Transportation on the Cheap

A common criticism of Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) is that it drives up housing costs. While I believe there is ample evidence that housing costs have risen even more dramatically in many sprawling regions, a new report offers evidence that Portland’s compact urban form generates an economic benefit in reduced transportation costs.

Driven to Spend: Pumping Dollars out of Our Households and Communities, released this month by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the Surface Transportation Policy Project, puts Portland at position 27 on the list of the country’s 28 major Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) for cost of transportation (Baltimore edged us out for the lowest cost). The national average is 19.1% of household expenditures spent on transportation, while here in Portland we come in at 15.1%. Houston is most expensive at 20.9%.

On the housing side of the ledger, the Portland MSA spends 34.5% of household expenditures (12 MSAs are more expensive), against a national average of 32.9%. Looking at housing and transportation combined, we are the fourth most affordable, at 49.6% of household expenditures (national average, 52.0%).

Among the key findings of the report: “Households in regions that have invested in public transportation reap financial benefits from having affordable transportation options, even as gasoline prices rise.”

I’ll cringe a little bit less as I pay my Trimet fare come September.

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