There's no shortage of ways to get around the region these days — buses, light rail, bikes, ride-sharing, car-sharing and now the electric scooters that hit Portland streets in July.
To explore new ways these services might provide more equitable and better active and shared transportation options throughout the region, Metro is launching a one-time funding program.
The Partnerships and Innovative Learning Opportunities in Transportation program, or PILOT, launched this week and will provide $150,000 to local agencies and community groups partnering with private companies to test new transportation services or programs.
Possible projects could help meet the transportation needs of underserved communities, remove barriers to accessing new mobility services, provide new connections to transit stations, improve transit service or provide new shared or active transportation options.
Eliot Rose, Metro's senior technology strategist who has been leading the agency's efforts to plan for the impact of emerging transportation technologies, says he expects the program will be able to fund as many as three projects.
"We have all these services — Uber, Lyft, car-sharing, bike sharing, scooter-sharing — already operating and already investing in our region," Rose said. "We see this as working with those existing services to make them more responsive to our regional goals around improving transportation choices."
Eligible applicants include public agencies, nonprofits, mobility companies, research institutions and others who have identified a challenge and want to test an innovative solution. Rose said he envisions partners from across the public, private and nonprofit sectors working together.
Some local efforts that have had success and could inspire others include:
- BIKETOWN for All, a partnership between the Portland Bureau of Transportation, Motivate, the Community Cycling Center, the Better Bike Share Partnership and affordable housing communities, social service agencies and nonprofits, to offer low-income residents discounted memberships to the city's bike-share program and provide them with free helmets, bike education and a cash payment system.
- A pilot partnership between Forth and Hacienda CDC, a Latino community development corporation in the Cully neighborhood, which provided staff and residents with access to electric vehicles in an area that has limited transit and alternate transportation options.
Rose said that with Metro's role in transportation planning including setting regional policies, collecting and sharing data to better inform decisions and funding transportation programs and projects, the PILOT program can serve as a learning opportunity to help tackle those bigger issues.
"Our peers around the country piloted projects where they were spending a small amount of money on projects that may or may not work but they were getting information that they needed from that experience to move forward," he said. "Trying something directly is a much more cost-effective way to get information about whether or not it works than studying it in the abstract."
Selected projects would have to collect and share information on how projects are performing and present the outcomes to Metro Council, staff and partners.
Interested applicants have until Oct. 26 to submit brief letters of interest describing their project ideas. Metro staff will offer feedback to organizations and may offer technical assistance to help them develop their applications.
The application process will be open through mid-January, with selections expected to be finalized by the end of February.