— Supportland (@supportland) July 18, 2014
Prior to 1984, the public plaza known as “Portland’s living room,” was full of cars. Believe it or not, Pioneer Courthouse Square used to be a parking lot (and before that it was a regal hotel).
That fact isn’t new to many of you who study urban planning and transportation in Portland. I’ve heard about it for years. But until an aerial photo of it turned up on Twitter last night, that history never really sank in. The photo above was dug up by the Portland Development Commission and then tweeted out by Supportland.
30 years after that transformation, auto parking issues are still front-and-center in many of our conversations. In fact, Portland might be on the verge of a parking reform renaissance thanks to support for progressive ideas on the issue from the two most powerful in local transportation planning: PBOT Director Leah Treat and PBOT Commissioner Steve Novick.
Novick has already taken steps in the right direction. As an Oregonian story published this week points out, Novick’s alteration of the city’s disabled parking placard program has been a huge success.
PBOT’s Leah Treat is also a big fan of getting smarter about downtown auto parking. In an interview with BikePortland back in April she said she wants overhaul parking citywide. “Where demand exceeds supply,” said Treat, “we should have policy in place to allow us to properly value that right-of-way — residential parking permits, valet parking zones, congestion pricing, commercial loading zone permits, and so on.”
“I’m still constantly surprised by the lack of priced parking and how much free parking storage we give away.”
— Leah Treat, Director of PBOT
Why is Treat such a fan of parking policy change? Because she understands how valuable the city’s real estate is: “I’ve been here 9 months and I’m still constantly surprised by the lack of priced parking and how much free parking storage we give away.”
According a recent tweet, Treat says the city is actively working on parking reform, but that any significant changes will come only as part of a larger planning process.
Thinking back to Pioneer Square, while its current design is vastly improved over its initial use, it could still be better.
We like the ideas of local architect and transportation visionary Rick Potestio. Here’s what he shared in a 2006 interview on the Portland Architecture blog (emphasis ours):
“… place both north and south bound trains on Sixth Avenue, and send the trains below grade for three blocks from Alder Street to Taylor Street. Place a transit station under Pioneer Square. Close Sixth Avenue to all bus and auto traffic between Alder and Taylor, creating widened sidewalks along glass pavilions that shelter the descending and ascending tracks and trains. This would enable one to connect Pioneer Square directly to the Pioneer Courthouse, creating a unified, two block long public space. This act would justify a renovation to Pioneer Square that would re-orient the square on an un-obstructed view of the Pioneer Courthouse.”
That’s some fun food for thought for the weekend.