(At the risk of preaching to the choir ... ) In particular, Portland has had policies governing its land use and development that have made it an example that many other cities are examining - Adelaide being one. Portland was one of the first US cities to pursue the TOD model, for example, building extra density around their light rail (aka MAX) and streetcar systems.
One of the most successful of their TODs (judging by the level of satisfaction reported by the residents) is Orenco Station. Strictly speaking, it's not actually in Portland proper, but in Hillsboro some 15 miles west of downtown Portland, about a 45 minute trip on the MAX (there are a lot of stops along that line, including many in town). The area gets an interesting write up here,
All told, the development covers an area of some 200 acres. By comparison, the St Claire development at Cheltenham is about 158 acres.Orenco Station has emerged as perhaps the most prominent laboratory in that regional experiment, in part because it offers a real-world test of a great many specific aspects of that program. In Orenco Station there is a pedestrian axis to the light rail station, around which a grid of alley-loaded "skinny streets" extends; a walkable town center of mixed-use shops, services and residential; "liner" buildings with limited on-street parking and lots tucked behind; a range of housing types and prices, from $79,000 to over $500,000, as well as rental units; pedestrian-friendly street design and scale; "granny flats" and live/work units; loft units above retail; and of course, much higher density than is typical for the American suburbs, up to 25 units to the acre.
The town centre is a collection of mixed use buildings (naturally). The buildings were all in a retro style, and that seems to be very common for these developments in the states - multi-use ideas get pitched with phrases like "traditional town planning" and they have a sentimental soft-spot for "the good old days". This area is a few minutes walk from the MAX station, which we'll get back to later ...
Behind the town centre is a multi-family housing area, which is predominantly "brownstone" row houses
The lower level confused us - the Orenco Manor Suites is a hotel, and it's not clear just how much of the building was used up by the hotel. Judging by the fact that the signage wasn't very prominent, and that this is hardly a tourist drawcard (says the people that went there to photograph it) we're guessing that it is just the basement level. It would be a shame if the location closest to the shops and transport had visitors rather than residents.
This central street (which the master plans refer to as the "pedestrian axis") leads to a central park, which seemed rather empty, being just an expanse of lawn. Perhaps there's a playground somewhere else, but if not it seems that the planners are expecting the area to have more dogs than children. BTW, in the distance you can just make out the top of the big Intel centre that's just to the north of Orenco. And to the southwest there's a centre for Lattice Semiconductor - those jobs are likely one of the important success factors for the area, and that doesn't get discussed much in the press about the area (that's a bit hard to duplicate elsewhere).
The bulk of the area is single-family houses: smaller houses on smaller blocks than in many typical suburbs. The streets are narrower than most new suburbs and the houses don't have parking to the front. Instead the parking access is from alleys to the rear of the blocks. The streets were almost all straight and had footpaths - which you can't assume will be present in every suburb, even ones from the 70s. The houses aren't set back very far from the street (there isn't room on the blocks) and sported some pretty neat side gardens, none of the houses had tall fences, everything was chosen to emphasize a friendly, neighbourly kind of vibe. Judging by those studies into the resident's satisfaction, it seems to be working.
There are some parts of the development that (in our opinion) haven't really worked out properly, places where the initial good intentions seem to have been derailed. For example, this corner of one of the buildings in the town centre:
It's clear from that window in the bevelled corner facing this little plaza that this spot had been intended to be the entrance to a shop in that part of the buliding. Instead, the entire ground floor was just the one business (a kitchen shop) that had two other entrances that they were using and so had shelving in front of this spot. More serious was that the planning team sold some of the parcels of land closest to the station, which has left there both an empty lot and (right by the station) a superfluous grassed area along the "pedestrian axis" that leads people from the station into the town centre. This feels like a spot that deserved something with a bit more interest than just a big empty space for the commuters to hike past.
On the other hand, from the It-could-have-been-worse Department, on the opposite side of the train tracks is the kind of condominium complex that you see all over the country (albeit a reasonably nice looking one) - a bunch of 3/4 story buildings with open lawns and carparks around them, but no services to see.
Rounding out the visit, the station itself is very plain, as all the MAX stations are. Some of the other cities that are persuing TODs around rail stations feel the need to make the stations into sci-fi themed works of art (some of the ones planned in Seattle seem to be heading this way, for example). Evidentally Portland doesn't feel that way. And, finally, a couple of shots from inside the MAX car - note the hooks for hanging bikes