Sustainability in Portland, OR (Part II)
I’ve now been in Portland Oregon a week – long enough for my body clock to adjust (almost) to the local time zone. And in those seven days, I’ve picked up on plenty more sustainability related stuff which I thought I would share (my initial thoughts are here).
First up, the integrated transit system – bus, local train and streetcars. While I find it frustrating that the bus services follow the N-S, E-W grid iron street layout rather than radially from the centre (which means you can’t get a direct ride into town if you live in the NE like us) the service is otherwise pretty amazing. A flat fare covers all rides for 2 hours or you pay double for all day. An app gives real time information on arrivals at any stop – people tend to magically appear just as the bus hoves into view – it also acts as an electronic ticket. And just in case you think that you couldn’t get much more integrated than that, buses have a nifty double bike rack on the front. These are well used, as is the service in general – 45% of commuters use the service according to the posters.
Second, the car drivers here are so polite, I gather it’s become a national joke. Time after time, I’ve stopped at the corner of a block to check back for straggling family members and then turned back to the road to find a driver waiting patiently for me to cross, even on reasonably busy roads. I’m not quite brave enough to try walking around blindfold, but I think my survival chances would be reasonable.
Despite the current drought, leavened by a couple of downpours in the last couple of days, Portland is famous for its heavy rain. We couldn’t help notice these nifty soakaways installed around one of the local colleges – it appeared to be a trial.
Finally, there seems to be a great culture here. Posters urge people to get involved in planting trees, even though the city is relatively verdant as you can see from the main picture. Lots of front yards have veg growing in them and a satirical book on the city in our house suggests “If you don’t keep chickens in your back yard, people will suspect you are a Republican.”
On Sunday, it happened to be the ‘Sunday Parkway’ for our neighbourhood – a car free circuit was in place to allow active transport – watching 8 year olds wobble safely up the middle of the road was a sight to behold. Stalls ranging from ‘boycott Shell’ to the local church were dotted along the route and some streets just off the circuit had decided to throw a party.
Oh, and it’s not just the beer that is local – most of the wine we’ve quaffed has been produced in the Willamette Valley.
Apart from that last one, I’ll be asking the Council about all these things on Tuesday.