Portland mayor delivers some inspiration to Toronto businesses
It's a shame not a single mayoral candidate showed up for what was arguably the most inspirational talk on city building that's been heard during this year's municipal election -- and it came from a guy who's not even running, at least not here -- Portland Mayor Sam Adams.
He regaled the Tuesday breakfast crowd at the Toronto Board of Trade with the strategies Portland is using to become one of the most sustainable cities on the continent.
The west-coast city has a certain vibe and a green culture but it's not content to rest on its progressive roots.
It boasts a whopping 8 per cent of trips by bike and 15 per cent of trips on transit -- staggering statistics in the U.S. and impressive by this region's standards. But Adams says that's not good enough. He wants to double those numbers and reduce by half the 66 per cent of trips that happen in Portland by car by 2030.
He congratulated Toronto on having the wisdom not to tear up its streetcar tracks in the 1970s when virtually every city in North America was doing just that. In the 1960s Portland rebuilt its downtown streetcar network, which runs in mixed traffic, and it has since built a modern light rail system on dedicated rights of way into the suburbs.
Portland is also creating what Adams called 20-minute neighbourhoods by taking inventory of what services are available within an easy 20-minute stroll of people's homes and bolstering the goods and services that would normally send residents into their cars to drive for a litre of milk or take the kids to piano lessons.
In an interview after the speech, Adams told The Toronto Star that grocery stores are key partners in transportation planning in his city.
A quick Google and it's clear that Adams is no saint -- his personal problems have received a full public airing -- and he doesn't claim his city is Nirvana.
But he makes no apologies for the public investments Portland is making in sustainable industries, neighbourhoods and transportation.
"If these efforts didn't give the public the best value proposition I wouldn't be promoting them," he said.