Kansas City could learn a lot from Portland in terms of commuting. The varieties of ways that people used to get around this city was heart warming. Perhaps the most unique is the one from which I took the photo above. There is a sky tram that goes from the river front at the south end of the city up the side of a mountain to the hospital complex. (Yes, putting a hospital at the top of a mountain doesn’t make much sense when you think about icy days, but it looks cool up there.) It happens that my son and daughter-in-law take the tram to work just about every day. They live perhaps halfway up the mountain, but they walk down (less than half a mile) to the tram station, get aboard the capsule, and the glide up the mountainside with spectacular views and excellent cell phone service. (No, there really isn’t a good way for them to simply walk up the mountain to their work.)
The ride up the sky tram is four dollars, but the trip down is free. (I guess they figure if you got yourself all the way up there somehow, you earned a free trip down.) On our last full day in Portland, my son drove us up to the hospital complex and dropped us off. We then walked over to the sky tram dock and got aboard. It was packed with commuters, but they found a little space for us. Then we started down. The man controlling the tram wouldn’t let me push the buttons, but I did ask. When we got to the bottom, we crossed the pedestrian bridge and found our son waiting with his car to take us the half mile to his apartment. (We could have walked that distance, and had actually walked all the way from the downtown to their apartment the prior day. In fact, I even ran 6.4 miles from their apartment and back to it, the last, stinking half mile uphill! I’m such a hero!) I’m not sure how many bridges they have across the Willamette River in Portland, but they’re building a new one that will not take cars at all. It will be devoted to pedestrians and the Max line. What a civilizted city!.
The city has a Max light rail system that hustles about and gets people to the airport and all around the city. It also has a trolley that moves people around virtually for free. (You’re supposed to pay for it, and many people do, but no one checks.) There are busses, and traffic lanes devoted to bicycles, and broad sidewalks, and esplanades that just call out your name to be run upon. As Adam and I ran these in the early mornings, one woman on a bike regularly greeted him. She was one of the doctors at the hospital where he works, and she recognized him. She was on her way to work, bicycling part of the way and taking the sky tram the rest of the way. We saw many cyclists on the trails we ran, wearing backpacks or bearing saddle bags that likely held their work clothes and such. It was just the thing to do. (We also saw many people who did not have work and did not have places to live. Portland seems to have a tolerance for all aspects of humanity.)
One of the most astonishing forms of commuting (at least to this flatlander) was rolling. Skateboarding and roller skating is considered a legitimate form of movement in this town.
Cyclists are supposed to yield to pedestrians (and generally they did in my experience), and I think pedestrians are supposed to yield to skateboarders and roller skaters. In any case, it sure seemed like everyone was able to get along.
I’m thinking I’ll get back to Portland in October of 2014, but if I do, it will be for a different kind of movement, covering 26.2 miles. Who’s with me?