First Impressions of Portland

I moved to Portland, Oregon on September 13 so I have lived here for over a week.  Before classes start on September 29, which is when I will need to focus much more time on studying and not writing my blog, I wanted to take a moment to share my first impressions of Portland. Since this is a transportation blog, I will start with comparing Portland and Charlotte’s transportation systems. I will conclude this post with discussing a few non-transportation topics that have impacted my transition to my new life in Portland.

Portland’s transportation system is much better than Charlotte’s transportation system. I rode transit, biked and walked in Charlotte and have been riding transit, biking and walking in Portland so will discuss these three modes. The main reason I love using transit in Portland is because TriMet, Portland’s regional transit system, is reliable. I downloaded one of the 50 or so third-party apps that were developed using TriMet’s open data. According to this article, “Rather than pay an in-house programmer, Oregon’s largest transit agency was the first in the nation to set its schedule and arrival data loose for outside developers to do with it what they may.” The below screenshots show the PDX Bus app, which has real-time arrival information and other information. The real-time arrival information is very accurate so I know exactly when I need to be at the bus stop.

pdxbus appHow does the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) compare to TriMet? Take a look at the lack of diverse CATS transit apps. I’m assuming CATS has so few transit apps because it does not provide open source data to third-party developers who could create a diversity of apps. In addition to not having a diversity of apps, CATS only offers approximate arrival information instead of real-time arrival information. Hopefully someday CATS will provide real-time arrival information with a diversity of apps to choose from.

My roommate, who is from Kansas and also an incoming MURP interested in transportation planning, and I live next to a neighborhood greenway so we constantly see cyclists. The below video, which was produced in 2010, shows what a neighborhood greenway is. I had never seen a neighborhood greenway in the United States before moving to Portland so assumed a neighborhood greenway was like an off-road greenway. While the neighborhood greenways have many benefits, which are discussed in the video, my roommate and I have experienced at least one issue while using them. The main issue my roommate and I have had with the neighborhood greenway next to our apartment is crossing busy intersections. In addition to the cross street having so many automobiles, many of the cross streets have sight issues because of on-street parking. We have to move far enough into the intersection to see past the parked automobiles. Due to this issue, we have considered avoiding neighborhood greenways and biking on arterials with stop lights so the stop lights stop cross traffic.

Our apartment is so close to everything that we have actually been walking to the grocery store, restaurants and bars. Since we only live about two miles from downtown Portland, there are sidewalks and crosswalks with pedestrian signals everywhere. Our neighborhood feels very similar to the NoDa neighborhood in Charlotte because it has concert and other ads posted on light poles, artistic graffiti drawn on buildings, and there are bars everywhere. I’m definitely not used to living in a neighborhood like this. However, I am growing to appreciate my new environment.

One area of my new environment that I am struggling to adapt to is the bar scene. While I knew before I moved to Portland that Portlanders and graduate students at any university love drinking alcohol, I am still out of my comfort zone. I almost never drank alcohol in North Carolina so have no idea what to order when I go to the bar with my roommate or other people. To make matters worse, the second year MURPs have organized bar socials this Friday and Saturday for them to meet the incoming MURPs. Besides when I attended graduate club meetings at UNC Charlotte, I never went to a bar so am nervous about how I will fit in with so many graduate students that probably have been drinking alcohol for years. It feels like Greek Life to me, which I avoided at UNC Charlotte, because I feel fraternity members have to drink alcohol to fit in with their brothers. Thankfully, my roommate and several other MURPs have told me they can teach me about alcohol. While I am open to learning, I haven’t enjoyed drinking alcohol so far. I prefer drinking milk, lemonade, orange juice, sweet tea, smoothies, and many other nonalcoholic drinks. I enjoy that nonalcoholic drinks are cheaper and most have free refills. I am also nervous about getting drunk. Since I have never been drunk, I don’t know my drinking limit. I have seen people get drunk before and it didn’t look enjoyable so I would prefer not ever getting drunk. In case you are wondering, I didn’t come to Portland for the famous beer and bars. I came to Portland to study the famous urban and regional planning.

Unlike UNC Charlotte’s main campus, which is located about ten miles from uptown Charlotte, Portland State University is located in downtown Portland. One of the biggest things I have noticed with attending school in downtown Portland is panhandling. While uptown Charlotte and downtown Portland have about the same amount of panhandling, I rarely went to uptown Charlotte so didn’t experience panhandling on a daily basis. I rarely experience panhandling outside of downtown Portland. Now that I have classes in downtown Portland almost every day, I will have people asking me for money every time I go to downtown Portland. Experiencing panhandling on a nearly daily basis gets depressing, especially when the panhandlers say things to put me down for not giving them any money.

While Portland’s transportation system is much better than Charlotte’s transportation system, Portland can still improve its transportation system. I am looking forward to studying urban and regional planning, which includes how to approach panhandling, more than drinking alcohol. Since classes start on September 29, my next post will probably be shorter but I hope to continue writing my blog during the school year.

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