A streetcar named desire is a possibility


A recent OPB program highlighted Portland's historic streetcar lines. In 2001, Portland introduced the first modern streetcar in North America, becoming a model for cities all over the country. As stated in the program 'the idea is far from new.' In the early 1900s Portland had the third largest streetcar system in the country, including a cable car that ran up to the top of Council Crest.

Many old Portland neighborhoods such as Ladd's Addition and Sellwood were built along the streetcar lines. The streetcar was not just a transportation method but was considered necessary to the development of new housing. The first interurban electric railway ran from Portland to Oregon City. The streetcar ran on one side of the river to Eugene and through Oswego to Corvallis on the other. Students would ride the streetcar to go to the university football games. Gradually those streetcar lines were replaced by the automobile with the last line closing in the early 1950s.

It is interesting how ideas come full circle. One hundred years later transit-oriented developments (like what is being proposed for Foothills area on the Willamette) are in favor. This gives Lake Oswego the opportunity to build new housing in the city where public services are available rather than expand out into the Stafford area where new sewers, utilities and roads would have to built at great expense to the taxpayer.

A compact footprint accompanied by public transportation is the future of urban planning all over the country. The success of the new Portland neighborhoods over the last 20 years was accompanied by the improved public transportation based on a combination of light rail, bus, streetcar, bicycle paths and pedestrian walkways. No wonder Portland has drawn people back to live in the city where shops, restaurants and other amenities are readily available.

In Lake Oswego the attractiveness of First Addition, Evergreen and Old Town neighborhoods is evidence that people want the ability to be close to their stores, schools, shops, churches and community spaces such as the Farmers Market in Millennium Plaza Park. Improving transit connections to Portland with a modern streetcar and developing new housing that overlooks the Willamette River will further attract younger families to our community, enriching our schools and our civic life. It will provide older residents the opportunity to downsize and stay in their city.

When it is finally built, the Lake Oswego to Portland streetcar will begin service in 2018. We will be long out the recession, our current school funding issues will be a memory and the Portland area will be growing again. We have the opportunity now to shape that growth in places like Foothills in a manner that reflects our values. The streetcar is named desire - a desire to preserve our livability and to improve our mobility as we move forward into the second decade of the 21st century.

Rob Le Chevallier, Lake Oswego, is a local attorney and member of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Com-merce.