Imagining an inner Powell that would actually solve the street’s problems

Imagining an inner Powell that would actually solve the street’s problems

powell vision

When more people use cars on a street, it becomes less and less efficient. When more people use mass transit, it becomes more and more efficient.
(Image: Nick Falbo)

The City of Portland and the State of Oregon both say they want to free more of their constituents from traffic congestion and to reduce planet-killing pollution.

There’s no mystery at all about what this would look like on inner Powell Boulevard. Everyone with some measure of power who has considered the issue knows the answer. But for some reason, the millions of public dollars spent talking about that possible answer have never resulted in a street-level picture of it.

That changed Monday when a Portland-based street designer, Nick Falbo, threw up a rough image of a Powell that would get more and more efficient as more people use it rather than less and less efficient.

Here’s the full before-and-after rendering Falbo shared on his Twitter feed:

powell double vision

Notice how both images feature the same number of cars.

Falbo’s day job is with Alta Planning + Design, but his Twitter feed is his own.

In March, project managers pulled the plug on short-term plans for a “rapid” bus line on inner Powell because they realized it wouldn’t actually be rapid. There was one basic reason: the Oregon Department of Transportation had silently vetoed the possibility of fully prioritizing bus traffic over car traffic with a dedicated lane, and no politicians in the state, city or regional government had tried to force them to do otherwise.

Would removing cars from two lanes of Powell in favor of buses (plus ambulances and, maybe, trucks) get a lot of people angry? Of course it would. Is it far easier and less stressful for an independent contractor like Falbo to throw up a nice-looking image and enjoy the cheers from like-minded folks on the Internet? Definitely.

But there’s a reason that people cheer for images like this one. Unlike any other traffic plan for inner Powell, including the status quo, it offers a way to actually solve the problems before us, rather than closing our eyes and hoping our grandchildren never ask us why we never got around to making those problems go away.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 –

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