Thursday, 19 November 2015

Challenging expectations

Upon arriving in Portland, I was quick to discover that it was a lot different to my pre-tour expectations. Firstly, the public transport system was not as good as I thought. I knew that Portland had a very famous public transport system, with a light rail, street car and bus network, but the first two times I took the light rail, there were issues with it. The first was that Portland had experienced its biggest downpour in 4 years on the night I arrived, so the bridge that the light rail flooded, making a half hour journey turn into 2 hours with multiple delays, and service swaps. The second time I had to use it, the tram I was on broke down, and took about 20-25 minutes to repair. Aside from these first two issues with the system, it seemed to work alright.

The second aspect that was different was that the city was a lot older and had more urban decay than I had thought. I had known that Portland was a world famous city for planning and infrastructure, but my pre-tour opinion was that it would be a very modern city, such as Canberra. What I saw walking around Portland was a lot of abandoned and dilapidated buildings and infrastructure such as bridges, as well as older buildings and infrastructure. While I found it different, I actually found it interesting as I wish to look into urban decay and its causes and impact within US cities for my final project.

The third aspect that I found different was that there was a lot more homelessness than I had expected. Being the largest city in the state of Oregon, I had expected that there would not be as much homelessness out in the open and in your face. What I was confronted with was people living in tents, in tarps, sleeping in sleeping bags or even just in doorways with nothing, everywhere. There were a lot of homeless people, who were just living in the open, and asking for money or other stuff that they wanted. While I did not find this intimidating, I found it very surprising that they were just living in the open and on the busy areas, such as next to the market, along the main streets and around the public transport stations.


The last pre-tour expectation that I had was that the city was a lot greener and had more open space than I had originally thought. I had known that Portland had parks and greenery, but there was a lot more than I had expected, in that it there were parks in the middle of the CBD. This meant that there was also a lot more active transport than I had expected as well, with a lot more people riding, walking and running to their destinations then I had thought pre-tour. Overall, Portland was a lot different to my pre-tour expectations, in good ways, and in bad. In good ways, it was a lot more open and spacious than I thought. In bad ways, it was a lot more grungy, and older than I thought, with abandoned buildings and urban decay, as well as a lot more homeless than I thought. However, for these expectations, Portland was what I expected in terms of planning, in that it was well laid out, and that it was easy to find my way around, and I was confident and felt safe to be within the city.

Stuart Taylor