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Study: New Urbanist Residents 'Walk the Walk'
HILLSBORO, OR - Will Americans be happy in walkable, transit-oriented communities as an alternative to suburban sprawl? A new study by Dr. Bruce Podobnik, a sociology professor at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., suggests the answer is yes.
Dr. Podobnik studied the residents of Orenco Station, a New Urbanist community on Portland's Westside MAX light rail line. Residents were asked a variety of questions about life in the community, some five years after its founding. Ninety-four percent of residents said that they now find the New Urbanist design of Orenco Station superior to typical suburban communities, even though its homes cost up to 30% more than comparable homes. 90% reported being "very pleased" with the design of the community.
Residents were asked to name up to three things they liked and didn't like about the community. Residents said they liked the "overall design" (13%), greenspaces and parks (12%), Town Center (10%), garages on alleys (9%), pedestrian-friendly streets (6%), and access to light rail (5%). Features residents didn't like included "none" (20%), "dog problems" (11%), and "traffic problems outside Orenco" (8%).
As for transit use, 22% of the residents reported using light rail or the bus to commute to work or school - far higher than the 5% average for the region. Sixty-nine percent of Orenco Station residents reported that they use public transit more often than they did in their previous community.
G.B. Arrington, a public transit expert with Parsons Brinckerhoff, is quick to point out that these numbers are "totally off the charts for conventional suburban development." Arrington notes that "the fact that many residents can walk or take very short trips is very significant."
Podobnik believes the Town Center is an important part of the community's success. He notes that 70% of residents say they shop in the Town Center's grocery store or other businesses at least once a week.
Orenco Station's tree-lined streets and public spaces also seem to facilitate social interaction among neighbors. Seventy-eight percent of residents state that there is a higher sense of community than in their previous neighborhood, and 40% reported participating in neighborhood activities.
"Overall," concludes Podobnik, "this study clearly demonstrates that New Urbanist designs can play an important role in improving the quality of life and sustainability of neighborhoods in Portland and elsewhere." As a demonstration of the growing success of New Urbanism, says Podobnik, Orenco Station "stands as a promising beacon for advocates of dense rather than sprawling urban landscapes."
Related Link: Link to the full study by Dr. Bruce Podobnik
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