Three neighboring counties. Several big-name employers. Near the mountains and the ocean. Consistently ranked as one of the nation’s best places to live, work and play. More than 1.5 million residents and growing by the day, with mobility and congestion becoming ever-pressing concerns.

If you’re thinking “Triangle,” you’d be right, but the description applies equally to the tri-county metropolitan area of Portland, Oregon. Just this week, Portland ranked 1st and Raleigh 2nd in Forbes magazine’s 2017 list of The Best Places for Business and Careers.

In the Portland area, however, transit-provider TriMet has used a vast network of buses, now numbering 700 traveling more than 80 routes, to connect residents to jobs, entertainment and education in several cities for nearly five decades. The addition of light rail in 1986 and commuter rail in 2009 has created a seamless network of modes that work together to get people where they need to go, saving the region $150 million a year in congestion costs alone.

Now that voters in Orange, Durham and Wake counties all have approved half-cent sales taxes devoted to improving transit options here, the Triangle has light rail and commuter rail in the engineering and planning stages and has started what will become significant increases in the routes, frequency and interconnectedness of bus service throughout the three counties.

“It’s about connecting the dots, and you have destinations that you need to connect together,” said David Unsworth, director of Project Development and Permitting for TriMet in Portland. “There is public investment that really unlocks private investment. On our 60 miles of light rail, we’ve seen $13 billion worth of development in station areas. And putting the stations in the right place, bringing them in, doing good urban design creates great places, which only enhances the research areas that you have and the universities that you’ve got in the Triangle area.”

The Portland area is expected to grow by 400,000 people over the next 10 to 15 years. Taking transit is already a part of the region’s culture and identity, with 45 percent of rush-hour commuters riding into Downtown Portland on transit.

The Triangle is expected to top 2.4 million people by 2040. For a glimpse of how the Triangle’s coming light-rail system between Chapel Hill and Durham, commuter rail between Durham and Garner and bus network provided by area transit agencies might all work together to help maintain the quality of life we enjoy, watch the story of TriMet.

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