Friday, 30 October 2015

'Transport is not about moving people, it is about connecting neighborhoods'


After hearing incessantly about the absolute legendary status of Portland over the past three years, and specifically their transport system, I was beyond dismayed when my first Trimet trip from the airport to the hotel took approximately 3hours; over 2hours and 15mins later than scheduled. As this horrendous ride was undertaken in miserably cold and wet weather (later this was revealed as the catalyst issue) as well as being on the back of 24 hours of international travel it was safe to say Portland and I were off to a bad start. However, after a restful sleep and a solid session of retail therapy at Macy’s (consider Myer to be Macy’s ugly step sister) I was ready to open my eyes again to what Portland had to offer.

Prior to commencing this study tour I had carried out some initial research on history of planning within the city and specifically their State-wide Goals and use of comprehensive plans to carry out the objectives. Similar to many documents within the planning discourse I was critical that its existence was purely a formality of ticking the appropriate box rather than one of genuine substance. However, after various sessions with key note speeches that include both local government and community members I am convinced that a large amount of Portlandians truly believe in the founding goals of their city state.

The particular objective set out within the statutory documents of Portland that has surprised me the most with their implementation and vision for the future is the idea of a transit centric city and region. Their use of multi modes of transit across the same grid lines has really surprised me as I unknowingly assumed that it was a situation where one mode stopped the other started. Seeing three buses go past today as I was waiting at the light rail station, which is around the corner from the streetcar, was an almost surreal experience. Additionally, the newly constructed bridge dedicated to public transport where automobiles are not allowed to cross has really inspired me to believe that car dependency can be tackled in an aggressive manner.     

However, the most eye opening moment of my trip to Portland in reference to transport occurred today when Robert Hastings said, “Transport is not about moving people, it is about connecting neighborhoods.” As someone that has never felt a particular interest in the transport side of planning I suddenly realized that by slightly switching my perspective towards community I felt an instant intrigue in how transport can become barriers or bridges for a range of people within our communities; the technical nuts and bolts of my transport planning exposure up until then dimmed into the less important aspect of transit planning.

Amanda Ellis