Most Oregon residents cannot get a driver’s license until they are 16, so young people are dependent on walking, biking, transit and rides from family and friends. These options are less reliable or safe in some areas, including much of the Southwest Corridor between Southwest Portland, Tigard and Tualatin.
The proposed Southwest Corridor light rail project will better connect young people with places they need to go, such as after-school jobs, shopping at Bridgeport Village and educational opportunities like Portland Community College-Sylvania, which serves 28,000 students.
We talked to middle and high school students from Portland and Tigard to hear their thoughts on their communities and the changes and opportunities light rail could bring. Interview excerpts have been edited for clarity and length.
Gabriel was born and raised in Tigard. He spends his time in band, playing the drums, French horn and trumpet in various school groups. He also enjoys playing volleyball. He currently attends Twality Middle School and serves on the Tigard Youth Advisory Council.
What do you like about the community here in Tigard?
It’s just a really nice area. There are a lot of really great communities that invite you in. I’ve been to a lot of different organizations and groups around Tigard and they’re just so inviting. I’ve had a blast with all the city committees that I’ve been in and all the activities I’ve done at the high schools and middle schools.
How do you think light rail will change the community?
I feel like it can really help people that live down in Tigard that go to college in Portland. My sister doesn’t have really enough money to be able to get there because of the time distance. Getting from here to PSU and back and having work – it can be really challenging for her, like time-crunching. I feel like for a lot of people, it could be really useful to have an alternative way to be able to get from here down to Portland because having it will clear out roads just a little bit, and more people will be on this.
What kinds of opportunities does transit provide?
A lot of times, I’ve been in the situation where it’s like, I have multiple things in a day, but they’re so scattered that I feel like I’m super stressed and I’m going to be late to them. I feel like it could help a lot of people not be as worried about getting to things because it’s less stressful to hop on the train and then has the set time where there’s not going to be any traffic. I feel like just people could have more motivation to do certain things and less stress to try to get there.
Hannah, a senior at Tigard High School, has lived in Tigard her entire life. She does not have a steady means of transportation at the moment and is looking forward to light rail and expanded transit options into the community. She plans to pursue studies in political science and journalism in college.
How will light rail compare to buses?
I think it does make it easier. I’m so bad with the routes (buses) take and times and everything. Some people are awesome with it, but I don’t use it that often. Light rail is a much more composed, organized way to get around, and I think it’s definitely appreciated. It’s so easy to use for anyone – there’s no figuring it out, there’s no getting lost.
How do you think light rail can impact people’s lives?
In high school, that’s when you get your driver’s license, so most likely that’s when everyone is really scared of driving on freeways or highways. Especially with teenagers, they’re not the safest people out there. I think we mostly live in a very, very good area, where everyone is a conscientious driver, but most of the time, you’re going to get the couple of people who are not as aware. And it could literally just be the one time they decide, “I’m not going drive, I’m going to take the light rail to work or to downtown,” and that could save a life.
How will your needs change in the future?
I’ve only gone to school here, and I plan on staying here for college. PSU is downtown, and I can’t afford to drive there all the time. That is already something I’m thinking about. I’m like, “That’s going to be a hassle to do.” This would be such a huge improvement on that in general, especially for many kids. For the amount of kids going to college by 2025, or soon to be in college, that’s really going to be a huge help to them all. Also, I can’t afford to actually just drive there every day to school. So I’ve already been thinking, “I need to figure out public transportation now. I need to get used to it.”
Maya, a sophomore at Riverdale High School, has lived in Southwest Portland for her entire life. She volunteered for Governor Kate Brown’s 2016 campaign, and she volunteers at the Children’s Book Bank and at Portland Family Housing Solutions.
Do you have any “that's so Southwest Portland” moments?
It’s very Southwest Portland to see families that have those special strollers that have their dog stroller. People love their dogs in Southwest, and I see them all the time and it’s the most ridiculous thing in the world. That’s a very Southwest thing to be obsessed with your dog.
How do you think the light rail line would affect the community?
I think it would allow people, especially older people or disabled people, to get places a lot easier. I help organize a lot of community events, and I know a lot of people can’t come when they want to come just because they have no way of getting there. I think it would be a really positive thing for the community because it allows people to get places that they want to go, which gets them more engaged in local businesses and small businesses and the community center, and stuff like that. Once those places are more accessible, more people are going to come, so that’s better for the local community’s economy.
Imagine high school students like yourself when the Southwest Corridor light rail line opens in 2025. What opportunities would that provide?
I think a lot of kids would be able to get to Riverdale early, or get here better. I know a bunch of kids either show up late or they have to get here at like 6 a.m. on buses, which sounds awful. I think a lot of people complain about transportation because their parents can’t take them, and they’re not old enough to drive cars and our parking lot is tiny. I think it would help a lot with transportation because I know that’s a lot of people at this school’s No. 1 issue.
Adam was born and raised in Tigard, and he formerly served as the vice president of the Tigard Youth Advisory Council. An avid bike rider when he was younger, Adam now drives wherever he needs to go. Whenever he goes into Portland, he explores a new route to overcome his frustrations with traffic. Adam has friends and family who live in Sherwood and Newberg, and he has dreams of connecting these communities to Portland through transit.
What are your hopes for your community?
My hope is that eventually, when I come back from college, or whatever I do after high school, I’m able to see easy transportation available to people all throughout the Southwest Portland area, extending all the way out past the suburbs to cities that would love to get connected. There’s always going to be something in Portland or something along the way for them. Connecting them would probably be super beneficial and good for everyone.
Why do you think some Tigard residents choose to drive instead of taking transit?
It’s definitely a culture. For years, it’s always seemed like when you get to high school, you get a car, drive around, hang out with your friends, and public transportation has never really been a thought. I guess that it might be kind of the culture here where it’s just not really the thing to do. If you take public transportation, it’s kind of frowned upon, that you’re maybe not in the same societal class.
Do you think that light rail can bring opportunities to people here?
It can make it a lot easier for people to come in and out of Tigard. It can also bring a cool, new fact that you’re able to use public transit to get from the airport or Gresham all the way across Portland to Southwest or Southeast. At work yesterday, I was talking about it, and a coworker said, “I always forget that the MAX goes out to the airport. It’s a lot easier.” I hear that all the time.
Skyler was born in Northern California, but he moved to the Portland area when he was very young. He is active in the Tigard community, serving on the Tigard Youth Advisory Council. He is considering a career in either business or in law.
How could getting around by transit be improved?
For public transit, I want to make it more friendly to people, less of a thing for a lower class and more of a thing for upper class people, for everyone. That’s what I want to see. More advertising might help because I don’t see a lot of advertising about public transit, at least the places that I take it to. Just to get the options out there and the word out to people that there is more than just your car, your bike.
Do you think students in the area will benefit from having light rail?
I think they would, yeah, because that’s a straight, one-way to Bridgeport, maybe with a couple stops. I know kids my age, or even younger too, that would really want to go to Bridgeport without their parents driving them, or taking a bus or something. That would really be helpful. I could see a lot of people using that.
Learn more about the Southwest Corridor Plan
Zoie Wesenberg contributed reporting to this story.