It’s often asked whether land use determines transportation or transportation determines land use. The answer is yes; both are true. Sometimes these two factors evolve in complementary ways to establish a district’s unique character. This is especially true in the Central Eastside. The urban form and character of the district is shaped by past transportation infrastructure (docks, rail and freight) and continues to evolve with new infrastructure, such as light rail and streetcar.
Despite its challenges, the district’s diverse and complicated public realm is often heralded as one of its most appealing attributes.Historically, the ways of moving goods established the character of the area, which can loosely be described as an old waterfront industrial district, with wide streets, some with cobblestones, many with loading docks, where the car, truck, pedestrian and cyclist share — and often compete for — use of the same right-of-way.
Let’s take a look at all the different transportation modes that function within the district.
An industrial district thrives or dies depending on how well it is served by freight. Although the Central Eastside may not be the ideal location for new large-scale warehouse and distribution businesses, nearly every business in the district receives their raw materials and ships their products by freight — small vans, box trucks, flatbeds or semi-trailer trucks.
The ever-expanding multi-modal transportation system offers many ways into and out of the district, especially for employees. However, the area serves a larger regional customer base, which needs to circulate through the district by car and park, no matter how expansive the multi-modal system becomes.
As employment densities grow in the district, new parking strategies will be required for the expanding job base, especially for those who live far away and are not well connected to the district by transit.
The expanding light rail and streetcar systems present an opportunity to leverage those public investments to create greater job densities in the district, especially around major transit station areas. The challenge will be to manage growth in a way that the district can continue to serve its primary role as a central location for manufacturing and industrial services.
Active Transportation (Bicyclists and Pedestrians)
Regardless of how one gets to the Central Eastside — by truck, car, bus or boat — as soon as they arrive, they become a pedestrian. Pedestrian safety is paramount, and many of the pedestrian areas also provide auto and truck access. In addition, the district is bisected by multiple regional and local bicycle routes, and a growing number of district employees choose to get to and from work by bike.
Finding ways to encourage more employees to use active transportation will reduce congestion, decrease parking demand and generally make for happier and healthier employees.
This is the eleventh installment of a blog series aimed at exploring the past, present, and future of the Central Eastside. To learn more about transportation in the Central Eastside and the planning efforts for the district, read the Central Eastside Reader and visit the SE Quadrant Plan calendar to learn about future events.