First Advisor

Seymour Adler

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies




Local transit -- Oregon -- Portland -- History, Transportation and state -- Oregon -- Portland -- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, xvii, 731 pages)


This dissertation is a case study of the history of urban transportation policy in Portland, Oregon, between 1872 and 1970. The emphasis is on mass transit policy formulated and implemented by the private and public sectors as response to crises within both the local transit industry and the urban political economy. These crises are placed in the context of the continuing conflict between the industry's right to profit and its obligation to meet the competing demands of its constituencies: ridership's demands for low fares and comprehensive service; labor's demands for competitive wages; downtown businesses' demands for peak-hour service; and the regulatory demands imposed by the city and state. The development of Portland's mass transit policy is presented within the larger context of urban transportation policy and planning in general and is compared with the experiences of other cities throughout the country.

This study concludes the primary crises that defined urban transportation policy in Portland can be divided into two types. Those that existed during the period of private ownership arose from the conflicting demands of the various actors in the transportation policy process. There were also those crises that arose just prior to and during the transition to public ownership: in addition to the traditional conflicts that had been present--labor, ridership, the city--there were new elements of conflict between the central city and the growing suburbs.

This study also concludes that the decline of transit began in 1919 and that the roots of this decline lie in the structure of the industry, its place in the local political economy, and in its inherently antagonistic relationship with the city. While the use of the automobile, suburbanization, and highway development were all significant factors in accelerating transit's decline, they alone do not explain transit's decline.

Finally, this study concludes that in the Portland case, it was a combination of several factors that worked together to facilitate the implementation of public ownership and operation of transit in Portland, including growing concern about the weakening economic strength of the central city and the availability of new sources of implementation funding.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).


If you are the rightful copyright holder of this dissertation or thesis and wish to have it removed from the Open Access Collection, please submit a request to and include clear identification of the work, preferably with URL

Persistent Identifier