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The City of Portland, Oregon

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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Pricing for Equitable Mobility

Congestion is hurting our health, our economy, and our climate

Moving to Our Future: Meeting our core goals

Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility is a key strategy identified in Moving to Our Future, PBOT's 2019-2022 strategic plan.

This project will advance PBOT’s goals around moving people and goods by helping make the most efficient use of our limited road space and providing transportation options for a growing city.

This project will also advance our commitment to transportation justice.

As with all the work we do, PBOT will ask two fundamental questions throughout this process:

  • Will it advance equity and address structural racism?
  • Will it reduce carbon emissions?

Portland’s traffic congestion is growing. This is more than just frustrating—it’s costing our economy millions of dollars, hurting our health, accelerating the climate crisis, and impacting the most vulnerable among us. Our city is growing fast, with around 500,000 new residents expected to live here by 2040. While we’re taking many steps to improve our transportation system and plan for this growth, projections show current strategies and planned transportation investments won’t be enough. We need to get smarter about how we use and manage our transportation infrastructure. 

What is “equitable mobility”?

Mobility is freedom of movement, the ease with which people can get where they need to go, and businesses can move goods through our city. A transportation system with equitable mobility provides the same opportunity for everyone to move around reliably and sustainably in ways that meet their needs.

Right now, Portland’s transportation system isn’t equitable. Marginalized and underrepresented communities face barriers that impact their mobility and access—due to gentrification, displacement, historic underinvestment, and a transportation funding system based on regressive gas taxes. Over time, these burdens and the costs associated with them have unfairly impacted specific communities. Through efforts like the Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility project, we are aiming to make sure our transportation system works for everyone.

Can “pricing” help advance equitable mobility?

Cities around the world are already experimenting with ways to “price” congestion, inequities, and the impact to the climate. “Pricing” actually describes a wide range of strategies such as tolling or variable parking prices. In places like London and Stockholm, pricing helps encourage people to drive less, drive at different times, carpool, take transit, walk, bike, or consider other options. In the U.S., New York City, Seattle, and San Francisco are all implementing or considering pricing strategies.

The truth is, we can’t build our way out of congestion. Studies show that simply adding more space on the roads for cars only leads to worse traffic. However, by using pricing strategies designed for our local context, we can bring efficiency to our roadways to the benefit of us all.

Here in Portland, we already put a price on many things in our transportation system based on their availability, value, and impact. Parking spaces are just one example. What we call “Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility” is referred to as “congestion pricing” or “mobility pricing” in other cities. PBOT’s goal for Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility is to be more strategic in how we price parts of our transportation system as well as how we invest that money in improvements that will reduce traffic, advance equity, and make the system more sustainable long-term.

Pricing strategies we may explore through this project include (but are not limited to):

  • Prices on parking
  • Fees based on a geographic area or certain times of day
  • Tolls on freeways or other roads
  • Fees based on specific types of trips (such as private-for-hire rides)
  • The creation of congestion zones or cordons drawn around a specific area
  • Fees based on vehicle miles traveled or other measures of road use

Identifying solutions that work for Portland

Pricing is not a tool to be used alone. Rather, it should be incorporated into a wide range of strategies that will build the facilities, create the services, and provide the information Portlanders need to get where they need to go by every mode. For the next two years, PBOT will continue to research and talk to the community about how pricing could help make our transportation system work for everyone.

Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility is one strategy the City is moving forward with support through the American Cities Climate Challenge.

Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility - Community Task Force

This fall, PBOT will convene a community task force to advise Portland on the design of potential pricing strategies as well as priorities for any revenue generated through pricing. This task force will meet monthly and represent diverse perspectives, interests and expertise from across our community. Recruitment for the task force closed on October 9. More information about the task force and upcoming meetings will be published here as it is available.

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