Oregon Bill Would Increase Density Near Transit

Transit oriented development in Portland's Pearl District. Photo: Smart Growth America
Transit oriented development in Portland's Pearl District. Photo: Smart Growth America

Land within one-half mile of frequent transit would be automatically upzoned for higher density development under a proposal before the Oregon legislature.

Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) unveiled a bill this week that would zone properties within one-half mile of transit to a maximum of 75 units per acre, according to Willamette Week. Properties within one-quarter mile of light rail would be rezoned to an upper limit of 140 units per acre. That’s equivalent to about a six-story building.

Currently in Portland, density is only about seven people per acre. Low residential density around transit means access to transit is restricted and it can lead to housing price appreciation that helps fuel gentrification.

“What’s the point of providing frequent transit if you exclude people from living nearby?” asked Ben Fried, a spokesman for TransitCenter, the national advocacy organization. “Transit works best when people can walk to their stop, and with this policy many more people will be able to live within walking distance of good transit.”

The legislation would not require land by transit to be developed at high densities, but merely allow it.

The bill is one of several progressive housing bills before the legislature this session. A proposal from House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) would ban single-family-only zoning, allowing four-unit buildings in every neighborhood. An additional measure from Kotek and Courtney, which recently passed in the Senate, offers some protections for tenants against rent increases, limiting them to one per year. It also bans evictions without cause.

9 thoughts on Oregon Bill Would Increase Density Near Transit

  1. I’m confused. The bill limits housing density near transit to about 6 stories?

    I guess it’s a start, but why not set a minimum rather than a low maximum?

  2. It is confusing, but if it is like the California bills, that is the minimum maximum density. In other words, cities cannot set a height limit near transit that is lower than 140 units per acre (about six stories) but they can set a height limit that is higher than that.

  3. Population density in Portland is about 4,300 people per square mile which compares favorably with other livable cities like Boulder. Not everybody wants to live in a vertical slum.

  4. And with this bill nobody will be forced to live in a “vertical slum”. You will continue to be free to live in whatever housing type you prefer assuming you can afford it.

  5. As someone who has lived happily upstairs from a supermarket, I question your claim that nobody lives in commercial space. Far from being a slum, it was quite nice. This was the view taken 3-4 meters from my front door.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dc57e8fba9ca99fa509fb5a517b1b48a300d4f20131815609c33e252697861c3.jpg

    And popping downstairs to get groceries I’d forgotten to buy was very convenient.

    As for your health concerns, the German healthcare system works fine.

  6. Just like California.
    A simplistic solution to a complex problem. Kind of like freeways will relieve congestion. Didn’t work.

    Most transit is NOT designed to provide a benefit compared to other modes. It it designed to carry a captive audience, people with no other option. Transit is chosen because it is better, not because you live near it.

    Increased employment density near good transit drives the market for housing near good transit. Everything is interrelated. Let’s do good transportation planning. Include zoning changes in that process.

    These misguided efforts can result in a big mess.

  7. Why LRV Light Rail in Portland and Los Angeles instead of BRT Bus Rapid Transit?

    It seems light rail LRV was invented before there was pavement, rubber tires, or modern engines. Many countries around the world are implementing BRT instead of LRV. There are triple length double decker BRT buses larger than LRV.

    Comparisons show BRT is 1/3 the cost to build, lower cost to operate, safer, quieter, faster, allows closer headways, and is more flexible than LRV. Mexico City’s Insurgentes BRT carries 300,000 trips per day and can run every 90 seconds.

    In Los Angeles, why did LACMTA METRO choose an older technology like LRV. BRT seems more advanced and cost-effective? Is the LRV choice breaking the bank on technology that is obsolete? A white elephant passed on to future generations? How about Portland?

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