Warning, this is about transit, but a lot of other rocking Portland topics also. After writing the recent article about Portland kicking other city’s asses I realized, that this is in fact a problem for other cities! Shock took hold of me, except not really. I already knew this, it is why I’ve moved to this city twice, over 1800 miles the first time to get here and 2400 miles to get here the second time! That is no small accomplishment but stands as evidence of Portland’s rocking, kicking, kewlness. The reason I noticed this though is because I started reading a number of articles where where interesting:
Those two where fun. I knew our design, our residents, and our communities rock here. People here really reach out to each other and work together (even when we don’t, we do more than other cities). Alberta is a great example of what regular citizens can do when they put their minds to it. As for the food, yeah, Portland has become a serious foodie mecca. So no doubt there either, but New York, that’s pretty serious.
Another article even delineated the 5 reasons Portland beats LA. This I had no problem grasping either. LA, doesn’t really do anything except vacuous movie stars well, and it has been short of those for ages – at least producing them home grown.
However the one that really brought it all home was this article, written by the Seattle Mag titled “Seattle vs. Portland, which city reigns supreme”. Well first off, the fact that our biggest city in the north west feels the need to pit itself against us is, well, rather hilarious. Simple though, is the fact that Seattle is not human scale, a sprawling monstrosity by Portland comparison consuming way more than 2x the space for just 2x the people – which is a massive problem Seattle doesn’t have under control.
…and this is where I get back to the transit topic again, which the last article didn’t lead off with – shock!
Seattle’s transit, albeit a decent bus system downtown, sucks. Their online usability breaks almost every UX design standard, and basis of common sense for usability. Everything is multiple clicks past TriMet’s site. This might seem like nothing, but it means there are thousands that don’t use the site because its such a flippin’ mess. The other problem, which is also a kind of plus too, is that they have several major transit agencies in the area which have various conflicts of interest. In turn they did create Sound Transit which is a great agency, yet it makes TriMet’s goof ups like the WES look like massive successes. The money they’ve managed to spend on things with minimal return will take 2-4x longer to get any ROI than Portland’s efforts. Don’t get me wrong, their commuter rail is awesome and massive, but because of bad zoning and sprawl, is the only reason they need something like that and can make use of it anyway. Don’t even get me started on the billions of dollars they’ve sunk into the commuter rail and light rail, which isn’t even completely done. They’ve been short changed (Seattle Citizens) on their transit infrastructure and their leaders have waited so long to get started its taking vast amounts of money beyond what Portland spent to get ours up and running.
So when it comes to transit, Seattle is desperately trying to play catch up. But hey, I aint complaining, I’m glad they’re working on catching up. Both cities could learn from each other.
What all this boils down to is that about 95% of Portland is about 20-30 minutes at most from downtown. About 15% of Seattle is about 20-30 minutes from their downtown. This bodes a problem.
Neighborhoods are another thing. Seattle has some great neighborhoods, if you make the money to live in em’, otherwise you’ll be damned to living in suburbia. So go ahead, go enjoy that, 45 minutes from downtown Seattle. Same thing in Portland will put you 15-20 minutes from downtown, with far more options.
What’s the biggest transit reason Portland kicks Seattle’s buttocks? Simple.
Try going car free in Seattle, then try going car free in Portland. In Portland it is highly unlikely that after 3-6 months you’d even miss your car, in Seattle you’ll be having a number of issues.
So back to this article though, let me hit on their topics, since they felt the need to write an article on throw down the ole’ competitive forum of online debate.
- “It’s way too far away from Vancouver, B.C. When things get really nasty in the U.S., Seattleites can take comfort in the knowledge that the border—and sweet Canuck-style freedom—is just 2.5 hours away.” We in Portland tend to prefer fixing our problems and not running away to Canada. Plus, we in Portland have Portland, why would we want to leave? One thing Seattle has on Portland, is that it is only 2.5 hours away from Vancouver, but better yet is it is only a 3 hr train trip away from Portland! Yeah, that’s the ticket!
