Tuesday, January 10, 2006


If there's one thing we love in Portland, it's making fun of California, but if there are two things we love, making fun of Seattle comes a close second. Now, I was born in the Seattle area, lived there for several years as a child, and still have lots of relatives there, so I usually don't indulge in this particular guilty pleasure, although the plague of Seattle's Best Coffee outlets downtown is a bit grating. And of course Paul Allen is everyone's least favorite tubby billionaire man-child, although people here mostly hate him for mismanaging the Blazers, and I could care less about basketball. But the OS rivalry is another matter: They've got Microsoft, we've got OSDL. And so far as real sports go, it's a proven, scientific fact that both the Sounders (soccer) and the Thunderbirds (hockey) are the embodiment of pure evil. Strange, but true. It may have to do with the whole MSFT thing.

But I'm not here to make fun of their stupid hockey team today. Today we're making fun of the Emerald City's inability to sort out its yellow brick road situation. After all these years, they're still wringing their hands over what to do about the Alaskan Way viaduct. And their vestigial monorail system may have been totalled in that recent fender-bender. What it boils down to is that nobody can agree on what to do, and even if they could, all options are prohibitively expensive. Unless a miracle happens, the transit situation up north may be unfixable, and it'll just get worse over time as more people move to the area.

Here's a 2003 story from the Seattle Times, which argues that Seattle comes up short in the "urban vision" department, when compared against both Portland and Vancouver.

Ok, so that's good for a civic ego boost here, but in the interest of fairness I have to note that the article uncritically repeats a bit of our fair Rose City's own urban mythology. Everyone knows that in the early 70's, we ripped out the Harbor Drive freeway that went right along the downtown waterfront, and replaced it with a nice green park. Which is all true, so far as it goes, but people always neglect to mention that it was only possible to remove Harbor Drive because it was replaced by an even bigger freeway, I-405, which sits below grade and forms a deep moat around the downtown area. But at least it doesn't run right along the river, which is something, I guess. What's more, part of the crummy old "freeway" remains, in the stretch of Naito Parkway between Barbur and about SW Harrison. Ask someone who lives in the Corbett/Lair Hill area whether we've got our transportation situation all sorted out. Or better yet, visit the area from out of town, and try to figure out how to get onto the Ross Island Bridge from downtown, or from 405. Good luck! You'll need it!

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