Light Rail

Quick Video: LRT in Portland OR (Updated)

By Jason Leach
Published October 04, 2012

this blog entry has been updated

I'm in Portland, Oregon this week, and have been taking tons of notes while I'm here. In the meantime, here's a quick video of a Portland LRT vehicle.

It is so transformation, clean, green, quiet and a beauty to ride.


Update:

Here is some more information on this video, including my main findings.

Check out a few photos of all the TOD in the city these days. They're doing a great job of blending in with existing neighbourhoods:

Streetcar in mixed traffic (Image Credit: Midtown Community Works)
Streetcar in mixed traffic (Image Credit: Midtown Community Works)

Pearl District square. None of this was here in 2000. (Image Credit: Streetsblog)
Pearl District square. None of this was here in 2000. (Image Credit: Streetsblog)

None of this was here, either (Image Credit: Mithun)
None of this was here, either (Image Credit: Mithun)

I've been really impressed to read about urban neighbourhoods and business assocations 'fighting' over who will get the streetcars next.

When Hamilton's mayor or a radio talk show says there's no desire for developers to build through Hamilton's B-Line corridor, they miss the point in a huge way. Developers will build where higher order rail transit links to 20,000+ downtown jobs and thousands more at MIP and Mac.

We can see the same transformation of downtown and the central/east end that Portland has seen if we invest in the quality of life and new, convenient transit system.

Box & One (Image Credit: Portland Monthly Magazine)
Box & One (Image Credit: Portland Monthly Magazine)

Infill lofts (Image Credit: Oregonlive)
Infill lofts (Image Credit: Oregonlive)

Hawthorn mixed use building (Image Credit: Build LLC)
Hawthorn mixed use building (Image Credit: Build LLC)

New urban infill doesn't have to be mega towers everywhere. It can fit a streetscape and bring new vibrancy to old retail streets combined with the relaxed zoning and neighbourhood developments I write about here.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

13 Comments

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By Transformation 2050 (anonymous) | Posted October 04, 2012 at 11:32:31

A belated happy birthday to MAX (turned 26 on September 5).

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 04, 2012 at 12:50:11

get that clunky old streetcar out of my way - i'm a motorist!

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted October 04, 2012 at 21:16:30

"It is so transformational, clean, green, --quiet-- and a beauty to ride."

Quiet?? Jason, is the noise level which is clearly heard on your video for real?

I checked to see if it was only on your video -- but the eerie 'jet-talking-off' like screeching plus the rhythmic clanking is caught on many other videos too - see here: http://youtu.be/WKwpU2Emz3U

How does such disturbing noise levels translate to a "quiet" urban living experience?? especially on narrow width stretches like downtown King Street in Hamilton where there are apartments/lofts on either side of the street from 2nd floor up, or Main/King Streets, where there are homes on either sides of the road?

Also, the LRT cars in Portland look so over-sized for the streets! Does it feel like that only on the videos?

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 06, 2012 at 00:05:49 in reply to Comment 81421

FYI, I was downtown today and had 6 or 7 trains go by...all of them much quieter than this video above. Perhaps it is one of the oldest in the fleet? Still, quieter than a bus.

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted October 05, 2012 at 07:37:53 in reply to Comment 81421

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2012-10-05 07:57:42

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted October 05, 2012 at 08:05:39

It is so transformation

What does that mean?

clean, green

How so? A brief search on the web shows that Portland gets its power from coal and natural gas plants, as well as hydroelectric (the last one being the only real 'clean' source).

quiet

Didn't sound like that from the video (and others which I found after reading Mahesh's comment)

and a beauty to ride.

The only one I can't confirm but it would probably be just like every other mass-transit option: great when it's not busy, awful when it is.

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By Noisey (anonymous) | Posted October 05, 2012 at 09:31:03

I'll take the sound of LRT over the roar of traffic on Main St any day.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 05, 2012 at 10:16:43

Mahesh, you'd be shocked at how much quieter that LRT was than Hamilton's buses. It's one of the reasons I wanted to grab this video. And this was one of the old model trains that Portland had when I lived here in the 90's. I also took a short video of one of the new Bombardier models that came by a few minutes later and it was darn near silent. Stand right at the curb sometime and film a bus leaving a station. You'll realize the difference.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted October 05, 2012 at 14:32:27

Thanks for the clarification Jason, I am sure the new systems would be much more quieter and smaller in scale. And thanks for all the pictures - sure is an inspiration for local architects and developers!

