Monthly Archives: January 2014

Pay to Play (are fees really the answer?)

Earlier this month–January 10th, to be exact–Washington Park officially became a pay-to-park destination. The Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Children’s Museum, Oregon Zoo, the huge playground and the archery range: all of those have parking spaces that fall under Portland Parks and Rec jurisdiction, and now they all cost money.

Washington Park pay to park meters(a new addition to Washington Park parking)

At first, I thought it was a good idea. If you drive to the Washington Park, why not pay for it? It seems like a good way to incentivize transit use or alternative transportation, and the money collected gets reinvested into improvements for the park. It’s not that different from parking meters downtown: if you bring a car, expect to pay for the space it takes up.

The more I think about it, though, the more I think it’s setting a bad precedent.

First of all, this seems somewhat akin to saying “hey, if you have disposable income you’re welcome to use Washington Park; if not, go play somewhere else.” There are some transit options, of course. The MAX has one stop that serves the Oregon Zoo and Children’s Museum, though from there it’s quite a hike to other Washington Park attractions. And the 63 bus runs through the park, but only every hour, and only on weekdays between 7am and 5pm (i.e. not when many people are likely to have free time to go to the park). Until transit throughout the park is a viable option, I’m not convinced that this isn’t a somewhat classist (even if inadvertently so) policy.

But other than that, it just seems like the wrong message to send: Washington Park improvements and upkeep will be paid for by the people who drive there and use it. That is, the responsibility of the upkeep falls to the users–sort of like saying that if you have a kid in school, you should pay for school, but if you don’t there’s no reason to put your money toward something you don’t use, right? It seems like more and more things in Portland are funded this way, where one specific fee goes toward one specific thing, and we’ve lost track of the idea that some things might be public services that everyone has a part to uphold. Maybe parks aren’t one of those things, but I wish that would be the conversation.

I’m all for paying for parking. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that there are meters in Portland and I think it’s reasonable to expect that you might pay to use space. But I guess I’m a little worried that it seems there’s no coherent whole about how money gets apportioned, and I don’t like the super-individualistic idea that you only pay for what you use, everyone else be damned. Certainly there are things that we, as a civilized society, have decided are for the common good, and those things should be paid for by everyone via taxes, not user fees. Again, maybe parks and greenspaces aren’t one of those things–and maybe I just don’t understand how this works (the city’s finances are definitely not my forte)–but this strikes me as a step in the wrong direction.

Push me on this. Any thoughts?

A day in 2007: Blast from the past:)

I’ve been reading over some stuff in an old journal–yeah, a real live paper journal that I keep–and I found some awesome, bike-love scribbles from February 27 of 2007, back when I was in grad school and student teaching.

Biking to my student teaching gig was a ride over Council Crest and through the West Hills every morning, and that day in February, it snowed on me.

“I mention this because by the time I got home from [student teaching] at 1, I was a soggy, dripping, muddy mess. And the thought of putting my sopping tights back on an hour later to get to class at Lewis and Clark was enough to make me leap at [my roommate's] offer of a ride.

“But it turned out to be really, really weird for me to be somewhere without having used my own power to get there and back. It’s almost like by getting dropped off and picked up, I hadn’t earned the right to be there–and I love that I feel that way. I love that biking is such an ingrained part of my life that it feels wrong when I don’t do it. I love that I am self-propelled and self-sufficient; I love that I rely on something I can (mostly) fix myself for transportation; I love that life and exercise are so inextricably linked.

“Though I was glad for the ride, it ultimately only served to remind me of this: I love my carless lifestyle, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Even when it snows.”

How fricken awesome is that? I still feel like this now, a hundredfold, and it’s awesome to see an old version of me setting these thoughts in motion. Thanks, journal-keeping, bike-loving stasia-of-the-past! :)

Coming down off the adventure

It’s always hard to come back from adventure to normal life.

When I travel, when I bike, when I run, I feel so alive to everything. Part of that is seeing new things and pushing old, tired boundaries. But part of it is simply the act of being in the world, being outside, feeling part of something amazing and large and beautiful. Traveling or being in new places always reminds me how much I love life, how lucky I am to be part of this world.

Of course, I do often feel that way at home: an excellent run through Forest Park, say, or a bike ride snatched from the clutches of daily routine, or hanging out with a dear friend do wonders for being excited about life.

Often I come home from adventure to these kinds of things–to my Portland community–and am so very excited to be back.

Right now, though, I’m having a hard time. Perhaps that’s in part because this is my grumpy time at work, the time where there’s just enough work just poorly enough paid to make me wonder why I bother. (Of course, come summer, I’ll hardly be able to believe that I have such an awesome job:) The darkness in the mornings and evenings, too, is getting better every day now but makes me a little sad when it’s still dark at 7 and already feeling like evening at 2. (Good thing I don’t live in Alaska right now!)

Perhaps there are many things conspiring to stick me in my grass-is-greener adventure mode, where I wonder why life needs to be settled or what it would be like to be constantly in motion. Of course, I know enough to know that this is mostly a matter of the grass seeming greener–it sounds good in theory, but it turns out that I sure like Portland and my friends too. How long would it take before I missed normal life?

If there’s anything I learned last year, it’s that many small trips help me feel sane in the face of routine (yes, I’m aware that sane for me may at times sound fairly insane for others;) So I’m heading out for a mini trip this weekend, just a small nod to spontaneity to help me get back into things here. Ironic, I suppose, that to feel better about Portland I’m going to leave it for a few days, but I think it’ll help.

Into the shitty weather I go! :)