Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Portland Comparison

Something's gone wrong in Portland

After a 17-hour train trip, Jason Henderson finally got to Portland with his bike:

But I'm on vacation, and problems of Amtrak's ugly politics aside, once in Portland it all got beautiful. Cycling around Portland is fantastic. With excellent, well-connected bicycle facilities coupled with attentive and polite drivers, bicycle-oriented innovation and businesses flourish in Portland. I've never seen so many cargo bikes and families with children out shopping, cycling to school, and making other utilitarian trips by bicycle.

But Portland's bike news site,, tells a story of stagnation and political apathy, with commuting by bike stuck for years at 6%.

Commuting by bike in Portland

And Portland-based blogger and cyclist Randal O'Toole tells a tale of deteriorating streets and an increasingly decrepit streetcar system, which, instead of spending to maintain, Portland is planning to expand, even though ridership on the existing system is stagnating:

Instead of worrying about trivial things like future streetcar maintenance or current street maintenance, city officials dream of building new streetcar lines on 140 miles of city streets. The city’s streetcar plan projects that the first 18 miles will cost $36 million to $41 million per mile (including streetcars)...This emphasis on clunky streetcars is misplaced. For one, it does nothing for transit riders. From 2005 to 2012, the city of Portland saw a remarkable 20 percent increase in jobs, yet the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey reports that transit commuting has remained essentially flat. Of the 50,000 new workers since 2005, more than 18,000 drive to work, 20,000 walk or bicycle, close to 11,000 work at home–and fewer than 100 take transit.

Portland rail tracks

Henderson on local opposition to expanding Portland's streetcar system:

I should also add that Portland does have its own ugly right-wing backlash against bikes and transit. For example, in suburban Clackamas County, dubbed "Clakistan" by some, Tea Party-types voted to stall light rail expansion. But in the city, the bicycle and rail transit are embraced with enthusiasm.

O'Toole writes about that, too:

In all the times it has been on the ballot, Clackamas County has never voted for Portland light rail. But Portland planners were determined to run a light-rail line into the urban heart of the county...Residents, who had previously recalled several city commissioners from office over light rail, didn’t take this sitting down. Instead, a group that calls itself “Clackistanis” put a measure on the ballot directing the county commission to spend no county resources on light rail without voter approval. The commission responded by scheduling a $19 million bond sale to take place a few days before the vote. Rail opponents filed a lawsuit attempting to stop the measure. The county responded by canceling the bond sale just a day before the Oregon Supreme Court issued a restraining order against the sale.

A majority of voters in Clackamas County are Tea Party extremists?

Just like voters in San Francisco, according to Henderson, will qualify for Tea Party membership if they pass Proposition L in November.

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At 9:08 AM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

Good ol' demonization of opponents. I'm voting yes with a bolded and highlighted checkmark on L this election, and find Tea Party behavior to be misguided at best and abhorrent at worst.


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