This is Alexander Craghead's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Alexander Craghead's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Alexander Craghead
Recent Activity
I *do* agree that Modernism and International Style is worthy of preservation, but I'm not sure I would go so far as to preserve this. I may merely be prejudiced by its present form, but when I see this structure, all I see is the mediocrity of lowered expectations that Modernism so often took on. There were far too many clients who saw Modernism as a way of lowering their investments and doing away with materials and craftsmanship that cost money but benefitted only the public, not the prospectus. Again, maybe I am just prejudiced against this one because of how it looks now. There are a number of Modernist/International structures I find ugly that are worth preserving -- the Wells Fargo Tower for example with its hideous low annex and it's terrible street-level anti-urbanism on three sides. So I'm not immune to the argument of something being both ugly and significant. Where I think we get to is similar to the present arguments about Brutalism. What is truly worth saving, and why? It also leads to a different place that is an unspoken argument only now surfacing, forced by our growth management policies: if we must accommodate growth through redevelopment, then where does that growth go, and *what must be torn down* to make room for it? Four story apartments in foursquare neighborhoods is but one recent example of this friction. Yet the debate over infill, redevelopment, and height limits remains one that we have not addressed adequately in Portland, and one that ties directly into a question related to structures such as this: what are we okay with tearing down?
Brian, some interesting and thoughtful points. A few responses: 1.) MAX doesn't quite yet reach into every suburban area. Southwest is as yet without decent rapid transit. WES doesn't count, being a peak hours weekdays only service, and there's a lot of can of worms aspects there, but until the Barbur-Tigard corridor gets a rapid transit line, the system isn't quite fully built out. And, noting your own comments about the migration of lower income and ethnic populations, I think decent rapid transit out here is critical. (FUll disclosure, I live in Tigard, but for various reasons I will not go into here and now, the arrival of MAX or any other rapid transit to this area of the metro region will likely have no personal bearing on my life.) 2.) One of the problems with Portland Streetcar -- and there are many -- is that is is first and foremost a redevelopment tool. If we expand the system as outlined by the Streetcar System Plan, then that means either a.) it will continue to bring redevelopment with it, forever altering core historic neighborhoods in dramatic ways, or, b.) it will have to be re-tasked to be a transportation mode first. I don't see the latter happening without a merger into TriMet as you suggested, or at least some kind of more unified planning system. 3.) Above all of this, there's a real equity issue here if we freeze the expansion of regional investments -- MAX -- in order to spend money on a transportation mode often seen (perhaps wrongly) as fluffy and lifestyle oriented for a predominantly white, upper-middle-class, liberal, urban demographic. As it is, the rhetoric of many disenfranchised communities is that the streetcar represents a toy for an establishment culture. Note, I'm not saying that's right. But I am saying that's the present and very strong rhetoric. Even geographic distribution of streetcar lines to less core areas -- say Gateway or Lents -- is likely to be seen as a kind of cultural imperialism. My big concerns are that we don't lose the metropolitan notion of transit. The irony here is that, in some ways, Clackamas County opponents and I agree: this is about "Portland creep," but I don't see it as "Portland" so much as advancement and progress. One of the many ways that a metropolitan city can be measured is by how integrated transit makes that city, which is why, for so many of us, great cities are synonymous with great transit systems. Chicago *is* the CTA and Metra. San Francisco *is* the MUNI and BART (and the cable cars, and the F-Line). Vancouver *is* SkyTrain. When you have a ticket for these, you have, in effect, a ticket for the entire city, and thus a ticket to interact with millions of people with diverse ideas, talents, cultures, and business opportunities. Metropolitan scale transit systems become great personal enablers. My fear with things like streetcar is that we turn inward, that we become more interested in concentrating on the fine-scale details of specific places and lose the metropolitan focus. One of the aspects that streetcar development planners like to tout -- this is straight out of CNU territory -- is that maybe distance and speed don't matter, and instead, the streetcar may draw certain kinds of development and thus lessen the need for someone along the route to travel many miles for their desired destination. And that sounds great in many ways, but it ignores what I would argue is the greatest importance of transit: connecting the most amount of people with each other. Transit isn't for improving an individual's access to things, it's for improving an individual's access to other people. That is what makes transit great, and I fear that, much as I adore it, streetcar (at least at present) doesn't do this well, and MAX is only part of the way there.
Nice post, Fred. One question, though: according to my research, the hotel was originally designed by McKim, Mead, and White, and according to Stanford White the renewed effort lead by Markle used his designs.
There are of course political reasons why MAX and Streetcar are not one system. For one, streetcar is, as you point out, development driven -- or at least it as at the start. MAX is about moving mass quantities of people in a traditional Federal definition of mass transit. In fact early on TriMet officials such as Walsh were anti-streetcar as they saw it as competition for transit funding as well as being highly foreign to then current notions about what transit was and what it did. Long term, however, as streetcar lines transition away from development driven and towards more of a transportation role, there is some logic to merging them with MAX under a TriMet umbrella. Metro, in the most recent RTP, suggested using streetcars as "branches" of MAX at further out points, such as Lombard in NoPo, either purely as a single track MAX extension or as a line that sees both local circulating streetcars and commuter/metropolitan service via MAX on the same tracks. These, however, are merely concepts in a larger transportation plan; will they ever become reality? I suspect yes, eventually:once a streetcar is built, the developers get what they want, and have less incentive to fund and operate them. (This is not a new story: it's exactly what became of the first wave of streetcars, which were also all about real estate ventures.) At that point, it makes more sense for them to transition into being part of an integrated transit system, rather than maintaining a separate identity. But in my view this may be a decade or more out, and depends on if additional extensions ever become reality, or if Sam's Streetcar System Plan becomes just a footnote in history.
Apologies for my mobile device induced typos.
Toggle Commented Jun 3, 2011 on quotes of the week: ed glaeser at Human Transit
1 reply
I'd generally side with Patrick on this one. State governments are more often than not biased against urban areas and therefore not interested in funding transit that does not translate well in low density rural regions. Also, in the Glaeser model there are only two possibilities. First, the Feds distribute the money in grants to the states, who assign it to specific projects, or two Feds cease to collect transportation reated taxes and completely devolve funding to the states. If the latter, then transportation equity on a national level would be impossible, meaning poorer states will be more constrained than at present. While many -- including Renn -- talk about a post-national world, socially and culturally destabilizing the nation further is only going to make things harder for anyone within U.S. Borders. Being able to geographically redistribute transpirtation investments is an important tool of national policy. If the former, with blank check style grants to states, the system becomes worse, not better. Now th money must pass through yet one more step before being assigned to a project. It will also be nearly impossible to effectively redistribute transportation dollars equitably. In the present situation, for example, the FTA could choose to provide greater funds to projects in say Michigan than California, based on the specific merits of the projects. But if its a contest of who the Feds provide blank check block grants to, then it will be harder to defend such redistribution. In short, though the Federally centered funding system is unquestionably lengthy, cumbersome, and as us Oberstar fand would argue, broken, it is still a system that is better adapted to national stability, geographuc equity, and supporting urbanism over a low-density (read highways only) transportation focus.
Toggle Commented Jun 3, 2011 on quotes of the week: ed glaeser at Human Transit
1 reply
Alexander Craghead is now following The Typepad Team
Jun 3, 2011