PDOT pitches streetcars in Parkrose

Are these open-houses “trial balloons” – or is the city really serious about “laying down tracks” out in the ‘burbs? Take a look, and decide for yourself …

Folks came from miles around to learn how, when, and why streetcar lines might be built as far out of downtown as Parkrose.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
If the City of Portland names a road a “streetcar corridor”, will citizens desire it?

This is the question being asked at a trio of open house sessions being held around the Portland area. The first one took place at Parkrose High School’s Community Room on October 29.

Developing a method of analysis
“This is the Portland Streetcar System Plan project open house,” says Patrick Sweeney, a senior transit planner with the Portland Office of Transportation (PDOT).

“Streetcars are an important initiative for PDOT and Transportation Commissioner Adams,” Sweeny begins. “One of the things we’d like to accomplish with the streetcar commission plan is to have a method for analyzing expansion of the City of Portland streetcar system.”

Answering questions about the project is PDOT Senior Transit Planner Patrick Sweeney.

Dealing with growth with increased density
The reason for considering adding streetcars, Sweeny tells us, is to set up a strategy to deal with increased population growth over the next 20 years.

“We’re expecting the Portland metro area’s population to grow to over one million people by 2025,” adds Sweeny, “A third of that, being absorbed by the City of Portland. The idea is to see if we can develop a network of high-density, high-quality street corridors that are attractive for people to live in. It could be a way to accommodate some of that growth, and preserve single-family neighborhoods from some of the infill pressures they are feeling right now.”

Commissioner’s objectives
Although we didn’t have the opportunity to speak with Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams at this open house, signs posted in the room stated his objectives for the project:

Streetcar corridors must:

  1. Be a viable transit option with adequate ridership;
  2. Have redevelopment potential;
  3. Have community support to make the changes necessary for a successful streetcar corridor.

Questions streetcars over more busses
“In East County and outer East Portland, I think they’re putting the cart before the horse,” comments NE Portland neighbor Jim Howell, as he looks at the plan maps.

“I think we need better bus service out here. Especially better crosstown bus service. We have people stuffed on the 82nd Avenue of Roses busses – there isn’t enough capacity for them. That is what should be done.”

No doubt about it, adds Powell, public transit is needed. “But there has to be more investment in service, not just capital projects. I think they’re looking for projects they can ‘cut the ribbon for’ when it’s opened – and providing better bus service isn’t ‘sexy’.”

Kefia and Dustin Micheletti imagine what it would be like if they could ride streetcars all over Portland – especially to work.

Couple desires streetcars
“We live in NE Portland, remarks Kefia Micheletti, as she and husband Dustin look at the charts and maps on display.

“I’ve started working out here at Parkrose High School. It would be nice if I could get to work on public transportation instead of driving a one-person car to school. That’s why I’m most interested.”

Dustin adds, “It is really important to help keep the growth of Portland do-able for everybody. To have everybody in cars isn’t going to work, if we keep attracting people.”

What do you think?
If you missed the open house, you can still get a look at the preliminary “Portland Streetcar System Plan” being proposed by PDOT.

It’s on their PDOT pages of the City of Portland website under Planning and Projects and look for Streetcar System Plan.

Or, CLICK HERE to be linked directly with the PDF document at their site. Note: This document requires that you have the free Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer (download it at www.adobe.com).

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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