Stalwart Swan Island transportation advocate Lenny Anderson announces retirement

Posted by on October 9th, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Going Street Bridge to Swan Island-10

Lenny Anderson, shown here at the
dedication of a biking and walking
path on Swan Island in 2010, is retiring.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Lenny Anderson, one of the most outspoken and effective transportation advocates in Portland, officially announced his retirement this morning.

Lenny had served as the executive director of the Swan Island Business Association for 14 years but he’s been best known in local transportation circles as the head of Swan Island’s Transportation Management Association (TMA), an organization he founded in 2000. In that role, Lenny was a fixture in countless transportation policy debates and projects. From sidewalks to bike paths and bus lines, the results of his efforts are evident all over Swan Island.

What I appreciate most about Lenny is that he was never afraid to speak his mind — whether the audience was a powerful politician or just a curious young bike blogger. And while Lenny understood how to work and be patient within the process, he also often went against the popular Portland predilection of incrementalism by suggesting bold ideas that would shake the status quo (a floating bike/walk path cantilevered from a train bridge in north Portland for example).

I first met Lenny in October 2006 at the dedication of a new paved path on the Willamette River. That path was just one of many victories on Swan Island that Lenny can claim nearly sole credit for. If you have ever biked, walked, or taken the bus on or around Swan Island, you should be grateful for Lenny’s work.

Here are a few photos of him in action throughout the years…

Freightliner and Swan Island

I toured Swan Island with Lenny in August 2006. The place he’s standing is the site of a major path improvement project he was working on at the time. See the next photo for the fruits of his labor…
Going Street Bridge to Swan Island-9

Lenny was happy to dedicate this new path about four years after I snapped that photo of him above in nearly the exact location.

Freightliner and Swan Island

Here he is at the entrance to the Ash Grove cement road. The road is owned by Union Pacific Railroad and is technically off-limits to the public; but Lenny (and others) have been working for years to open it and create a flat, direct link between Swan Island and the Rose Quarter area.
trail dedication ceremony- Swan Island

Lenny with former Mayor Sam Adams in 2006 cutting the ribbon on a new section of the “Going to River” path.
trail dedication ceremony- Swan Island

He’s a master at grabbing the ear of decision makers and making his case.
metro hearing on the CRC-8.jpg

In June 2008, Lenny testified in opposition to the Columbia River Crossing project at a Metro hearing.
Tour of Tomorrow

Lenny riding through Vancouver (with Mia Birk) during the 2007 Policymakers Ride.

Lenny with former Metro Councilor Robert Liberty at the Carfree Cities Conference in 2008.
Bike commuters at Daimler Trucks North America on Swan Island-4

With the bike commuters group from Daimler Trucks North America in 2010.
Daimler bike shelter opening-36

At the unveiling of a new bike shelter at Daimler Trucks North America in April of this year.

This morning, out of pure serendipity, I ran into Lenny on my way into the office. He was waiting on a MAX platform with his bike on his way to work. Lenny shared how he got his start as a transportation advocate during the six-day closure of the I-5 bridge in 1997. The experts expected massive congestion on I-205 (that never materialized of course), so Lenny worked with C-Tran (Vancouver’s transit agency) on vanpool schemes for Swan Island employees. From there, his “badgering” of TriMet to run a dedicated bus line down to Swan Island resulted in the number 85 line that still runs today. Those early experiences convinced Lenny and others on Swan Island that transportation demand management was the key to their future.

Here’s an excerpt from a memo sent by Lenny to the SIBA Board this morning:

We have seen a lot of progress in my years as TMA Director and SIBA Executive Director. Swan Island has the best transit service of any industrial district in the region, vanpools operate daily to Clark county, the number of bike commuters grows and grows, and this last year saw the completion of over $5 Million in bike/ped/transit access improvements. The Swan Island Evening Shuttle is funded thru June 30, 2014; the TMA project has Metro and member funds to sustain it for another year and a half. In short, parts, products, and people are all moving on Swan Island!

Taking over the reins for Lenny is Sarah Angell, who began the transition into becoming “the new Lenny” over a year ago (and in case you haven’t met her yet, Swan Island is in very good hands).

Congratulations on your retirement Lenny. Your work lives on as a powerful symbol that one dedicated advocate can make a difference.

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  • Jessica Roberts
    Jessica Roberts October 9, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    I will miss Lenny’s determination, smarts, and willingness to speak his mind. It’s been a pleasure working with you for the last decade, Lenny! Enjoy retirement.

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    Todd Boulanger October 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Congrats – Lenny we will miss you! Though watch out – in retirement I think he may have more time to advocate once his rest is over. 😉

    And I learned something new today too – and another reason to thank goodness for the 1997 Interstate Bridge Trunnion repair – “Lenny shared how he got his start as a transportation advocate during the six-day closure of the I-5 bridge in 1997.”

