Portland Day 1 - Bridge City
Slightly heartbroken from my too-brief stay in Seattle, I boarded Amtrak’s Cascades service and was immediately slightly heart-healed by the waterfront views. Apparently I’m fortunate in this, since Amtrak Cascades is moving to a different, more reliable route that will skirt some of the prettiest scenery; not ideal, but passengers will appreciate it during mudslide season, no doubt. Something that isn't changing on-board the Cascades anytime soon is the ease with which I was able to board Stevie! They have been handling bikes on this service for awhile so not only was boarding painless but I got to bond with several other cyclists! The future is looking bright friends (for an explanation of why, see a post on Train Side Check in Service coming soon!)
The three of us—Stevie the bike, Sean the NARP veep, and myself—got off in Portland, and I think my heart healed completely. Portland Union Station exists as a sister station to Seattle’s King Street Station with its romanesque clock tower, but has a distinctly different vibe, which may be a result of more retail located within the building. It also has a 1940s-era Go By Train sign prominently featured on its clocktower—which will become relevant later on (foreshadowing!).
In one of the more technologically cutting-edge parts of my ride so far, I got to meet up with the nice people at Uber to showcase their new service, UberPedal which has launched (for the time being) in Seattle and Portland. As some of you may have noticed from my past posts, my pack is ENORMOUS (I don’t want any judgment, either; you try packing for a 38 day bike trip that includes snowstorms, rainforests, and deserts). While Amtrak’s station staff has been lovely about checking my baggage—which by the way, is pretty darn cheap!—it’s nice to have a more direct option. Using the same app as the regular service, you can easily hail an UberPedal, where a bike-rack equipped driver—in my case, a super friendly driver—will help you carry your luggage and bike to your final destination. For all you fellow Summer-by-Railer’ers, UberPedal would be a great last-mile solution for bicycle adventurers, and is only an additional $5 on top of the normal Uber price. And they can fit up to three bikes! I was also very impressed by the way Uber is synching up with more traditional transit systems; their local representative, KC, was on hand to speak about how they’ve examined aggregate trip data to see how Uber acts as a flexible feeder system to light rail stations in the suburbs.
We went across a special river-level bike/ped path across the Steel Bridge—which also carries the Union Pacific mainline—and then onto the Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park parkway. It’s hard to believe that this beautiful park used to be a freeway; that anyone would waste such a beautiful riverfront on asphalt and traffic jams. It was GREAT to hear that Governor Tom McCall was a Republican governor that dedicated his administration in the 1970s to sustainability and human-focused development. Building a sustainable bipartisan coalition in support of rail and transit is a huge part of the work NARP is working towards nationally, so it’s good to see that Oregon’s conservation heritage includes more than just eco-focused lefties (no hate—I am an eco-focused lefty).
Along the Waterfront Park was a really innovative project spearheaded by Better Block PDX. In coordination with the city, they had temporarily expanded a one mile bike and pedestrian lane along the Naito Parkway. The project is designed to improved access to the Waterfront Park during the summer, when it holds many popular festivals. The project helped increase bicycling in the lane by over 30% during the evenings, and engaged almost a 1000 citizens in discussing ways to improve the Naito parkway through Twitter.
From there, Gwen and Ryan peeled off back to work and Jessica led us down to the South Waterfront, before heading back to work herself. But no matter. We were in good hands.
No. Great hands. Because Kiel Johnson of Go By Bike is a rockstar.
This is a guy who runs the biggest bike lot in the world. Next to a streetcar. Which helped spark massive real estate development on a former brownfield. Under an aerial tram. Adjacent to one of the few totally car-free condo towers in Portland. And remember Go By Train? Well, in the early 2000s Portland repurposed that as Go By Streetcar in the Pearl District—arguably launching the modern streetcar era in the U.S. Kiel figured he’d do them one better, and launched Go By Bike. The tram operators built on his good idea and installed a Go By Tram sign above Kiel’s bike parking lot. Like I said: this city is all in.
Oh. And the world’s biggest parking lot is free for bicyclists (paid for by Oregon Health Sciences University, the hill-top hospital served by the aerial tram, and Kiel’s bike repair business).
Directly north of the tram we were able to cross the Willamette River to the East Side across the Tilikum Crossing bridge, which is dedicated solely to light rail, pedestrian, and bike traffic. How cool is that?? Of course, my street cred was totally wrecked by trying to take a photo of Stevie in commuter traffic (sorry about that!).
We finished up our evening with a meet up at the bike-friendly Green Dragon with the Portland-chapters of WTS and YPT. I was able to share my journey with so many knowledgeable transportation professionals, and here about the exciting work they’re doing in this city.
And believe it or not, that’s only my first 12 HOURS in Portland. To be continued…