Until owning and driving individual cars is less convenient than other, more sustainable forms of transportation, people will continue to use cars, and not just as a sign of privilege - but because our time on this earth is limited, and is itself worth a lot. Limiting accommodation for vehicles is only one step, though - we need transportation projects in the pipeline along with it to make car-free living an attractive *long-term* prospect. I've lived it both ways, off and on for years at a time, and not being able to get out of town sends me back to the cheap car ads every time I can afford one.
It's true that planning for individual automotive travel in the central city is irresponsible, because the limit to how much traffic can be accommodated is already in place, and that limit is eventually reached. While you can build parking into the buildings, you can't add lanes to existing roads. At that point, instead of complaining only about a lack of parking, people will complain about lack of parking *and* about the congestion, traffic, and pollution - that are the logical result of building parking for every dwelling unit and just expecting that people will drive. Of course they'll drive, if it's the simplest solution to the problem and if that's what we plan for. But it's only that way if that's what we build. Portland was designed as a streetcar city; if anything, we should be re-building the streetcars, not increasing the parking spaces. Now is not the time to dig in on cars, it's time to look for reasons *why* over 70% of the central city population still feels like we need one, at the same time 27% are going without. What will it take to entice more people to join that growing minority?
I'll make myself an example, since I've lived here for 20 years, without a car for many of them, on and off, and I happen to have one now. I have gone without for years at a time, enjoying the freedom immensely. Cars are expensive, and my time is worth a lot to me, and having a transit system that can get me where I want to go makes the biggest difference in whether I can live without a car and still have some kind of life outside my own neighborhood. I can do without very easily in my daily routine by bus, bike, walking, or a combination of these, but eventually I get bored of the places I can go without a car and want to get out more. If like me you're not into shopping, and you have a dog, your options for going where you want to go by other means are really limited. The light-rail, commuter line, and bike-racks on buses have changed the game for the better, along with the cycle tracks and bike culture, yet the getting out of town (and dog-transport) problems remain.
We're doing a lot of things right, and we're made great strides in the right direction. Already we have multiple trains per day going the north and south, and even daily service going east - and it's possible to take bikes along, which is huge. There are even Zipcars and car2go vehicles in Seattle now, so pieces of the puzzle are fitting together more and more to connect family and friends up and down the populated areas of the west coast. Light rail to the airport (even though it doesn't start early enough to run late enough for all flights) is amazing for the size city we are, and connects downtown easily with anywhere PDX can fly - which with connections is nearly anywhere. Getting *way* out of town (or arriving in town) without a car is a problem we've mostly solved. But what about just going on a day trip close to home?
Having efficient, reasonably-priced (I dream also of pet-friendly) public transportation to places like Timberline to the east and Cannon Beach to the west, that is the crucial next step I see in making a car-free lifestyle more attractive to a broader demographic. Sure, there are hard-core (and very fit) cyclists who camp by bike, and I'd love to be one of them, but the roads outside the city terrify me: they are full of distracted suburban drivers lacking basic awareness of cyclists. This driver profile comes with a record of fatal collisions, and even without distractions and cycle ignorance, the problem would remain: the roads are narrow and shoulders are unaccommodating/full of hazards *and they are all designed only for automotive traffic*. It's frankly too dangerous. Some road warriors get out there and do it anyway, but not many would put the kids in a Burley or the dog on a leash alongside and make a family trip out of it.
I'd love a Springwater Trail-like bikeway to the beach (and to Hood), with bike-friendly businesses sprinkled along the route, like the Elderberry Inn once served people in cars who bothered to stop between Portland and the coast. The funds for this project would be a miniscule fraction of what we'll spend on the useless and bloated CRC, and would attract tourism - and therefore tourism dollars - from literally around the world. Event planners would find it irresistable. Better than the Tour de France, we'd have a built-in magnet for tourism and events and family-friendly cycle culture *year round*. (Anyone interested? I'd love to be on the design team.) Families could load up kids, gear, and dogs and make a week's vacation trip out of it - if there were enough services available to support a more leisurely pace of travel than going titanium-framed mach-3 in spandex with your tail feathers on fire (which is fine too if you can do it, and enjoy it).
