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Portland’s “Transportation Wallet,” a grant designed to free up parking, extended to help low-income city residents

A program born out of a plan to reduce parking needs in some of Portland’s most populous central neighborhoods is now being used to help residents in some of its more remote neighborhoods.

As Portland became more expensive, it pushed low-income residents to areas further away from employment centers and fast, reliable transportation. The city’s transportation portfolio program, launched by the city in 2018, aims to alleviate this problem by subsidizing public transit, ridesharing and e-bike services for low-income residents on an annual basis.

He pays 500 people a year to get prepaid cards that can be used on TriMet, MAX, Uber and Lyft buses, or to rent one of the city-operated Biketown e-bikes.

It’s a relief for some Portland residents who lack reliable transportation and have found themselves straining their budgets for daily commutes, but Portland Transportation Bureau officials are also hoping the program will attract more people to bikes and scooters, and will expand transportation services to people who historically. have a harder time accessing it.

The program offers each user $ 250 for the year for public transit or for other modes of transportation such as carpooling or electric bicycles. A family option allows cardholders to add an additional $ 25 to the prepaid card for up to five family members.

The Transportation Bureau funded the program by $ 300,000 per year through city parking revenues and state gasoline tax and vehicle registration fees. Program costs include administrative staff as well as technical and linguistic assistance.

PBOT spokesperson Dylan Rivera noted that since the program is in its second pilot phase, the office plans to assess its effectiveness sometime in 2022 to determine if it is worth repeating. . He said they would consider it against other ways to improve transport access, such as sidewalks and safety at pedestrian crossings, making priority lanes for public transport and working on the neighborhood greenways and other cycling infrastructure.

While the program is now focused on equity, it was born out of a completely different goal: to make residents less reliant on on-street parking.

It originally encouraged people living or working along the narrow, crowded streets of northwest Portland or the Central Eastside to forgo a parking permit and instead use prepaid cards to use transportation services. in common. The initiative was funded by additional permit fees in these neighborhoods.

But Transportation Bureau officials said they realized they could apply the concept to low-income residents. They developed a pilot program that identified several affordable housing organizations including Rose CDC, Hacienda CDC, Catholic Charities and NAYA.

The idea was to partner with groups that could help bridge the cultural, linguistic and economic gaps for people in need of transportation assistance, said Roshin Kurian, transportation demand management specialist for office.

“It fits with our transportation justice goals, trying to reach low-income and black communities that have been displaced or do not have the same resources,” Kurian said, noting that some of these groups Housing staff have staff who have been able to help translate program information for non-English speaking users.

A survey of attendees at Portland State University found that almost all said the transportation wallet saved them money on normal transportation costs, and most said that managing their budget was “less stressful” because of the program. Users also overwhelmingly said that having the transport wallet card encourages them to make more use of public transport and ridesharing services.

Participants in the transportation portfolio most often used the funds to use public transportation, with a slightly smaller percentage using it for Uber or Lyft. Users rarely signed up to use taxis, bike share and electric scooters through the program.

However, nearly half of users of all modes of transport – public transport, bike sharing, electric scooters and taxis – also said they would stop using these modes altogether after using the money.

In the 2020 study, researchers at Portland State University asked 278 people about their use of the transportation wallet. They collected the data by distributing the survey at transportation fairs.

They also tracked the demographics of those who completed the survey and found the program had been effective in reaching low-income commuters and people of color.

About 41% of the participants were white, 24% were black, and 16% were Latinx. Another 8% were Asian and 6% were Native American.

And nearly three-quarters of survey participants earned an annual income of less than $ 15,000 per year.

“Any little help is really amazing for our residents,” said Jessica Lam, spokesperson for Hacienda CDC, one of the housing groups whose clients use the transportation wallet. “There are always challenges with anything that has limited funds, but it’s something that I look forward to seeing develop in the future. “

– Jayati Ramakrishnan; 503-221-4320; [email protected]; @JRamakrishnanOR