Flexcar's Bill Scott claims that Flexcar benefits Portland, so Portland should continue to provide free parking spaces [Q&A, WW, July 5, 2006].
There are problems with both claims. Let's look at the second claim first: Scott's words befit a local nonprofit, but Flexcar is a privately held national company. Giving Flexcar free parking spaces does not assure improved Portland service. We can't study their financial strategy. Would they invest savings into an Oklahoma expansion? Staff raises? We'd never know—according to Scott's argument, we'd just see less public benefit.
Furthermore, it's not clear what—or how great—that public benefit is. Flexcar cites two reports (available online), from Portland's Department of Transportation (portlandonline.com) and the national Transportation Research Board (www.trb.org). The TRB report ("Car-Sharing: Where and How It Succeeds") is the more fact-based and scientific. But as its title suggests, car-sharing is not a panacea for parking or any urban problem; its success varies from one city and company to another.
The TRB report also states, "While car-sharing is unlikely to be viable in isolation, it makes excellent sense as part of a coordinated parking management strategy." Do we have such a strategy? How does Flexcar fit in? According to Scott, there was a plan regarding the streetcar. But ultimately, these are questions for Portland to answer, not Flexcar.
City Council made the right choice: Flexcar provides a valuable service, but it shouldn't need ongoing public support to do so. Hopefully, Flexcar's business plan didn't rely on free parking spaces; I hope they stick around.
Southeast 59th Avenue
WEST END STORIES
Brilliant! If PDC wants to increase vacancies in the West End's Class B office buildings, drive away small retailers, reduce library patronage, diminish attendance at Pioneer Courthouse Square events and downtown cinemas, short-circuit the Galleria's renewal and send holiday shoppers to the 'burbs, they could do no better than to demolish the cheap above-ground parking garage at 10th and Yamhill ["Demolition Derby," WW, July 19, 2006].
They should re-read Jane Jacobs on the importance of old buildings as creativity incubators and think twice about the drive to "develop the West End" with 20-story condos on every block. Portland was incredibly lucky that we missed out on the downtown urban renewal of the 1960s that gutted so many downtowns and put up sterile towers.
We've been lucky again that the North Pearl and South Waterfront are replacing abandoned railroad yards and shipbuilding districts. But we don't need to have brand-new highrises everywhere, especially if they drive out the smaller businesses that keep downtown from becoming a mall.
Northwest Savier Street
A chart of Oregon drownings that ran with last week's cover story, "River Rats," erred in the cause of death for two victims. Ahmed Hussein and Mohammed Abdalo drowned after underestimating the Clackamas River's frigid, strong currents and lost consciousness after diving into the river. WW regrets the errors.
WW's media empire can no longer be contained within the confines of "real" news. So this week, we debut the "Draconian"—a fake headline spawned by our fertile minds. Feeling more fertile than us? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and win some great swag if we use your suggestion.