Outer East Portland neighbors quiz planners about MAX Station development

See why two city bureaus teamed up to hold an open house – and learn what you can expect about development along our Light Rail lines …

About 100 neighbors came – to contemplate plans for further development along the Eastside MAX light rail line – at this open house, held at the Glenhaven Building.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As the eastside MAX celebrates about 25 years of operation, city officials are working to plan how areas around the light rail line should be further developed in the future.

To this end, the Portland Office of Transportation (PDOT) and the Bureau of Planning held a joint open house a couple of weeks ago to roll out the “Eastside MAX Station Communities Project”.

The stated goal of the project is to “To create active Station communities where a wide range of housing, retail, services, and job opportunities are immediately available within a pedestrian-friendly, 20-minute walk of six, [outer East Portland] MAX light rail stations.”

City planner Tom Armstrong, with the City of Portland’s Bureau of planning, listens to neighbors’ comments at the Eastside MAX Station Communities Project’s kick-off open house.

Kickoff of long-term project
“We’re in the early stages of our process,” commented Tom Armstrong, a city planner with the Portland Bureau of Planning. “This open house is the kickoff public meeting. We’ve done our policy and inventory work; we know what we can see on the maps. Now, we’re learning from neighbors what their day-to-day experiences are and what their ideas are for these station communities.”

Asked why they were teaming up with PDOT, Armstrong explained, “We learned long ago that it is best to do land use and transportation planning together. We do it simultaneously so all the pieces fit together. We also saw this as a real opportunity to look at how we can encourage more ridership through the MAX transit centers. And, we’re also looking at what’s going on in the neighborhoods, and see how we can support development to make [these areas near the MAX centers] better places.”

PDOT planner, Stuart Gwin, points out features near one of the eastside MAX Stations.

Developing compatibility plans
Stuart Gwin, a planner with PDOT, spoke with us about the project from the City’s transportation perspective.

“We’re here looking for ways to make the surrounding community more compatible with light rail,” Gwin began. “This means we would like to enhance the pedestrians’ connections to the Light Rail Station. Every transit trip starts as a pedestrian. You don’t drive your car onto the train.”

In the future, Gwin said, they hope to create Station-area communities – areas within a half-mile of the Light Rail line – into locations where citizens can take care of all their daily needs without the use of a vehicle.

Richard Glenn fills out a questionnaire at the open house. “I think there’s a lot that we can do to have better planning and an overall goal, instead of it being haphazard,” he told us.

No cars needed
“We look to some point in the future,” forecast Gwin, “When you will come home from work via Light Rail, and walk to your home or apartment. Then, if you need to go shopping or access services, you can easily walk to get what you need without having to reach for your car keys and drive.”

We turn to Armstrong and ask, “Do you really see a world without personal vehicles?”

“Times are changing,” he replied. “It’s becoming more expensive to drive. And there are a lot of serious environmental consequences to driving. If we can think about our communities as being multipurpose, as they were 50 years ago, we really reduce the need for people to drive to get around.”

A one-year process
The planners noted that they are under contract with the state to complete this project by April, 2009. “The work product will be a series of actions that the city Council and Mayor can evaluate and implement. Some of them probably have high prices. We need to start the dialogue with the Mayor and City Council.”

Chris Yake, on the project’s consulting team, writes comments. If you didn’t attend and voice your opinions, you can go online and make comments.

Your input is welcomed
If you couldn’t make it to the open house, you may check in the progress of the Eastside MAX Station Communities Project by CLICKING HERE.

© 2008 David F. Ashton  ~ East Portland News

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