Back in the 1970's, the Metropolitan Service District was created as a "national model" of regional government that would surely be adopted after others saw how good this added layer of government was. Fast-forward to the present, and not one area in the USA has adopted the MSD (now called Metro) "model".
Yet Portland contiues to suffer from "model mania" at the hands of its leadership, with a great deal of help from national Democratics. Portland's "leaders" continually try to position themselves as "green&sustainable" models for the nation, and to that end, they've spent tens of millions of dollars to subsidize companies like SoloPower, a thin-film solar panel manufacturer, and ReVolt, an innovative battery manufacturer. Both went belly-up without producing any product whatsoever; the latter's "corporate headquarters" consisted of a trailer with a telephone line in a northeast Portland parking lot.
Vestas was enticed with millions to establish their North American headquarters in northwest Portland, but the wind-power "giant" has since cut staff to about 50, is renting out some of their office space, and looks to be set to bail.
And then there's light rail and streetcars. Yeah, while touted as "models", one fact conveniently omitted is that transit ridership has actually decreased in the Portland area as a result of the emphasis on rail. That's likely due to the fact that Tri-Met, formerly a transit agency, began cannibalizing bus services to pay for rail operations after it morphed into a development agency.
Better yet, all of the development supposedly "spurred" as a result of rail construction is taxpayer-subsidized:
After opening Portland’s first light-rail line in 1986, Portland rezoned vacant land along the line for high-density, mixed-use transit-oriented development. Ten years later, Portland planners sadly told the city council that not one single transit-oriented development had been built, and all that land was still vacant. The city therefore decided to subsidize new development with tax breaks, tax-increment financing, below-market land sales, and other incentives for developers.
Since then, the city has given more than $1.3 billion in subsidies to developers along its rail lines (see indebtedness on p. 16), and even more subsidies have been provided by Portland’s suburbs. More than $430 million of these subsidies went to developments along Portland’s first streetcar line, while a portion of the streetcar route that received no subsidies also saw almost no new development.
Portland did the same thing when the light rail "extension" to the international airport was built: "Cascade Station" was zoned for high-density, mixed-use development with no parking. For a decade, that land sat vacant, although light rail trains stopped at the "station" and opened their doors. They actually did have a passenger board, once, although of course he didn't pay:
That's right, a coyote hopped aboard, and availed himself of a window-seat. And notice, if you will, how jam-packed the "train" is.
After a decade of failure, Portland City Council finally allowed the land to be rezoned to permit big-box stores and thousands of parking spaces. The result: IKEA and Best Buy immediately swooped in, followed by other retail, offices, and even a hotel. None of which have much use for the "Cascade Station" stop.
Meanwhile, over in Beaverton, the "Beaverton Round" stop likewise went undeveloped for years, although efforts were made in fits and starts. Despite millions in taxpayer subsidies, the place twice went bankrupt. Eventually, they got a "mixed-use development" built there, only to find during the first rains that the developers who built the condos really screwed up; there was a lot of water damage.
But in Portlandia, this is "sucess", and a model to be emulated.
It'd be nice if they emphasized substance over style.