Autumn weekends are generally reserved for admiring the changing colors, but at about 9:30 AM this past Saturday, a band of over 15 students climbed into a tour bus to behold the wonders of local Portland traffic calming projects.
For 23 years running, the City of Portland and Portland State University have partnered to offer the 10-week Traffic and Transportation Class free of charge to Portland residents. Developed by Congressman Earl Blumenauer and former Metro Executive Officer Rick Gustafson (who has taught the class since its inception), the class was designed to equip neighborhood activists with the knowledge of how their local transportation systems and agencies work – and more importantly, how to work with them to implement community projects. Weekly guest speakers are generally the top dogs of their office (PBOT Director Leah Treat spoke last week) and they present to students about the history, goals, and current issues of their department.
The field trip is a highlight of the course, when Rick takes the class on a tour of community-led projects throughout Portland to demonstrate how concerned neighbors have successfully worked with the City to solve problems, experiment with new strategies, and in some cases, change the rules entirely. At NE 16th & Tillamook, the class de-boarded to check out a landscaped traffic diverter that was originally a guerilla installation poured in concrete overnight by neighbors concerned with speeders using their street as a cut-through. At NE 15th & Thompson, Rick explained the 10 foot long bike lane oddities – part of a traffic calming device called slow points that visually narrows the street for drivers and creates safer crossings for pedestrians, once illegal under city policy.