Livability is a key focus of integrating transportation and land use planning throughout the United States, and the world. Livability is a concept that has been guiding U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) policy since 2009, focusing on six principles including: providing transportation choices, expanding housing location, improving economic competitiveness, improving existing communities, aligning federal policy, and enhancing unique characteristics of communities (USDOT, n.d.). In Oregon, the state’s long-range transportation plan (Oregon Transportation Plan) identifies “enhancing livability” as a key outcome. Efficiency and livability are cornerstones of Oregon’s Statewide Planning Program, which relies on urban growth boundaries to increase land use efficiency while conserving farm and forestland. The Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD), the state agency responsible for overseeing the statewide planning program, uses livability as a guiding principle. Livability is a core element of Statewide Planning Goal 14 (Urbanization) “…to ensure efficient use of land, and to provide for livable communities.” But, as researchers astutely summarized in a 1991 report, “livability is difficult to define, and once defined, to measure” (ECONorthwest, 1991).
While many government agencies at the federal and state level promote livability, little has been done to track and measure it. Oregon has established a policy framework in which land use and transportation decisions are integrated and sets goals for increasing land use efficiency and livability. Government and academic research, however, has not tackled citizen perceptions of how these planning efforts contribute to livability. We seek to fill this research need by exploring the question, “How do citizens understand the connection between transportation and land use planning, and its association with livability?”
The goal of this applied research project is to gain an understanding of how Oregonians in neighborhoods (as defined by ODOT Place Types) within MPOs outside of the Portland metropolitan region perceive livability at the individual, neighborhood and city scale. This study will add to the body of literature on citizen perceptions of livability by focusing on smaller communities outside of Portland – areas that have mostly been overlooked in previous studies. By conducting a targeted survey within selected MPOs across the state, we will gain an understanding of citizen perceptions of livability as it relates to transportation and land use planning. A recently constructed, statewide parcel database and spatial data on transportation investments will be overlaid with survey responses comparing citizen perceptions to existing neighborhoods. This information will provide valuable insight into how cities and state agencies justify investments in transportation infrastructure, which have longterm benefits of creating livable communities.