Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Urbanization -- United States, Cities and towns -- Growth, City planning -- Oregon -- Portland, Street railroads -- Effect on urban development

Physical Description

13 pages


The New Urbanist, or Neotraditional, movement that has characterized urban planning since the beginning of the 1990s has a vision of how people should live, work, and travel in a manner that, planners believe, will be "best" for society and for the environment. At the core of this vision is the notion that a return to the high densities, architectural form, and lifestyle of the period prior to World War II will result in a better society. A question that is ignored by the neotraditional proposals is the extent to which changing technologies might make calls for higher densities obsolete. As both communications and transportation technologies improve, how significant might the costs of sprawl really turn out to be?

Portland is an example of an area where most local planners have embraced the neotraditional planning concept. One of the primary components of transit-oriented development, light rail transit (LRT), has been in place long enough to provide data for analysis. Because LRT is often held up by neotraditional planners as a crucial element in decreasing auto use and in encouraging high-density development, this paper examines the extent to which LRT in the Portland region has affected mode share and multifamily development. The empirical analysis provides evidence that light rail alone has not been sufficient to change development patterns and transit modal behavior appreciably.

The challenge to planners is to assess development trends and consumer preferences, as well as the implications of how new spatial technologies might impact trends and preferences. This assessment will provide the basis for estimating market shares for dispersed and concentrated development forms.


Catalog Number DP96-6.

A product of the Center for Urban Studies, College of Urban and Public Affairs, Portland State University.

Persistent Identifier