Portlanders reading the tea leaves about the future of Oregon's alternative transportation businesses are getting muddled omens this week.
On the cheery side, President Barack Obama announced today his pick of Charlotte, N.C. Mayor Anthony Foxx as his next transportation secretary. Foxx has been an efficient backer of light-rail and streetcar projects in Charlotte—and Obama made plenty of reference to those rail lines in his speech today.
"Since Anthony took office, they’ve broken ground on a new streetcar project that’s going to bring modern electric tram service to the downtown area," Obama said today. "And they’re extending the city’s light rail system. All of that has not only helped create new jobs, it’s helped Charlotte become more attractive to business."
Foxx's nomination is a good sign for Clackamas-based United Streetcar, the nation's only streetcar manufacturing company. But there's no direct Portland connection: Charlotte's streetcar project doesn't have a contract with United Streetcar, and isn't part of the portfolio created by Portland Mayor Charlie Hales during his time as a streetcar salesman for HDR, Inc.
Now, the bad news: Portland-based Alta Bike Share keeps crashing into controversies as it launches its long-delayed bike sharing program in New York City.
This time, it's not just the company president leaving a month before the program launches. It's also angry neighbors—alarmed by the space-age bike sharing stations taking up sidewalk space and not fitting in with historic neighborhoods.
Big Apple officials convened a town hall last week to calm business owners. The New York Daily News has been avidly covering each complaint.
“They look kind of futuristic. I don’t think that’s what people want,” one cyclist told the tabloid. “The city could have done a better job making them fit in with some of the historical buildings — they could have made them look like rails, not like spaceships.”
Alta Bike Share also has the contract for Portland's bike-share program, which was supposed to begin this spring but is now scheduled for 2014.