(Dec. 27, 2018) Do you know someone moving to Portland in the new year? Make sure they know about the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s (PBOT) SmartTrips program, which helps Portlanders find their way around the city by walking, biking and taking transit to get where they want to go.
Entering its 15th year, SmartTrips is a PBOT program aimed at new movers with the goal of encouraging people to walk, bike or take transit either for their commute or for those shorter trips to take care of daily needs – such as a trip to the grocery store or neighborhood coffee shop. Getting more Portlanders to rethink how they use the automobile and consider the benefits of active transportation not only reduces some of the pressures on our transportation system, it can help lead to a healthier Portland as well.
With nearly 140,000 new households expected in our city in the next 25 years, growing traffic congestion and increased demands on our transportation system will continue to be a frustrating fact of life. While the region will continue to invest in a transportation system to help Portlanders get to where they need to go, it will take all of us working together to create a better Portland.
Portland was the first North American city to pilot the concept of using individualized marketing to get people to bike, walk, and take transit. Used extensively in the public health field, individualized social marketing is an approach that aims to change people’s behavior for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole.
How does SmartTrips work? Using direct mail, recent Portland movers receive newsletters about transportation options and an invitation to order incentives, maps and information about walking, biking and transit options in their new neighborhood. Participants get to choose what information they find to be most useful to them.
SmartTrips served nearly 50,000 new mover households in 2018, up from nearly 40,000 households in 2017. Ten percent of our new mover households chose to take up our offer and order customized packets of materials that PBOT delivers by bike right to their doorstep. Like the welcome wagon of old, bicycle delivery is both cost effective given the volume of orders, while also allowing our staff to interact with program participants in-person and provide a human touch. In 2018, PBOT staff members biked a combined total of approximately 4,300 miles to deliver more than 5,000 custom-packed orders. No wonder that they are experts in the best ways to navigate the city by bicycle.The 2018 SmartTrips order form for new movers in Portland.
Does SmartTrips work? Surveys show that our new mover participants specifically are taking active trips to work six percent more since moving to their new address and experiencing the program, and they are using active modes for neighborhood trips 18 percent more. Portland is one of a few cities that offer this service to new movers and do it almost year-round (February to December). Thanks to the generous support of Metro, we are looking forward to welcoming another batch of new movers to Portland in 2019 and showing them all the great ways to travel around our wonderful city.
Portland Bureau of Transportation staff deliver SmartTrips packages by bicycle to new movers in Portland from February through December. Photo by the Portland Bureau of Transportation.
Do you already walk, bike or take transit in Portland? Talk to your neighbors about what transportation options you love best, or consider becoming an Active Transportation Ambassador in 2019. If you have new neighbors, encourage them to order transportation materials at www.portlandsmarttrips.org.