To make it easier for communities between Tualatin and downtown Portland to get around over the next 30 years and beyond, the Southwest Corridor Plan is building a transportation system that everyone can use. Several youths in the corridor recently shared their perspectives on transportation and what it's like to live in their communities. Answers below have been edited for clarity and length.
Morgan Thiers lives in the Far Southwest neighborhood of Portland near Portland Community College’s Sylvania campus. Before he starts his freshman year at Wilson High in the fall, he can be found sailing at the downtown waterfront, or taking flying classes at the Willamette Valley Soaring Club. An active and independent teenager without a driver’s license, Thiers wants easier ways to get around Southwest Portland, and he’s taking action to make that happen. He advocated for the light rail cut-and-cover tunnel option to PCC Sylvania at the Southwest Corridor Plan Steering Committee’s July meeting. At a Starbucks on Capitol Highway recently, Theirs shared a bit about life in the Southwest Corridor.
What’s it like getting around the corridor right now?
I can’t drive yet, and my parents can only be around so much, so I have limited ways of getting around. My mom recently transitioned into a job in Salem, and my dad needs to take my brother to school, which leaves me to get around on my own, and that’s why it’s really important for there to be transit.
I do take the bus when I can, but when I was going to downtown Portland for middle school every day, I would need my parents to drive me because the buses that go to downtown are too infrequent and aren’t worth it at all. Today, to get down to the waterfront to go sailing, I ended up biking because I knew the bus wouldn’t get me there on time.
What makes Southwest Portland unique?
Southwest Portland is actually a very diverse place. We have a Somali population here, and the biggest mosque in Portland is off of Capitol Highway. The Islamic School of Portland is also right across the street (from the Starbucks on Capitol). The other thing that’s great about Southwest is that it’s close to everything else, so I can go to school, bike down to the the waterfront and go sailing, or go to the aviation school, all within 30 minutes.
What do you want Southwest Portland transportation to look like in 30 years?
I want it to be more of a European-style neighborhood. I think we can learn from more successful countries. I hope this neighborhood is better connected through light rail to the rest of the city, if that’s what is chosen for the plan. I also really hope that there’ll be a high speed rail line going down (Interstate) 5 that starts in Seattle and runs the length of Washington and Oregon. The closest way to get between cities is Amtrak, but Amtrak is slow and uncomfortable, and not a fun way to travel. I really hope the U.S. starts to get a high speed rail like France’s Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) in the future.
Eighteen-year-old Carter Kruse’s ideal summer vacation is much different than an average teenager’s. While most of his peers have been traveling or hanging out, Kruse has spent his summer organizing the Tualatin Crawfish Festival, designing websites for clients and working to bring a YMCA to Downtown Tigard.
Kruse has an ambitious plan for a career in politics, but keeps his hometown of Tigard close to heart. He met President Barack Obama through the United States Youth Senate program, opened Tigard High’s very own PowerHouse Coffee shop, and served as president of the Tigard Youth Advisory Council, all during his senior year of high school. Kruse recently explained what it’s like to live in his community, and his ideas for addressing challenges in the coming years.
How would you describe Tigard to someone who’s never been here before?
It’s a small, local community. A lot of Tigard is made of small business owners and a lot of people are familiar with each other; it feels like a friendly little town. However, there’s not a lot to stop here for, and not a lot of excitement, which is a shame. That’s one of the reasons we want to bring the YMCA to downtown: to change that.
What’s a very “Tigard” moment that you’ve had?
No matter where you go, you’ll see someone you know in Tigard, so one of those moments is probably when I go to Taco Bell and see someone from school who’s working there. We’ll have a conversation about our statistics homework as I’m ordering.
What would make it easier to get around Tigard?
There needs to be an alternative route to (Highway) 99W, or we need ways to get off 99W. A lot people would really like to see Ash Street continue farther as a parallel route to 99W so that there’s more circulation in Tigard. People get backed up by not having a turn lanes on 99W, so small improvements like adding an extra turn lane along 99W into streets like Gaarde can make a big difference. The city of Tigard also has a vision to be the most walkable community in the Pacific Northwest, and we’re doing a good job of adding sidewalks and bike lanes, but really what we need are ways to get off of 99W.
“You never know who you’re going to meet,” David Betts said recently at Angelfire Coffee House on Capitol Highway. “I started talking to a man sitting next to me during a flight, and he was an international businessman. I told him I wanted to go to Japan at some point, and he gave me 1000 yen for my trip.”
“The people that you interact with, you never know how you’ll be touched by them, or how you’ll affect them,” he added.
Betts recently finished serving as the executive director of the Associated Students of Portland Community College (ASPCC) at the Sylvania campus, where he developed a passion for connecting people in his community. During his time in student government, he worked with local businesses to give discounts to students and adjusted the college’s transportation budget to allocate more funding to subsidized bus passes.
Betts is pursuing a career in secondary education, hoping to help young people find their own passions. Before he starts taking classes at Linfield College this fall, Betts took some time out of his summer vacation to talk about life in Southwest Portland and at PCC Sylvania.
What’s it like getting around the Southwest Portland area right now?
For student government, I could at any moment need to go to the CLIMB center in Southeast Portland, or to another campus, so driving is the most convenient option for me. I used to take the PCC shuttle between campuses, but it takes a while, and sometimes their schedules don’t match up, and that throws a wrench in the works for getting to class on time. For other students, we did a survey in 2013 and found that 20 percent of students who live one or two miles away from campus still end up driving, so the ASPCC been trying to find ways to reduce single-occupancy vehicle trips.
What’s a memory of PCC Sylvania that stands out to you?
When I was watching the final dress (rehearsal) of the fall play, there was an incident reported to public safety that was announced over the speakers. We’re sitting there in the middle of a scene, and this blaring over the radio comes. One of the actors breaks character, and yells, “Don’t you appreciate Shakespeare?” at the speaker, which was appropriate. But then the announcement was that somebody had been attacked and that everyone should be cautious. So I thought, that’s great. These systems are in place, and regardless of what’s going on, we’re going to hear about it.
What do you want transportation to look like in 30 years?
It’s a fantasy but it’d be interesting if we had the infrastructure that would allow some of those longer hauls (freight) to circumvent commuter traffic. Maybe we could have a “freight way” like we have carpool lanes. To alleviate traffic in South Portland, it would be great to have a bridge from the Lake Oswego area that connects to the East side. Other than that I think there’s a potential to improve the old trolley line that went from Lake Oswego into downtown (Portland). I could see that being utilized as a bike trail. If they’re not going to use it for the trolley, just pave it; it goes all the way to downtown pretty much. It links right up with Willamette Park and the bike trail there, and if they were to extend it out it could go all the way to Mary S. Young State Park in West Linn. It could be a huge trail and a bike commuter path from Southwest across town.
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