(Photo courtesy Streetsblog)
New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg — arm-in-arm with his visionary and bike-loving director of transportation Jeanette Sadik-Kahn — has unveiled a bold new vision for Broadway Boulevard in Midtown Manhattan.
Here’s the news from Streetsblog:
“New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan unveiled plans to pedestrianize a large swath of Broadway in Midtown Manhattan at a small briefing in City Hall this morning. Intended to improve motor vehicle traffic flow, enhance safety and provide more and better public space to pedestrians, the plan seeks to solve what Sadik-Khan called a ‘problem hidden in plain sight for 200 years’.”
Streetsblog founder Aaron Naparstek — whose website is one of the reasons for the street renaissance in New York City — wrote that the plan is, “arguably, the boldest and most transformative street reclamation project since Portland, Oregon decided to tear down Harbor Drive in 1974.”
In part because of our removal of Harbor Drive (and other things like our light rail and nation’s-best bikeway network), many people around the country and the around the world see Portland as a leader in livability and transportation innovation. And in many ways we are. But when I read the fantastic news from New York City this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder if Portland’s platinum patina is losing its shine.
As New York City moves forward to transform their city into one that prioritizes the movement of people over the movement of cars (and this is hardly the first thing they’ve done in recent years), Portland is still living off fumes of its illustrious green legacy. However, our recent history is much less admirable.
Here are a few examples: We just had a Mayor and a city council vote in support of what many think will lead to a 12-lane CRC bridge; our local bike advocacy group claims that the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation’s budget “ignores bikes”; our nationally renown and successful Safe Routes to Schools program is set for a budget revision that will see its funding go down 40% over last year (meaning core Safe Routes services will be cut from 49 schools); the new transit mall downtown has no accommodation for two-wheeled transportation; we were unable to muster the political will to pass a transportation funding measure; and we had a bike and pedestrian only bridge (that would have create a safe and connected route across a downtown freeway) shelved at the last minute because it got too risky.
Sure, there has been some good news of late. We have gotten bike boxes painted at 12 intersections (at a cost of just $3,000 each and they came after two people were killed on their bikes), we now have dedicated access through the Rose Quarter Transit Center, and we had a successful Sunday Parkways event (which is now scrambling to find sponsorship for its second year).
But none of these successes beckon words like “bold” or “transformative”.
What gives? Where is Portland’s big and innovative green transportation project? Where is our local leadership that will take us on a path like Mayor Bloomberg and Sadik-Kahn are taking New York City? Who will emerge to take back the wheel of this ship and steer us back into the lead?
Maybe I’m just having a pessimistic day or two (if you’d been on the phone calls and in the meetings I’ve been in in the past few days you might be pessimistic too), but I would love to report on something as exciting, important, and transformative for our city as New York City’s plan to create a human-friendly Broadway Boulevard.