Defining and Measuring Equitable Access to Washington Park in Portland, Oregon

Lisa Patterson, Portland State University



Photo by Brink Communications

Explore Washington Park (EWP) is a 501c3 non-profit that serves as the Transportation Management Association for Washington Park. At 410 acres, Washington Park receives over 3 million visitors each year and is home to some of Portland’s most popular attractions including the International Rose Test Garden, Portland Japanese Garden, Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum, World Forestry, and Hoyt Arboretum. EWP, in partnership with Portland Parks & Recreation, provides transportation management and guest services to the park and its cultural institutions with the goal of decreasing the number of vehicle trips to the park. Since beginning its work in 2014, transit ridership to the park has increased 66% and private vehicle trips have decreased 22%. EWP manages a free shuttle system that links the overflow parking and TriMet MAX station to all of the park’s cultural institutions. In addition to the shuttle system, Explore Washington Park provides park information through a robust website and park brochure, and on-site customer service staff. EWP is almost entirely funded from Washington Park parking meter funds through a contract with Portland Parks & Recreation.

The EWP board adopted a Transportation Management Plan in 2016 that outlines five, fiveyear targets. These include decreasing private vehicle trips to the park, increasing shuttle ridership, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from cars driving around the park, increasing user satisfaction, and increasing the number of park visitors from underserved populations. Since 2014, EWP has conducted intercept surveys each August that provide robust data to track the progress of our targets. However, the organization has struggled to track the number of visitors from underserved populations coming to the park.

The Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State University (PSU) partnered with Explore Washington Park (EWP) to better understand how to meets the needs of underserved populations. The research project consisted of four main parts: (1) creating an equity definition to guide EWP and TMP implementation; (2) analyzing data of park visitations to assess progress of the Transportation Management Plan goals; (3) suggesting methodology adjustments and options for improving data collection to support equity and transportation analysis; and, (4) providing recommendations for how to increase visitations to Washington Park by underserved populations. While we recognize there are multiple dimensions that delineate underserved groups, the analysis in this report focuses mainly on race and ethnicity, since income and other visitor attributes were not available in the intercept survey data, a key component of our analysis.

To accomplish this work, we gathered information from the EWP institutions about their existing equity efforts, including equity related definitions, programmatic activities, and relevant data. We also incorporated region-wide data on race, income, and transit service to better understand how current visitors reflect Portland area populations of interest and whether and where transit access might present either a barrier or opportunity for increased visitorship

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
June 30,2019
UTC Grant Cycle:
non-UTC project
UTC Funding: