PBOT will manage new food truck program to activate downtown sidewalks

Slide shown by PBOT right-of-way manager at City Council this morning.

“This will increase the walkability of the Central City Plan District and decrease the need for auto-oriented transportation.”

Mingus Mapps, PBOT commissioner

Portland City Council voted unanimously at their meeting this morning to green light a new pilot program that will bring more mobile food trucks to the the central city. The program is expected to help revitalize downtown, the Lloyd, and the Central Eastside, by allowing food truck operators to park adjacent to sidewalks and do business in the public right-of-way — a practice current city code prohibits.

The program will be operated by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) as an expansion of their Healthy Business permit program that was launched during the pandemic as a way to help businesses expand operations into the street. That program also began as a pilot and was recently made permanent.

The ordinance means PBOT receives a nearly two-year waiver from having to comply with existing city code 14A.50.040 which states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or attempt to sell any merchandise or services in or upon any sidewalk, street, alley, lane, public right of way, or under any bridgeway or viaduct within the Central City Plan District.”

At council today, PBOT Commissioner Mingus Mapps said the pilot program will, “Increase the walkability of the Central City Plan District and decrease the need for auto-oriented transportation.” Mapps lined up supportive testimony from leaders in the local food cart and mobile food scene, as well as a representative of a major downtown property owner who has used food trucks to lure workers back to offices.

I was very happy when Commissioner Rene Gonzalez asked a question about how this program might influence Portland Parks & Recreation to allow carts on their properties. The lack of vendors in Portland’s parks has long been a thorn in the side of urbanists and anyone who understands how to create dynamic public spaces. PBOT right-of-way specialist David McEldowney told Gonzalez he’s already spoken to a high-level Parks staffer about it: “The vibe I got from him was that Parks staff really don’t want the food trucks in the park. So if they could come next to the park and vend in there, that was much more exciting for them… So, we’re looking forward to having a great relationship with Parks on this.”

And Mapps Policy Advisor Jackson Pahl added, “If Parks does want to come forward and partner with PBOT on activating streets along their parks, we are ready, willing, able and very, very excited to activate both public and private property.”

A stronger partnership between PBOT and Parks on activating public spaces (or on anything for that matter!) would reap huge benefits for our city, so this back-and-forth was great to hear.

The only concern fielded during discussion of this agenda item at the council meeting came from Commissioner Dan Ryan. Calling it a “good problem” to have, he said when downtown is busy again and there’s a lot of foot traffic and demand, some business owners might not like the idea of losing parking spaces. “Imagine the day when there is a lot of traffic… and the food truck is taking up a couple parking spaces and… you hear from small brick-and-mortar tenants downtown they want to have readily available parking… how we will be flexible when we want to do all we can for our small businesses?”

PBOT’s McEldowney responded by pointing out that the current pilot program will only allow one food truck per activation. “So that’s only two parking spaces off any one blockface within several blocks of each other. So as far as taking up existing parking this won’t have a big impact there.”

In comments before voting, Parks Commissioner (and mayoral candidate) Carmen Rubio didn’t say anything about vendors in Parks; but with the pilot ending after Rubio, Ryan, and the rest of current Council are no longer in their positions, there will be an excellent opportunity to expand the program in 2026 if it’s successful.

In comments before sharing his “yes” vote, Mayor Wheeler rattled off a list of positive trends he sees in downtown’s resurgence, then added. “I saw a great quote the other day in The Atlantic from a city designer in San Francisco who said, ‘If people don’t have to be in the Central City, what you need to do is make them want to be in the central city’.”


The code waiver goes into effect immediately and PBOT has until end of calendar year 2025 to run the program. Read the ordinance here.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

Thanks for reading.

BikePortland has served this community with independent community journalism since 2005. We rely on subscriptions from readers like you to survive. Your financial support is vital in keeping this valuable resource alive and well.

Please subscribe today to strengthen and expand our work.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

70 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Aaron
Aaron
5 months ago

when downtown is busy again and there’s a lot of foot traffic and demand, some business owners might not like the idea of losing parking spaces.

That poor downtrodden business owner with bustling foot traffic in front of their storefront would just want to make sure their window displays are blocked by a parked Ford Explorer before too many more customers walk in the door. You really have to feel for them in this bleak vision of the future Portland after this food truck program has been unleashed onto the streets. Maybe we could revitalize downtown with a drive through food program instead?

