Stalwart Swan Island transportation advocate Lenny Anderson announces retirement

Stalwart Swan Island transportation advocate Lenny Anderson announces retirement

Going Street Bridge to Swan Island-10

Lenny Anderson, shown here at the
dedication of a biking and walking
path on Swan Island in 2010, is retiring.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Lenny Anderson, one of the most outspoken and effective transportation advocates in Portland, officially announced his retirement this morning.

Lenny had served as the executive director of the Swan Island Business Association for 14 years but he’s been best known in local transportation circles as the head of Swan Island’s Transportation Management Association (TMA), an organization he founded in 2000. In that role, Lenny was a fixture in countless transportation policy debates and projects. From sidewalks to bike paths and bus lines, the results of his efforts are evident all over Swan Island.

What I appreciate most about Lenny is that he was never afraid to speak his mind — whether the audience was a powerful politician or just a curious young bike blogger. And while Lenny understood how to work and be patient within the process, he also often went against the popular Portland predilection of incrementalism by suggesting bold ideas that would shake the status quo (a floating bike/walk path cantilevered from a train bridge in north Portland for example).

I first met Lenny in October 2006 at the dedication of a new paved path on the Willamette River. That path was just one of many victories on Swan Island that Lenny can claim nearly sole credit for. If you have ever biked, walked, or taken the bus on or around Swan Island, you should be grateful for Lenny’s work.

Here are a few photos of him in action throughout the years…

Freightliner and Swan Island

I toured Swan Island with Lenny in August 2006. The place he’s standing is the site of a major path improvement project he was working on at the time. See the next photo for the fruits of his labor…
Going Street Bridge to Swan Island-9

Lenny was happy to dedicate this new path about four years after I snapped that photo of him above in nearly the exact location.

Freightliner and Swan Island

Here he is at the entrance to the Ash Grove cement road. The road is owned by Union Pacific Railroad and is technically off-limits to the public; but Lenny (and others) have been working for years to open it and create a flat, direct link between Swan Island and the Rose Quarter area.
trail dedication ceremony- Swan Island

Lenny with former Mayor Sam Adams in 2006 cutting the ribbon on a new section of the “Going to River” path.
trail dedication ceremony- Swan Island

He’s a master at grabbing the ear of decision makers and making his case.
metro hearing on the CRC-8.jpg

In June 2008, Lenny testified in opposition to the Columbia River Crossing project at a Metro hearing.
Tour of Tomorrow

Lenny riding through Vancouver (with Mia Birk) during the 2007 Policymakers Ride.

Lenny with former Metro Councilor Robert Liberty at the Carfree Cities Conference in 2008.
Bike commuters at Daimler Trucks North America on Swan Island-4

With the bike commuters group from Daimler Trucks North America in 2010.
Daimler bike shelter opening-36

At the unveiling of a new bike shelter at Daimler Trucks North America in April of this year.

This morning, out of pure serendipity, I ran into Lenny on my way into the office. He was waiting on a MAX platform with his bike on his way to work. Lenny shared how he got his start as a transportation advocate during the six-day closure of the I-5 bridge in 1997. The experts expected massive congestion on I-205 (that never materialized of course), so Lenny worked with C-Tran (Vancouver’s transit agency) on vanpool schemes for Swan Island employees. From there, his “badgering” of TriMet to run a dedicated bus line down to Swan Island resulted in the number 85 line that still runs today. Those early experiences convinced Lenny and others on Swan Island that transportation demand management was the key to their future.

Here’s an excerpt from a memo sent by Lenny to the SIBA Board this morning:

We have seen a lot of progress in my years as TMA Director and SIBA Executive Director. Swan Island has the best transit service of any industrial district in the region, vanpools operate daily to Clark county, the number of bike commuters grows and grows, and this last year saw the completion of over $5 Million in bike/ped/transit access improvements. The Swan Island Evening Shuttle is funded thru June 30, 2014; the TMA project has Metro and member funds to sustain it for another year and a half. In short, parts, products, and people are all moving on Swan Island!

Taking over the reins for Lenny is Sarah Angell, who began the transition into becoming “the new Lenny” over a year ago (and in case you haven’t met her yet, Swan Island is in very good hands).

Congratulations on your retirement Lenny. Your work lives on as a powerful symbol that one dedicated advocate can make a difference.

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