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Transportation -- Planning, Sustainable urban development, City planning, Urbanization


The Portland Smart Cities UB Mobile PDX proposal focuses strongly on developing mobility solutions that would serve traditionally underserved populations (low-income, communities of color, and residents with mobility challenges). As the proposal now moves into a plan, this project explores and assesses the transportation challenges in traditionally underserved communities and explores how smart mobility solutions embedded in Mobile PDX can best be crafted to meet the needs of low-income and traditionally underserved residents in Portland, OR, focusing especially on East Portland. This project assists in that effort by developing a community-based needs assessment involving an analysis of existing data sets, along with original survey work and focus group discussions with community members. Specifically, this project explores the following research questions: 1. How can smart mobility technologies address the current and future needs of transportation disadvantaged communities? 2. What are the barriers to using smart mobility technologies experienced by different communities? 3. What potential solutions show the most promise in overcoming these barriers? This research found that low-income survey respondents and respondents of color were more likely to own a smartphone than their counterparts, and are more regular users of currently available smart mobility tools such as smartphone applications for accessing public transportation and ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft. By lowering costs and improving service for public transit, ridesharing and active transportation, smart mobility technologies could potentially address many of the transportation needs of transportation disadvantaged communities. Significant barriers exist which prevent smart mobility technologies from benefiting all communities. For example, lower-income survey respondents and respondents of color had significantly lower access to drivers’ licenses, bank accounts and credit cards and also rely more heavily on paying cash on board for TriMet tickets. Furthermore, older survey respondents and many focus group participants were resistant to connecting personal financial information to phone and internet-based mobility applications. As many low-income households are already in precarious financial situations, identity theft or losing funds from smart mobility applications could have devastating impacts, so this reluctance to share personal information should not be overlooked. Finally, lower-income respondents and respondents of color had lower access to the internet both at home and at work, and were more likely to need to reduce data use or cancel cell phone plans because of cost or data restrictions. Popular recommendations from the surveys and focus groups to address disparities included the following: (1) improve public transportation information, scheduling and route finding through smartphone applications; (2) improve public data access (such as through public Wi-Fi); (3) implement policies to lower barriers to purchasing or using electric vehicles; and (4) expand translation for important smart mobility applications into languages other than English.


This is a final report, NITC-RR-1163 from the NITC program of TREC at Portland State University, and can be found online at:

The Project Brief associated with this research can be found at:



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