Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Streetcar Sam talks transit

One Portland city commissioner sees lots of streetcars as part of the solution to transportation and environmental problems. From The Oregonian:
The Portland Streetcar, long considered a downtown transit and redevelopment tool, could reach disparate parts of the city under a vision described on Friday by City Commissioner Sam Adams in a speech to the Portland City Club. The commissioner oversees the Portland Office of Transportation, which is developing a 30-year rail transit plan for the city, with implications for the metro area.

"What would Portland look like if we implemented solutions to global warming and peak oil?" Adams said. "It would look a lot like Portland circa 1920, a time when the main means of motion were your feet, streetcars and bikes."

The rail transit vision for the region was just one factor in a wide-ranging speech on transportation that Adams portrayed as an overwhelmed, underfunded system with a dire backlog of delayed maintenance.

"Portland's streets are killing and injuring people despite the fact that we know how to make them safer," Adams said. "We have lacked adequate funds to implement safety solutions, to enforce traffic laws and educate road users."
The streetcar idea is interesting, in that you need a means to extend the transit system into districts not served by light rail.

Naturally, you can't come home from Costco on a trolley, at least not if you bought very much stuff. But we have to come to grips with the idea that it's okay to have transit to reduce automobile trips and give people choices. People will still have personal transportation, it will just be used less and more people will choose not to own cars.

It's not crazy to imagine renting a car once or twice a week for a few hours to do major grocery shopping or other errands requiring a car, and relying on transit the rest of the time, at least in the more urbanized areas. Suburbs are tougher due to their spread out nature, but buses can play a role there as well.

To change the focus slightly, and this is not a new point, but it still surprises me that ensuring our cities can still function fairly well if there is a petroleum crisis is hardly ever discussed as a national security issue. Those of us who are old enough to remember the fuel shortages in the 1970's can easily imagine it happening again.

Maybe we could have Rosie the Riveter type posters that say "Tell a a terrorist I'm taking the trolley."

At any rate, Portland has an edge on many cities with its light rail system, and even though everything about MAX is not perfect, the main thing about it is that it actually exists.

I don't know why some folks like to hate trains that people can ride, when so many seem to love trains that haul stuff. It's weird.

People will fly to Florida and joyfully ride a monorail to the Magic Kingdom for their vacation, but offer them something similar in their town and it's a socialist plot. Go figure.

Hey, maybe we should build a monorail! Well, okay, maybe not.

<< Home