Wednesday, December 19, 2007

PDX Transport #1!

Not really very surprising, considering that Portland has for awhile not been a poster child for urban planning in the United States, but more of a reassurance that what we've been doing is 'right.

The American Planning Association has given its 2008 National Planning Award for Best Practice to Metro's Transit-Oriented Development Program for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Now Portland just needs to figure out how to cram new housing into existing 'historic' neighborhoods without destroying the stock of cool old architecture, not piss off the neighbors, and retain that Portland quality that entrances so many.

Now, if only they'd improve bus service and build light-rail and streetcar lines to actually serve parts of the city that need it. Either that, or we need a subway - and stat!

As nice as the city is, it seems like all the cool transportation projects go to the burbs; the streetcar is not even considered a transportation project! Of course, nobody really circulates between the Lloyd District along the MLK/Grand corridor as a destination... but then the West Side MAX line (Hillsboro) was largely built through farmland.

To address the transportation needs of the residents, workers and visitors traveling within the Portland Central City, providing a Central City transit circulator, achieving additional economic development, all in a way that gains strong public support.

A counterpoint to this would be the SOWA --> Lake Oswego rapid streetcar line under planning.

At least the Portland Streetcar's website posts some sane and balanced-sounding goals:

  • Link neighborhoods with a convenient and attractive transportation alternative.
  • Fit the scale and traffic patterns of existing neighborhoods.
  • Provide quality service to attract new transit ridership.
  • Reduce short inner-city auto trips, parking demand, traffic congestion and air pollution.
  • Encourage development of more housing & businesses in the Central City.

On a related note, seeing the development boom in Portland over the past five years makes me wonder if we really need to encourage more of it... some developers, such as Weston, who have purchased around 20 blocks worth of land around Sandy Boulevard, are just waiting for the national economy and housing market to improve before bringing in the tower cranes.

Subsidies for most projects are therefore not really needed; I just hope that we are able to have dramatically improved transit service to move people around without traffic going to hell - along with open space and schools. As some have noted, bus service has almost completely gone to shit in this town.

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