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Portlanders want equitable access to a very wide range of services, amenities and opportunities.

Section Summary

Part of what makes Portland livable in the eyes of many people is access to a wide array of amenities and attractions, including natural areas near the city, cultural and social events, healthy food, urban parks, a vibrant downtown district and unique, thriving neighborhoods. Many people want to enhance our focus on neighborhoods and main streets, so that everyone has access within biking or walking distance of the basic services and amenities offered in the city’s most livable neighborhoods.

Portlanders imagine a future in which all community members have equal access to social services and support, education, city decision-making, transit, housing, information, parks and more. They also view the whole city benefiting from increased access to a “clean, swimable Willamette River.” 

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. Part of what makes Portland livable is ample access to a wide array of amenities, services and institutions.
  2. Portland’s different populations should have equitable access to the city’s offerings.
  3. Portland’s livability can be enhanced by improving certain types of access.


  1. Part of what makes Portland livable is ample access to a wide array of amenities, services and institutions.
  • Portlanders feel that the following types of access contribute to making the city livable:
    • The city's proximity to natural areas such as the beach, mountains, forests, the Columbia River Gorge, wine country and the rural countryside;
    • Easy access to downtown and different parts of the city. This is mostly related to Portland’s small size, compact layout and the availability of multiple modes of transit;
    • Neighborhood access to local businesses, essential services and entertainment options (see Urban Livability: Neighborhood Livability);
    • Access to many forms of culture (see Urban Livability: Cultural Opportunities);
    • Access to multiple sources of organic, local food as well as sustainable products and services (see Urban Livability: Urban Agriculture/Community Gardens); and
    • A local government that is accessible to members of the general public as well as neighborhood groups (see Government: General).
“[I value] easy access to both urban amenities and natural environments. Mini-neighborhood centers for retail/commercial activities in close proximity to residential areas.”

“Portland is accessible—physically, socially, culturally, politically. The fact is, one can participate actively in the community on any number of levels, and indeed is actively invited to do so.”

"The sense of accessibility; this city is still small enough that you don’t feel lost in it – there’s still opportunity to be a real contributor here.”

  1. Portland’s different populations should have equitable access to the city’s offerings.
  • Many Portlanders are concerned that not all neighborhoods, communities and populations have access to the things that make Portland livable, such as beautiful parks, public transportation and quality education.
  • Portlanders envision a future in which people of all income levels, ethnicities, ages and abilities enjoy access to the key livability features currently enjoyed by some Portlanders.
  • The following groups in particular were identified as lacking equitable access:

    Low-Income Neighborhoods:

  • Neighborhoods that contain predominantly lower-income individuals are seen as lacking many of the amenities that make Portland’s most desirable neighborhoods livable, such as:
    • Beautiful appearance (e.g., mature trees, well-maintained historic buildings, high-quality residential development);
    • A neighborhood commercial hub that offers access to shops, dining and basic services;
    • Clean, safe, beautiful parks with abundant vegetation and recreational offerings;
    • Easy access to multiple modes of transportation (bike lanes, frequent and reliable bus service, access to the MAX or streetcars);
    • Art and culture, such as street fairs, affordable cultural events and festivals like those that frequently occur downtown and in some close-in neighborhoods.

    Low-Income Individuals and Families:

  • Portlanders would like for more low-income individuals to be able to participate in more of the city’s cultural, social and political life.
  • Low-income individuals and families should have better access to:
    • Cultural and entertainment amenities such as the zoo, OMSI, museums and the performing arts;
    • Fresh, local food from a variety of sources (e.g. grocery stores, community gardens, farmers markets);
    • Healthcare services (see Health: Cost of Healthcare); and
    • Attractive, quality housing, especially near their places of work.
“More recreational opportunities for all school age children. The poor have a difficult time participating in sports, the arts, etc…”

“[In 2030] we live in an equitable city where poor people and people of color have equal access to healthy foods, exercise, affordable housing, healthcare, transit, quality schools, and less access to the criminal justice system.”

Ethnic and Cultural Minorities:

  • Minorities lack access to certain quality of life amenities enjoyed by others, such as:
    • High quality education (especially higher education);
    • Local neighborhoods shops and services that cater to their tastes and needs;
    • Cultural and entertainment options (people wonder why there aren’t more music venues or events available to our city's diverse cultures and ask for more celebrations along the lines of Cinco de Mayo but for other communities);
    • Access to meaningful employment that provides a living wage and good benefits;
    • Access to leadership opportunities; and
    • Access to elected officials and the political system.
  • For more on how ethnic and cultural minorities experience Portland, see Social Issues: Diversity.
"There should be more caring and sharing in the city. It is fine if you are middle-class, educated white person, but if you aren’t, it is still difficult to access the opportunities that exist.”

“[In 2030] we would have festivals celebrating the diverse cultures here (go visit East Portland at National Night Out or go to IRCO to see how rich a cultural mix is emerging here). East Portland would be a place that Portlanders valued for its cultural diversity, affordability, and excellent transportation system.”

