There was an interesting item in the paper the other day dealing with how we feel about traffic. The headline was, "Portlanders fed up with traffic, but keeping cars."
The lead (that's newspaper talk for the opening paragraph) was all about how Portland residents are fed up with increasingly congested roads, long commutes and pothole-filled streets — coupled with the fact that none of this is causing us to drive our cars one bit less than we did back when traffic was, you know, only moderately aggravating.
It turns out there was a survey conducted by the Portland Business Alliance and TriMet in which 400 Portland people were asked a bunch of questions about traffic. But wait; there's more.
The story went on to explain that this particular survey "comes on the heels of a report released this week from the Oregon Department of Transportation that found metro area congestion has become an all-day affair in some sections of the city and has long since expanded beyond traditional rush hour traffic."
To which I say, "Well, duh!"
If you were not really sure if traffic in Portland has reached a ridiculous level, this story goes on to document how 2.4 million residents "now face traffic snarls at any hour of the day" on pretty much all of the metro area's major freeways.
Which is why I would rather eat a mixture of sawdust, earthworms and tofu than drive on any of our local freeways.
Of COURSE there is too much traffic on our roads. Too many people are insisting on driving when they could be taking a different approach to the whole thing — like quitting their jobs and staying home forever, like I did.
I know, from reading this article in the paper, that those who responded to the survey agree that there SHOULD be fewer cars on the road. A whopping 80 percent of them called it a "major problem," and an identical 80 percent insisted they have tried to change how they get around. But the bulk of them said they were not driving less.
I have drawn several conclusions from this whole story and the studies it cites.
First of all, there are many worse places than Portland, and I know much of this from firsthand experience. New York City, Los Angeles and Pisa, Italy, have traffic that makes Portland streets and roads seem almost vacant. I should add that I hear real bad things about Tokyo, Japan.
I also know (again, from experience) that there are some much, much better places to get around. These include Venice, Siena and Vernazza — all in Italy. Of course, these are all cities in which automobiles (for one reason or another) are not allowed, which I think is an approach we ought to consider here.
I have a couple of other thoughts about how we might confront our rising traffic problems.
As I've stated in the past, we should stop pussy-footing around the Vancouver, Wash., issue and just build a wall that prevents anyone from coming into Portland from our northern neighbor, anytime. Period. If they want to hold jobs in Portland, let them move here and go about it that way.
We do not need Washington residents coming in here, clogging up our roads and taking our jobs and women. This, I believe, would cut our traffic woes in half, at least.
Secondly, somebody needs to convince the decision-makers at TriMet that we are not all trying to get to downtown Portland. Many of the jobs attracting commuters these days are in the suburbs — in Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tualatin and East Multnomah County. How about making more bus and train service that goes sideways instead of making every mass transit user go downtown and THEN back out to the town they really want to get to?
Don't look now, city planners, but the downtown area is not where all the new jobs are. They went thataway.
And, finally, I would like to say a word about the growing hordes of people who ride their bikes around the city.
Last week, while walking across the brand new Sellwood Bridge, I noticed that more than half the bicyclists crossing the bridge were using the sidewalks built for pedestrians — instead of the designated bike paths running next to traffic lanes on both sides of the bridge.
It's annoying and insulting to have bikers yell at you for walking where you are supposed to be — and where they are not.
Maybe some Portland cops could hang out there for a while and write a few tickets. Sounds to me like a great little revenue stream.
Perhaps the most ludicrous solution to Portland's traffic problems was the notion put forth by survey respondents that widening or improving our roads is the way to go. That, of course, coupled with the idea that everybody else should drive less.
Personally, I'm all for that. I firmly believe that all the rest of you should drive less.
Mikel Kelly has been retired for almost two years now, and he refuses to drive any less himself, with the possible exception of morning and evening commute times.