost of driving is about 40 cents per mile…All told, the out-of-pocket savings work out to $1.1 billion dollars per year. This works out to about 1.5 percent of all personal income earned in the region in 2005.”

And where does this money savings go?

“Because this money gets re-spent in other sectors of the economy, it stimulates local businesses rather than rewarding Exxon or Toyota.”

And, since Portlanders are twice as likely to use transit and seven times more likely to commute by bike, Cortright says we save time (which he equates to $15 an hour), and we save 400,000 gallons of gas per day (which in turn means 1.4 million tons of greenhouse gases are not being emitted each year).

Take a look at a PDF of Cortright’s 5-page report here.