People with Disabilities:

  • Many with disabilities want to live independent, productive lives and feel that currently, it is too difficult to get around Portland.
  • Improvements need to be made in the following areas:
    • Better wheelchair access in all buildings;
    • Fully accessible streets and sidewalks throughout the city;
    • More inclusive recreation options that allow the disabled to recreate alongside the non-disabled;
    • More reliable Tri-Met lift services, with shorter wait periods and a schedule that does not result in so many missed connections;
    • Access to information about resources and services: Many mention the need for better resource and information sharing within the disabled community, among organizations that support the disabled, and between these organizations and the public; and
    • More inclusive and accessible nightlife options.
  • For more perspectives, see Social Issues: Disabilities.
“More funds to support wheelchair access. While the old buildings are lovely, they are not accessible to me as a wheelchair user and I would like to feel like a first class citizen here.”

“Because my life work is on behalf of people with disabilities, I would like to see the recognition of the need for our diverse population of Portland to be represented at decision-making tables, accommodation needs considered in planning any city-wide event, concrete action (not just words) that affirms the value of every person.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Focus on creating and improving neighborhood hubs and main streets, so that all Portlanders have access to the goods, services and amenities they need within walking or biking distance (also see Urban Livability: Neighborhood Livability).
  2. Provide more support to minority entrepreneurs, so that they can offer local products and services that meet the needs of minority populations.
  3. Construct museums showcasing diverse cultures, along with cultural heritage sites and ethnic plaza malls.
  4. Set up computers on the street that people can access for a minor fee. This, combined with free Wi-Fi, will help low-income people access information, resources and the Internet.
  5. Adopt universal design standards for buildings and houses.
  6. Create an “all inclusive community center for skill building, job training, counseling, problem solving” for the disabled community.
  7. “Have mandatory requirements for wheelchair access, or get a fine. Enforce wheelchair access plans with inspections.”

  1. Portland’s livability can be enhanced by improving certain types of access.
  • Many people think the entire community would benefit if access were increased to the following:

    Affordable Housing:

  • Portlanders believe that everyone should be able to access housing, regardless of their income.
  • Portlanders feel that the city currently lacks sufficient housing for people with no incomes, low incomes and middle incomes (see Economy: Housing).

    Public Transportation:

  • Many Portlanders request that access to public transportation be expanded (see Transportation: Public Transportation).
  • Access can be increased by:
    • Expanding and improving services to the suburbs;
    • Reducing fares or providing better incentives to ride public transit;
    • Increasing parking availability near MAX stations;
    • Adding new bus routes to better connect certain neighborhoods to the MAX stops;
    • Bringing back the streetcar on many neighborhood streets, which could connect more people to MAX lines and major bus lines; and
    • Providing more direct and frequent services between different neighborhoods (not routing all busses through downtown).
“More evening routes on Trimet. It is hard to use the public transportation as a main resource when many of the lines stop regular services at 8:30pm.”

“Streetcar for Oaks Park to NE Portland. There are already tracks there for us to use. This would create better access for seniors and for all people.”

Local Food:

  • Quite a large number of Portlanders would like expanded access to locally-grown food throughout the metropolitan area (see Urban Livability: Land Use and Urban Livability: Urban Agriculture/Community Gardens).
  • They advocate for:
    • More homegrown food (rooftops, community gardens, lawns);
    • Farmers markets in every neighborhood;
    • A year-round farmers market downtown; and
    • More local, organic food at a wider variety of grocers around town (many people appreciate New Seasons for its work on this front).
“Change City Comprehensive plan to reflect that health is an important priority. Plan should reflect how people access healthy, affordable food, and how people can get around without a car.”

The Willamette River:

  • Many people want the river to be clean enough to swim and fish in.
  • The general public and those who do not own boats would like to be able to access the river more easily.
  • A small number of respondents request increasing boat launches on the river to provide more points of access for boat-owners.
  • Public access to the waterfront (both East and West bank) should be promoted by developing additional restaurants, parks and recreational amenities.
  • Pedestrian access can be improved by creating more walking paths and more ways to get across the river on foot (e.g., pedestrian/bike bridges, a “people ferry,” and paddleboats).
“[In 2030] Portland will have wonderful bike/walk paths (and restaurants and shops etc…) on both sides all along the Willamette between Sellwood Bridge and Broadway Bridge.”


  • Many people from outlying parts of Portland feel access to downtown could be improved.
  • Respondents would like to be able to get to downtown faster on public transportation (many people from the suburbs spoke of very long bus rides to get downtown).
  • Some would also like to see more parking downtown to improve automobile access.

    The Internet:

  • Many people would like to see free wireless Internet connections throughout Portland.

    All-Ages Entertainment:

  • Many people feel that Portland’s music and entertainment scene is not accessible to people under the age of 21.
  • There are calls for more all-ages venues, more entertainment and nightlife options for non-drinkers and more cultural activities for youth.
"[In 2030] it’s much easier to make interpersonal connections that are not bar and alcohol oriented.”

Public Restrooms:

  • Some people ask for clean, safe public restrooms in neighborhood parks.
  • A number of people say that the livability of downtown would be enhanced if there were more access to public restrooms (there are quite a few complaints about urine smells downtown, particularly in parking garages).

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