I look forward to new progress in Portland's public transportation system. Less than a year from now, in Fall 2009, Tri-Met's Green Line opens, adding a fourth color to our triune transit scheme. The line will connect Portland State University, Union Station, and Clackamas Town Center. Look for the food carts in this short animation! I am particularly interested in how the new rail line will affect Old Town and Chinatown as previous light rail lines have led to redevelopment of blighted areas. Additionally, this new line will provide an indirect link from Union Station to Portland International Airport (you have to change to the Red Line somewhere along the way) bringing together Amtrak and airplanes. I haven't used these two modes of travel in the same trip before, but now I could. I like the possibilities, even if unconventional.
When a light rail line goes in, the neighborhood around it densifies as people choose to live within convenient walking distance of the stations. While these transit lines do cost a lot of money, we are spending less on freeways and automobile infastructure while still moving people to their destinations. We are spending our money smarter. Residents who choose to live in concentrated places near where they work and shop are helping to shape a different city, a denser city.
The last new line to open in Portland was the Yellow Line, in 2004. The Interstate Corriodor Urban Renewal Area has formed around it, creating a framework for concentrated future growth, sprouting exciting architectural opportunities. "Rather than rerouting busses every few years as new suberban neighborhoods sprout up on the fringes, light rail dictates where the growth will be, promoting density and connectivity." -trimet.org
However, Old Town is not ripe for the same sort of development of dense dwellings reliant on a transit line to connect to a semi-distant job center (Downtown), as this district is too close to downtown already (no more than a mile). Someone living in Old Town could only ride the train for a stop or two before getting off at a downtown destination. He might as well walk.
From the other side of things, I suppose the Yellow Line and Green Line will connect people out on Interstate or in new rail communities such as Clackamas, to end destinations in Old Town. Currently my only end destination in this district is The Golden Horse Chinese Resteraunt. I can't think of anything else to do there besides avoid a drug exchange. We need more destinations in Old Town. Something will grow.