If you want to get a sense of how extraordinary the City of Portland has become … well, you can go to Pioneer Courthouse Square, one of the great urban spaces in North America. At certain times, there will be a light-rail train on three sides, and on the fourth, a few blocks away, the Portland Streetcar.
But if you want to see what Portland is becoming – and to watch the interactions where five modes of transport come together – then you want to go here, to South Waterfront, where SW Moody meets the Gibbs Street pedestrian bridge, where the aerial tram meets the Portland Streetcar, where a separated bike lane leads to a corral with its own valet, where sidewalks and a narrow arterial street serve South Waterfront, a new section of the city influenced by Vancouverism.
There’s no place like it in North America. And until recently, there wasn’t anything like it in Portland. (The current Streetview stills shows it under construction.)
Here’s what it looks like in action on ‘a multimodal morning:’
Despite all the skepticism and criticisms – over the aerial tram, the streetcar, the bike lanes – Portland has stuck with a vision, the origins of which, like Vancouver, can be found in the 1970s. And while the stereotypes of ‘Portlandia’ may have their basis in the self-conscious reality of the place, it’s easy to forget that this is just the flowering of seeds that were planted and nutured thanks to several generations of community leaders.
Plus good coffee and great beer.