JM
JM
5 months ago
Reply to  Aaron

Yeah I found that quote from Gonzalez odd. If we’re trying to create a bustling downtown with lots of foot traffic, it shouldn’t matter much if there’s not enough parking. The goal is to get people, not cars, into the city. People are the ones that spend the money, after all.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)
Editor
Reply to  JM

It was Dan Ryan, not Gonzalez who was concerned about parking. Gonzalez wanted to know how to expand the program into parks.

JM
JM
5 months ago

Ah, my bad! Good thing I’m not taking a reading comprehension test today.

Matt S.
Matt S.
5 months ago
Reply to  JM

I drive, then spend money. I’d ride, but it’s not safe with a family. I’d ride the bus, but it’s too slow and more expensive with a family of four.

Steven
Steven
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

Studies show that people who walk or bicycle end up spending more money at local businesses than people who drive.

TheCat
TheCat
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

The solutions to the problem you describe include 1) making it safe to ride bikes with your family, 2) make the bus and train free, or at least affordable. Saving or adding parking is not a viable solution for our city or planet.

blumdrew
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

Youth (7-17) fares are $1.40, children under 7 ride free, and high schoolers get a free bus pass. It might be slow (I obviously don’t know where you live), but especially to downtown where parking is relatively expensive it’s not crazy to think that you’ll spend less on TriMet than parking. It’s also worth saying that most parts of Portland have a relatively easy bus ride to downtown. A family of four would spend between $5.60 and $8.40 on fares one way, or $11.20 to $16.80 for a full day. Parking meter rates of $2.20 an hour downtown mean that you break even between 5 and 7 and a half hours depending on how old your kids are

I loved riding the bus as a kid, and didn’t like getting driven around as much. It’s a fun experience when you’re younger (or it was for me)

JM
JM
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

The point is that if city leaders and businesses are successful at increasing foot traffic in downtown, it shouldn’t matter much if parking is scarce. The people are finding a way to get downtown to spend money. It’s not about you as an individual refusing to use public transit or bikes, it’s about people finding a way to get into downtown if that’s where they want to go. And if it’s an attractive enough destination, it will be busy regardless of whether 2 parking spots are taken up by a food truck.

Take NW parking district for example. I had a coworker who would not stop complaining about it when they were going to put in meters in the neighborhood. They said nobody would shop there anymore. Fast forward 7 years, and it’s still a very active district with tons of foot traffic. Those people are spending money, regardless of the folks who say they’ll never go there because they can’t find parking or don’t want to pay for it.

The more successful a district is at becoming a vibrant, pedestrianized area, the more inconvenient it will be to get there by car, and potentially by other modes until they are improved. But a lot of people want to be where the action is and will find a way to get there.

EP
EP
5 months ago
Reply to  JM

Oh, how it was so quaint and old-fashioned to have unmetered free parking in NW in the 20-teens! I always got a kick out of that in such a built up area. When I saw the meters start showing up I was just glad to have gotten it for free for as long as I had! And then my employer managed to finagle extra NW district parking passes so I could still drive to work and park for free. ‍♂️ I still biked a lot, but that was a nice perk on real gross winter days.

I still want NW 23rd to have car-free sections/pedestrian plazas added. It’s about time!

qqq
qqq
5 months ago
Reply to  Aaron

One thing especially weird about it is that no business downtown has ever (unless delusional) expected to have on-street parking available right at their business. And no customer (unless delusional) who drives downtown ever expects to be able to find an on-street space in the immediate vicinity of a particular business.

To downtown businesses and customers who drive, “readily available parking” in any realistic sense has always meant there was enough parking capacity for people to park (in a garage or lot, or on street) within a few blocks of a destination. There’s so much surplus parking capacity now that the City has closed entire (multi-hundred-space) parking garages.

If his concern is having more on-street parking available for businesses very close to them, a better strategy than worrying about food carts would be to convert more on-street parking to shorter-term spaces.

Matt S.
Matt S.
5 months ago
Reply to  Aaron

I’d start with snuffing out the burning fentanyl and then clean up the feces on the sidewalk. That would go a long way in my book. I couldn’t believe the state of downtown near the US Bank Corp Tower last time I went down there.

