|East Portland Transportation 2002: more hits than misses
Getting around in Mid-Multnomah county became easier last year, but more is needed
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
Looked at broadly, you can get there from here - meaning anywhere. As Opportunity Gateway advisory committee chair Dick Cooley is fond of saying, Gateway is second only to downtown in its transportation links. It has ready access to two freeways, two light rail routes, bus lines, arterial streets, and is within minutes by various transportation modes of Portland International Airport.
Parkrose doesnt have quite the same distinction as a business hub, but it too is served by a variety of modes, some of them recently added. Only six years ago the Sandy Improvement Project remade the boulevard as many had long sought, although not quite as all had proposed. The Line 12 extension through Parkrose was achieved. And, of course, there is Airport MAX.
The best laid plans
The Airport MAX Red Line to the airport was conceived as the centerpiece of a grand economic development scheme. The 5.5 mile, $125 million extension would complete a cheap and easy transit link from the airport to such tourist and convention destinations as downtown and Lloyd Center. The Port of Portland designed Concourse C around the Red Line, as an entryway easier to access by light rail than by car or any other mode. Inside were very upscale tourist shops and eateries that the port conceived of not just as passenger amenities, but also as destinations. In the same vein, in exchange for their financial contribution to the line, the Bechtel Enterprises and Trammel Crow companies were given a long-term lease to 120 acres on which to construct CascadeStation, an office, retail and entertainment park. A MAX stop at Parkrose held out the promise that they too could benefit from the improvements.
On September 10 Airport MAX opened with free rides, eats, entertainment and festivities. The next day, the premises upon which it had all been based changed drastically, in some cases permanently.
Following September 11, of course, there was no air travel at all in Portland or anywhere else in the United States. Even after the airport officially reopened, new security procedures, changing by the day, put a damper on air travel. The nationwide downturn in air travel, and the tourism industry that depended on it, carried an already shaky economy down with it. Worse yet, from the Ports point of view, was that their posh new Concourse C retail, located behind the security gates, and was now forever off-limits to everyone except passengers bound to and from flights using those gates at that time.
Not surprisingly, airport use dropped drastically last September to about 700,000 passengers, 31 percent below the figures for the year before. Since then, the volumes have been steadily increasing. According to the Ports Steve Johnson, there were 1.1 million passengers in June; just six percent below the figures for the same month last year, and much of this can be attributed to the general economic downturn.
With the Ports blessing, the new retailers waited past their planned opening dates to come on line, Johnson says - some are only now opening - but they have done surprisingly well. As compared to a year ago, there has been a 2.6 percent increase in business for retail in general, Johnson says, and an 8.9 percent boost for those inside the concourses, he says, with the best showing by food and beverage providers.
We thought intuitively that since only ticketed passengers could reach these facilities, they would suffer, Johnson says. As it turns out, the retailers beyond the security checkpoints are doing better. The perception is that people want to get to the airport, get their baggage checked, get through the security lines, then look for something to eat or buy.
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