New York says this is why "Portland Kicks Your Cities A@#!"

I started a series a long while ago about why Portland rocks so much.  It seems I really didn't need to because there are dozens of other people out there doing it for me.  One of those entities is the New York Times.  The paper has printed, or at least blogged/webified numerous articles about parts of Portland that rock.  One of those was the recent write up with Random Order Coffee House as the picture of the emodiment of Albera Street.  You might ask, "alright, Alberta street may be cool, but what has that got to do with transit?"

Oh yeah, this blog is about transit!  Well that's an easy question!

The #72 is net profitable on operations, which is the line that serves Alberat Street.  It is a vital connector for the area, connecting the street to MLK, and other area east and west.  The reason the #72 route is net profitable is because an insane number of people ride the bus on this route.  In the middle of the slowest hours one is likely to see the buses running every 10-15 minutes with at least 20 people, during peak hours they run every 3 minutes, often stacked up with the maximum number of possible passengers loaded on every single bus.  The #72 also connects to 82nd, which is one of the most active streets in Portland for commerce, especially for the Asian, Latino, and African American Populations and they use the bus service extensively!  It is, by far, a route that TriMet would do well to replicate and extend (i.e. get bigger buses for it).  The route could even tangibly run 24hrs a day without losing its net profitability on operations status.

But back to Alberta Street, and the similarities that are seen on this bus route all the time.  The community is lively, vivacious even, and effervescent in connecting with each other.  A large percentage of the residents live, play, and work in the area and use the transit.  They see and interact with each other every day and the bus is part of that.  This interconnectedness of the neighborhood is what makes Alberte one of the great areas in Portland.  The individualism, the creative work, the vitality of life itself among the people in the area is contagious.  So far this has all been done on a citizen basis, by private endeavor, and hopefully the city won't ever try to interfere with what is a well balanced area.  Alberta needs to Gentrification, or no more, it is set.  It is a beauty unto itself.

In addition to the #72 connecting Alberat east and west the #9, #73, #8 and #6 all connect to Alberta in the core and on the edges of the Alberta area.  These routes provide important connections to downtown Portland and to the immediate north and south points of interest.

One last note, is the #72, because it is a bus (not a streetcar) works very well on such a street because on art walk day it is re-routed.  The route is maintained a block north of Alberta because about 20 blocks of the street becomes pedestrian only and is packed with art walkers.  Because of this flexibility, it makes Alberta one more reason Portland kicks your city's a@#!

…and if you read the NYT article you'll see that Portland snagged two individuals from Seattle, because, Portland kicks that city's a@#! too.  🙂


(Please note, it's in jest, so don't go gettin' yerself all fussy that I'm saying your city isn't as kewl as Portland.  Sides, it probably isn't!)  :p 


  1. I think it’s a very good essay on the successes of Portland that didn’t involve massive governmental edicts on how to build, where to build… The fact that TriMet’s most successful transit line (yes, most successful) is on lowly, forgotten, neglected 82nd Avenue speaks volumes about where and how people want to live. And people out there in so-called "auto dependency suburbia" (even though you’re still in Portland city limits!) are more than willing to step up and use transit when it works.

    There are many great examples of little neighborhoods throughout our metro region that work great – and didn’t require a massive streetcar line to it. Alberta. Fremont. Mississippi. Belmont. Hawthorne. Sellwood. Multnomah Village. Johns Landing. St. Johns. These are vibrant "downtowns" that focus a good mix of businesses, dense housing, and employment centers – and are the focus of larger residential neighborhoods that feed into these business centers. From these centers you can get virtually anywhere in Portland.

    In these neighborhoods you don’t have a MAX line that segments one neighborhood from the other with nowhere to cross (like you see on North Interstate, Burnside, or out west where the right-of-way is fenced up like the Berlin Wall.) And these lines work just as well – if not better (i.e. the 72 again) than the much touted Streetcar.

    The idea that "nobody rides the bus" is hogwash and nothing more than proproganda by the pro-rail/pro-streetcar rally to suggest that neighborhood revitalization can’t exist without a streetcar; yet they ignore numerous examples RIGHT HERE in Portland that have done quite well with little involvement from City Hall, the PDC, Metro or TriMet. These are folks who are building and using EXISTING bus lines to get where they need to go. And because of this we now have bus lines that are passing up willing riders because nobody in leadership has the will to admit that people DO ride buses…we refuse to invest in bus stops, new articulated/high capacity buses…David Johnson is a huge proponent of the trolleybus and frankly it’s a good solution (if we weren’t 55% carbon based energy consumers, unlike our friends up in Seattle who are 95% hydro).


  2. The irony is all of those neighborhoods that you pointed out, "Alberta. Fremont. Mississippi. Belmont. Hawthorne. Sellwood. Multnomah Village. Johns Landing. St. Johns" where privately run streetcar route end points or primary stop points. I’d definitely lean toward the idea that they stayed reputable and nice places because the original zoning was pro-streetcar zoned development lands, that oriented around walking – ideally to the streetcar for a ride to downtown. The fun part is that the city didn’t screw up the areas (like many cities did) and left the zoning as is.

    As you point out though, they now need no fancy streetcar or MAX line, they’re capable of maintaining a great neighborhood and vibe as is. As simple bus line running into these areas works just fine. The #15, #14, #75, #4, etc are all great examples of this. Great fact to point out those areas Erik.

    One thing the pro-rail groups do have though, is nobody wants to replicate 82nd, which is what is often argued when fighting for a streetcar or MAX as a locally preferred alternative. It is unfortunate, but it is definitely bad press (82md) even though Alberta is just "around the corner" on the #72. 🙂


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