Division Street is Looking Great! Let’s Destroy Division Street!

There’s new construction on Division & 32nd that has the road torn up and down to one lane. The construction gaurd is polite, offers me immediate passage across the street to the bus stop. I’m one of the many lucky souls in Portland that lives within a hundred feet of a bus, light rail, passenger rail or streetcar stop. Today I’m boarding the trusty #4 Route Bus into downtown Portland.

As the construction gaurd flips his sign from stop to slow, the traffic from the western direction, which is where my bus is arriving, starts to trickle through. I stand at the bus stop prepared to board. I check my smart phone to insure that I’ve purchased a day pass. I verify that I have and count the seconds. One car, two car, three car and four. The bus then pulls through and stops gingerly in front of me.

I step aboard to prevent any lingering wait that the cagers surely draw frustration from. The driver is already smiling and greets me with a “it’s really running the gauntlet today”. He refers to Division Street as a whole. From 39th to 10th or so it has been under construction from many months, if not more than a year now.

Division Street Grows Into Something Worthwhile

Four years ago Division Street was nothing but a small two lane arterial that switched into 4 lanes at random places. It is a residential street with front yards and children playing nearby. Now it is under immense pressure to become consistent, to grow in a smarter way than just acting as a naive arterial only for cars.

Division has grown sidewalks for the length of the street from 8th all the way to 82nd. Before there were gaps, dangerous gaps. Division has gone from inconsistency of two or four lanes to a solid two lanes from 82nd to 8th. At 8th is where something new is sprouting in the Portland & Milwaukee Light Rail Line. Between 12th and 30th there are fixes to and dramatic additinos of bioswales and other road amenities. These amenities are known to increase pedestrian and motorist safety. Between 60th and 82nd the lanes have gone from an unwieldy and dangerous four lanes to two, consistent with the rest of the street. Along the sides now are buffered bike lanes and other amenities for bus pull outs, timed traffic lights and other small items that help the flow of all traffic, not just cars.

Slowly Division itself becomes something, with bioswales and a consistent two lanes for its length. Service on the road is getting an increase in just a few more weeks. The #4 Trimet Bus is increasing back to what is referred to as frequent service. This means 15 minute frequency or better throughout the day. Beyond frequent service there is also going to be an increase for rush hour.

Slowly the auto dependency of Division is becoming less violent and fading into a small nuissence that provides a meager enabler for the street. Already today, actively there are three transportation means that already rule over the automobile when looked at as a whole; public transit, biking and walking. Not only have these modes become the dominent form of transport for customers to the growing businesses along Division. These modes, now dramatically safer with the taming of traffic violence, are once again becoming of dominant use to those teaching, attending and maintaing the schools in the area. That’s thousands and thousands of trips that no longer rely on the automobile, decreasing the auto-dependency of those that now have this new freedom.

A True Place

Some screamed when all of this started. Capitalism was at play in a huge way taming the automobile here. Some hate that, some love it. The city gave liberty to developers and stopped forcing them by regulation and law to build parking. If they saw a reason not to or demand didn’t dictate they simply didn’t have to build apartments with parking. Some of the residents saw this as a massive problem. With multiple apartments open that are without parking, there is still no shortage of parking. With the largest of the apartments without parking ready to open in the coming month or two, there still is a growing sense that this will become an enabler to the area versus a detractor.

Along this corridor the city has seen a dramatic increase in businesses opening up. This is in addition to new homes, apartments and other domiciles for people to live in the city. Almost 5x as many businesses, many local, now exist compared to just two years ago. Most of these businesses are now doing a brisk trade too. When auto-dependency ruled the street the businesses popped up but then immediately suffered. These businesses, many catering to the automobile, had not only been hurt by the auto-dependency but also hurt the existing businesses that were there before. The street was a ghost town as the 60s and 70s rolled in.

Let’s Destroy It All

Years ago the shortsighted advocates of auto-dependency wanted to pave all of Division, forcefully relocate the residents, destroy the homes all the way out to Clinton Street and possibly as far as Lincoln street in some cases on the other side. What they wanted to do, to be sure anybody could drive as fast as possible from downtown Portland to I-205 and the suburbs was build a new Interstate. They wanted to destroy all of this under the false guise that it would somehow make the neighborhoods better if they have more auto-dependent access. We know now, and thankfully didn’t make this mistake, that Interstates and increased auto-dependency do not increase livability or the quality or value of one’s neighborhood. If anything it pushes people further away and creates a massive thing that most people don’t actually want to live anywhere near.

