This made me so jealous of Portland. Read this:

With two new lines nearing completion, the Portland-area’s rail system will add 23 miles of track and grow by 50 percent in the next year and a half.

The Westside Express Service commuter rail line will open this fall, connecting Wilsonville and Beaverton. A year later, the MAX Green Line will connect Clackamas Town Center to the Gateway area and a new north-south transit mall in downtown Portland.

“In a year and a half we will have opened the first commuter rail in the state of Oregon and opened our first line into Clackamas County,” said Mary Fetsch, TriMet’s communications manager. “That’s big.”

The new lines mark a turning point in the region’s 22-year relationship with rail transit. Commuter trains and streetcars will become more common — not just the familiar MAX lines used for commuting. Riders will be able to transfer more easily from one train to another, as in big cities where rail has been used for generations.

The lines under construction could transform surrounding neighborhoods. For Portland State University, the transit mall extension will open in the section of downtown where the university plans to focus its growth.

Transfers between trains? I guess you’ll be able to transfer between our one commuter line, our one mile streetcar line, and our one light rail line next year, and I know our Light Rail system would be better than theirs if it were larger. But still, if your question is whether Seattle works anymore, the jury is still out, but there’s no doubt that Portland works when it comes to transit. I hope we can get an expansion so I don’t have to break up with Seattle over transportation.

12 Replies to “Portland: I envy you”

  1. It’s not that dense though. Seattle is more dense, though our suburbs are much less dense than portland’s suburbs.

  2. I moved back to Seattle after living in Portland for a year and a half and I sure miss the transportation options.

    It’s not just the MAX (which I only rode to the airport). It’s the buses that come every 15 minutes. It’s the transit tracker that you can check with your cell phone or with an RSS feed. It’s letting you load bikes in the ride-free zone. It’s everybody saying “Thanks!” when they get off the bus. Sigh.

  3. This is all rather silly wistfulness if you look at their system and situation with a steely eye.

    Their zoning is indeed much more hostile to density except in boutique neighborhoods like the Pearl.

    Also, the rest of their system (ie their buses) sucks. Seriously sucks not just “stuck in traffic” sucks. Older smaller buses (even on busy routes), no night owl service (the WHOLE system shuts down at freaking 1 am when the last trains and buses pull into their stations and stops).

    Try getting anywhere not on a light rail line or streetcar line (and there are lots of worthwhile places in Portland itself that aren’t on the current lines or the new line) and you’ll see one reason why SOV usage has a higher share in Portland than in Seattle (not just the metro area but Portland itself).

    Our suburbs are about as dense as Portland’s as well – that’s actually a bit of a myth that they have denser suburbs. What they really have is a shallower gradient between the density of the central city and the suburbs and a stricter growth boundary (though it is still often manipulated). Jokingly put, they’re a miniature, artificial LA.

    There are things worth borrowing from them but really, how about we look to San Francisco or Vancouver, BC where both transit share and density are higher?

  4. It’s easy for me to put on the old rose colored glasses. I have to admit that the lack of late night service was a pain in the ass.

    On the other hand, I found Portland to have great midday and weekend service.

    Since I’ve moved here I just don’t have as much incentive to take the bus on the weekend because it never comes more than every half hour and I cannot easily and accurately track buses while on the go. (Let it be said that I live in a similar neighborhood now as I did then. 2 miles from downtown, access to 2 or 3 bus routes to downtown).

    SF and Vancouver are in a different class. I suppose I just wish we could put some polish on the system we already have.

    1. Great middday service! Are you kidding me? My wife is stuck cause the only bus that runs near our street runs in the morning and late evening out near Tualatin. The PDX buses suck compared to Seattle!! Plus, just try getting somewhere on an “Express” bus in the morning from SW PDX! It’s impossible cause you don’t have HOV lanes. Seattle wins hands down when it comes to bus service!

  5. Portland is a lot smaller, so it gets depressing faster, but I’m not sure it’s a “more dense” metropolitan area than seattle. I’m sure it’s all how you measure it.

  6. And don’t forget that the majority of Portland’s light rail system is along preserved right-of-way and is at-grade, which costs less and is easier to construct, even though their trains are shorter because of Portland’s small downtown blocks, but I think that can be allieviated with increased frequencies.

    BUT, increased frequencies will eventually cause trouble because regular traffic crossing MAX tracks will have to continuously be stopped to allow trains to cross.

    So, I still think Seattle’s may be better, assuming we can get it constructed ;)

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