Over the last 30 years, Portland grew by more than 200,000 residents, to 600,000, and annexed adjacent land that did not have the same quality of infrastructure as preexisting areas. The population growth resulted in a more diverse population; however, diverse communities did not have equitable access to amenities and economic opportunities.
In addition to population growth, Portland is challenged by its historic development pattern. Inner neighborhoods developed in an era of streetcars and are relatively compact; however, large parts of the city developed as automobiles were becoming common and are poorly suited for pedestrians. As a result, transportation is responsible for 40 percent of Portland’s greenhouse gas emissions. Portland is making steady progress in reducing vehicle miles traveled and shifting to active transportation modes, but neighborhood patterns are slow to change and require decades of careful planning and investment.
The Healthy Connected City strategy is designed to accelerate the shift to active transportation modes, simultaneously revitalizing neighborhoods and realizing the health, affordability, and livability benefits of transit, walking, and cycling. The “20-minutes Neighborhood Analysis” was created to assess the “completeness” of neighborhoods and analyzes the walkability and access to services that vary across the city. The analysis considers both the proximity to local amenities, parks, schools, etc., and the ability to access these destinations in terms of street connectivity, sidewalks, transit service and topography. This information serves to evaluate progress towards the Healthy Connected City goals as well as to diagnose specific investment needs in different areas of the city.
The goal of the Healthy Connected City strategy is to bring complete neighborhoods to 80 percent of the city’s population by 2035. It is integrated in the Portland Plan, an integrated strategic plan to achieve urban equity and sustainability. Together with two other strategic priorities and the equity framework of the Portland Plan, the Healthy Connected City initiative is intended to achieve 12 measures of success. These include:
- Reducing carbon emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2035. As of 2012, Portland’s carbon emissions had decreased to 11.5 percent below 1990 levels, despite 27 percent population growth.
- Achieving 70 percent mode split for transit, walking and bicycling by 2035. Currently, 27 percent of trips are taken by these modes.
- Covering 33 percent of the city in tree canopy by 2035. Since 2000, the tree canopy has increased from 27.3 percent to 29.9 percent.
- Additional benefits include increasing the safety, convenience and overall health of citizens which comes from having amenities such as schools, parks, and grocery stores within walking and cycling distances. Already, Portland saves more than $1 billion annually as a result of driving less than other American cities.
Furthermore, citizen participation is a key component of the Healthy Connected City strategy. From individuals and community groups to schools and businesses, Portlanders all contributed to the development of the project with more than 20,000 comments and ideas for the plan.