Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Three Day Hiatus from Driving - Day 3

Our third day in Portland was the day we had planned the trip for. This was the day we would tour all of what Portland has to offer for the non-car-driving population, specifically streetcars and light rail. The reason for our trip and this particular tour is our home town, Cincinnati, OH, will be getting its first streetcar in a few weeks. John Schneider, our guide and fellow Cincinnatian, takes great pride and pleasure in demonstrating what streetcars have done for Portland, and what they are already starting to do for Cincinnati before the cars are even on the tracks.

No bikes today so my apologies to the bike enthusiasts who wanted to read more adventures with Velo Junkie and Sis. You may find it just as interesting, though. When a city improves its infrastructure with mass transit other possibilities evolve. Like trains with bike walk-on availability, bike barns at the rail’s end and bike valets. With fewer cars in the city center it is easier for cyclists and pedestrians to navigate the streets. And even bridges that don’t incorporate any lanes for cars such as the new Tilikum Bridge.

After breakfast we met up with the group in downtown Portland to jump on our first adventure, the new light rail line, Portland’s fifth line that had been open less than a week, which traverses the Tilikum Bridge. We couldn’t ride all the way to the end so we got off at a stop on the edge of town to see what they have done to encourage ridership. Park-n-ride lots and an impressive bike barn in pleasant surroundings welcomed commuters. 

Next, we reversed direction back over the bridge
to Portland's South Waterfront, a reclaimed industrial neighborhood. This is where the bike valet and the Portland Aerial Tram are located for riders to go up the mountain to the Oregon Health Sciences University.

Following the tram ride back down the mountain we boarded a streetcar that took us to the Portland Zoo, via a tunnel 300 ft. under the city, where we had lunch. Mr. Joe Cortright, an Economist who studies cities' cultures and systems, joined us for a Q&A session on what direction Portland is taking and why.

After lunch it was back on the streetcar to the Pearl District. This was nothing new to Velo, Sis, and I because we had been hanging out there all weekend. This time we got to meet with two gentlemen from ZGF Architects, one of the biggest design firms in the Portland area. Paddy and Stuart took us on a visual journey of Portland, then and now, and shared some perspective on why Portland made some of their decisions.

That was our final stop before dinner and we had a couple of hours to fill. Oh darn! We were smack dab in the middle of brewery central, the Pearl District. It didn’t take long to decide we were going to Fathead’s Brewery. This time we had another guest along, a young stakeholder from the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati. I had enough good beer there to convince me I wanted to purchase a branded bike jersey and hat from them.

I opted for scotch with dinner because I didn’t want to keep drinking beer, and I knew I would only have one. John had arranged for us to have dinner with Dan Bower, Executive Director of Portland Streetcar Inc. We learned a lot form Dan about what to expect when the streetcars are up and running in Cincinnati. It was a very beneficial exchange.

Velo, Sis, and I were heading to the airport early the next day so we opted to go back to our hotel and just hang by the fire pit for a bit.

Thanks for reading about my travels. I hope I didn’t go into too much detail about the tour. It was a day full of adventure and “A-Ha” moments. I’m looking forward to the Cincinnati streetcar and what else we can do to improve our great city, reduce car drivership, and boost urban population.

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