…or maybe I should say “oh for Portland’s sake!”
I live in Seattle these days. However, anyone that has ever read a blog entry or two on this blog probably knows the I also love Portland. Portland got me out to the northwest from the backwards and hellish heat of the southeastern US. Portland also is far more of a driving force in the northwest than many from other parts of the country may realize. They’d look at a map and probably think that Seattle would be more of a driving force.
I’ve come to find that this is not the case.
Don’t get me wrong. Seattle has lead the way in many progressive ways, but just walk down any major area in Seattle with decent livability and you’ll hear a recurring theme if you mention having lived in Portland for a while. I can tell you, 9 out of 10 people will almost swoon with a respect and love for what has been accomplished in the city of Portland. Rightly they should, a tremendous amount of progress has been made toward cleaning up that city in spite of the pitiful desecration that the “American Dream” had left it in. The city continues to make huge progress in biking, transit, livability, parks, financing (without printing money like our glorious Federal Government does), improving community outreach, community involvement, and to top it off the city has more restaurants, strip clubs, art walks, coffee shops, and library books in circulation per capita than any American City! Those are some serious bragging rights.
But that leaves me with a slight problem with all this swooning. Sure I love Portland pride (of all sorts) and am proud to have called it home (and still do to a large degree), but there is a problem when other places start doing nothing but swooning and imitating it! I have a simple request.
Seattle has plenty to be proud for, I know Portland has great transit (or better, as most state to me when the topic of Portland comes up, and that is without me even saying I’m the Transit Sleuth guy…), I know it has all these projects and other things they’re doing to make it even more livable, even more fun, more enjoyable, more caffeinated, and even more bike, pedestrian, and human friendly. That’s great, but I want to hear about what Seattle is doing. I want to see Seattle moving forward. I want to hear about what Seattle is doing to keep up and stay competitive with Vancouver BC, Portland, and San Francisco even.
Seattle is a great city. Combine it with Tacoma, and you have a massive power house of a metropolitan area in the north west. The city is pushing forward with bike trails. Which it could do even more with. I think Seattle could be a leader in this realm! But alas, the last 4 discussions I’ve heard about bike trails or greenways end with “as discovered in Portland”… AAAAAHHHHH!!!
Then the transit question. Seattle should take this beast by the horns too. Stop doing half ass measures to barely keep the trolley buses running or a little sprinkling of a streetcar or light rail here or there. Stop mitigating by just allowing people to drive anyway, start allowing people to truly LIVE instead of just pushing the gas pedal and brake in that stop and go catastrophe called I-5. Seattle could lead in so many ways in this regard and has done a lot of work around this. Yet I hear unending stories from people in coffee shops, on the street, downtown, and in Pioneer Square about how the city is going to maybe get around to this or that by the time everyone who cares in 90, and our childrens’ children might get some benefit out of it. Then somebody usually swoons about how Portland already has 4 light rail lines and is working on their 5th (or as I like to call it, the extension of the yellow line south). Seattle should push aside the waitlist of Sound Transit and get King County Metro to move into the limelight with some SERIOUS efforts to bring light rail to Seattle proper (not just tossing it out of site and out of mind into the tunnel). I think some steam will be gathered with the First Hill Streetcar, but the city should really take the lead, brag about what IS being accomplished and keep up the pressure! Stop letting every story end with how bad ass Portland is. This is Seattle, people should talk about how bad ass it is when they’re here IN SEATTLE!
Anyway, I hope that something starts to trigger a serious change. I already do see a serious downtown (and west side) vs. east side pride. Again, something that I believe in. The cultural differences between the east side of Lake Washington and downtown (plus West Seattle) are HUGE! Seattle should be proud of its leadership and should continue that over the east side, there’s no chance they make any progress on that side anytime soon. Seattle is the cultural leader of this entire metropolitan area and the city should be proud of that.
I’ve got my fingers crossed, so let’s here some props for Seattle, and let’s move this forward.
Loved this article. I lived in Twin Falls, ID for 44 years. The only way to ride a bus as an adult was to be disabled. We moved to Tumwater 6 years ago and I took a job in Seattle. Among other things, I am in awe of the transit system. We bought a home in Tacoma and I am anxiously awaiting the completion of the light rail. I think it’s so much fun.