Friday, January 6, 2017

Letter to the new mayor and council; Portland needs an identity

Open letter to the new mayor and council in Portland: Dan Saltzman, Ted Wheeler, Chloe Eudaly, Amanda Fritz, and Nick Fish.

From a lifelong Portlander and cab driver since 2007.

Portland has no identity. Seattle has the space needle, the fish market, Cleveland has the rock and roll hall of fame and LeBron James. San Francisco has the bay and the golden gate. LA has the Hollywood sign and the walk of fame. Starting to get my drift? What do you think of when you hear Portland? Voodoo Donuts? Rain? A tram that doctors ride to the hospital twice a day? That's not an identity.

So here's some of my proposals to give it one, in somewhat order of importance. We need to think big.

1. Portlandia Statue needs to be moved to the waterfront, somewhere people can see it. This statue is our greatest symbol, it is the largest statue of it's kind made in america. The Statue of Liberty is the largest statue of it's kind in The States, but it was made in France. Such a unique icon should not be hidden away on the bus mall, obscured by trees, on top of a cruddy building that needs renovation or rebuilding anyways. Also, possibly renegotiate the contract with the artist to be less restrictive so we can sell little Portlandias to the tourists.

2. Bring back fareless square and EXPAND IT. Build parking garages all around the edges and charge for parking. If someone is willing to park their car their parking stub will act as their bus/MAX fare or they will just be in fareless square and not need one. If possible, make all Tri-met free. The money you will save on scrapping all the electronic fare-vending machines will go a long way towards paying the difference in money you make off of fares. Also, improved public transit will get people out of cars, reducing congestion and saving buses money on fuel. The drivers won't have to waste fuel idling while checking fares/taking money on the bus. And the fare-checkers won't have to shake down poor people for fares they can't afford. Instead make them all transportation ambassadors, helping people navigate the system. It's a win/win/win/win/win.

3. Redo the rose quarter transit station. It's terrible. I used to ride the max or bus into north portland. I could ride the yellow line or the 4 or the 35, AND THEY ALL STOPPED IN DIFFERENT PLACES. If I waited at one stop and saw the other bus/train arrive, I had to run across the street risking life and limb to try and catch it. I think the best way is to basically cap it so people drive over it, not through it. Maybe like a Grand Central Station or Union Station Eastside? Could the Memorial Coliseum become an awesome indoor transit station?

4. Since Vancouver and Washington have repeatedly voted down the MAX and funding for a new 1-5 bridge, start doing other things we don't need their help for. Rebuild the Amtrak bridge reducing 95% of the I-5 bridge lifts and put in a WES-like commuter train to Vancouver, possibly with a stop in St. Johns. The track could be doubled at some point to allow trains to pass each other i.e.; the express train could pass freight or non-express trains. Union Station to the 'couv in 15 minutes! Also, extend the Yellow line MAX at least to Jantzen beach with a train/auto bridge. This would allow us to close the very dangerous on/off ramps from I-5 to Jantzen Beach. Washington drivers would just have to exit one exit south and come back on the new bridge. This would allow a huge amount of development in Jantzen Beach without having to wait for a new I-5 bridge.

This idea is partly from the CSA to the CRC video 
(common sense alternative to the Columbia river Crossing bridge) 

5. Omsi could be expanded. We finally have a bridge/max /streetcar that goes there, lets make it something to write home about! Put Portlandia over here?

6. Consider a massive waterfront expansion/reclamation on the eastside and/or inner NW Portland. This could include a massive tunnel to bury some of the freeway that currently takes up all of that great real estate. Seattle's Bertha tunneler should be available soon, can we use it for a major project here? It's already proven to work and very close by! A Tunnel in NW would allow a park annexation from Forest Park all the way to the river! At least in some places.

7. As a cab driver, I have spent many hours driving down roads named after ferries. Boones Ferry road and Taylor's ferry road are two common ones. What happened to the ferries? Why not restore a couple old ferries and bring them back as tourist attractions? They could actually be used for commuting during the week and tourist trips on weekends! How great would it be to see all of Portland from the water? Possible stops could be West Linn, Lake Oswego, Milwaukee, Sellwood, Omsi, Waterfront Park, Forest Park/Terminal 1, St. Johns? Epic Portland history brought back to life!

8. Do something with the tram on weekends? Maybe an observation deck and a gift shop up top? Would be great way to see the city at night and utilize the tram more than just monday thru friday rush hour.

Imagine coming into Portland on a train from Seattle and seeing Portlandia and a Forest Park entrance on your way in, or coming in on a ferry or boat and seeing Portlandia, it would be awesome from that angle.

Portland is known somewhat as a biketown, but actually we have very few bike lanes that are safe and divided from traffic like they have in Amsterdam or Copenhagen (with their own dedicated traffic signal phases) A two-way divided bike highway right down the middle of Burnside, from the zoo on the west side to where the MAX joins Burnside in the East? If the MAX can go right down the middle of a road why not a bike lane?

Finish the 40 mile loop that was first planned a century ago? Connecting marine drive to the springwater corridor? Why can't we finish a simple bike loop? Or at least finish the Fairview Gresham trail, connecting Marine Drive and the Springwater corridor?

If you're reading this and think it has some good ideas, please repost it to the city council and/or mayor.

If you're the city council or the mayor, I would consider a position as a consultant if offered. Thank you for reading. Ara Weller

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