Friday, October 20, 2006

South Waterfront Streetcar

A thrilling video of a ride on the new streetcar extension to SW Gibbs St. I think the streetcar operators really enjoy the new extension, since they're off city streets for a bit and they can really floor it for once. Well, "floor it" in streetcar terms, anyway. I think the driver said we hit 29MPH at one point.


I arrived at the tail end of the mini-gala they put on for the grand opening. It wasn't too long after the official 11AM opening, and we actually saw the streetcar full of visiting dignitaries riding the other direction, and we all waved to them. So it's not like we got there an hour late or anything, but already the bastards were out of coffee. There was a tray of mini-scones left, so I grabbed one of those and started moseying around the area. There's really not a huge amount of stuff to do in the South Waterfront area right now. There aren't even any restaurants close by. The closest is the 80's-era Old Spaghetti Factory maybe 8 blocks or so to the south, and I'm not sure it's walkable right now with all the construction.

(Before we move along, note the tram tower on the left of the photo. The actual tram terminal is a large structure a bit off to the right from here. Also note that the streetcar tracks continue south; the upcoming extension to SW Lowell St. is supposed to open around next August or so.)


So first I took another peek at our fair city's newest city park, right in the middle of S. Waterfront. As I mentioned last time around, the thing is two square blocks, cost $7M, and right now it's just a flat expanse of grass. Ok, now it's grass plus this historical marker. This marker isn't new, but it used to be directly under the Ross Island Bridge, where it marked the location of the first pioneer house in Portland. You probably can't read it in this photo, but it reads:


(Ok, the URL wasn't on the original plaque. I'm just trying to be helpful here.)

It's true that the original location was pretty obscure and hard to find, but it was the correct location, or so we're told. Now everyone can see the thing easily, but it marks the wrong spot.

It looks as though someone just stuck a forklift under the slab it rested on before, and carried the whole thing over as a unit and dropped it here. Nice.



And here are a couple of photos of the new stretch of greenway along the river. Like the Riverscape bit I covered a couple of days ago, it doesn't connect to anything on the north or south. Nobody else was walking there, although there were a lot of rowers and kayakers on the river. On the north, there's the Zidell barge-building operation, although the PDC and friends have their designs on that land, so I expect the Zidell operation will be driven out in short order. On the south, I guess they just haven't gotten around to it yet.

As you can see, this stretch is emphatically NOT a city park, and management can kick you out if they don't like you. Probably they taser you if you don't look rich enough.

Like the Riverscape stretch, this bit is kind of disappointing to me. I've made the point before (though I don't think on this blog) that the only reason to care about, much less favor, a private development like S. Waterfront is if we get significant public amenities out of the deal. Which is a fancy way of saying "What's in it for me?" (I'm not yet convinced the tram counts as a significant public amenity.) And this waterfront area sure doesn't look like the fancy high-concept architectural drawings the big boys showed us when they started planning the area. This narrow lil' path won't be able to safely handle the bike and jogger traffic it'll attract once it's connected to the outside world. I guess at least when the first retiree dog walker is mowed down by a crazed faux bike-messenger type, it'll be a really short tram ride up to OHSU.

On the ride back to civilization, I was joined by a few straggling semi-dignitaries and hangers-on, who were either going back to the office, or heading out in search of the perfect fruity $12 cocktail, or possibly both. So I got to listen to people nattering on about which architecture schools all of their friends attended, and blathering self-importantly about some sort of Orwellian-sounding "Bicycle Master Plan". I, for one, welcome our new two-wheeled overlords.

One reason I go to these things is to see what sort of person goes to these things, I mean, other than myself, obviously. This time it was the aforementioned in-crowd, plus a lot of old guys. You know the sort, the ones who think they know everything and want to reminisce about the good old days all the time. They can be kind of entertaining, in an annoying way. They always talk really loud (like on the video clip for example), and it's remarkable how often they're wrong when they're convinced they're right. As far as I can tell, to these guys all historical events after about 1970 are a complete mystery, and a constant source of amazement and dismay. When they see something new, they always say something noncommittal like "well, that's something". I suppose someone back in the 50's taught them that anyone who expresses an clear, honest opinion is a gay communist or something.

So in short, I really, really don't want to be one of these guys when I'm 70. The fact that I showed up despite being about half that age isn't much of an encouraging sign, though. I mean, I guess I can argue that I only did it for my legions of adoring Gentle Reader(s), and that's even almost true. Although I also showed up on opening day for the Red and Yellow MAX lines, plus the 2001 opening of the streetcar and the opening of the Riverplace extension last year. Oh, and let's not forget the big Reservoir 3 gala back in July. I showed up for that too. And all but the last one happened before I ever had this thing.

I'm not so sure I'm going to show up and ride the tram immediately when it opens. I'd like them to get the inevitable bugs worked out first. What it boils down to, basically, is that I guess I've never been big on plummeting, and I avoid it whenever possible.

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