Portland Transportation Priorities

Posted by Content Coordinator on Wednesday, February 26th, 2014


1. Introduction & Methodology

Figure 1: Right Direction/ Wrong TrackFrom January 16-21, 2014, Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall, Inc. (DHM Research) conducted a telephone survey among registered voters in Portland to assess their perceptions of the city’s transportation needs. The survey will help the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) prioritize future transportation-related projects. 

Research Purpose and Methodology: DHM Research contacted voters using a randomly generated list of registered Portland voters, which consisted of both landlines and cellphones. The survey took an average of 10 minutes to administer. Eight hundred Portland voters participated, with one series of questions employing a split sample of 400. 

In gathering responses, DHM employed a variety of quality control measures, including questionnaire pre-testing and validations. Quotas were set by age, gender, political affiliation, and area of the city to ensure a representative sample. 

Statement of Limitations: Any sampling of opinions or attitudes is subject to a margin of error, which represents the difference between a sample of a given population and the total population (here, Portland registered voters). For a sample size of 800, the margin of error is ±3.5%. For a sample size of 400, the margin of error ranges from ±2.9% to ±4.9%. These plus-minus error margins represent differences between the sample and total population at a confidence interval, or probability, calculated to be 95%. This means that there is a 95% probability that the sample taken for this study would fall within the stated margins of error if compared with the results achieved from surveying the entire population. 

This report includes observations about statistically significant variations among major demographic subgroups such as gender, age, area of residence (west side, river to I-205, and east of I-205), income, political party, and ethnicity. The reporting of subgroup differences focuses on patterns and trends, and does not attempt to reflect every variation. For a comprehensive appreciation of these variations, please refer to the computer tables accompanying this report. 

DHM Research: Davis, Hibbitts & Midghall, Inc. has been providing opinion research and consultation throughout Oregon and the rest of the Pacific Northwest for over three decades. The firm is non-partisan and independent and specializes in research projects to support community planning and public policy-making.

2. Summary & Observations 

Maintenance and safety top the list of transportation concerns. 

  • In a preliminary question, nearly two in ten respondents (18%) volunteered that the condition of the roads was the biggest transportation-related issue that city council should do something about. 
  • In a retest at the end of the survey more than a quarter (26%) pointed to road maintenance as the most pressing transportation-related need. 
  • Two maintenance items—general repairs like potholes or repaving and street maintenance on the busiest roads—were among the top four “most important areas to invest in now.” 
  • Four of six safety issues landed among the top six “most important areas to invest in now.” These consisted of safe pedestrian street crossings, safety around schools, safety at intersections and transit stops, and addition of sidewalks. 
  • The two highest-ranked funding packages appealed to more than eight in ten respondents and focused on safety: (i) sidewalks and safety features in places where children need them to get to school and seniors need them to get to transit; and (ii) more crosswalks and flashing light signals on streets with dangerous intersections and bus and transit stops. 
  • The package with sidewalks and safety features for children and seniors stood out as the only one in which a majority (55%) said the specified features made them “much more likely” to support it. 

Public transit improvements fall into the middle and lower tiers of important immediate investments, and into the middle tier of funding package features. 

  • Respondents rated frequent bus service and MAX light rail service as the highest transit priorities. Separated bus lanes and streetcar service were the lowest. 
  • More than seven in ten respondents would be more likely to support a funding package that improved bus service in areas with substandard service, particularly if the areas are low income. 

Improvements related to bridges are important to Portland voters. 

  • More than three-quarters of respondents supported a funding package that would upgrade at least one downtown Willamette River bridge to survive an earthquake. 
  • A similar percentage supported funding long-delayed maintenance that will reduce the future cost of road and bridge repairs. By contrast, voters felt less strongly about a package to provide long-delayed maintenance that will reduce the future cost of traffic signals and more energy efficient street lights. 

Infrastructure-related investments such as freeways, improvements to move freight, and paving of unimproved streets land lower than maintenance, safety, and transit concerns on the investment and funding lists. 

  • Only one-third of voters rated investment in freeways and paving gravel streets as a 6 or 7 on a 1 to 7 scale, where 1 meant least important to invest in now and 7 meant most important to invest in now. 
  • Just two in ten rated freight movement as a 6 or 7 on the same scale. 
  • At 60% support, the funding package that provides for paving unimproved streets was the least popular of ten that were tested. 

More than three-quarters of voters believe the City of Portland should make whatever investments are most important to citizens, regardless of which government owns what. 

  • Only two in ten said the City should only focus on what it owns. 

Maintenance and safety concerns receive consistently higher levels of support throughout the survey, but Portlanders also broadly support multiple transportation modes, including public transit, freight, and bicycles. 

  • After road maintenance, improving MAX/TriMet and better/safer bicycle lanes were the two biggest transportation-related needs identified by respondents in a final open-ended question. 
  • Seven in ten said they were much or somewhat more likely to support a funding package creating better access of freight to industrial areas that could support additional jobs and economic development. 
  • Nearly two-thirds responded supportively to the package with safer bike routes to separate cyclists from car and freight traffic. 

Most Portlanders support a wide mix of features in transportation funding packages. 

  • At least six in ten responded positively to all of the funding packages, many of which included features other than safety and maintenance, such as movement of freight, transit improvements, and paving gravel streets.  

Funding package findings afford some interesting comparisons with a 2007 transportation study in Portland. 

  • Concern about pedestrian safety has grown since the earlier research. Then, two-thirds said more crosswalks on streets with bus and transit stops would increase their support for funding. Now, more than eight in ten say the same thing. 
  • By contrast, feelings about the need for long-delayed maintenance that will reduce the future cost of road and bridge repairs have remained steady at three-quarters support for that funding feature. 
  • The relatively lower level of interest in paving unimproved streets is also consistent with 2007 findings. 

Figure 2a: Most Important to Invest in Right Now


Download full version (PDF): Portland Transportation Priorities

About the Portland Bureau of Transportation
“The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation is a community partner in shaping a livable city. We plan, build, manage and maintain an effective and safe transportation system that provides people and businesses access and mobility. We keep Portland moving.”

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