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    MaxD October 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    My daughter (6yo) and I rode bikes to Swan Island on Sunday afternoon. There is a lot of great infrastructure and some truly terrifying gaps! Hopefully the new Daimler building/employees will spur the city to make some connections from Going west of the rr tracks to, uh, anywhere!

    anyway, thanks for all of your advocacy and hard work, Lenny!

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  • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
    Michael Andersen (News Editor) October 9, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Congratulations on an amazing third (am I counting right?) career, Lenny. Glad you’ve left SITMA in such good hands and looking forward to your next trick.

    Here’s my favorite inkling of Lenny’s future transportation advocacy career, from his earlier gig as a singer-songwriter:

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      Scott October 10, 2013 at 5:38 am

      Thanks for that link, Michael! I had heard rumors of this album and earlier career, but never had the chance to listen to it! What a great song he is singing! Looks like Lenny’s message hasn’t changed over the years!

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    Swan Island Runner October 9, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks to Lenny for his dedication to making Swan Island more accessible, I have been a direct benefactor of some of his efforts.

    I also appreciate comments me makes here on Bike Portland, which always enhance the conversation, not to mention his encouragement of people to get more involved for the things they care about.

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    Maren October 9, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Lenny, I have always been impressed and inspired by your efforts. I’ll echo other commenters here by saying I look forward to seeing what you’ve got up your sleeve next!

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    Scott Mizée October 9, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    Lenny, I still remember the first day I met you while attending a Swan Island Urban Renewal Area meeting in the fall of 2004. Your initial encouragement that day and continual inspiration through these last 9 years has been highly influential in my work at npGREENWAY and later Alta. Thanks for your tenacious spirit and “think big” attitude. Your legacy is much, much bigger than Swan Island and will not quickly be forgotten.

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    Ted Buehler October 9, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks Lenny, and best wishes to Sarah.

    Paths to the beaches at Swan Island are pretty fabulous. Hope that they eventually link up to the rest of the system, but in the meantime they’re a great recreational resource for inner N/NE.

    Looking forward to hearing about what you end up doing with your time.

    Ted Buehler

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    Kasandra Griffin October 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    Thanks, Lenny!

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    Beate October 9, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Happy Retirement Lenny! You earned it with endless dedication. The entire Swan Island community appriciates your great work and you will be missed. I know that Swan Island TMA is in best hands with Sarah which you choose well for being your successor. I’m sure you’ll be around when more pieces of the puzzle fill in. Take care and thanks for everything.

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    johnr October 10, 2013 at 3:29 am

    Thank you Lenny for doing the tough work in the trenches for all the right reasons. Portland is a better place because of your efforts.

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    Lenny Anderson October 10, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Thanks Jonathan, Michael and all for the kind comments.
    Going from 20 hours per month to nothing, while technically “retirement,” is actually something short of that. But come January 2014 I will not be headed to work on Swan Island for the first time since March 1987! But I intend to be around and involved as my home town continues to grow up!
    Our efforts on Swan Island to “keep freight moving” demonstrate a couple of things. We know that the obstacle to moving freight is too many SOVs in the peaks, so our strategy has been to offer better transportation options…transit, rideshare, bike, walk…to Swan Island employees. Now better than 20% of Swan Island’s employees to NOT drive in alone and freight is moving. A lesson for I-5?? I think so! Ironically throughout the region valuable industrial land is given away free for auto storage, by far the biggest commute option incentive out there.
    If we want to get to the next level, Lloyd TMA shows us the way…shift from free parking and paid transit to paid parking and free or reduced priced transit. Swan Island is half way there with more due to come with the Daimler expansion. Sarah will see that this gets done.
    See you all around. Ride safely, but ride.

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    Dick Schouten October 10, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Lenny, great job done over many years. Thanks.

    Dick Schouten

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    Joe Adamski October 10, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Lenny… retirement reschmirement.. you’ll still be out there giving em heck! Congratulations on this milestone, but I know darn well the ribbon cutting for the completed npGreenway Trail is the milestone we both look forward to. I expect we will still be showing up at the same hearings or meetings, nudging and pushing our trail along. Congratulations!

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    Jim Kysela October 11, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Lenny!!! We’re all going to miss you down here on the island, and all the great things you’ve done for us. You have inspired us to keep pushing for the necessary changes to make walking and biking to/from Swan Island easier and safer.

    As we know this town still has quite a ways to go to “Build It” and connect all the great bits and pieces that people like yourself have fought for (Going to the River, the Captain’s Walk, and the Waud Bluff trail are just a few recent accomplishments from your involvement here). You took it personally whenever someone down here was involved in an accident and showed your emotions. What more could we ask for from someone as an advocate?

    Just look at our stats as a local large company in the latest Bike Commute Challenge, they speak for themselves. We had just about the same total mileage ridden as much larger companies (nerds and jocks included), with much higher trip percentages, and that’s in this industrial and hard to access safely and directly area of the city. You are directly responsible for much of what those numbers represent.

    And yes, being unaware of your previous career, that Youtube link to your song from 1981by Michael Anderson in the comments above was great!

    Thanks again for everything,

    Jim Kysela

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