Not a Satellite

At MPAC last night we had a very interesting presentation. The mayors of Sandy and Estacada presented about what’s happening, particularly with growth, in their cities.

At Metro we use to talk about cities like these (Canby, Newberg and St. Helens are other examples) as “satellite cities” since they were outside Metro’s UGB. Apparently this term rankled (it implies they orbit around Portland). We now use the more neutral “neighbor cities”.

One key issue for both these cities is that they want to retain their individuality and character. They definitely DO NOT want the UGB to grow out to swallow them.

I was intrigued by the transportation challenges of these two cities. One issue is that both are cities on highways. It’s not so bad for Estacada, since the city center is on one side of the highway, but for Sandy Highway 26 divides the city. It makes for interesting challenges in laying out things like bikeways.

The other interesting thing I heard is that Sandy, like Wilsonville, has opted out of TriMet and has their own local (and free) transit system that provides a lot more frequency than TriMet did (and also connects to Estacada). In fact it appears to me that there are a number of these transit systems on the periphery of TriMet’s service area and they tend to interconnect with each other. So for example Wilsonville sends a bus to Canby, and Canby sends a bus to Oregon City, and I suspect you could circumnavigate the southeast quadrant of the region without getting on TriMet if you wanted to.

It makes me wonder if we shouldn’t have some mechanisms for better making these connections. For example, a regional trip planner that integrated route info from all of these systems.


Anyway, it was a lot less dry than the topics at many MPAC meetings.


7 responses to “Not a Satellite”

  1. Any chance that their trip data could be submitted to Google and integrated into the beta site?

    Or that Tri-Met could also integrate it with their own transit trip planning site?

    I’d love to see either (or both) of these simple solutions, as an example of regional cooperation, rather than spending money on any new, separate regional trip-planning system. We should resist any attempts to balkanize the region by using any and every opportunity to promote sharing and integration.

  2. But in Sandy, highway 26 is limited to what, 25 miles per hour? They have a very quaint little downtown; if there were more housing & mixed-use projects, it could definitely be a very pedestrian-oriented place.

    Obviously lots of people live there & commute abroad, including to the Metro area…

    It’s either going to be with cars, busses, or trains. Take your pick or ignore the congestion…

  3. Justin, that’s a point I should have mentioned. Highway 26 is an STA (Special Transportation Area) in ODOT’s management scheme as it passes through Sandy. That means it’s OK to calm traffic. So in some ways the congestion due to the highway is a greater problem for local circulation than the traffic speeds (the opposite of Burnside in Portland?).

  4. Garlynn said:

    “We should resist any attempts to balkanize the region by using any and every opportunity to promote sharing and integration.”

    Why exactly? Isn’t the Portland Transport crowd the same one who has been promoting the idea of regionalism, Cascadia, and Metroplitan-level planning? All of a sudden we shouldn’t be doing this? Kind of ironic and contrary, no?

    While at the same time, I do agree that smaller towns need to have their own ‘personalized’ (townsized?) transportation systems in place for their citizens, as they are to be held more easily accountable – and are also more flexible – to the needs of their populaces than a regional body.

    However, I am going to argue we really need a layered system. A regional body helping – not with heavyhanded tactics – but to help get all the cities to operate at higher efficiencies: just enough buses, correct timing, routes, etc. If someone wants to travel from one city to another, a centralized website/transit hub kiosk kind of thing can provide a digitized center for data – trip timing, schedules, etc.

    Trimet should continue as the transit system for the Portland Metro area – but not necessarily for the region (but then again, with its expertise & experience, perhaps a department in it could).

    And, as always, a number of us have been promoting major infrastrcture developments: fixed rail between the cities… that could really help the cities develop density ala ‘TODs’ – course, they might not be viable unless you can actually get around the region via train, walking, and biking quickly and safely. 20 years?

  5. TOD in neighbor cities? I just can’t believe that taller, concrete buildings could not be affordable, or out of place. In Coos Bay, last summer I saw two–at least ten stories and built in the prosperous (for Coos Bay) roaring twenties. Labor unions and HAP have been building these for retirement apartments–so you know they weren’t too expensive then. The round glass faced tower in Vancouver, just over the bridge, is a union retirement complex. How cheap can that be?

    So these hi rise condos have concrete floors–the typical ‘burb ranch has concrete footings, foundation, driveway,garage and sidewalks. So they have underground parking–well, that does add in. With the cost of land going up so fast being able to put ten times as many units per square foot should save money there. The fancy glass is more expensive but it also eliminates wall framing material and labor. The stairs are prefab units. That leaves the elevator as the unusual expense. Plus a construction crane during the building stage. Canucks like them–and they have been able to accomodate refugee populations in the less expensive outlying areas.

    Doesn’t leave a lot of room for the do-it-youselfer’s and home enterpriser’s. You could store your RV and bass boat somewhere else…

  6. Justin-

    Perhaps I should have added a comma in that sentence. My intended meanign was this: The region should work together to provide transportation solutions for its citizens. It should avoid balkanization, by which I mean independent governemntal entities working against one another in order to further their own discrete interests. The San Francisco Bay Area, with its 101 cities, 9 counties, 5 regional agencies, and thorough lack of coordination with regards to either land use or transportation, is balkanized. Portland should not follow this path.

    Tri-Met and Google have already constructed two transit trip planners, based on the same dataset for the region. Any further trip planning activites should be based off of these two. It’s fine to have other transit providers, but the schedules should be coordinated to allow timed transfers between operators at certain timepoints and transit hubs. That’s it. That’s all I’m suggesting.

    As for TOD in neighbor cities, it doesn’t take 10-story buildings to provide TOD. A 3-4 story average is sufficient to provide more than enough density for light rail. If a city would like to allow 10-story buildings, that’s fine, and their residents would certainly have fine views. But even a 2-story average, if the lot sizes are small enough (FAR 1.5 or greater) is enough to support successful DMU commuter rail service.

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