Portland Learning from Los Angeles

An interdisciplinary team of urban designers, architects, and analysts have proposed a neo-retro-futurist scenario for making downtown Portland nearly car-free by 2050.

Portland may be taking a nod from Los Angeles' 70's-era planning history to make future development in their downtown area car-free, or almost car-free by 2050. Yesterday, the urban planning and policy blog Hugeasscity reported on a GGLO proposal to repurpose the city's historic Memorial Coliseum building, located at the perimeter of the downtown core, into a colossal automated park and ride.

In typical Portland fashion, however, there is a Green-ish twist. Instead of cementing a future of auto-dominated travel, the building will become the opening salvo in the car's ultimate retreat from the City. At first, the park and ride (called a "mobility hub") will serve as a redevelopment catalyst – freeing most new construction in the downtown core from the financial and spatial burden of providing parking, thereby enabling increased overall density and affordability. Very much like a giganto-scaled version the "Park Once" garages that supported the recent revitalization of the 3rd Street area in Santa Monica and East Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, or a modern reinterpretation of LA City's 1970 plan that located massive parking structures on the 101, 110, 5, 10 loop around downtown. The big difference here is threefold: Portland's garage will be 500 feet from high-quality regional rapid rail and bus transit, it's 5200-car capacity would be a civic spectacle in and of itself, and it's use as a garage that facilitates auto travel would sunset. After 40 years, when urban density and vibrancy have increased to the point that cars as we know them are obsolete, the building will become a car memorial museum. With the push of a button, visitors could "order up" any one of the 5200 cars stored in the collection, and it would be delivered to their feet for viewing.

The Coliseum "mobility hub" would be one of a series, whose modular automated parking units could be disassembled or repurposed when density near the core increases, and reassembled farther out to catalyze compact development elsewhere.

The proposal is an audacious response to the 2010 Rose Quarter "Call for Concepts" and to Portland's bold 2009 Climate Action Plan, which requires an 80% reduction of GHG emissions by 2050, when population is forecast to have grown by 90%.

Full Story: Coolest Park and Ride Ever



Ain't gonna happen...

Portland and Seattle are radically different in many planning regards. This GGLO proposal highlights the differences and demonstrates how Seattle learns few lessons from Portland. Los Angeles is learning more from Portland than the other way around. And apparently, Seattle is taking its cues from 1950's Los Angeles.

The simplest traffic survey at the proposed mega-parking garage sites reveals its infeasiblity in terms of actual access and progressive land-use guidelines. Somebody didn't do their homework.

Inner-city Seattle has a much higher density than Portland and planners there believe further densification is ideal. Thus, Seattle planners ignore the suburbs and are resigned to being overrun with traffic generated there.

Portland planners incorporate the suburbs into long-term regional growth plans that distribute development throughout the region and tied together along MAX light rail lines.

This mega-garage idea does nothing to reduce traffic on freeways and increases traffic at key city center districts. Portland has plenty of traffic downtown, but it also has a well-designed transit system, generous sidewalks and safe crosswalks that make parking the car more possible. Contrary to this proposal's claim leading toward a car-free downtown Portland, it ain't gonna happen nor should it.

Portland's goal is economic diversity and choice, not density. Density without diversity backfires. Suburbs lack such diversity and need not densify to city center levels to achieve such diversity, and, following this prescription, suburbs reduce need for cross-county driving and set up a development pattern that supports modern transit.

Psst Seattle. The Deep-bore tunnel is an engineering travesty. Don't do it.

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