Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Final Analysis

For my journal assignment I focused on SMART growth in the Portland metro area, and to be more specific, how transportation in the area hindered or promoted SMART growth. SMART growth in itself is described as the planning that focuses on the city rather than the outlying areas in hopes to hinder the development of unsustainable and harmful dwellings of sprawl that we call the suburbs. From many articles I collected in my journal assignment, I discovered that Portland’s focus in the inner city is on density and building up rather than out. In the Portland area we have a very unique government (Metro), which supports this manner of growth through the development of public transportation, biking and bike ways as well as walking and small dense neighborhoods.
The public transit system of Trimet is a key organization when Portland is mentioned in any conversation. Through the articles that I collected in throughout this term, I came to understand the relation that this organization has to SMART growth. Trimet is continuously expanding their network of bus and light rail transport to accommodate the rising population in Portland. By doing this they are saving many people the effort of driving around town, and thus also making the area more sustainable as this cuts pollution dramatically. Their system does not only appeal to the folks inside the Portland city limits, but also to those in the surrounding area who need to travel here for work or pleasure, again cutting our carbon dioxide emissions. The most important factor that Trimet contributes to SMART growth, however, is that it makes Portland city life more appealing to those who might wish to leave the area for the suburbs. It prevents sprawl by creating an atmosphere that is sustainable and easily traveled, adding to the community vibe that is often missing these suburban settings.
From the articles that I collected, I also discovered that the residents and Metro government in Portland also support the development of biking in the battle against urban sprawl for similar reasons that Trimet has been so valued. The development of things like bike paths and avenues create an environment that people want to live in due to the ease of transport and the sustainability of the region. Although less people bike than ride the Trimet system, the metro government hopes to change that by supporting the development of more bike paths and more riders.
The development of a 20 minute neighborhood (a neighborhood in which you can reach everything you need in a 20 minute walk) is something that you would never find in the suburbs surrounding the Portland area, but inside the Portland city limits they are common place and a tool that is used against the sprawl towards the suburbs. Not only does a 20 minute neighborhood cut down on the CO2 emissions of a car trip to the store (thus creating a more sustainable neighborhood), but more importantly it creates a sense of community. A more dense community is not in any way shape or form a bad thing as developers of the suburbs might tell you, but lets you know and be connected to the stores and people around you. Portland involvement in the development of these walking oriented neighborhoods has hindered sprawl and supported the idea of a dense SMART growth.
Although it might not seem to be the case, from the articles that I presented in my blog, the idea of SMART planning is not present in all the plans of the Portland Metro area. Specifically the gateways to the suburbs such as the 12 lane CRC connecting Vancouver and Portland do nothing else besides support the ease of transportation between the two cities and support a less sustainable way of life. With more people being able to cross this thoroughfare with ease, the idea of living in a cheaper city that is close to Portland is very appealing. Although plans such as this one have yet to come into being, they threaten the sustainability of our area by providing much more traffic and pollution. This example shows that we are not done with the fight against suburbanization. We still have much more work to do in the area of Smart growth.
The articles that I presented in my journal painted a very good picture of Portland in regards to SMART growth. We have succeeded in creating a community that people want to live in through means of public transit, biking, and even walking. Although we have difficulties regarding such things as interstate connections, the draw of the suburbs will always be present, and it is a fact that a city can only hold so many people. Although Portland wants to keep building up instead of out, there will be an eventual limit. For the time being, however, our communities close knit and dense way of life is working to fight this, as we can’t simply give up hope of life without the wasteful suburbs.