- “Too many beards. Seattle hipsters may be caught sporting and ironic mustache now and again, but Portlanders never met a furry face they didn't like. We're all for recycling up here, too, except when it comes to food bits stuck in fuzzy facial hair.” Really? You’re bringing up beards? Portland was a logging city, I guess it just runs in our blood. Irony? Maybe.
- “Don’t forget the gas stations—what’s more awkward than having someone rush out to pump gas into your car? As if we can’t do it ourselves! Where’s that Northwest independent spirit, Rose City? Sheesh.” Hahahaa, I’ll be the first to fuss about the stupidity of our gas pumping laws. But wait a second, we pay how much for gas? Seattle pays how much for gas? Oh wait, its rarely a few pennies off, but usually more expensive in Seattle? No way, really? That’s impossible. Yeah, read it and weep. We get it pumped for us AND it isn’t any more expensive than other places on the west coast. Besides, why do we give a two hoots about who is pumping our gas, cuz ya see, in Portland we only need to fill er’ up about once every month or two. I can see why that is a concern for Seattle because you have to fill up EVERY SINGLE FREAKING WEEK! Oh dear, the humanit! :( Not cool Seattle, not cool.
- “Did someone say mountains? Well, they sure grow ’em short down by Portland. Mount Hood rises to a measly 11,245 feet (paltry compared to Rainier’s 14,410 feet). It’s awfully pointy, too. Couldn’t they smooth it out a bit with an exciting eruption?” The mountains has zero to do with the city. It’s a flippin’ mountain and they’re WAY outside of the city, for Seattle&
nbsp; and Portland. Aside from that, I suppose if you really like skiing you can go to either mountain, depending on your location. As for eruptions, hey, what can I say, a little exitement is kind of cool. At least a vast segment of our metropolitcan area isn’t within the doomsday area of our active mountain though. (re: Tacoma is gone if the mountain ever erupts there – That’s a couple hundred thousand people gone – vamoosh) Which would also spell trouble for Seattle because it is losing the largest port in the north west title to, Tacoma. Ok, so enough mountain talk, back to the city maybe?
- “The Portland waterfront. I mean, come on! It’s on a river instead of a sound, there’s no view of the Olympic Mountains, no sculpture park, no aquarium and no thrill of wondering whether it’ll collapse before the seawall is reinforced.” Uh. Yeah, whatever, I’m not even going to respond to that. I don’t need to say anymore than “Alaskan Viaduct Highway Monstrosity”. Done.
But I must confess, the writer of said article did confess Portland has some untouchable strengths which I thought where absolutely awesome! Jamie Galvin writes, and writes these well;
- Mass transit. It exists. Portland eases the burden with frequent and mostly clean mass transit. Me – As I said, amen!
- Our beans are supreme. We grew Stumptown. ’Nuff said. Me - Ditto, ‘Nuff said.
- We’re tougher. You can see four volcanoes from downtown Portland, each of which could erupt at any second. Me – I suppose, they’re really far away. They’re actually less scary than the fact the entire city is on a fault line.
- We don’t have to try. Did we ask the New York Times to crown us the new “sixth borough”? Me – As listed above, we also have Alberta Street (and Hawthorne, and Belmont, and Division, and… the list goes on, but I’m not giving away anymore) But yeah, when New York concedes to ya, that’s pwnage!
- What’s a sales tax? All we have to do is whip out our Oregon driver’s licenses and—poof—instant 6.5 percent discount. Me – Ok, I’ll trade ya for your sales tax actually, our net economic loss from this… argh whatever, it is pretty sweet.
So yeah, that’s the massive summary of why Portland kicks your city’s ass. Without the self censorship of the past entries.
Even amid all my Transit Sleuth watch dogging and complaining about WES or whatever, Portland still totally rox – fini.