American bike commuting rates seem to have entered a post-recession skid in 2017. Here in Portland, meanwhile, they once again stayed about the same, according to Census estimates released this month.
It’s not your imagination: auto traffic got worse in Portland last year.
One of the main reasons: it looks like almost none of the additional commutes that originated in Portland in 2016 happened on bikes, foot or public transit. Instead, of the 12,000 additional commutes Portland added in 2016, 11,000 happened in cars.
That’s according to the latest commuting estimates from the Census Bureau, at least. The citywide bike commuting rate slipped from an estimated 7 percent of commuters to 6.3 percent, the same biking rate estimated in 2011.
Gas prices? What gas prices?
The great gasoline plunge of late 2014 hasn’t cut the rate of Portlanders biking to work, at least not in 2015.
In fact, drive-alone commuting among Portland residents hit a modern-day low last year — the fifth such record in six years — and public transit commuting jumped to a modern high of 13.4 percent.
Everyone knows Multnomah County is growing, and that most new residents are buying or bringing in cars, too. In all, state records show, 8,709 more passenger vehicles are registered in the county than there were in 2007.
But a review of car registration statistics shows that if passenger vehicle ownership were still as popular in the county as it was in 2007, it would have had to find room for 38,501 more cars and trucks instead.
How many cars are we doing without? Well, if we built a parking lot to hold the 38,501 cars that didn’t show up and assumed a standard 325 square feet per space, we’d need about 287 acres of land. For the sake of scale, that’s everything between NE Killingsworth, Skidmore, Rodney and 16th:
After 10 years of falling further and further behind the number of people moving to Portland — and paying the price in rising rents, especially in bikeable areas — Portland nearly kept up with its own migration last year.
That’s according to American Community Survey figures released Thursday, which showed Multnomah County adding 4,688 net new homes in 2015. That’s the most to be reported from this data set since at least 2005, the first year it was available.
Since that year, Multnomah County’s population has grown 59 percent faster than its housing supply. That’s combined with relatively rapid growth in high-wage local jobs to rapidly drive up housing prices.
The Portland metro area seems to have already discovered how to slow the growth of traffic congestion, the city’s bicycle planning coordinator said Friday. But it’s not investing in it very quickly.
Between 2000 and 2014, the three Oregon counties in the metro area added 122,000 new commuters. And inside the Metro urban growth boundary, less than half of that net growth came from people driving alone in cars.
Part of NW Portland Week.
Almost every map or chart you will ever see of “where people commute by bike” is incomplete.
Nineteen times out of 20, it’s based on only half of the picture: the locations people commute from. In the United States, we make almost no effort to calculate where people are bike-commuting to.
Little-known fact: according to the best data available, almost nowhere in Portland brings in a larger percentage of its commuters by bicycle than the lower section of Northwest 21st and 23rd, between Marshall and Burnside.