That word “actually” is always interesting, and it came from a Starbucks barista in the center plaza of Portland State University, a transit-oriented place that is supposed to be the meeting of the university and downtown Portland. Two minutes before that, I had tried the front door of the PSU “Visitor Center”, where a sign said that the building was locked at all hours and only accessible by code.

A recent NYT article by Ed Glaeser talks about the “playground” city, where people come together face-to-face and enjoy the urban experience. That’s what I’m doing with my family right now in downtown Portland, where we’ve rented a hotel room for two nights. Today I’m running a scavenger hunt for my kids so they can see all the places I delighted in as a kid, but there are these basic questions of urban “hospitality’.

To be truly hospitable, cities need to provide for these basic human needs. Perhaps the ultimate test of Portland’s recovery and of the effectiveness of other city governments will be maintaining good “public facilities”. Some years ago, Portland was trumpeting the design and export of the “Portland Loo”, but so far the only one I saw was so dirty, wet, and covered with graffiti that you wouldn’t want to use it.