Surly Ogre
Surly Ogre
5 months ago

One day I hope to hear a Mayor of Portland, or CANDIDATE for Mayor, say ‘If people don’t want to bicycle in the Central City, what you need to do is make them want to bicycle in the central city’.”

Matt S.
Matt S.
5 months ago
Reply to  Surly Ogre

Good luck in the middle of January with two kids under 5.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

Matt S., ok?!…what Portland year is this, 2000?…there are many secure and comfortable bak-type bikes for hauling 2 kids + adult as motor …either new or second / third hand on CL.

jakeco969
jakeco969
5 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

Way to bikesplain that poster. That will learn them.

Steven
Steven
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

Somehow people in Scandinavia manage to do it quite well.

jakeco969
jakeco969
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven

Seriously? You’re just going to cherry pick a random country that has good bicycle infrastructure and a completely different economic and social structure and compare Portland to that place?
When the article on Nordic countries using personal illumination posted

https://bikeportland.org/2024/01/04/guest-opinion-personal-reflectivity-and-pedestrian-safety-382897

the overwhelming response was that we’re too different to be compared to those places. So it’s a little annoying when people cherry pick absoulutely random places to compare when all it seems you want to do is put down the poster for not wanting to ride a giant bike with 2 kids. Maybe they can’t? Maybe they don’t feel safe for whatever reason, maybe its simply not safe for them and their kids. Who knows??
But never let a chance to be snarky pass by, right?

Steven
Steven
5 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

I think you’re inventing things to get mad at. I never said anything about personal illumination or the commenter I was responding to. The relevant question to ask is _why_ Nordic countries might be perceived as more safe for bicycling, even in winter, and what we as a city can do to catch up.

jakeco969
jakeco969
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven

So why didn’t you just say that? It really seemed like you couldn’t be bothered to help the OP with any advice about how to ride in town with children, or ask if the OP was physically able to ride with children and if not, any suggestions you might have to mitigate those issues, or how you yourself navigate downtown with 2 children on a bike to give some helpful, personal hints.
You’re right, I am mad at people who don’t help others help themselves and just offer snarky one liners.
Heres a link you could have posted

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2023/jun/19/ditching-the-car-for-a-cargo-bike-on-the-school-run

or

https://rascalrides.com/cargo-bikes-kids/

Or something similar. If the OP was sincere its a good way to help out, if they are just here to press a car centric view then maybe they would get inspiration out of a helpful response?

Steven
Steven
5 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

You mean snarky one liners like the comment I was responding to?

jakeco969
jakeco969
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven

I thought blumdrew had a good response to the OP, they posted some facts on bus use and then supplemented it with a personal experience on the positivity of riding the bus. I might disagree about that in current times, but there is no doubt that it was a very strong post and very helpful if someone was looking for a reason to try the bus instead of a personal automobile. In other words blumdrew added to the dialogue rather than adding to the white noise.

Steven
Steven
5 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Good point. From now on I’ll avoid snarky one-liners such as, “Way to bikesplain that poster”. After all, that only adds to the white noise.

TheCat
TheCat
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

I rode my cargo bike to the grocery store in the winter in Iowa City with my toddler, it’s not impossible with the right gear.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  TheCat

That’s a long way to ride to get groceries.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
5 months ago

representative of a major downtown property owner who has used food trucks to lure workers back to offices

LOL, there are no food trucks near my workplace in the downtown. And just to clarify, we weren’t “lured” back to the office we were threatened with job loss to force people back downtown a few days a week.
I didn’t buy food downtown before 2020, and I sure have no plans to now. I’ll support my neighborhood food vendors over downtown’s any day of the week.

PTB
PTB
5 months ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

But why don’t you eat downtown? This is weird. “Honey, do you want to go to the coast this weekend?” “Yeah, that would be great…BUT I WILL NOT EAT THERE” What do you have against ‘downtown food’? Supporting food vendors all over the place, what’s wrong with that? You can eat downtown and also eat closer to home. Tell me what I’m missing.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
5 months ago
Reply to  PTB

Simple, I brown bag my lunch everyday.
The thought that food is going to bring me back downtown is preposterous for me.
And I buy plenty of food elsewhere.
Downtown doesn’t appeal to me in the least. I have to work there, isn’t that enough?

EP
EP
5 months ago

So does this conversation about food carts and Parks mean that food trucks may someday be parked in the bike lane on Better Naito?

