A task force convened by Oregon Governor Tina Kotek with the goal of breathing life into downtown Portland revealed its recommendations this morning. While I’d hoped tactical urbanism or some sort of streets and/or transportation-related remedies would get more prominent billing, the group has decided to focus on more traditional approaches.
“Gov. Tina Kotek in the coming months will press to increase police presence downtown Portland, outlaw public drug consumption, take protective plywood off of buildings, and step up social services for those struggling on the streets of Oregon’s largest city,” reads an OPB story published this morning that summarizes the recommendations.
While anything that makes downtown streets look and feel safer will encourage people to use transit, their feet, and bikes downtown — there’s nothing transportation-specific in the 10 immediate priorities the governor wants to focus on.
One of the recommendations that caught my eye was listed under the second of three priority tiers (which are referred to as, “Early 2024,” “Actions Throughout 2024,” and “The Decade’s Work”). It had to do with activating public spaces. The Task Force said they’ll work with Prosper Portland and Travel Portland to pursue grant funds and make it easier for people to hold events in public spaces and improve public space amenities to encourage people to attend them. Work like that makes downtown a more attractive cycling destination and could encourage more ridership.
Another recommendation listed under the “Decade’s Work” category was to, “Make downtown a worthy destination.” Under that heading, the Task Force suggested a “better activated” Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Folks in BikePortland circles have been shouting this from the rooftops for years! Let’s swap some of that grass for more programmed spaces and create a world-class park that lures bike riders from all over town. The recommendation also says the park should have, “flexible spaces for recreation,” which to me sounds like maybe a bike skills park and/or pump track? Or maybe a dirt trail that winds along the river and through the trees that could be shared by bike riders and runners?
And I loved this line: “The Salmon Street corridor could better connect the waterfront fountain and the Park Blocks.” How about a physically-separated green lane on Salmon for bikers, walkers, and other small, slow, low-impact transportation vehicles that connects direction to the future protected bikeway on SW 4th?
The only direct mention of transportation infrastructure was the (no kidding) very last item listed. Under the heading of “Support major transportation infrastructure to catalyze development,” the Task Force report said, “Realizing transformative Central City redevelopment projects over the next decade will require major infrastructure investments. Given the scale of infrastructure costs and local funding limitations, the City will need match funding from state and federal partners to move these projects forward with urgency.”
(We’ll remember this when Portland Bureau of Transportation applies for a big grant to fund the Green Loop and lawmakers say they don’t have money because they spent it all on freeway expansions.)
Overall, I’m glad the Governor took initiative to add urgency to getting downtown Portland get back on track. But given that the public outreach survey conducted by the Task Force included many responses from folks saying they’d appreciate better transit, walking, and biking downtown; and the Task Force website encourages people to go on a bike ride to aid downtown’s recovery — I think they could have gone further on the transportation front.
One saving grace here is that PBOT is already ahead of the game and has recently convinced City Council to make their street plaza program permanent. That policy groundwork will pay off big-time if/when the recommendations in this report begin to bear fruit.
— Check out the recommendations here.