East Portland residents have a lot of transportation needs. But one of the most comprehensive surveys ever of its residents just found that one rises clearly above the rest.
A mail-in survey of 1,365 households from east of 82nd Avenue, completed last spring as part of the city’s East Portland in Motion plan, went into depth on many transportation issues, but the theme of walking came up again and again.
Here are the most interesting notes we saw in a writeup (PDF) and presentation this month from David Hampsten, an East Portland neighborhood advocate who also sits on the City of Portland’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. Hampsten helped manage and analyze this massive survey, which was distributed online and as an insert to 60,000 households in East Portland’s city-sponsored newsletter.
Sidewalk projects are the highest priority, residents say
“What 3 kinds of projects are most needed in your community?” the survey asked. One item was far and away the most popular: sidewalks on busy streets, chosen by almost half of respondents.
A distant second: sidewalks on residential streets. Only then did “paving maintenance” come up, with just over one third of East Portlanders putting that one of the top three priorities for their area.
Close watchers of city politics will recall that the Portland Business Alliance has opposed any city street funding package that doesn’t dedicate the large majority of its revenue to maintenance.
Most East Portlanders didn’t rate bike improvements as top priorities. It’s interesting, though, that East Portlanders were at least three times likelier to rate one or both of these among their top three priorities as they were to use a bicycle as their main transportation.
A surprising number of people said they get around mostly by walking
Every year, the city sends a mail survey to a random sample of East Portlanders and asks, among many other things, what mode of transportation they used most over the previous week. For East Portland, only about 2 percent usually choose walking.
But for this survey, which asked “when you go somewhere, what is your main means of travel,” many more respondents — 7 — said they walked. That’s about the same as the number who say that citywide.
Biking, meanwhile, was the primary transportation mode for 4 percent, public transit for 13 percent, and driving for 76 percent. Another 6 percent identified multiple modes as their “main” one.
The result seemed to surprise Hampsten, too.
Crosswalks are a problem almost everywhere east of 205
As thoughtful planners will tell you, improving foot transportation is as much or more about crosswalks as about sidewalks. And sadly, it’s maybe easier to identify the East Portland streets that don’t seem to have major crossing problems than the ones that do.
The high performers here are Burnside (which only has two traffic lanes and two bike lanes in most of East Portland, thanks to the Blue Line MAX down the middle) and, perhaps surprisingly, Glisan and Stark east of 122nd Avenue.
Several major sidewalks still need improvements
Hampsten said the city has made serious progress in improving sidewalks on major streets in recent years, though many residential streets still go without. But there are a few that many people agree need work.
Though the map above tries to convey maybe too much information, it’s a good visualization of the streets that people were most likely to say need sidewalks: outer Powell, which is actually operated by the Oregon Department of Transportation, and the Market-Mill-Millmain-Main corridor, which is designated to become an important neighborhood greenway but is awaiting city funding.
Halsey east of 122nd, Harold west of 136th and Division west of 148th were also popular picks for streets that need better sidewalks.
One in four households include someone who gets around by bike
The question was “how many people in your household ride a bike for transportation. Of 1,365 survey takers, there were a total of 558 transportation bikers in 28 percent of the households.
Keep in mind that this question asked about transportation, so (to the extent that people were reading carefully) it doesn’t capture people who ride only for fun and exercise. That’s a number that is typically larger than transportation bikers.
The worst concentration of biking hotspots is in Hazelwood
Survey takers were asked to name East Portland’s worst bike connections.
The Halsey-Glisan-Burnside business district just east of I-205 seems to have gotten the most complaints, with a clear string of problems running down outer Division and, to a slightly lesser extent, outer Powell.
East Portland has a very long way to go, but it’s making progress
Though it’s hard to argue with the fact that East Portland is in more dire need of transportation investment than any other part of Portland, it’s also hard to deny that East Portlanders have been fairly successful at organizing around those needs and getting results. The very existence of this survey, and of the entire city-funded East Portland in Motion plan, is part of the area’s recent success.
The rest of the city should be helping East Portland solve its problems. But it should also be learning from Hampsten and other advocates who’ve learned how to coordinate their messages and, ultimately, start getting things they need.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.