Pkjb
Pkjb
5 months ago
Reply to  EP

Parked in the bike lane? No, they will be “activating” the bike lane…

Chris I
Chris I
5 months ago
Reply to  EP

100%

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
5 months ago
Reply to  EP

Going to turn on the local evening news and catch stories about how some small child or elderly person from the ‘burbs was plowed by a cyclist while trying to get a snack near Waterfront Park. Being TV news, it will be a well scripted sob story about entitled and reckless bike riders harming and fightening Rose Festival goers near the very popular food trucks. You know who didn’t hurt someone on Naito this afternoon? Car drivers.

On the plus side (full snark intended), look for more aggressive pan handling around these food truck activations. The city is still not doing enough to address the #1 reason why people do not enjoy going downtown. Hint: it’s not parking, lunch options, or safe biking conditions.

EP
EP
5 months ago
Reply to  Lazy Spinner

Re: the pan handling, that really is a detractor from hanging out and enjoying food, especially for tourists. I went to the Midtown Beer Garden — Expensify over the summer, and at first it was kind of strange to enter a fenced off food cart area with a security guard, but then it was kind of great to not be accosted, have sketchy things going on, etc. etc. Of course all that was happening right outside the fence. To their credit, I emailed the management about putting bike parking INSIDE the fence, and they agreed, though I haven’t been back to see how it was implemented.

maxD
maxD
5 months ago

% or 6 years ago, Vancouver BC wanted to get on the food cart bandwagon being led by Portland. Vancouver has basically no vacant land/empty lots and they they do not do organic/bottom-up development well, so they mandated a food truck program. The design of the truck was prescribed and the licenses were limited. The trucks were popular for a while (not sure if they still are). One truck sold Japadogs- Japanese inspired hot dogs. When I was visiting. I sought out the truck with a friend who lives there. There was a short line and the food was great. However, in order to be mobile, the food trucks run on gas or diesel generators. These are loud, polluting and very unpleasant. I asked PBOT about this when they were developing this program and they gave a mealy-mouthed answer about hopefully future trucks would be electric or be able to connect to hookups around town. Since we do not have a networks for food truck hook-ups, I assume these will be operated by generators. I do not welcome the noise and pollution of generators.

Portland DOES have a network of retail spaces throughout the City and along many arterials. I would prefer the City invest in programs to help small businesses launch, or reform rules to make it easier to rent spaces by the hour/day/week or month to promote retail spaces getting filled. I am skeptical of this news

Pkjb
Pkjb
5 months ago
Reply to  maxD

The central city is full of vacant store fronts. Went not activate the existing buildings and take advantage of the infrastructure that’s already in place instead of cluttering the curbside with more vehicles?

dw
dw
5 months ago
Reply to  maxD

I was thinking about the generator thing too – though I’m not sure they’ll be any noisier or more polluting than current car traffic is downtown.

I’d also like to see more of those storefronts activated. There’s a bottom floor of a 5 over 1 in my neighborhood that has been vacant – and presumably never occupied – since I move here 4 years ago. Plenty of food traffic so not exactly in a dead zone.

Downtown also has a noticeable of street-oriented development. Walking around the zone near the transit mall feels uneasy because of all the impersonal entraces to towers, blank walls flanking side streets, and entrances for parking garages

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  dw

Most generators don’t have catalytic converters. And they’re much louder than a typical gasoline powered car, which is itself much louder than an electric car.

Matt S.
Matt S.
5 months ago
Reply to  dw

Considering it’s recommended to run your household generator 20 feet from your house so not have carbon monoxide emissions near, what does this mean for trucks? Run a cord 20 feet away and hope your generator doesn’t grow legs?

Sounds like this hasn’t been entirely thought through.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
5 months ago
Reply to  maxD

If this program has real moxie and political support…then they can find a solution to the power ‘problem’…say connect to the street lights for a fee. (Many lamps have a holiday ornament outlet etc…the load has to be managed/ not excessive and assuming the lamp has been converted to LED.)

maxD
maxD
5 months ago
Reply to  Todd/Boulanger

I am not saying that are not design solutions to this problem, I am saying that PBOT has ignored this problem and failed to address it.

