Taking Stock: What have we learned from our look-back of the past 30 years?

The Washington County Transportation Futures Study team reviewed key planning influences—from the 1970’s to current times—that reflect the county’s planning history and what we know of the future. This “look back” shows that over the past 30 years, the county has changed and its transportation needs have also changed.

Community and Land Use

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  • The county has become more urban, with increased need for investment that supports a complete transportation system—one that provides for all modes.
  • Land use plans responded to changing community values and economic conditions by providing varied housing types and focusing new development into neighborhood and community centers and along major transportation corridors.
  • The county is has become much more ethnically diverse, and has seen an increase in income inequality. This fact combined with an overall aging population has created an increased demand for affordable and accessible transportation options.
  • The number of people living and working in the county and the region grew much faster than predicted as the economy changed.

Travel and Transportation

  • Our travel patterns have changed in ways we did not predict. We saw an increase in reverse commutes as jobs in Hillsboro and Beaverton increased, and an increase in north-south travel as the southern part of the county grew and travel increased to Clackamas County. About half of employees that work in the county live in the county.
  • We found that our urban roads are pressed to meet multiple demands—local and long distance trips, commercial, residential, pedestrian and bike trips—creating conflicts.
  • The rural areas have changed too–adjusting agricultural products and shipping to respond to regional, national and international markets. Conflicts on rural roads have increased as these roads serve a strong agricultural community and commuter/recreational demands.
  • We have also increasingly learned about the connection between transportation, our built environment and health–from air quality and environmental quality to chronic disease.
  • Recent planning efforts have emphasized expanding transportation choice and reducing vehicle travel demand. Vehicle miles traveled per capita grew in the 1990s, but then fell. The current lower VMT per capita rate reflects growth in active and multi-modal transportation options.
  • We’re measuring transportation performance in a different way. In the past, traffic engineers and planners looked at volume and capacity. Over the last decade, we’ve begun looking at mobility, accessibility, and other performance measures.
  • Coordinated transportation financing between the County and cities has been a successful approach. For instance, the Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program (MSTIP) and Traffic Impact Fee are local dollars raised through property tax or developer contribution that fund transportation improvements. Nevertheless, there is not enough funding available to fund all needed transportation projects. Most transportation improvements in the County are funded by local—not federal—dollars.

Resources and more information

Community Values

The Taking Stock phase included an effort to understand community values around land use and transportation in Washington County. Learn about the community values process.