Portland plans new development fee structure based on people instead of cars

By Robbie Webber

For 20 years, Portland, OR, has assessed Transportation System Development Charges (TSDC) on developments based on the presumed new trips that each project would generate. In December, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution allowing the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) to use a new methodology for assessing the fees based on person trips instead of car trips.

Previously, PBOT based the TSDC on the Institute of Transportation Engineers Trip Generation Manual. However, Portland has an extremely high mode split for walking, biking, and transit, and PBOT felt that the ITE manual was not properly reflecting the reality of how trips were made in the city.

The fees collected partially fund transportation projects that address transportation needs directly related to new development and they cannot be used for projects that fix existing transportation problems. The new methodology will allow PBOT to be more flexible in which projects they funded, and the new TSDC list that will be updated in early 2017 will reflect these new priorities.

The TSDC project list is updated every 10 years, and PBOT undertakes an extensive public participation process to gather input on what projects are needed and how the funds should be allocated. The new methodology will allow more projects to be funded.

Final fees, how they will be assessed, and how projects will be added to the TSDC list are expected by mid-2017. However, as one blog commenter asked, “Will we plan and assess fees for the mode share we have, the mode share we expect in five years, or the mode share we want?”

Robbie Webber is a Senior Associate at SSTI.