Green Mobility in Portland, Oregon

Electric Avenue

On a three-day trip to Portland, Oregon this week, I had a chance to witness some ways that the Rose City is moving toward a cleaner transportation future.

To start out, my trip into downtown from the airport was on the Trimet electric train system. The Trimet Max Red Line docks steps away from the baggage claim area, and for $2.50, you can sit in a clean, comfortable chair and look out the picture windows at the Oregon scenery. It was clear and beautiful my first day, but, naturally, became gray and rainy later. But that was pretty nice looking (and smelling) too.

Once I stepped off the train onto the street, I walked the several blocks to my company’s Portland office. Along the way, I passed four things that told me that Portland is working hard on going green.

I walked past the Forth Mobility showroom. Forth is set up to give people a chance to learn about and test drive electric vehicles, including the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Bolt. On my way out of town, I dropped in and chatted with Sergio, who showed me the displays, which included a sample of wall-mount charging stations and a screen folks can use to determine which EV would work best for them.

A couple of blocks further, I spotted Electric Avenue (see photo, above). This brightly painted spot at PGE (Portland General Electric) headquarters, sports six charging stations–Level 2 and Level 3. Located near Forth, it’s a good one-two punch for EV awareness and use.

Reach Now Mini

Along the tree-lined streets, which were beginning to display some autumn-colored leaves on the ground, I spotted two ways to drive around without owning your own car. ReachNow is BMW’s car-sharing service. I saw the logo on the sides of Minis and BMWs wherever I went.

Tucked into other spots were the Car2Go vehicles, which feature cars from BMW’s German rival–Mercedes-Benz. I spotted numerous Smart EVs, along with the smaller Mercedes-Benz crossovers and sedans.

In 10 minutes and six short blocks, I got a sample of Portland’s efforts to reduce traffic and greenhouse gases.

On my first night in the city, I rode in a car on the way to my old friend’s home in suburban Gresham, and there was lots of traffic. These efforts in Portland should help congestion, as well.

To top off my trip, on my return to the East Bay, I rode BART’s airport shuttle and the regular BART line most of the way home. The electric vehicle future is now.

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Europe’s Efficient Little Cars

I just returned last week from 12 days in London and Paris. The world’s eyes are on Paris now after the horrible terrorism that struck the French capital yesterday. I was walking those areas,– my hotel, and much of my wandering, were in the same part of town. It hurts me deeply to think of those beautiful streets being the scene of such an atrocity.

In this blog, though, it’s all about cars. When I was in Paris and London from October 27 to November 7, I saw lots and lots of small, fuel-efficient vehicles that never make it to American shores.

The argument for these smaller, more efficient vehicles across the pond has always been the high cost of fuel and also the old, narrow roads. Seems reasonable enough, but today, the world needs these cars, and some of them do find their way here. But a lot of them don’t.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to buy the VW Polo, or the cute little Audi A1 or BMW 1 Series hatchback that I saw on London streets? In Paris, it was nearly all French cars from Renault, Citroen and Peugeot. Seeing generations of these cute little cars zipping around was heartwarming.

In Paris, I found numerous installations of the Autolib system.

Autolib1

Like Zipcar, the Autolib vehicles are part of a car sharing system for members, who can claim them at the street and then drop them off at another Autolib location. What’s different is that they are all identical tiny, silver electric hatchbacks.

Here’s a closer look. Made from aluminum, they have a flat surface appearance–and not all of them were especially clean. But I saw them all over the place–charging and in motion.

Autolib2

I recently read about an American city, I believe Indianapolis, that was instituting an Autolib system. Read more about Autolib and car sharing.

Of course, in both London and Paris, we used the highly efficient public transit system–London’s Underground and Paris’ Metro trains. San Francisco’s Muni system and the Bay Area’s BART network can only dream of this kind of efficiency. We also sampled intercity trains in France, visiting Versailles, and the international Eurostar, which took us from London to Paris in a brisk two and a half hours!

One other note. I captured this all-electric Renault Kangoo at the Grand Trianon, part of the surprisingly extensive grounds of Versailles. Cute, huh?

Renault Kangoo Electric