As I ride through and down Division today to run my errands, enjoy an espresso and head into downtown for a few meetings I’m extremely happy that Division and most of the respective southeast neighborhood wasn’t destroyed to make way for an Interstate. The thousands of people that live here and enjoy an extremely high standard of living would have been left with a dwindling and disused neighborhood. A neighborhood that would have had little hope for repair. Now the neighborhood is anything but that. The number one reason why is because the city and the people of the city didn’t allow an Interstate to be cut through the area!

Until later, happy riding.

A West Side Re-Exploration of Orenco Station & Neighborhood

Paul Peterson @emptefilms & I @transitsleuth went out to Hillsboro to check out how Orenco Neighborhood (town?) has developed. You can read more about Orenco Station via the Wikipedia Page. As described on the wiki page, “is a neighborhood of the city of Hillsboro, Oregon, United States. The planned urban town center was designed as a pedestrian-friendly, high-density community built in conjunction with TriMet’s Westside light rail. It was built on land formerly owned by the Oregon Nursery Company, land home around the turn of the 20th century to Orenco, a company town. During the Great Depression, the company went out of business, and much of the nursery land became vacant until re-development began in 1997. Orenco Station is near the intersection of NW 231st/NW 229th Avenues and Cornell Road, centered on the Orenco Station MAX stop.

There’s also a basic web presence at http://www.orencostation.net/ that provides some current commercial information about the neighborhood.

The stop that anchors the entire neighborhood is simply named the Orenco / Northwest 231st Avenue Stop. The station has a park-and-ride lot with 180 free parking spaces (for 24 hours at a time) and bus connection to line 47-Baseline/Evergreen. The station also includes bike lockers and bike racks. A block north is the site of the Hillsboro Farmer’s Market’s seasonal Sunday marketplace and the core of the Orenco Neighborhood.

Keep reading and subscribe to the blog (RSS) or the video channel, an upcoming episode of Transit Sleuth TV will have more about Orenco and the development there.

Onward to Los Angeles, Santa Ana & Newport Beach

I’m heading down to check out some biking, beaches and a rail trip. Feel free to join me at any point of the trip. I’m aiming to record it, blog it and generally provide a thorough write up of the whole adventure. To start it off, here’s the logistics plans.

Portland Union Station at Night

Portland Union Station at Night

On September 4th I’ll be departing, with bicycle packed and recording gear on hand from Portland Union Station. I’ll be boarding the Coast Starlight south bound to Los Angeles. From Los Angeles I’ll make a transfer to the Pacific Surfliner down to Santa Ana.

Once I arrive in Santa Ana I’l detrain and unpack my bike. Somehow I’ll carry the storing container and other material and roll on from Santa Ana Station down to Newport Beach via the Santa Ana River Trail.

From Santa Ana Rail Station to Newport Beach via the Santa Ana River Trail.

From Santa Ana Rail Station to Newport Beach via the Santa Ana River Trail.

Coast Starlight arriving in Portland.

Coast Starlight arriving in Portland.

Once I arrive I intend to take a few bike trips here and there, which I’ll record some and write about others. I’m working to line up meeting some riders, coders & transit crew while I’m down. So if you’re anywhere in the Los Angeles metro area between the 6th and 10th of September, let me know and we’ll have some grub with a beer, coffee or other beverage of our choice. If you’re up for riding and interested in showing me trails, routes or other crazy cycling bits, definitely ping me about that too, I’m curious where the routes & runs are for the LA, OC and metro area local riders are. If you’re up for a tour about, hit me at @transitsleuth on twitter.

Surlac

Surlac

Upon the return trip I’ll bike back out to the station, whip out the tools and re-pack the bike at the Santa Ana Station and then board an early morning Pacific Surfliner back into Los Angeles. From there back aboard to the north bound Coast Starlight, feet up and kicked back, and the following day I’ll arrive back in Portland, Oregon rested and relaxed.