The Division Transit Project will bring faster and more reliable public transportation to the Portland Metro. The goal for the Powell-Division project was to make travel safer, easier and more reliable in Southeast Portland, East Portland and Gresham (Oregon, USA).
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Problems and Purpose
Residents of East Portland, Gresham, and Southeast Portland, Oregon who use the Metro transit system struggled to commute in, out, and around the city. A lack of stops between Portland and Gresham cut off underprivileged neighborhoods along Division Street. The Division Transit Project will include larger buses and more available bus stops at more locations, bringing together diverse neighborhoods including people of color and low-income families that surround the Portland area. The route also connects four different colleges, including the state’s largest, helping college students who have multiple classes at different campuses as well as citizens who live in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Background History and Context
With over 17,000 trips in one day on the bus lines on Powell and Division Street (two major streets in Portland, Oregon), the Line-4 Division buses operating in high-traffic areas were too congested for the transit system and were in need of higher-capacity, higher-speed services for the thousands of patrons who use the bus line every day.2
Metro believes that effective public engagement is essential to good government and the future of the region. For this project, Metro used participatory planning for numerous reasons, including encouraging opportunities that reflect the diversity of the region and promoting participation of individuals, the community, businesses, and special interest groups. Metro also believes it is important to provide citizens an opportunity to be involved early in the process of policy development, planning, and projects.
In 1960, the Metro Planning Organization was created to address the varying and unique transportation needs within urban areas.3 As the Metro Planning Organization for the Portland region, Metro is authorized by the U.S. Congress and the State of Oregon to coordinate and plan investments in the transportation system for a three-county area: Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington.4 Metro uses this authority to grow transportation options, ensure a safe and reliable trip to the passengers’ destinations, and use existing infrastructure. Metro works together with cities, counties, and transportation agencies to decide how federal highway and public transit funds are invested within the service region.5
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Division Transit Project is a project of the Metro Council, a regional government that plans projects to improve the future of Portland. This council is the only directly elected regional government in the U.S. A regional government allows a diverse number of communities to work on projects together, rather than being divided between cities or counties. Metro focuses on issues such as parks and recreation, recycling, and transportation infrastructure. The project is also supported by TriMet, Multnomah County, the Cities of Portland and Gresham, and the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Members of the community make up over half of the project planning committee.4 Everyone on the committee helped play a role and brought their own uniqueness to this project. As this project is a 15-mile long bus line that runs through very diverse neighborhoods, minorities and those that this project would highly impact were encouraged to join. The members of these neighborhoods were key to this project having a successful startup. Without bringing the participants’ subcultures and backgrounds to the surface, the project would not have made as much progress as it has. These committee members have contributed to the design, construction, impacts, and more.
The projected cost for the Division Transit Project is $175 million.5 The main source of funding is a Federal “Small Starts” plan that will contribute $87 million. Another large contributor is the Federal Highway Administration, who will fund $26 million. The remaining $62 million will be gathered through state and local taxes, voter-approved bonds, donations, and grants.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Two committees were convened for this project: the Community Advisory Committee and the Policy and Budget Committee. The Community Advisory Committee was formed in January 2014.5
As this route primarily runs through diverse neighborhoods, there was an extra effort to involve the people who would be highly impacted by this project. Metro recruited people via social media, local ads, and newspapers.6
Methods and Tools Used
The participation consisted of in-person and online surveys as well as discussion within the community. Metro sent out representatives that spoke the language of that specific community and held discussion groups to get the opinions of the citizens who would be using the Metro transit system.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The people who rode the transit system and knew best what it would need to improve were given the opportunity to give their opinions in a public forum. There was also a public survey conducted. This was advertised at the bus stations where individuals with first-hand knowledge would be waiting. After collecting input from the public, the members of the Metro Council expressed their own concerns and ideas. It took some time to come to a decision using a process of unanimous voting by the Metro Council. This process, while time consuming, allowed all the members to proceed with the information they needed to feel confident in the project. One councilwoman stated that further discussion with project staff and other members eased her concerns and changed her vote.
Community members were encouraged to be involved as their input is vital to the project itself. These community meetings are more for answering questions and deliberating about deadlines and monies. It also allows for the community to actively see how their opinions and contributions influence decision making
Events have attracted the opinions of thousands of community members, from small business owners to people off of the street. Informing these members of the community was important as they added value to the first meetings to get the project going in the right direction. Surveys were widely broadcast as well to gather input for the early stages of the project planning.
