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No Matter Which Side Of The Street You Live, Aging Makes Us More Alike.


One look at the Sunday obituaries and you’ll see it. Older people resemble each other.

It’s a good message for those who still dye their hair.

You won’t be an autumn brown at ninety.

What you will be doing is living in the sort of environment you build today.

Here’s the baby boomer question:

Do you want to drive everywhere, or would you rather take a walk around the block instead?

The way Portland neighborhoods define themselves, it’s the walk. It’s the walk, the bike, the bus, the light rail, then the car as transportation of last resort.

Instead of first resort.

My town, Tigard Oregon, has a vote coming up. Signs popped up asking for a yes vote. I’ve seen one asking for the no, then two. I’ll be three when I find one for my yard.

The vote is for light rail coming through here. The ‘yes’ vote is against light rail. The no vote is for it. And you wonder how anything gets done? Of course it’s not that simple.

Today, well not this actual day but the era, will decide how population growth is handled thirty years out. Light rail lines are the spokes to the Portland hub. That’s the good news.

The bad news? Tigard is the blockage.

The question: Would light rail increase Tigard property values? Would light rail increase livability?

From what you see crossing the Willamette River in Portland today today, from the bike bridge to the nearly connected light rail bridge linking southeast to the west side, the future looks light rail.

It wasn’t when I got here.

In Oregon fashion, Portland style, I met my wife while we lived in NW Portland in the early 1980’s. At the time my mode of transport was a bike. My mother said, “How do you expect to meet a nice girl on a bike?”

Then she met my future wife.

We got married and lived on the corner of NW 20th and Lovejoy, then moved to SE 11th and Lincoln and had a baby. Before out second son, we moved to Tigard. We’re still here twenty three years later.

As a single person I used mass transit. A ticket on the subway, bus, or train took me everywhere I needed to go living on the east coast. I rode the #12 bus downtown for my first ten years in Tigard. It made sense. If there’d been a train, it would have been my ride.

Now we have a chance for that train to roll through town. Who’s going to ride it? You and I? Our kids? Look further down the line for an answer.

Mass transit shows a certain cohesiveness within a community. New residents, or those considering a move, look for good schools, low crime, and parks.

No one looks for traffic jam parking lots like I-5 north on most days, but that’s what 99W has become.

With light rail, and the time to let it settle into a regular routine, new residents will feel a connection to Portland the city doesn’t have right now. You can still take a bus, or catch the MAX by taking WES to Beaverton.

Light rail means a main line, and Tigard is ready.

The fear some see are new residents who don’t bring much to the city. Apartment living, train riding people don’t always spell affluence, but is that what Tigard needs? High density housing near train stations with ground floor shops and stores is the future of convenience. Neighborhoods grow with that in mind.

The other side of coin shows more land being developed for single family housing. Buy a house a mile or two from a store, a gas station, or a pub and you add a car, maybe two or three, into the equation. 99W is full of those cars. So is Hwy 217.

Consider the time spent in traffic jams when you complain about adding an hour to a mass transit commute.

When the ballot comes in the mail, take a moment before marking it. We all want our elected representatives to give us their best shot. As good citizens, we want to vote before ideas of huge scale swing into motion. No one wants to be hoodwinked by shady deals, especially when the results may be years in the future.

A YES vote on the light rail issue asks for a vote on the issue. A NO vote supports light rail. The YES vote crowd wants their voice heard, and in America that counts. A NO vote says carry on with light rail plans.

In both you get the feeling of representation, but did anyone vote for the new Walmart on SW 72nd and Dartmouth? Big Box Walmart joins Big Box Costco and Big Box Winco in the Tigard Triangle.

Big Box means big parking lots for added traffic. These additions to the city fabric bring the sort of concerns anti-light rail carries. Who wants their home town called Big Box central?

Light rail and high density housing units encourage small businesses to serve the new crowd. So what if the new people are Portlandia knock-offs on bikes and on foot. Without a car they’ll shop for their essentials near their apartments. Score for the little guy.

On a darker note, if federal money is turned down now, will other federally funded projects in the future skip Tigard? We’re not heading backward and chopping roads out for more farmland. The nation seems infatuated with all things Portland. Even long time Oregonians don’t see our big city as the same dirt hole it’s been in the past.

If Portland gets a facelift that doesn’t wash off, imagine how thrilled people will be when they discover Tigard. I know I was.




About David Gillaspie
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