Suburban Black Poverty in East Portland: The Role of Transportation in Making Ends Meet

Steven Howland, Portland State University


Transportation choices among the poor are often monetarily and geographically determined (Krizek & El-Geneidy, 2007). Low-income households must weigh the costs and benefits of modes and the tradeoffs they make by choosing one mode over another (Blumenberg & Pierce, 2012). Non-driving transportation alternatives are often much more limited in suburban neighborhoods thus limiting options to the suburban poor (Kneebone & Berube, 2013). Additionally, as gentrification takes hold in low-income minority neighborhoods, the dispersal of population can also segment social networks further limiting transportation choices. 
Portland’s gentrifying Albina neighborhood and the low-income Black population in East Portland are the focus of study concerning how these populations make transportation choices, what tradeoffs they make in the process, and how gentrification has impacted their choices as well as their social network. By interviewing 30 total residents from low-income Black households split between Albina, defined by historical geographic boundaries (Gibson, 2007), and East Portland, defined as east of 82nd Ave to the Gresham border, this dissertation will investigate how those populations use transportation to make ends meet with the goal of influencing city land-use, housing, and transportation policy and the direction of non-profit and advocacy agency resources.


The results from this study are anticipated to be able to supplement knowledge of a critically underrepresented population group in current transportation data, at least in Portland. By using interviews to capture rich data from low-income Black populations, we can get a better idea of where they are trying to go, why they are going to these places, and how racially impactful demographic changes in the region (gentrification) may factor into their decisions and options. At the same time, this study will help us better understand their transportation decision making, the issues they face in the modes that they use, and why they do not use particular modes or services. While some results are anticipated to have commonality with other demographic groups as we currently understand them, the race specific issues that come up from this study serve to benefit planners and policy makers in making transportation systems and decisions in a more equitable manner.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
In Progress
End Date:
November 30,2017
UTC Grant Cycle:
Natl Dissertation Fellowship Fall '16
UTC Funding:

Other Products

  • Divided Neighborhoods: Gentrification and Transportation among Portland's Low-income Black Households (PRESENTATION)