Framing Livability: A Strategic Communications Approach to Improving Public Transportation in Oregon

Deborah Morrison, University of Oregon



Oregon is recognized as a national leader in improving transportation options and limiting urban sprawl. In the 42 years since Senate Bill 100 launched Oregon's land use planning program, these efforts have gone by different names: "reducing reliance on the automobile," "reducing vehicles miles traveled," "reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation," "compact, mixed-use, transit-oriented development," "smart growth," "sustainability," and "livability," to name a few. Despite these varying approaches to simply communicating the benefits of public transportation, there remain vast misperceptions of these efforts. We must better understand public perceptions in order to shift attitudes toward public transportation and, ultimately, change public behavior. 

Livability of place is a central theme in developing concepts about transit ridership. In order to develop strategy for a compelling public communication campaign to increase transit ridership, this project frames the connections between livability and transit and offers a set of public campaign examples. A national survey taken of riders provides possible message strategies. With this information, a creative strategy team was tasked with developing a strategy for messaging and developed the Green Rider profile. Recommendations for creative direction and further study are offered.


Taking a focused approach to strategic communications should yield meaningful insights and promising outcomes for the Powell-Division project, and the lessons learned can be carried forward as a model for livability focused transportation projects in other metropolitan areas throughout the country.

04.02.2018 This research and project could change practice by making transit public campaigns more strategic and more focused on particular audience segmentations. It also underscores the importance of audience engagement.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
June 30,2017
UTC Grant Cycle:
Natl Round 2
UTC Funding: