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Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

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Manage City Assets

PBOT is the city’s designated steward of the right-of-way. Approximately one-fifth of the land area of Portland is held in the public rights-of-way. This includes not only the improved and unimproved streets, but sidewalks, alleys, and other public ways. This is a tremendous amount of real estate that shapes both the function and image of the city. 

Streets make our neighborhoods distinct, whether it be the streets of Ladd’s Addition or the high speed arterials in East Portland. These rights-of-way also generate substantial value to the city and private land owners alike, but only if they are managed effectively.

There are many competing demands for space on, and under, our public rights-of-way. Our streets must accommodate utilities, trees, stormwater, parking, and placemaking while ensuring the efficient movement of people and goods on buses, bikes and trucks, in cars, and on foot. In addition to moving people, streets are also a place for people to gather, visit, and celebrate. Five times a year we transform our streets into Sunday Parkways. Our newly created “street seat” program creates mini-parks and seating in the public space to further enhance streets as places.

All of this requires management, oversight, clear processes, and clear priorities. Efficient management of the right-of-way, through public space permitting and curbside management, can help reduce congestion, improve access, and protect the quality of our natural and built environment and street assets. Meeting both the operational and financial needs of our transportation system will require enhanced public space management and continued analysis of this shared resource.

While PBOT is the steward of this resource, they share the use with many other divisions of the city, public agencies, transportation providers, and a diverse set of private stakeholders who value it for access and commerce. As with so many actions, PBOT alone cannot manage all aspects of the right-of-way. We must work with partner agencies to develop and adopt priorities, encourage placemaking, enhance operations, improve maintenance, and manage our right-of-way resources well.

We have set three goals to help us manage city assets:

  • Prioritize Right-of-Way Uses Through Clear Decision-Making: Right-of-way space is limited. It is a resource that is not growing, despite the growing demands placed upon it. We need to make the most of the street space we have. We need to optimize the allocation of the right-of-way to enable the most use by the most number of users to the highest purpose and greatest efficiency. This requires a thorough knowledge of what is in and under the right-of-way and potential conflicts and limitations.
  • Make the Most of Street Space: Many modes and uses vie for use of the right-of-way and priority in street operations. The same streets may be identified as necessary freight corridors, priority transit routes, and future bicycle facilities. At the same time, they may be targeted for special maintenance treatments or stormwater management features. Often there is no clear framework for decision-making or prioritization among these and other competing demands.
  • Make Streets Community Places: Streets are shared spaces and community places. We build relationships with friends and neighbors on porches and sidewalks. We take in the energy of the city at fairs and festivals. The image of the street is often our strongest memory of a place and gives us a connection to the culture of that community.