Portland’s Transportation Future: Back to the Past?

Portland’s Transportation Future: Back to the Past?
By Jeffrey Carlson
Cascade Policy Institute

In the optimistic decades of the 1950s and 60s, Americans had bold visions for the future. In the area of personal transportation, flying cars, spaceships, and even Star Trek transporters seemed just around the corner. Today those ideas might seem fanciful, but they were forward-thinking concepts.

Contrast these forward-thinking concepts to Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams’ vision presented to the City Club last Friday. Adams asked, “What would Portland look like if we implemented solutions to global warming and peak oil? It would look a lot like Portland circa 1920, a time when the main means of motion were your feet, streetcars and bikes.”

Adams’ vision for Portland’s future is essentially to bring us back to the past. While Americans in the fifties saw personal transportation and endless possibilities as their future, Adams wants people to be dependent on fixed-rail streetcars.

Adams laments the lack of funds for repairing city roads and bridges used by all Portlanders, but he also advocates using antiquated and expensive streetcars to solve congestion and maintenance, and other problems. It is like asking people to switch from PCs back to typewriters to save electricity.

Adams should drop this antiquated vision and look to make Portland’s road system safe and efficient. He should help us travel freely around town, not saddle us with yesterday’s technology.

Jeffrey Carlson is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.