Active Transportation Return on Investment Study

Jennifer Dill, Portland State University



The Active Transportation Return on Investment (ATROI) study aimed to provide a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the benefits of active transportation infrastructure in the Portland, OR region. The study used a selection of projects constructed in the region between 2001 and 2017 to evaluate impacts, with a focus on economic impacts, broadly defined. Two types of projects are included. 2040 catalyst projects retrofitted busy commercial streets with pedestrian friendly treatments aimed at catalyzing economic development. Longer gap-filling projects completed key routes within the regional bicycling network with the potential to increase the bicycle mode share. 

The project had three main tasks:

1. A technical analysis of 2040 catalyst projects provided quantitative estimates the economic impacts of the catalyst projects, including such things as jobs, sales, and property values. The PSU research team did this task. The findings are in a technical report shared here.

2. A technical analysis of longer gap-filling bikeways provided quantitative estimates the benefits of these projects to users, including travel time savings and health benefits. This task was conducted by staff at Metro. 

3. A qualitative assessment aimed to supplement the quantitative analysis of Tasks 1 and 2 with qualitative information that helps tell the story of each project. The PSU collected the qualitative data for this task. Metro is working with a consultant to use these data to produce a public report on the findings, expected in early 2022. 

Task 1 focused on one set of potential economic benefits – impacts on business activity near the improvements. The analysis used 12 projects in the Portland region. Nearly all of the projects focused primarily on pedestrian improvements. A few projects also included new or restriped bike lanes, sharrows, and/or bike parking. Given the types of improvements and the existing research, our analysis focused on the types of business activity we expected to be most affected by improved access for people on foot and bicycle: retail and food (e.g., restaurants, cafes, bars). 

We used three different analytical methods (aggregated trend, difference-in-difference, and interrupted time series) and three data sources (Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, and National Establishment Time-Series) to examine outcomes of employment, wages and sales revenue. 

Overall, we found positive effects for the retail and/or food sectors in nine of the 12 study areas. We found positive effects for projects located in different parts of the region, i.e., the potential economic benefits are not just in more urban parts of the city of Portland. We also found positive effects for different scales of projects.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
February 28,2021
UTC Grant Cycle:
non-UTC project