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Cascadia
Superregion of Vancouver, Seattle and Portland

According to experts Cascadia will be the megalopolis of the 21st century: the region of the border area of the U.S. and Canada with the somewhat mystical name Cascadia. The cities, situated on the axis of this American superregion, i.e. Vancouver, Seattle and Portland combine their urban vitality with a magnificent position between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade-mountains. The region is increasingly gaining a personal identity and has a unique working- and living-environment. Cascadia stands for an urban consciousness in which nature, wilderness, nevertheless is comfortably near. The three big cities are all working on their infrastructure. In the meantime Portland has developed into the classic example of Light Rail in America.

Cascadia cherishes its global position, strategically situated in the Pacific Northwest, close to Asia, but also close to centres in Canada and the U.S. Cascadia represents one of the largest regional economies worldwide. The three large cities are situated in a corridor of about 600 kilometres long, (linked up) by Highway 99/Interstate 5. The dimensions of the area are comparable to corridors such as Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam (France/Belgium/Netherlands), Stuttgart-Munich-Milan (Germany/Italy), Madrid-Barcelona (Spain), or Tokyo-Kobe (Japan).


Sketch of Geddes

According to professor Robert Geddes (1997) Cascadia could be a model for a new type of urbanization. "Cascadia shows that an equilibrium of nature, society, and culture can still be the basis of city building. Think of Cascadia as a candidate for the historians' next "shock city." Its predecessors, Manchester, New York, and Los Angeles, all drew their image from their built landscape. Cascadia draws its power as a new paradigm from its natural landscape."

Of old, Cascadia's economy was shaped by forestry. In the meantime however it is impossible to imagine life without ICT and the media. Seattle for example houses Microsoft's head office. That doesn't alter the fact though that there is still strong tension between the old economy (forestry) and the new ecology. The original rainforests are undeniably in great danger.
The region is pre-eminently multicultural. That applies to the American part where the Hispanics are advancing, but also to the metropolis Vancouver in Canada. Vancouver undoubtedly is the most multicultural city of the world. It is also the largest Chinese city outside China, since a few years ago a substantial portion of the rich Hong Kong-Chinese decided to emigrate to this strategically situated place.

TRANSIT in CASCADIA

Train (AMTRAK):
Vancouver-Eugene

Commuterrail (SOUNDER):
Everett-Seattle-Tacoma

Skytrain:
Vancouver

Light Rail:
Vancouver (heritage)
Seattle (in planning)
Seattle (streetcar)
Tacoma (LINK-streetcar)
Portland (MAX)
Portland (streetcar)

 

The cities are quite different. Portland is a compact city, at least according to American standards. Vancouver has a compact city-centre but spreads out into the wider surroundings. Finally, Seattle is the very picture of an unbridled urbanisation, as if it were Los Angeles. In the meanwhile, the three conurbations of Cascadia are all in their own way working on controlling urban growth and creating an appropriate relationship with the natural scenery of their hinterland.

The significance of infrastructure is different for each of the three cities. For years Portland has been working hard on the construction of a Light Rail-system with which it has seriously tried to guide the urban development. Vancouver has its 'sky train' (an automatic metro), and its touristic streetcar along the waterfront of False Creek. Properly speaking, Seattle doesn't have anything modern yet. A Light Rail-system exists on the drawing-table, but it hasn't come to anything (March 2003). In the meantime historic streetcars of Australia are running along the waterfront. In Tacoma a new streetcar system like in Portland did open in August 2003.


New waterfront of Vancouver
Photo: (C) Light Rail Atlas/Martijn Mentink
Vancouver, October 8, 2001

The important urban centres of Cascadia are all developing. 'Public Private Partnerships' (public-private ways of co-operation) (is tussen haakjes nodig?) are started to get new projects off the ground. City marketing is not unusual. In Vancouver, beautiful, compact multi-storey building rises at the waterfront. Seattle is enlarging the commercial function of its centre. Portland cherishes and refines its historical centre.


Leaving the district New Westminster the sky train crosses Fraser River over a spectacular bridge.
Photo: (C) Light Rail Atlas/Liesbeth Sluiter
Vancouver, May 2000


'Transit' tunnel underneath the centre. Used by trolley-busses, in the near future also by Light Rail vehicles.
Dan Weissman
(www.subways.net) wrote to us: "The tracks in the Seattle bus tunnel were never used for an electric tramway but were in anticipation of LRT. Standards have changed so much that the tracks will have to be removed and replaced if the bus tunnel is to be used (for Light Rail, ed.)."
Photo: (C) Light Rail Atlas/Rob van der Bijl
Seattle, August 7, 2000