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Full steam ahead for Powell-Division Transit and Development Project

Thousands of Portlanders will benefit from a new type of transit service — bus rapid transit (BRT) — in the Powell-Division Corridor.

If you've ever taken or tried to take the #4 or #9 bus during rush hour, you know buses are often standing room only. Worse, people waiting at bus stops on SE Powell watch as buses full to the brim fly by. Clearly, there is more demand for service than the transit system can meet.

The Powell-Division Transit and Development Project is designed to create a better experience and faster ride for the 18,000 people who ride transit on Powell Boulevard and Division Street every day to get to school, go to work or go shopping. The project is also intended to bring new development to Southeast Portland, East Portland and Gresham in five to seven years. It’s a multi-agency effort between Metro (lead agency), the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, TriMet, the City of Gresham, ODOT and Multnomah County.

Defining the route

In June 2015, the project steering committee recommended a general transit route that follows Powell Boulevard in Southeast Portland and outer Division Street from 82nd Ave to Gresham. The route crosses the Willamette River via the Tilikum Crossing (see map).


Parts of the route are still to be determined. The steering committee favored the one that crosses over from Powell to Division at 82nd Ave. They also recommended an alternative between 50th and52nd Avenues for further study during the design phase. Where the transit line ends in downtown Portland and Gresham is still undecided. These route options are being studied by consultants and project staff as Metro and partners continue to engage with the community about which of these options could best serve them. By Spring 2016, they will have honed in on a locally preferred alternative for the route.

Bus Rapid Transit

While the route is still being refined, there is consensus about the type of high-capacity transit for the corridor. During the planning process (Summer 2014), the Steering Committee deliberated on whether the new transit line should be light rail transit (LRT) or bus rapid transit (BRT). They considered the benefits and costs, impacts, timeframe for completion and public support for both. They advanced BRT as the more promising alternative because BRT requires less right-of-way, would have fewer impacts on residents and businesses during construction, could be built in 5 to 7 years instead of 15 to 20, and had greater overall public support.

For those unfamiliar with bus rapid transit, think of it as a cross between traditional bus service and light rail — or light rail rolling on rubber tires. Still a bus, it is typically much longer than a regular bus and incorporates elements of the light rail transit experience, such as:

  • BRT riders board and deboard the system the same as with light rail; all doors open at the same time and riders deboard and board from a station platform.
  • Riders purchase fares at station kiosks; they no longer pay when boarding the bus. This helps with BRT’s speed.
  • Along with limited stops, transit signal priority technologies, and maybe even dedicated lanes, BRT improves the speed, frequency, reliability, and overall transit experience.

Increasingly, BRT is becoming a popular transit choice across the country. More than 25 cities and counting have built a BRT line. In the Northwest, we can look to Seattle’s RapidRide; Everett, Washington’s Swift; and Eugene, Oregon’s EmX system. In other parts of the country, Cleveland’s “HealthLine” uses electric buses and arrives at stations as often as every 5 minutes. Chicago’s Ashland Ave BRT provides 20-minute commute access to thousands of jobs. And Los Angeles’ Orange Line BRT is one on the city’s busiest routes.

Local Action Plan identifies opportunity areas and community development actions

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, along with Portland Bureau of Transportation, Portland Development Commission and Portland Housing Bureau, has developed a “Local Action Plan” that complements the transit project. The action plan provides land use concepts for opportunity areas and community development actions that address equity issues in the corridor. The actions evolved from and reflect the community’s participation and continuous dialogue throughout the planning process. They focus on:

  • Continued community involvement in the design process.
  • Strategies for affordable housing preservation and development.
  • Workforce and economic development.
  • Improved tenant protections and multi-dwelling conditions.
  • Equity and anti-displacement strategies.
  • Ongoing research and monitoring.
  • Placemaking and urban design that reflects the community’s values.
  • High-quality transit service for current and future residents affected by this project.

Public hearing on Portland Local Action Plan

The Powell-Division Transit and Development Project Portland Local Action Plan will be presented to the Planning and Sustainability Commission on November 17, 2015. A public review draft will be released a few weeks in advance of the meeting. Visit the project website to review the action plan at:

For more information about the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project, go to Project partners hope to get to a “Locally Preferred Alternative” by Spring 2016.

Powell-Division Project wins public involvement award 

The Powell-Division Transit and Development Project recently received the International Association for Public Participation’s (IAP2) 2015 “Project of the Year” Award. The project was recognized for its conscious effort to make sure that equity was a part of the planning process from start to finish.

What the judges said:

  • Your planners very carefully selected the techniques that were most appropriate for each audience and their specific concerns.
  • The conscious role of “equity” as a value was impressive, even courageous. The concept of fairness is often of paramount importance to a stakeholder, yet extremely difficult to define and measure. You did it very well.
  • The intentional use of the IAP2 Spectrum — tying it to the process from the beginning rather than an afterthought — was well done.
  • The IAP2 Core Values were well integrated into the overall process and approach.
  • We recognize the level of effort that has gone into the involvement of the public throughout a long planning process. The next challenge, of course, is to continue their involvement during the much longer design and implementation phases. The fact that the Powell-Division is being seen as a model for several regional initiatives and community decision-makers have agreed to continue their role through the design phase is further evidence of your success.

For more information, please visit

Join Portland businesses leading the way on climate action

Visit to see which businesses have taken the challenge.

