Tuesday 24 November 2015

Diversity and Density

Before arriving in Portland I had very high expectations of their public transportation system, as it is well known for it’s comprehensive planning system. Evidently so, it was immediately clear Portland has a link between land use and transportation to help manage growth and maintain liveability throughout the city. As observed during my time here, the development around the TriMet MAX light rail contains a mixture of residential, retail and other commercial uses that has created dense and diverse neighbourhoods. As a result, this has created walkable and compact transit –oriented development. For example, the new orange line implemented that extends out to Milwaukie, has encouraged new stores to open around the light rail station and thus the land value has risen within this area.

From personal experience of using the MAX lines to travel around Portland city, I can conclude that they are fast and easy to use, which makes the downtown area highly walkable. The diversity in terms of zoning and transit access has a positive impact on the walkability aspect of their city design. Additionally, the small 60m blocks as well as the skinny streets with only 2 lanes, reflect the well-planned density of the downtown area that creates a safe walk.

Additionally, I wasn’t expecting to have much of a culture shock when coming to Portland, however it was quite shocking to see the large amount of poverty and homeless people all over the city. I understand this is an issue within most modern day cities, although in Portland I observed that nearly every street I walked through there was at least one homeless person and in many areas there were groups that designated as their own sheltered area. It made it clear to me that there is serious lack of focus on policies towards helping the homeless. In one way it’s positive that there is so much focus on Public Transport and other important planning principles, however it seems there are some social problems that are being left behind which does not represent inclusive planning.  

In relation to this problem area, it was encouraging to hear the Mayor Charlie Hales speaking about the ways the city is attempting to combat homelessness. Whereby, taking the large issue at hand and dissecting it into smaller workable areas, such as starting off with housing for veterans and future plans for a women’s shelter. This is a reflection of how involved his job role is, playing a much more active part in community affairs compared to the Mayor's role in Australian cities.  

Felicity Sokolic


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