Needs Assessment Press Release



Zach Henkin, Forth,, 503 724-8670 x 103

Shawn Fleek, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon,, 503 774-4503 x 6

New Report Highlights Disparities, Barriers for Low-Income Communities to Access Smart Transportation Technologies

Research led by OPAL and Portland State University seeking to address “How can smart mobility technologies address current and future needs?”

PORTLAND, OREGON – May 10, 2018 – Forth and OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon are excited to announce the release of a community-based assessment of Smart Transportation needs in the City of Portland. A collaborative effort in Fall 2017 between OPAL and Portland State University, the report is now available and a selection of the findings are below.

Click here to read the report.

The assessment began as part of a Portland Smart Cities UB Mobile PDX proposal to the USDOT. Although USDOT did not choose the project for funding, the City and community have resolved to continue exploring how technology and innovation can address transportation justice – this topic and the assessment is part of that effort.

Innovation in the autonomous and electric vehicle landscape has been primarily driven by a consortium of private interests including automobile manufacturers (Ford, GM, Volvo, etc.), transportation network companies (TNCs) (Uber, Lyft, etc.), and major technology companies (Google, Apple, etc.). This assessment, however, is motivated by a public effort to anticipate the burdens and benefits of smart mobility technologies, in order to guide public investments and regulations to improve outcomes for communities experiencing barriers to access.

Research for the assessment include both qualitative and quantitative methods. Two focus groups consisting of targeted demographic participants were held to inform the set of survey questions. From these groups three guiding research questions were developed:

“How can smart mobility technologies address the current and future needs of transportation disadvantaged communities?”  Lower vehicle ownership and incomes meant that transportation disadvantaged communities rely heavily on modes other than the private automobile.

“What are the barriers to using smart mobility technologies experienced by different communities?”  Significant barriers exist which prevent smart mobility technologies from benefiting all communities. Lower income survey respondents and respondents of color had significantly lower access to driver’s licenses, bank accounts and credit cards and also rely more heavily on paying cash on board for TriMet tickets.

“What potential solutions show the most promise in overcoming these barriers?”  Popular recommendations included the following: (1) improve public transportation information, scheduling and route finding through smartphone applications, (2) improve public data access (such as through public Wi-Fi), (3) implement policies to lower barriers to purchasing or using electric vehicles, and (4) expand translation for important smart mobility applications into languages other than English.

About OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon

OPAL is the membership-driven hub at the center of our region’s movement for environmental justice. Environmental Justice addresses how people experience their environment: the places where we live, work, learn, play and pray. We’re fighting back against historic inequality our communities experience by working at the intersection of transportation, housing, land use and climate policy. We believe that our communities have the answers to the problems we face, and that individuals most-impacted by decisions are the right people to determine policy. Join the movement at

About Forth

Forth is transforming the way we get around. Through innovation, advocacy, engagement, and demonstration projects, we are advancing electric, smart and shared mobility in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Learn more at

Posted in Air Quality, Coalition Building, Green Justice, Serve the People, Transit Justice.