Zipcars work all right for anyone with a credit card - though they're more expensive than owning a car if you use them regularly - and financially punishing to use if you want to drive only a short distance but park for a number of days to stay somewhere, or if your plans include going outside the 180-mile prepaid mileage range. For these reasons and more (like lack of pet-friendly-ness) they and their cousins (e.g. car2go) are really just part of a stopgap solution between the *potential market for* other forms of transportation to go on day trips (or weekend trips), and the *available alternatives*.
I don't doubt that there are more people in the central city than just 27% who like me, would like to be free of cars altogether, and where it is literally less of a pain to do errands by bike in my neighborhood than it is to drive - yet as things are, I personally prefer the freedom, flexibility, and dog-friendly nature of personal automotive transportation to go places for recreation. In the long run, it's cheaper and more flexible than what else is out there now, and I know I'm only one among many who prefers to enjoy the natural wonders surrounding Portland on as many weekends as possible. So at least for my family, it turns out that keeping an old, inexpensive, gas-efficient wagon around is the best overall solution to this problem for now, even as we approach $4 a gallon, because while we don't need or use the car for commuting, we need more than work and errands in our lives and seizing the weekend is tough when you're competing with your whole neighborhood for the one cheap day-rate zipcar nearby.
Honestly, I'd love to be the railroad robber-baron who builds the light-rail line (with bike corridor alongside) to the coast, but I don't have the money or the friends in high places to do it. Hopefully someone who does have money has that vision with me, because I know a lot of people would use it - especially if bike and pet policies allowed families like mine to travel together and enjoy both the freedom from car ownership and the convenience of bicycling at our destination. The tourism explosion would shock the whole tri-state area and bring millions in tax revenue. We could stop blaming slacking liberal-arts majors for ruining the tax base (good one, Oregonian! that was good for a laugh).
Oh for the Waterfront-park vision days, when we didn't just have grand, visionary, seemingly impossible plans, but we executed them in spite of the opposition.
Development fees can fund a portion of the needed changes, bonds could make up the difference, tourism dollars would pay us back. Development fees are unpopular (with developers), but we should expect that contribution in exchange for the freedom the developers enjoy from having to build, pay for, and maintain parking that people will need if we neglect to build the alternative transportation we have already demonstrated (with our Zipcar memberships, 27% car-freedom, and dwindling gas tax revenue) that we really do want.
for real, girlfriend. fuck those hosers right in the ear.
hold up - you've been 'eagerly watching the condo buildings go up in [your] neighborhood'? that is actually the problem right there.
Someone had said that some suspicious-looking dude left a toolbox on the train tracks and fled. No idea if this was substantiated at all.
who the hell is Bob Seger??
So - we have an absolute garbage can for an economy, and loads of people for whom homelessness is reality - including young people! who are also part of society! - and the proposed solution of *business owners* is to just get rid of the pesky underclass? Really?
If you really want 'effective tools' for dealing with the rabblerousing hoi polloi, PBA, maybe treating people like human beings instead of obstacles would be a good place to start. The overriding attitude that businesses are entitled to sidewalks and The People are not is elitist, and the PBA takes it to the next level by asserting in various formats that people are not entitiled to exist when they're not actively spending money, which isn't an available hobby for people with no money.
Sincerely: there is something *fundamentally broken* in our economy when gutterpunks are numerous enough to interfere with your vision for downtown, all right? It's not a classically attractive lifestyle to anyone who hasn't been completely abandoned for opportunity. Opportunity is expensive, this is a class issue, and it's eliminationist to regard human beings who have next to nothing as the problem. They are a symptom, PBA. Look for the roots. You have the money to do more than complain.
It is a fact that if you are in some hell of a hurry, and you're in a car, *and* you're on a bike boulevard - especially one like Clinton or Ankeny where a major auto-friendly-and-not-bike-friendly street is exactly one block away? You, the driver, are the asshole. Get the fuck over that one block or accept that it's not your best choice for speed, all right? Yes, I'm riding companionably two or three abreast and chatting wtih friends. Just like you would in a car, but on bikes. And it's a side street, jesus. That is why Burnside's limit is 35 mph, it's exactly for people who want to go 35 mph!
I do sometimes drive, though - and knowing what it's like to be the cyclist, I will often follow a bike at a respectful distance when there's no point going around - either because the bike is doing 23 in a 25 zone and there's a red light ahead, or because there's a double yellow line and parked cars and pedestrians and a dozen other reasons why 23 mph is an acceptable speed, or whatever the reason. That is sharing the road, yes. Remember, your fellow cyclists often also drive sometimes. Put yer dukes down just a little, there.
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