The committee emphasized community involvement and equity, using participatory planning, as they have in the past. They involved students and leaders from educational institutions as well as many people who used the Metro services. They wanted to make the citizens who would be affected feel involved, field suggestions and ideas for the project, and more importantly continue the long-standing precedent in the Portland metro area of community involvement.
Throughout the surveys, the public hearings, the committee discussion, and deliberations, several strategies were employed to ensure inclusiveness, equality, equity and unified decision making. When advertising the opportunity to the public, all major languages known to be spoken in the area were used in flyers and other media. Translators were on standby during most meetings to ensure that language barriers would not prevent any citizens from voicing their opinions. Multiple meetings were held to allow citizens with different schedules to attend and participate. Due to this immersive technique, trust and productive relationships were built between Metro and the members of the community.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
These techniques as stated above were successful with involving everyone in the community as the public was encouraged to give their input in person and online. Decisions were made based on the public’s input as they would be the ones using the transit system as a source of transportation.
The results of this participatory process were largely positive and conveyed broad public support for the project. Many productive relationships were built between Metro and members of the community that should lead to further advancements in public participation in the area. In addition, as the planning phase concluded, the decision-making body unanimously agreed to continue their role in the project. There has also been a regional impact from this project in that it has been used by others for planning, equity, and decision-making processes.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
This project is still being constructed so only preliminary results can be reported. The first high-capacity buses and bus stations will not be introduced to the public until 2022. There have been some delays in construction and execution due to funding.7 Metro relies on half of the funding to come from the federal government, which can be a challenge to obtain. Specific goals and outcomes were decided upon early on in the Powell-Division Transit and Development steering committee meetings regarding the Division Transit Project and can be found in the Metro Public Engagement Guide (2013).8 The results of this process were largely positive and conveyed broad public support for the project. Many productive relationships were built between Metro and members of the community that should lead to further advancements in public participation in the area. In addition, as the planning phase concluded, the decision-making body unanimously agreed to continue their role in the project.9
The decisions about who to include in the process and how to reach them were listed in the Public Engagement Guide.10 The Metro council sent leaders into different parts of the community and multilingual surveys were available at the bus stops to members of the community who use the bus system daily. Metro found a variety of ways to allow the community they were serving to be heard.
This recruiting method in regards to how the public was involved has positively affected the timeline of the Division Transit Project in many ways. Due to the public participation, the leadership team could make decisions that are less likely to be refuted from the public, as the public helped make the decisions. Also gathering opinions from the surrounding neighborhoods helped to guide the project in a firm direction.
A regional form of government came together with participatory planning specifically in mind because the members of the Metro Council felt it was important for members of the community to be heard.11 The methods used were efficient in making sure that a diverse survey of opinions and thoughts were accounted for.
Stacey, B. (2014, February 5). Powell-Division project puts communities behind the wheel. Retrieved from https://www.oregonmetro.gov/km/councilor/bob-stacey/news/2183
Division Transit Project [Pdf]. (2015, October). Portland, OR: Small Starts Project Development. Retrieved from https://www.oregonmetro.gov/public-projects/2018-regional-transportation-plan.
1,2 Beebe, C. (2016, October 07). Questions and answers about inner Division rapid bus. Retrieved from https://www.oregonmetro.gov/news/questions-and-answers-about-inner-division-rapid-bus
3,4,8,9,11,12 Metro. (2013, November). Public Engagement Guide - Metro. Retrieved from https://www.oregonmetro.gov/sites/default/files/2014/05/02/11122013_public_engagement_guide_final_adoption_draft.pdf
5,7 Metro. (2018, January 31). Finances and funding. Retrieved from https://www.oregonmetro.gov/how-metro-works/finances-and-funding
6 Metro archives and special collections. (2018, August 29). Retrieved from https://www.oregonmetro.gov/metro-archives-and-special-collections
Fletcher, S., & Alberdelli. (2018, September 30). Tillamook Bay National Estuaries Project. Retrieved from https://participedia.xyz/case/53
9 Lucero, D. (2015, June 1). Powell-Division Transit and Development Project [Pdf]. Portland, OR: Dana Lucero, Retrieved from https://iap2usa.org/resources/Documents/Core%20Values%20Awards/USA%20--%20Metro.pdf
10 Phil Rabinowitz, P. (n.d.). Section 2. Participatory Approaches to Planning Community Interventions. Retrieved November 25, 2018, from https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/analyze/where-to-start/participatory-approaches/main