They all share something in a common, however. Tan canvas tote bags, or “Go Kits”, bulge out from under their arms – take-home material from a new kind of lesson being taught at Portland Community College’s new Southeast Campus.
Launched by Metro and Portland Community College in February with funding from the Oregon Department of Transportation, Drive Less Save More: PCC Southeast is an outreach campaign that has been educating students, faculty and staff about alternative ways of getting between school, work, and out on the town.
The campaign is a pilot project of Metro’s Regional Travel Options program, using an individualized approach to provide information and tools that are tailored to each student’s specific travel needs and interests. That's fitting, because almost no other college in Portland has a more diverse student population – not only in race, but in age, occupation and family background.
“Students here have full-time jobs or children in daycare, or they have significantly reduced mobility –you can’t build a product that works equally well for everyone. So, this campaign is built to find students who have already shown an interest in changing up their travel modes, and then informing them about options that fit their lifestyle” said Metro program assistant Kathryn Doherty-Chapman.
"Before I stopped at the booth, I didn't even take a look at the bus routes on the map. I learned the bus routes, and that I have options. If there's a chance that I don't have to drive, I would love to take the bus."
Before signing up, participants take a brief survey, describing their usual means of travel and which alternatives they would be interested in using. They then get a chance to customize their own Go Kit with travel tools like transit maps, bike lights or umbrellas.
The goal from the outset was to get involvement from at least 10 percent of the student body on a campus of about 5,000. As of mid-April, the program was well on its way, having already handed out 415 Go Kits to participants. All of those kits are assembled and distributed on campus by members of the Associated Students of Portland Community College like program intern Alex Baryschpolec.
“We know some people’s lives don’t allow them to go completely carless, and we’re not trying to get them to give up their car,” said Baryschpolec, pausing between handing out stuffed Go Kits to students. “But if it’s nice out, or all they have to do is get to class that day, then why not use the bus or bike?”
Kenny Chen, a staff member and student at Southeast, fits that profile almost perfectly. He has a family, he said in an email after receiving his Go Kit, so most days he takes his car for the flexibility, but the Drive Less program has been opening his eyes. "Before I stopped at the booth, I didn't even take a look at the bus routes on the map. I learned the bus routes, and that I have options. If there's a chance that I don't have to drive, I would love to take the bus.”
Greater partnerships to build momentum
Spend enough time in the neighborhood and among its local organizations, and one thing becomes evident: a momentum of change is building up in the 82nd and Division area. As the saying goes, many hands make light work, and Drive Less Save More has had its work significantly lightened by strong partnerships with local organizations – Drive Less Save More staff have collaborated on more than 21 events on campus this year alone.
From the outset, Drive Less Save More was designed to support PCC’s Transportation Demand Management Plan, helping the school manage its growth in ways that wouldn’t result in overflowing parking lots and snarled traffic in the mornings and afternoons.
Related story: Connecting opportunity: PCC's new Southeast Campus hopes for better transit
“We were already targeting Southeast for a new bike program, so when Metro told us they wanted to do this campaign there, it just fit perfectly,” explained Mark Gorman, PCC’s transportation manager. “This fall a bike rental program will be starting at Southeast. The new bike lanes on Division have created a more bike-friendly neighborhood, and we plan to use a Metro grant to hire an active transportation coordinator this summer. It’s just been perfect timing for ramping up this whole movement – getting students into biking, busing, or walking.”
Bike coordinators at the Southeast campus are already hard at work year-round nurturing a growing bike culture among students and staff. In partnership with Drive Less Save More, these coordinators set up special events to teach students their best routes to school, how to fix a flat on the cheap or how to bring their bikes on the bus or MAX.
It all makes good business sense, too. More students walking and biking to campus means more exposure for the local shops and eateries of the neighborhood. So, when the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon heard about the campaign, they jumped in to offer participating students a special walking tour of the burgeoning Jade District.
“A lot of the students just go straight home from school, or they eat lunch on campus, so they might not know all the great local businesses just up the street – many of them even offer student discounts,” said Duncan Hwang, communications director for APANO. “Our hope is that as the campus grows, more students start to see the Jade as a place where they’d like to hang out.”
A brand new campus and quickly-growing student body means plenty of possible future bike-riders, bus-takers, and ride-sharers. Major changes have already come to the neighborhood, and are due to continue as Metro and its partners move forward with the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project, the region's first bus rapid transit line. Though Drive Less Save More ends its Southeast presence this May, its legacy will live on at least in one respect: the transportation data gleaned from exit surveys will aid Metro in shaping future transportation projects for the region.
Learn more about other projects under the Regional Travel Options program
In focus: 82nd and Division
A story of an intersection where people, cultures and opportunities cross.
Craig Beebe contributed reporting for this story.