John V
John V
5 months ago

If someone could put a cart by any of the parks I regularly visit with crowds of people in them, I think they would sell me something every time I went. If I could get coffee without having to leave the area, I absolutely would, almost every morning.

dw
dw
5 months ago

I support this despite the problems with it. The generators needed to power the carts will be noisy. The food packaging will probably be just another source of litter unless the city can ensure there’s ample garbage can capacity. Dan Ryan is a weenie 90% of the time but he is right to be concerned there could be some blowback from business owners. I also just know that these food trucks are probably going to set up shop in bike lanes all the time.

Downtown – especially the area around the transit mall – feels like such a dead zone. Especially when compared to other parts of the central city. There’s definitely fewer office workers, but from a design perspective it just doesn’t exactly invite prolonged visits on foot. There’s very little-street oriented development. Lots of set back lobbies for towers, entrances to parking garages, and blank walls. Not many shops, bars, galleries, restaurants, or any of the other stuff to “do”. There’s a distinct lack of places where you can hang out without being expected to spend money or have business somewhere.

Anything that tips the scale toward a more diverse, active, and human-centric central city is a win in my book.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  dw

“Downtown – especially the area around the transit mall – feels like such a dead zone.”

People don’t seem to like being near buses.

Matt S.
Matt S.
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Or downtown…

Karl Dickman
Karl Dickman
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

I like being downtown.

disgruntled
disgruntled
5 months ago
Reply to  Karl Dickman

There is literally not a single business or venue in the downtown area that draws me so I have to wonder what it is about downtown that you like so much? There are grocery stores, restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, and venues within a 5-15 minutes walk/bike in my neighborhood and, for the most part, there is nothing comparable in “downtown”. Is your “like” of downtown ideological or is it based on a rational acknowledgment of the resources and amenities that are unique to this neighborhood*

We should allow downtown density in my neighborhood (and in every neighborhood) if we want a more sustainable city. The pathetically anemic reforms advocated for by YIMBYs are just another example of rearranging deck chairs on the titanic “reformism”. $500,000 ADUs and bougie $750,000+ duplexes are just as unsustainable as a NIMBY single household bungalow in Laurelhurst or Eastmoreland.

* The commercial real-estate bust is just beginning and it’s a certainty that there will be massive capital flight out of downtown as the vicious cycle of Mynskian default plays out.

Will
Will
5 months ago
Reply to  disgruntled

Soren, you’re back!

PTB
PTB
5 months ago
Reply to  disgruntled

I like Powell’s, that Hawaiin ice cream place across Burnside, 2nd Ave Records, India House, PSU Farmer’s Market, the library, I like to get a coffee across the street from the library at Case Study, I like vegan fast/junk food at Veggie Grill, Spella, Billy Galaxy, Pine Street Market, Ground Kontrol, Huber’s, Foot Traffic, Luc Lac, PAM, OHS, etc. These are all fun places to go and these are places that absolutely don’t exist in my neighborhood.

Karl, I’ll see you there. I’m happy to help floating some money to these places in hopes they don’t all disappear and *try* to make it feel like it did before Covid. disgruntled, you don’t sound like you’re any fun but you’re welcome to join us if you’ll be cool.

Steven
Steven
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Is Southwest 4th, a block from the transit mall and dominated by car traffic, more lively and people-friendly because of the absence of buses? I’m not seeing it myself.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven

You make a good point — a lot of downtown feels dead. But the buses are particularly loud and unpleasant, especially when the noise of their diesel engines reverberates off all the surrounding hardscape.

Cars are just not that loud.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
5 months ago

Best would be for the planners to map out the true “retail food deserts” and see where the activation needs to be…either geo or time based…versus everyone rushing to the prime spots that likely already have retail food / dining resources.

Steven
Steven
5 months ago

A great way to revitalize downtown would be to turn any of the dozens of otherwise vacant parking lots into dense, mixed-use housing. People and businesses pay taxes; empty asphalt doesn’t.

PS
PS
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven

There’s currently hundreds of units of mixed use housing that people don’t want to rent, hence the increasing vacancy and negative absorption downtown, so there needs to be a “there” there if you want people to just magically show up.

Steven
Steven
5 months ago
Reply to  PS

I’d love to see a source for the claim that there are hundreds of vacant apartments in downtown specifically. In 2022 Portland’s vacancy rate was historically low at 6%, which is both below the national average and well below the 10% rate that economists suggest is healthy. Meanwhile Oregon at large is facing a shortage of over 100K housing units.