Mayor Charlie Hales challenges Portland businesses to take action on climate change. To join the fight, commit to implement at least two of these actions by Earth Day 2016:

  1. Meet at least 50 percent of business electricity needs from renewable sources.
  2. Install LED bulbs in all lights that are on for extended periods.
  3. Provide incentives to employees to commute by transit, carpool, bicycle or on foot.
  4. Power at least 20 percent of company vehicles by electricity or low-carbon fuels.
  5. Provide at least one on-site EV charging station for employees.
  6. Participate in food-scrap collection.

Thank you to Elephants Delicatessen, Pacific Continental Bank, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Indow, Trillium Asset Management, CH2M Hill, Widmer Brothers Brewing and Moda Health for kicking off the challenge!

Sign on to the challenge and see all participating businesses at

Apply for the Portland Off-road Cycling Master Plan Project Advisory Committee

Committee members will advise City staff on new citywide plan for off-road cycling trails and facilities.

The Portland Off-road Cycling Master Plan will provide a citywide vision and plan for a system of off-road cycling trails and facilities where kids, adults and families can ride for fun, exercise and to experience nature in the city. It will make recommendations for the future improvement and management of these trails and facilities, based on community needs and input, site opportunities and constraints, and best practices in design, development and management.

In addition to a broad community outreach and engagement process, the project will be guided by a project advisory committee made up of community representatives, including trail and park users and Portlanders with interests, skills, knowledge and expertise in the areas of off-road cycling, environmental stewardship, trail design or management, outdoor recreation, business, tourism and health. The City is particularly interested in including committee members who might be able to contribute perspectives or experiences from historically under-represented or under-served communities, such as communities of color, Portlanders with limited-English proficiency, low-income residents, youth and people with disabilities.

Committee meetings will be held approximately once a month on weekday evenings. Specific meeting dates and times will be selected based on committee member availability. Translation, accommodations and childcare will be provided with advance notice.

To apply, complete the Statement of Interest no later than Monday, November 16, 2015 at 5 p.m.

Sign up for email updates to stay up-to-date on the Off-road Cycling Master Plan project.

BPS hosts free energy performance reporting information sessions for owners and managers of large commercial buildings

Energy Performance Reporting Policy team completes administrative rules process and hosts a free introduction to the new policy and ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager.

Update 13 NOV 2015: *SOLD OUT* The information sessions are sold out, however, seats in the office hours session are still available.. Please e-mail to be placed on a wait list for the information sessions. Please indicate if you would like Tuesday, November 17 1:30– 4 PM OR Information session 2 Wednesday, November 18 9 – 11:30 AM OR either.

BPS has finalized administrative rules to implement the Commercial Building Energy Performance Reporting Policy. Visit to view the new rules.

The administrative rules provide detailed compliance requirements for commercial buildings over 20,000 square feet to:

  • Track energy use with the ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager web tool, and
  • Report energy performance information annually to the City of Portland.

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is an interactive resource management tool developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that enables tracking and assessment of energy use across an entire portfolio of buildings – all in a secure online environment.

More importantly, it can help implement an energy management program, from setting a baseline to setting goals and tracking improvements. It’s also the tool for getting nationally recognized as an ENERGY STAR certified building by EPA.

Want to learn more?

Join us in November for a FREE information session to:

  • Hear about the City’s new requirement for office buildings, retail spaces, grocery stores and hotels over 20,000 square feet.
  • Meet staff from local utilities that can help you access energy data.
  • Connect with the Energy Trust of Oregon to find ways to save money on energy bills and improve your building’s performance.
  • Learn from EPA experts about ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager web tool.

Choose from one of two identical sessions:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015 from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m

 — or—

  • Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015 from  9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Want to go deeper? Bring your questions and a computer to go in-depth with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager experts during an “office hours” session on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015 from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

All sessions will be held at the Doubletree Hilton Portland, 1000 NE Multnomah St. in Portland. Light refreshments will be served, and there will be prize drawings at each session!

Visit to read more and register for the November event. 

From BPS Director Susan Anderson: What if every city recycled like Portland?

A response to The New York Times' "The Reign of Recycling" opinion piece by John Tierney.

You may have seen a recent opinion piece in the Sunday New York Times entitled, “The Reign of Recycling.” The author, John Tierney, suggests that the cost of recycling is too high and not worth the environmental benefits. While it’s true that global prices for scrap paper currently are very low, and recycling isn’t the financial slam-dunk that it was a few years ago – it still makes great economic sense!

Here in Portland, it still costs much less to collect and recycle paper, metal, other recyclables, food scraps and yard waste than it does to truck them to the landfill and pay to bury them in the ground. And that’s just the financial calculation – it doesn’t include the environmental benefits.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that current levels of recycling in the U.S. offset emissions equal to the carbon pollution from 39 million cars. (That’s about 15 percent of the total cars on the road.)

But what if every city in the U.S. recycled as much as Portland does?

The average city in the U.S. recycles about 34 percent of its waste, but here in Portland, we recycle more than twice that amount. So if everyone recycled the Portland Way, we’d cut carbon emissions equal to the pollution from nearly 80 million cars.

And just what is the Portland Way?

Well, by 2030 we plan to:

  • Recover/recycle at least 90 percent of all waste generated.
  • Reduce food scraps sent to landfills by 90 percent.
  • Help reduce the carbon and energy-intensity of products used in business supply chains.
  • Reduce emissions by helping residents consume smarter – (e.g. products that are more durable and use less energy).

The New York Times was right when it said that recycling is just one part of taking action on climate change, but those actions do add up. And imagine how much more could be achieved, if the entire country recycled at the same rate as we do. Keep up the good work, Portland!


Susan Anderson Signature

Susan Anderson, Director

City of Portland
Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

P.S. > Further reading: Many environmental organizations and advocates have published in-depth rebuttals to John Tierney’s piece. Here are a few worth checking out: