Katie Allen lives in the Mount Scott neighborhood of Happy Valley, where she enjoys more space than Portland offered. But with limited access to transit and no sidewalks on the area’s steep streets, she and her family have to drive everywhere. Allen carpools whenever she can. We talked to her about her transportation experience. Our interview, condensed and edited for clarity, is below.
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Metro: How’s driving working out for you?
Katie Allen: My particular street is a small dead end street and it leads out to a larger street, a feeder street. There are also no sidewalks on a feeder street. So when I drive, it's very convenient for me to get out into the neighborhoods, but there is a certain level of risk, driving without any visibility onto the streets that I'm turning left or right onto.
My children are old enough to have a license. They've not expressed a desire to drive yet and that makes me very happy because I don't want them to drive in and out of my street. My particular street is on a hill and it's also on a curve. I'm very uncomfortable with the concept of teaching a 16-year-old how to navigate that.
Metro: How has primarily driving affected your hobbies or other aspects about your life?
Allen: I have two big dogs. I am unable to walk the dogs anywhere larger than, say, a 100 square feet in either direction of my street, because there is no visibility and no sidewalks. It's very unfortunate. I have never let my children walk to the park, nor ride bikes to the park, which is less than half a mile away because of the dangers inherent on our street. So it's really too bad. My children would love to ride bikes.
"In a sense, we're a little bit isolated because we don't have quick access to services or the park, so that's why I have to drive everywhere."
In a sense, we're a little bit isolated because we don't have quick access to services or the park, so that's why I have to drive everywhere. There are other areas in Happy Valley that do have sidewalks. But those are all developments. And as I said, I don't live in a development.
On the personal side of things, I used to love to jog. You really have to belong to a gym or you have to get into your car to drive into a neighborhood – or some sort of development – that does have sidewalks. We're really close to a fabulous park, but when I jog down there, it's a challenge. It's taking my life in my hands to get to the entrance of the park if I go by foot or by bike.
Metro: How have your transportation needs evolved over time?
Allen: I used to live in Mount Tabor and, in that particular area, there were lots of sidewalks. I would walk everywhere. I would take out my kids when they were younger and they were in strollers. I would take my dogs out for walks around the neighborhood. So the lack of those types of services in Happy Valley has changed my habits. I drive everywhere, rather than walk.
Metro: How do you anticipate your transportation needs evolving in the future?
Allen: Well, as I look forward to the future, I would anticipate my needs will change as my youngest child has just turned 15 and she is just getting interested in the concept of driving. That makes me pretty nervous because of the challenges of my particular street. My mother also lives with us. My mother moved into our house. We built an addition to the house about three years ago. She is 78. She can drive, but I do not anticipate she's going to be able to drive very much longer. So I think my driving needs are going to increase with my mom and decrease with my kids as they learn how to drive.
Metro: What do you envision for a better transportation system where you live?
"I don't feel that public transportation should be running through neighborhood streets, but it would be terrific if transit would actually come to the top of Mount Scott."
Allen: I would love to have sidewalks in a lot more areas so we have the ability to walk from neighborhood to neighborhood to go see neighbors, or to walk our pets. That would be great. I would also love to see public transportation come a little bit closer to the neighborhood. I don't feel that public transportation should be running through neighborhood streets, but it would be terrific if transit would actually come to the top of Mount Scott. TriMet goes up Sunnyside, which is great, but I'm pretty far away from Sunnyside. I can’t walk there. Widening the road a little bit and adding sidewalks would increase visibility and quality of life and then maybe a little bit more access to public transportation. Those three things would make a big difference to the people in my neighborhood.