SD
SD
5 months ago

 “I saw a great quote the other day in The Atlantic from a city designer in San Francisco who said, ‘If people don’t have to be in the Central City, what you need to do is make them want to be in the central city’.”

The fundamental planing flaw of the past century in the US has been the segregation and distancing of essential services. The most effective form of transportation is not a bus or a car, but is preemptively shrinking travel distances. Instead of shrinking distances, planning, or the lack there of, has baked in car-dependency without accounting for the negative externailities of cars or transportation. One of the major negative externalities for a vibrant downtown is that car traffic kills the joy of people walking and spending time in that area. The focus by businesses and the current car-centric city council has been on the experience inside of retail spaces while ignoring the outside experience. If they want people to go downtown and to spend time downtown, the outside experience is more important.

Wheeler, and other officials believe the solution is forcing unnecessary transportation at a time where technology, like work from home, is solving the problem of wasteful unnecessary transportation. If they want to make downtown vibrant, they have to have the long term vision of building a place that people want to spend time. A place that does not feel stressful and is not overrun by cars and trucks. Build more residential capacity and allow for essential businesses that serve those residents and people will live there as a base instead of relying on a high percentage of commuters that bring too much crap and cost too much to accommodate. The strength of downtown is its capacity for population density. I understand the push for quick fixes, but those quick fixes should not block important longterm strategies.

For example, I recently ate breakfast at a restaurant on NW 23rd when the weather was nice and sat outside. A huge truck parked next to the sidewalk and left the engine running, blasting exhaust on us for a few minutes. The food was great, but why make a trip for that? We also sat and watched as cars and foot traffic were constantly in conflict with each other at the nearby intersection. This is on one of the streets in Portland with the most pedestrian traffic that clearly wants to prioritize people being there instead of passing through. In downtown SW later that weekend, I had a WA plates monster truck lurch toward me when I was in a crosswalk for kicks. Is this the failed planning what Ryan is trying to preserve?

Likewise, the suburbs need to be rezoned to allow more integration of small businesses into neighborhoods to shrink travel distances. Transportation and daily travel should be a joy not a forced labor meant to flog the economy.

Jack s
Jack s
5 months ago

I loved the food trucks in mexico city that were everywhere in the same manner. People flocked to them.

I think they should not allow these trucks to use gas generators though. The sound and air pollution associated with it really makes for a bad human experience.

I also think they should allow the food trucks to pay for an extra parking spot next to them to put in a small seating area for their customers to eat at.

nate
nate
5 months ago

I’m sure glad the Portland Bureau of Transportation will now also be in charge of rearranging these deck chairs food carts. With all the extra time/budget/staff they have, I’m glad they’ll be able to spend even less on doing their damn jobs; ya know, making it easier/safer to get around town. /s

J_R
J_R
5 months ago
Reply to  nate

What about the opportunities for staff to take trips to faraway places to see how other cities do it? What about the opportunity to write reports and make presentations at conferences? Aren’t those important to you?

qqq
qqq
5 months ago

People have remarked about why park food carts on the street when there are so many empty storefronts that could house food vendors.

One reason is it’s much more complicated and expensive to put those vendors in buildings. It’s a key reason food carts became popular here in the first place. The boom started when the City created system development charges that added thousands of dollars in upfront costs to food businesses that typically aren’t flush with cash. Then add permit costs, required code upgrades, etc. which are all still issues today (less so in spaces that previously housed restaurants, but still…).

Even with any red tape associated with this cart parking program, I’m guessing it’s still much easier than opening an in-building location.

The irony is that having a food cart parked in front of an existing struggling restaurant or coffee shop could be their nail in the coffin. (But one reason they’re struggling is that food carts and takeout are more attuned with what people want now.)

These aren’t arguments against this program, just an observation that parking food carts on the street in front of empty storefronts is really an unsurprising evolution of a process that started two or three decades ago.

PS I think downtown is going to get much worse before it gets better, as all the pre-COVID leases expire without incoming tenants to replace them.

Surly Ogre
Surly Ogre
5 months ago

assume New York City has a parking problem.
and also assume Portland has a parking problem.
Question: how do businesses stay open?
a) people walking
b) people riding bikes
c) people taking transit
d) people driving or giving up on driving
e) all of the above
https://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2014-11-bicycle-path-data-analysis.pdf
https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2022/09/30/business-grew-on-queens-street-after-controversial-bike-lane-installed-data-show
The answer is E
Everyone wins, people win, when we build cities for people, not cars.
People who drive cars/trucks are not the only people with money in Portland.

