Better Block PSU: Unlock the Potential of Your Public Space in Oregon

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The Better Block PSU program at Portland State University (PSU) has opened the annual call for community organizations to reimagine their streets and underused public spaces in a way to bring people together and reclaim it for their community’s future. 

A partnership between the public spaces advocacy nonprofit Better Block PDX and the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at PSU, students in the Better Block PSU program have developed plans and designs for many community-driven projects that promote equitable placemaking, community building, and active transportation–including the well-known Better Naito project. What began as a PSU student-led initiative for safer and higher capacity bicycle and pedestrian facilities along the Waterfront Park, has gained so much public support that it was permanently implemented by the City of Portland.

Integrated into PSU planning and engineering classes, these projects can be powerful demonstrations of community-led ideas. “PSU students support community members with the technical aspects of infrastructure improvements–elevating and materializing their ideas by developing plans, designs, and engineering concepts. It’s a shift from the status quo with a ground-up approach, and their transportation expertise can help community members in navigating the permit process or proposing informed solutions to the city,” shared Hau Hagedorn, Associate Director of TREC.

The Better Block PSU program is working with current community partners in the final implementation stage of their projects, where demonstrations will take place in the summer of 2022:

  1. City of Independence Neighborhood Greenways will connect neighborhoods to parks, schools, and the downtown district through a low-stress walking and biking street network.
  2. Community Green Space for Parkrose will create a pedestrian and bicycle path to the Columbia Slough to increase access to green space in the Parkrose neighborhood and community knowledge of the Slough’s natural habitat. 
  3. Hood River Middle School Gateway will improve safety conditions for elementary students at Hood River Middle School who walk and bike to school.

Do you have an idea for a project that could help activate space for your community? Submit your proposals by March 14, 2022. Selected projects are eligible for grant funding up to $1,000. You can find the application and more information at

Portland State University is home to the Transportation Research and Education Center which leads the Better Block PSU program. Integrated into PSU planning and engineering classes, students support community members with the technical aspects of transportation improvements in Oregon. 

Better Block PDX is a local non profit dedicated to reimagining public spaces using temporary traffic control. Collaborating on the Better Block PSU program, they bring together community groups, public officials, and PSU students to test out new uses of our public right of ways.

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