We could most definitely learn from Portland's design sense at every level - and hopefully the new infill development planning in Hamilton takes its cues from such examples you are sending down.

Although, the latest news of Barbara Hall's escapade with human rights and zoning hangs like a dark cloud over Hamilton, and may well gut all the dreams and aspirations we may have for a meaningful redevelopment of Hamilton's lower city.

Also, if you have some time there, would you be able to look into how Portland has dealt with the issue of poverty and affordable housing in its downtown...(i.e. does Portland have a 'poverty industry' that has impacted its urban form and life in anyway?)

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 06, 2012 at 00:21:16 in reply to Comment 81443

Thx Mahesh...I leave in the morning so any further research will be online. But, boy, I am coming home with some very simple and clear goals to pass onto council and staff. Especially with regards to complete streets being a goal, more than 2-way, and the neighbourhood greenways as I mention in the other blog entry from today. What a small, simple and cheap way to transform urban residential streets. Another feature I've seen everywhere on the greenways and read about is the planter boxes in the sidewalks. You'll see some of them in the pics in my other blog entry. These are used for creating visual elements close to the street at corners to help everyone slow down, but they are also used to divert storm water run off. I saw a close-up of some today and they have small culverts that lead into the boxes from the sidewalks. The native grasses, trees and plants bring more greenery to a street but their highest function in my mind is sparing an overtaxed storm water system (Hamilton knows all about this) by diverting water into these huge sidewalk planters and into the soil. Simple, yet brilliantly cheap solution to a maxed out storm water system. I'll be blogging on this next week.

Here's a few pics:

http://tokyogreenspace.files.wordpress.c...

  • you'll notice the metal grid layed into the sidewalk below this genteman's left foot.

http://elkhorn.unl.edu/epublic/live/g214...

  • these ones use curb cuts to drain the water into the box

Take Cannon Street and turn it from a sidewalk like this: http://goo.gl/maps/Hf2Ov

To this: http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews....

Cannon doesn't need all that concrete. Even as a 4-lane freeway, for most of it's length it has ample sidewalk space to spare the space next to the roadway for green infrastructure like I've shown above. We divert rainwater, green an urban street and once we add bike lanes to one side and 24-hour curb parking to the other, we can create bumpouts so that even as a one-way street, it now flows nicely with 2 car lanes, yet pedestrians and cyclists will actually enjoy being on it too. Imagine, wanting to walk or cycle on Cannon??

Comment edited by jason on 2012-10-06 00:22:52

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By kettal (registered) | Posted October 06, 2012 at 18:35:11 in reply to Comment 81447

I've never been to Portland. I understand most of the downtown streets are one-way, but they're still slow because there's an intersection every 10 feet.

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 06, 2012 at 19:45:39 in reply to Comment 81456

they aren't 'slow', they function properly. Lights are timed to go red, not green. They use 5 lanes of space for parking, bike lanes and 2 lanes of car travel. They have curb bump-outs so the crosswalks are shorter and cars don't feel like they're on a wide Cannon St, trees are everywhere right at the street edge. Outside of downtown, Portland has a ton of one-ways that also function well as residential/low density retail streets such as:

http://goo.gl/maps/UUhrU

http://goo.gl/maps/nQzko

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted October 06, 2012 at 14:14:42

wow! thx, these are great examples... and a noteworthy cause to focus on.

Also, besides passing on these examples to council and staff maybe it is time to start direct 'design info sessions' with all the property owners on Cannon between James and Wellington - to showcase such images/videos/examples (sort of a 'Portland streets workshop for Cannon' - in partnership with the Beasely neighbourhood assoc, the local architect firm which has an office building on cannon, and city design staff).

If one is able to get the property owners on Cannon motivated to generate the need/demand/buzz at the council hall for such fantastic street design features, things could get done in a shorter time frame.

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