Portland Myths & The Economist’s Need for Fact Checking

Re: http://www.economist.com/world/united-states/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15911324

Re the article on Portland:

(1) Portland long ago exceeded Los Angeles in sprawl. According to the United States Bureau of the Census, the population density of the Portland urban area (agglomeration or area of continuous development) is one-half that of Los Angeles. Indeed, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth are almost as dense (See: http://demographia.com/db-ua2000pop.htm).

(2) The article makes the not usual mistake about mixing up the "city" or municipality and the larger urban area. The municipality, of which Mr. Adams is mayor, represents less than a declining 1/3 share of the urban area population. However, by neither definition is Portland the fastest growing in the west. As a municipality, Portland has trailed Phoenix, Las Vegas, Seattle, Sacramento, Tucson and others in population growth between 2000 and 2008. The latest data for the Portland metropolitan area (the labor market area, which includes the urban area) indicates that even between 2007 and 2008, Portland trailed a number of western metropolitan areas in Population growth.

Moreover, the article is clearly written from the perspective of Portland’s core (which is much smaller even than the city). In fact, a quick trip to the suburbs in the eastern part of the city, or to the suburbs that surround the city will show an urban landscape little different than in any other American urban area, except that it will generally be less compact than the suburbs of, say, Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, etc. The exception, of course, is the hyper dense new developments that are sandwiched into vacant lots and do nothing whatever to change the transportation dynamic of the area. Indeed, for all the "ease" with which transit can serve Portland, it is especially notable that the share of people using transit to get to work is smaller today than it was in 1980, before the area began spending billions in developing its light rail system.


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