Transportation design in Oregon

Oregon was beautifully different. I noticed it right away. Many people obviously cared about the place they lived in. Driving around the state and riding mass transit around Portland was unique. The designs of the environments that we move through every day are as important as our home and office to our quality of life. We spend many hours in transit. The public realm should have the same standard of care as we give our living rooms. Durability, advertising, and engineering should not be the only design criteria, as they have sadly become recently. Humanistic design considerations such as color, form, light, comfort, sound, and landscape, composed by our most gifted designers, should be as important as the engineering. In 1976, taking the bus was an experience far more pleasant than other cities I had lived in. I bragged in Philadelphia about Portland’s busses. They had carpet. They had good natural light. They had subdued lighting. In 1976, the driving experience here was good too. It seemed like there were no billboards, no litter. Beautiful, lush landscapes surrounded our roads, even on freeways going through our cities. Retaining walls were well-designed. All bridges painted, surfaces glistening. Driving around Oregon was a treat. And good for our quality of life.

Look at the Fremont Bridge now with its paint peeling. Look at the Sylvan interchange on Route 26 and the 217/Interstate 5 interchange with their poorly designed walls and minimal landscape. Look to the engineered interior environments on our busses and MAX. We've slipped a lot. We're not taking good enough care of this beautiful place we inherited. Let's toll our freeways to provide budgets for road upkeep and enhancement and let's bring a design sensibility to ODOT, PDOT and Tri Met. We owe it to ourselves to insure that our Oregon stays Oregon.






by Stuart Emmons

The Oregonian Blog, April 1, 2008