Monday, August 12, 2013

Transit Integrated Development

When wide, high-speed thoroughfares divide transit stations from nearby development, the term "Transit Adjacent Development" or "Transit Vicinity Development" may describe the setting more accurately than "Transit Oriented Development."  Central Florida's commuter rail system, SunRail, opening in spring 2014, may have sparked construction of senior housing across U.S. 17-92 in the City of Maitland.  But I would not call it Transit Oriented Development.

"Uptown Maitland" senior housing--not TOD. 

Portland, Oregon showcases true Transit Oriented Development by integrating transit into the urban context.  In fact, Orlando developer Craig Ustler calls Portland, "Transit Integrated Development," an apt term.  Portland makes transit accessible, easy to use, easy to know where one's heading, and easy to transfer between transit modes.

Portland's regional government decided two decades ago to invest in a first-rate transit system.  Portland's Tri-Met light rail system connects the airport to the downtown urban core and beyond.  Stops are easy and convenient to major destinations.   

Red Tri-Met line -- Library to the airport.
Light rail stop at the Pioneer Courthouse. 

The trains are clean, feel safe, and carry a cross-section of people, from those wearing suits and ties, to Moms with children, to Portland State University students.  After riding Tri-Met, I kept revisiting in my mind the Orange County Commission's error in the late 1990's to give Central Florida's light rail system to Charlotte, North Carolina. 

In Portland, it's easy to know where one's heading.  Tri-Met provides maps, not only for the rail lines, but for buses, too.

Maps for bus routes--Portland, OR
I proposed this to a Lynx official a few years ago--and received a litany of excuses: too expensive, routes change, we'll develop a smartphone app, etc.  Maps provide the most basic information that a prospective transit rider requires.  Lynx runs at least two lines outside my office.  If I surveyed the people in my office, I suspect no one would know where either line goes.

Transfers between transit modes in Portland are easy, too.  For $5.00, one can use the light-rail, streetcars, and buses all day with one card.

This is the type of interchangeability that Lynx and SunRail need. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Future of Creative Village

     Some of Central Florida's best planning minds are thinking about how Orlando's Creative Village--the district west of I-4 where the old Arena stood--should develop.  The City's master developer, Craig Ustler, is looking at Portland's Pearl District for inspiration.  Two decades ago, the Pearl District was a run-down industrial zone.  Today, by integrating parks, rail transit, bike and pedestrian friendliness, and by maintaining its urban authenticity, the Pearl comprises some of the most desirable real estate in the United States.  The number of young people who are living in the Pearl District--including the two dozen Moms I observed running with their strollers for exercise--is striking.  During my recent visit, Craig gave Rollins Master of Planning students a phenomenal tour.  Here are a few photos, from which you can get a flavor of the Pearl, and perhaps glimpse the future of Orlando's Creative Village:

10th Avenue and Lovejoy Street, Pearl District

Jamisen Square, Pearl District, Portland, OR
Burnside Street, Portland, OR--edge of the Pearl District

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Food Trucks Can Line Parking Lots to Create Urban Vitality

Last week, Rollins College Master of Planning students discovered Portland, Oregon's creative way to transform downtown parking lots--common dead zones in most cities--into places of urban vitality.  Food trucks line parking lot edges, creating instant street walls for sense of place and drawing people.   Food trucks compete with, and can hurt nearby lower-priced brick and mortar restaurants, so local governments should consider carefully where to allow or encourage such a set-up.

Food trucks lining--and hiding-- parking lot in downtown Portland, Oregon.
Same area--different angle.  

Portland's Bike Boulevards

I visited Portland, Oregon last week with Rollins College Master of Planning students. Portland has an extensive network of "bicycle boulevards."  Last Saturday morning, I saw a constant stream of bicyclists, in fact, more bicyclists than motorists.  The boulevards are well marked with signs informing bicyclists of their distance and average time to bike to various destinations.  The boulevards contain a fair number of roundabouts and larger traffic circles, which keep bicyclists moving.  Nearby residents turned some of the traffic circles into community rose gardens.

This is an easy, low cost idea to adopt in Central Florida.  I took the following photo in Ladd's Addition.  

Bike Boulevard in Ladd's Addition, Portland, Oregon.