Planning Ahead for Livable Communities Along the Powell-Division BRT: Neighborhood Conditions and Change

Lisa Bates, Portland State University



New transit investments can be a double-edged sword for disadvantaged communities (e.g. those included in environmental justice and Title VI potected classes). Transit investments improve community’s mobility and access and may improve health with reduced driving nearby. However, there is also the potential for transit-oriented development to spur gentrification and displacement if affordable housing is lost. 

Understanding transit corridor conditions and change with new infrastructure is important for learning how to mitigate negative effects and support inclusive communities with access to transit for lower-income households. The planning of a new Bus Rapid Transit line along the Powell-Division corridor in Portland-Gresham provides an opportunity to understand neighborhood impacts of transit investment and evaluate programs designed to preserve and create affordable housing; include residents in economic development on the corridor; and to build livable communities in an underserved area of the region. This project is a research partnership between Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning faculty and the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to evaluate current conditions and potential for impacts of TOD, and to build a long term program of assessment of neighborhood change and program evaluation as the City pilots new approaches to equitable TOD. The first phase will document the potential costs to communities if an integrated approach to livable communities were not taken, by assessing the risk of housing loss and displacement. DOT priorities supported are developing, evaluation, and disseminating coordinated approach to livable communities that includes housing and transportation. This work will speak to the scholarly debates about gentrification and public infrastructure investment; and will be presented to practitioner audiences through venues such as New Partners for Smart Growth, PolicyLink thinktank, and other learning opportunities for professionals.


Our interaction with stakeholders in the planning process has already had some impact on the project. We have been fielding questions about displacement risk and transportation needs and patterns in the corridor. Our research outcomes will illustrate both the potential problems and risks from transit investments in an area of precarious housing tenure, alongside illustrating potential solutions through targeted investments in property and negotiations with property owners and landlords. Our research will also link station area planning for BRT to help develop housing preservation programs and to consider transportation needs, both transit and pedestrian, for those living near stations or along the line. We expect the work to stand as an example of socially engaged transit investment planning more explicitly linked to housing needs and supply. As the Powell-Division transit line project itself has been evolving (and some components abandoned entirely), this work has become important to the upcoming plan for the Southwest Corridor light rail extension. It is providing a model for data analysis and research for program development that can be extended to the new project. Therefore we are focused on finding robust metrics and analytical tools that can be used by practitioners in many contexts.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
December 31,2016
UTC Grant Cycle:
Natl Round 2
UTC Funding:

Other Products

  • Stemming the Tide of Transit-Oriented Displacement: Innovative Analysis, Policy, and Funding (PRESENTATION)