We certainly could use more events like a New Year’s Eve bicycle drop and a Times Square 100% street closure somewhere in downtown. Maybe SW 2nd Ave from Market to Main by Keller Auditorium? or SW 2nd & 3rd Ave by VooDoo doughnuts?

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Surly Ogre

100% street closure somewhere in downtown

We’ve got one, in Old Town. It’s small, and feels sad and lonely during the day.

Priscilla
Priscilla
5 months ago

The best way to “activate” downtown would be to require city and county workers be in their offices 5 days/week. Food trucks ain’t gonna help if no one is there to buy food.

SD
SD
5 months ago
Reply to  Priscilla

The public work force is a small percentage of downtown office occupants. Wheeler pulled his city employee return policy as a publicity stunt to please the owners of empty office space. Forcing people to travel unnecessarily and waste their time on the off chance that they will buy something is not going to fix downtown. Do we really think that private businesses will decide that the expense of providing office space for employees that would rather work from home is more valuable than hiring more employees with that same money or making other investments? Forcing people back into a tedious commute and wasted uncompensated time also makes those jobs less competitive and harder to hire and retain people.
Centralized office space has always been an economic bubble on the edge of bursting. It has finally popped, and all of the current flailing to get people back in offices is just the dying gasp of desperate office space owners who naively thought their golden egg laying goose was immortal.

BB
BB
5 months ago
Reply to  SD

Only 12.8% of the work force is working from home.
Apparently about 90% of business owners and companies still prefer that their employees work at their place of work.
This city is poorly run top to bottom so I am not sure that the point you are attempting to make is valid at all.
Has city service gotten worse or better since WFM began is the question and if you think things are working better in the city, feel free to make that case.

SD
SD
5 months ago
Reply to  BB

Central city had an office vacancy rate of up to 27% in 2023 while unemployment rates were low. The number may get worse as current leases are ending. In the meantime, central city office buildings are being foreclosed and sold at a loss.
The national remote work rate may not be informative, as Oregon has always has higher remote work rates. Over 23% of people in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metro area worked from home in 2022, per the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey. When it comes to office space in central city, a majority of those jobs can be remote compared to the entire work force. In fact, one of the co-chairs of the central city task force and other business leaders touted shrinking their office footprint and the flexibility of their workforce. Because of this, one of the main focuses of the task force was increasing the residential to office ratio to bring more people to central city to make it more like the Pearl. The goal is to bring 20,000 residential units to the area.
Wheeler keeps talking about bringing remote workers back to central city but this is at odds with the Portland businesses that rent office space. I’ve never heard the 90% thing and doubt that it applies to work where companies can go remote and have the extra expense of renting space. They may rent enough to have some in person, but the 9 to 5, 5 days a week is not coming back.
I know bashing the county is a crowd favorite, but forcing a few hundred county employees to work downtown is not going to save the central city or activate anything.

qqq
qqq
5 months ago
Reply to  Priscilla

That might also be a good way to ensure that many valuable City employees quit to work for companies that do allow working from home, and to ensure that the City is hampered in efforts to attract good future employees.

Matt
Matt
5 months ago

Drug use? Crime? Vagrancy? Maybe addressing those issues would help draw people downtown. But we continue to make excuses for the bad actors in our society.

Steven
Steven
5 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Ah yes, because drugs, crime, and vagrancy are totally moral failings and not the result of broader social forces. I guess the places with less of those things just have fewer “bad” people for some reason.

Watts
Watts
5 months ago
Reply to  Steven

Leaving the moral philosophizing aside, it does seem clear our failure to make meaningful progress addressing those issues is keeping people away from downtown.

The city, the county, Metro, and the state all seem be collectively failing at accomplishing anything, despite having literally more money than they can spend on this cluster of issues.

I’ll just add that Multnomah County throwing folks out of warming shelters into the freezing rain on a day when weather was so bad the libraries and other county offices didn’t open set a new record for disgusting behavior, following a year when they had already set many.

Jessica, you’re doing a heck of a job.

Steven
Steven
5 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Not sure what that diatribe has to do with the comment I was making, but go off I guess.