I’ve driven more miles around the Portland city limits this week than I’ve ever done in a given week. As an on-demand courier, you never know where you’ll end up driving or biking to on a given delivery. I have to admit, I’m learning a lot about Portland and becoming very familiar with this city. I’m learning where popular restaurants are, which back road to take during rush hours, and all the major bridges in Portland.
However, there are four things I’ve notice that really concern me about the future of Portland.
1. Increased Traffic
Traffic around Portland has been really bad. Morning rush hours used to be from 7 AM to 8:30 AM and 3:30 PM to 6:30 PM in the afternoon. But these days, it seems 6 AM to 9 AM is the norm while afternoon rush hour starts around 2:30 PM and doesn’t end until 7:00 PM on some roads. That’s crazy. More bizarre is that there seems to be congestion during really strange time of day. Like five o’clock PM on a Saturday.
I spoke with some friends who commutes to work about the traffic and they said it’s been bad for the last couple years. Apparently I haven’t been aware. In my defense, I’ve been in college for the last few years and took public transportation. I had a car but I only used it for errands. I live in the Lents area so there’s no traffic there.
I looked into this and according to a ranking in March of this year Portland’s traffic was 10th worst in the country. Portland’s traffic has increased 6% in the last year. There are some flaws to the methodology of this ranking but that doesn’t mean Portland doesn’t have bad traffic. A more recent study from this summer has Portland’s ranked 12th for worst traffic in the US.
The traffic can be attributed to two things occurring at the same time: poor roadway infrastructure and overpopulation.
Portland’s current infrastructure just doesn’t have what it takes to accommodate a city that’s adding people.
2. Population growth
A good number of the deliveries I’ve been making during business hours have been to startups. A trend we’re seeing is startup companies allowing most if not all of their employees to work remotely. Office space is very expensive in the Bay Area, so companies have remote employees to lower costs. These days people can work from the laptop in a coffee shop.
Since they don’t have to be at the office, Silicon Valley employees move to Portland for the lower cost of living while making a Silicon Valley salary and driving the rent up for folks in Portland. Additionally, as non-tech people flock to Portland after reading all the stories about how great it is, the city is quickly becoming overeducated and underemployed.
3. A housing crisis
The increase in population is driving up rent prices in the city. A large number of folks moving to Portland are coming from the neighboring state of California. It’s has become so bad that homes that are on sales have “No Californians” stickers on them.
I see a lot of construction when I’m driving. Most of the construction is for new apartments and condos, not homes. All of these new apartments are unaffordable to overeducated and underemployed young millennials. We’re seeing a trend of smaller (micro apartments) and for higher prices. In fact, Portland has declared a state of emergency for housing and homelessness.
It’s creating other problems too. Like big time gentrification of national championship proportion. Portland is the most gentrified city of the century!
As housing prices skyrocket, people are losing their homes. I’m seeing a lot of people living in tents on the streets and I’m not driving in historically poor or ghetto neighborhoods of Portland. It’s really sad.
It’s not looking good for Portland’s future. These changes are happening as a rather rapid pace and could be unsustainable for the laid back, artistic, creative, and expressive culture of Portland.