I’m Moving, New Home Base: Portland, Secondary San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver BC

So I’ve done it, I’ve just switched my home base back to Portland from Seattle. However, I’ll be in Seattle, San Francisco, and Vancouver BC about as often as I was before (ok, slightly less in Seattle). So for those out there thinking, “But Seattle is so great, why leave for Portland?!?!” here’s the lowdown. I enjoyed my time in Seattle but it IS NOT Portland nor is the livability and options the same. Such as…

  • Walkability in Portland is on par with Vancouver BC, both which are vastly superior in walkable locations than San Francisco or Seattle. The distance between any two things in Seattle is easily 2x the distance as key destinations in Portland or Vancouver.
  • I can get to Best Buy, IKEA, Target, and over a dozen other major stores by light rail in Portland. This cannot be done in Seattle. Buying bulk stuff and using light rail to get it home is super easy, doing this on a bus is not.
  • There are literally thousands of food carts, in pods, in Portland. Seattle can’t get its food cart scene off the ground to save the life of the city. I decided again not to keep waiting around.
  • Portland is 10-15 years ahead of Seattle with light rail/high capacity transit construction. Seattle will be paying 2-50x as much as Portland to have a system that will be half the size of Portland’s possibly by 2020 or more realistically 2040 or 2050. It however, is unlikely that Seattle will be able to find the money to do this.
  • Seattle relies so heavily on buses, the city is actually MORE vulnerable to cold extremes than Portland. Portland shuts down during cold, so just imagine that twice as early and twice as long! Not that snow days bother me, and I don’t mind snow days. I just find it somewhat frustrating in Seattle because everything is 2x farther apart, meaning I often do need to get around during the snow.
  • Seattle uses concrete, that becomes uneven, almost everywhere making the roads dangerous for cyclists and extremely rough while riding in the bus or a car. The roadways are actually less maintained than Portland’s (yes, Seattle actually has MORE dirt roads than Portland).
  • Seattle is politically bound by a warring city council and a mayor with too much power and too little impetuous to move forward on things. Again, I’m tired of waiting for Seattle to get things moving forward. In addition, Seattle is held captive to the warring (and often draconian or backwards thinking regions around the city) that don’t want light rail, don’t want livability zoning or livable street designs, want to just pave everything, yadda yadda yadda. Portland has this problem, but it has been put in check years ago. The battle continues, but Seattle’s battle is about 10-15 years away from becoming a “winning battle”. Simply, Seattle could still fall into a “Houston” or “Dallas” complex.
  • There are at least 3x as many breakfast choices, and a much more active (I’d almost say larger) foodie culture in Portland than in Seattle.
  • There are more coffee options, better coffee options, and more availability of coffee shops in Portland than in Seattle. That doesn’t just come from me, I have confirmed this with some of the top brewers in Seattle. They know Portland kicks some serious coffee ass!
  • I actually have to get into a car in Seattle sometimes and sometimes I even have to drive somewhere. This is absolutely unacceptable when there are better logistics capabilities in Vancouver BC, San Francisco, and of course Portland.
  • The tech scene in Portland is actually, albeit smaller, more cohesive, communicative, socially active in person and on Twitter, blogs, and other places.
  • No city I know of has the density of creatives and the messaging, art, advertising accumen, or capabilities as creatives in Portland. People care about what they create in this city and it shows.
  • Portland is basically the mecca of open source software. Linus Torvalds lives in Portland, err, well, Lake Oswego, which still is about the same, and works in the metropolitan area. In addition to that many of the Agile Manifesto signatures come from individuals that live in Portland or nearby in the surrounding state.
  • Portland doesn’t have an airport south of its downtown wrecking neighborhood connections, instead Portland has an airport and a race track separating it form Vancouver Washington – which to me, is just fine.
  • Seattle has more roadways planned than Portland, Seattle’s port is about to be overtaken by Tacoma’s, and Seattle also has a host of other issues that will make it fall even further into a less livable place if they aren’t rectified.
  • The distance between transit options on the west side of the Portland Metro area are often closer than the transit options in the heart of Seattle. I find this horrifying and absurd. Farther out the transit options almost disappear compared to Portland’s options. If anyone knows about Portland’s “west side transit options”, they kind of suck, or to put it more kindly, they’re about average in the nation. It definitely is not similar to the “Portlandia” area.
  • The number of 10-18 minute routes in Seattle are scarce, even more now with the budget cuts. Just as I had suspected though, Seattle has to cut more service than Portland by percentage of budget and riders. Partly because Seattle has to spend about 2x what Portland does to provide transit. I’ll take Portland’s cuts over Seattle’s any day. This is even magnified by the operational efficiency of having light rail over buses.
  • Portland will have light rail to Milwaukee, an east side Streetcar, increased bus service, and other additions to pedestrian and street facilities by the time Seattle finishes ONLY the First Hill Streetcar, the University District Light Rail still won’t be finished by then. Again, I’m not waiting around any longer for Seattle to catch up. I’d be a billion years old by the time they get to the same level as Portland, San Francisco, or Vancouver BC.
  • Voodoo Donuts. Nuff Said’
  • Seattle has the Burke Gilman Trail at 23 miles, Portland has the Springwater Corridor Loop at 40 miles.
  • Seattle has about 30 miles of signed bike routes, and 20 miles of bike lanes, Portland has 202 miles of painted line bike lanes, 46 miles of bike boulevards, 76 miles of paths that are off street and car-free, and several bike boulevards. Yeah, have I mentioned I like to bike? Portland clearly owns bike friendliness by an order of magnitude.
  • Seattle has 2/3 the bike corrals that Portland does, and as above, about one sixth the amount of bike miles, for a city that consumes as much or more physical space as Portland in the metropolitan area. I’m frustrated by this ratio, and the increased risk and danger of cycling in Seattle.

…and the last technical reason of this list…

  • There is about 50 kazillion more transit related things to write about in Portland then there is in Seattle. So maybe, I’ll be able to breath some life back into this blog!

So Emerald City Seattle, I will admit it has been fun, but it’s you not me and I’m back to my Stumptown City Portland. But don’t worry Seattle, I’ll be visiting regularly. 😉

NOTE: Don’t take offense to this, if you do, you should probably involve yourself to fix the city of Seattle. There’s plenty of opportunities to do so. I mean no insult to anyone working toward bettering the city either. I just had to vent/enumerate my issues. As I said, I have absolutely enjoyed my time in Seattle, but there are things I have grown accustomed to, maybe even spoiled by in Portland, that I want back. So I hope no offense is taken, cheers!


  1. Also, your twitter button on the right side of your blog, the one next to the RSS button, refers to the now-defunct Twitter account @adronbh, and not to @transitsleuth. Just FYI, no need to publish this comment.


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