Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Civic Plaza

cube, civic plaza

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A few photos of Portland's "Civic Plaza", the little triangle around the westbound PGE Park MAX stop. At least that's the name TriMet gives the place. Since nobody else seems to offer a different name for it, that's the name we'll go with. The name's less generic than it sounds actually; if you're new to Portland you might not realize this, but until PGE bought the naming rights a few years ago, the plaza sat next to "Civic Stadium", hence the name.

Civic Plaza #4

The place exists a.) to make it easy for MAX trains to round the corner onto 18th, and b.) so large crowds can get on and off the train easily when there's a game on at the stadium. But since it's a public works project in Portland, we have to have us some art, too. TriMet describes it thusly:

Westside design team artists used the buildings and plaza to express the importance of oratory to the city's history.

  • Robert Sullivan supports the theme with an original essay
  • Bronze podiums invite spontaneous oratory
  • Punctuation marks form seating and accents on the Yamhill platform
  • Windows light up at dusk

Here are a couple of those podiums they speak of:

Civic Plaza

Civic Plaza

I'll grant that I don't go by here every day anymore, but I've never seen any spontaneous oratory, I'm afraid. If you decide to avail yourself of our own local Speaker's Corner, be warned, though: Since this is (presumably) TriMet property, there are a number of rules & regulations you'll need to abide by. First, you'll need to keep your oratory quiet, and entirely non-musical. From the TriMet Code, section 28.15 A:

(13) Excessive Noise: No person shall:
(a) Make excessive or unnecessary noise within any District Vehicle or District Station with the intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm to the public, District personnel, or a peace officer, or with a reckless disregard to the risk thereof; or
(b) Perform vocal or instrumental music, without the prior written authorization of the District.

Well, I suppose you could get a permit and do some music, but if you need a permit, it isn't free speech, is it?

Second thing to know, your spontaneous oratory is only permissible if you're currently waiting for a train. Otherwise, no dice. From the code, part 28.15 B:

(1) Use of District Transit System for Non-Transit Purposes: No person shall enter or remain upon, occupy or use a District Station for purposes other than boarding, disembarking or waiting for a District Vehicle, in an area where non-transit uses are prohibited by posted signage. A person is in violation of this section only after having occupied a District Station for a period of time that exceeds that which is reasonably necessary to wait for, board or disembark a District Vehicle.

And don't even think of posting any handbills:

(5) Posting of Unauthorized Signs or Notices: Except as otherwise allowed by District regulations, no person shall place, permit or cause to be placed any notice or sign upon any District Vehicle, District Station or District Parking Facility or upon any vehicle without the owner’s consent while the vehicle is parked therein.

There's the usual bit forbidding threats and/or harrassment, which is fine, of course, and then there's this catch-all provision:

(6) Violation of Signage. In addition to the prohibitions set forth elsewhere in TMC Chapters 28, 29 and 30, no person shall fail to abide by specific directives provided in the form of a fixed permanent or temporary sign posted in or upon the District Transit System that has been authorized by the General Manager to address a regulatory or security concern. The General Manager or the General Manager’s designee may establish and post such signage in a manner to provide sufficient notice concerning the conduct required or prohibited. Any violation of the specific directives in any sign authorized by the General Manager shall constitute a violation of this subsection.


So all things considered, you might want to do your spontaneous oratory elsewhere. Besides, you'll just annoy the commuters heading home to Beaverton -- when they can hear you over the trains, that is.

Still, a MAX station with an "oratory" theme in the first place is a delightfully archaic notion. Free speech anywhere near a transit facility? You can't get much more "pre-9/11" than that, can you? We won't see another place like this anytime soon, so we might as well enjoy it, I suppose. I mean, the government's still OK with you standing on a box just like the one here. It's just that the box is in Guantanamo, and there's a hood and some electrodes involved....

Moving right along... You might've wondered about the silver cube in the top photos. It's a hot dog stand. No, really. Once in a blue moon, it opens up and you can buy hot dogs. TriMet says it's called "Hot Dog Ernie's". (Curiously, a different Hot Dog Ernie's on the eastside figures in this story about a weird TriMet accident. Huh.) The rest of the time, the cube just sits there being silver and inscrutable, and if you get close enough you might get a history lesson. Here's a bit from OPB about the author (I think) of said history lesson.

If you don't have anything to say, and you aren't in the mood for a hot dog, there's really not much else to do here, except maybe wait for a train, or cross the street and go see a baseball game or something. Or, in the unlikely event that you're trying to make a circuit of places covered in my ongoing "local parks" series, you can make it a twofer and hit Portland Firefighters' Park, just steps away to the north on 18th. Or hey, make it a four-fer: Go west a couple of stops on the train to 18th & Jefferson, and you'll be right at Collins Circle. Then walk south on 18th, going under the Hwy 26 underpass, turn right on Mill Street Terrace, and walk uphill a short way to Frank L. Knight Park. I mean, you could do that, if you were so inclined. I'm not suggesting it'd be fun, exactly, but it'd certainly be esoteric, and I imagine that counts for something in some quarters.

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