University of Oregon and TriMet Partner to Enhance Light Rail Expansion through Student Input

Partnership Overview

The Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP) at the University of Oregon fosters collaborations between students and public agencies.  Over the course of an academic year, students have the opportunity to work on one or more projects identified by a partner agency, which has been integrated into one or more of their courses.  Through these projects, they learn about community challenges and then assist the partner agency in developing ideas and concepts for sustainable solutions.  The total number of partner projects completed ranges from 25-30.

During the 2017/18 academic year, SCYP partnered with TriMet, the tri-county transit agency that operates the transit network throughout the Portland, Oregon region.  The collaboration focused on developing student activities to enhance the Southwest Corridor (SWC) project, a plan to expand the light rail system by adding a new 12-mile line in southwest Portland and southeast Washington County. The SWC project provided opportunities for students to work not only with TriMet, but with other stakeholder agencies, including Metro (the regional government), Washington County, Oregon Department of Transportation, and the Cities of Portland, Tigard, and Tualatin. The Southwest Corridor study area contains 11 percent of the region’s population and is expected to grow by about 75,000 residents and 60,000 jobs from 2010 to 2040. When constructed, the Southwest Corridor will serve 45,000 students at five colleges and universities located in the project area.

Course and Project Implementation

October 17, 2009 – Portland, OR- TriMet’s MAX Green Line Light Rail Project.

Given the scope of the Southwest Corridor expansion plan, TriMet had no trouble identifying a broad range of student projects, grouped into the four categories of urban mobility, placemaking and urban design, climate change and environment, and public outreach. A few examples include:

Gaining new perspectives from students on the typical challenges we face with large scale infrastructure projects will be invaluable to the Southwest Corridor Project and to other future efforts. (from TriMet’s SCYP application)


The SCYP at the University of Oregon has grown substantially over the past decade. In a typical SCYP year, more than 500 students across 12 disciplines work on dozens of partner-directed projects. By the end of the partnership with TriMet, students contributed approximately 40,000 hours of effort to help the agency with its sustainability goals. Students also provided a unique and valuable perspective to the development of this light rail line. TriMet is moving forward on a variety of students’ recommendations, including a new transit app.

For more information:

“SCYP was the single most valuable component of my undergraduate education. Working with the cities of Albany and Tualatin gave me real experience that enabled me to contribute to a sustainable future for Oregon’s cities.”

Alex Nelson, Class of 2018; Planning, Public Policy and Management

“The Sustainable City Year Program provided unique opportunities for applied learning that helped me serve Oregon. As a future city manager, the applied skills that I learned and the city connections that I made ensured that I would be able to land a job in when I graduated.”

Michael Thomas, Class of 2019, Master of Public Administration; current City Manager, City of Amity