Gil Kelley isn't letting all the talk about Portland go to his head.
Kelley, former planning director for the West Coast's "city that works," believes that the 14 percent reduction in per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the Portland metropolitan area from 1990 to 2006 is clearly tied to the urban growth boundary, density, and light rail and streetcar network that the city is famous for. Compact, mixed-used, walkable urban form, the regional government structure Metro, the purchase of green power sources, a hundred LEED-certified buildings and extensive retrofitting are also key drivers -- as is the heavy reliance on biking as a transport mode, at 6 percent.
But the city must do even more to reach carbon-reduction goals for the future, given future population growth, Kelley said. The goal for bicycling as a transport mode share is 25 percent; Amsterdam, by comparison, is at 30 percent. "This is a good story," he said at a Lincoln Lecture April 28 at Lincoln House, but the challenge is to continue the decline in greenhouse gas emissions going forward.
As to the question of whether the Portland experience can be duplicated in other cities, Kelley, a Loeb Fellow with a joint fellowship at the Lincoln Institute, said that Portland is not uniquely positioned to be green compared with other metropolitan areas, in terms of demographics, economic cycles, or car ownership. He has identified what he calls "foundational factors," however, which include a strong sense of place, a culture of planning, cross-sector leadership and collaboration, public awareness and informal networks. The next stage of his research includes a comparative analysis with Denver and Charlotte.
The full video of Kelley's presentation can be seen here.