Transportation Issues in the News
The following article was prepared by RTC staff. We felt this topic would be of broad interest to our site’s visitors and offer insight into at least one emphasis area of the agency’s current focus. We plan to update these feature articles on a regular basis, so check back for new content!
The Vancouver Area Smart Trek (VAST) program, led by RTC, is a partnership of transportation agencies in the Clark County region that work to improve transportation system performance by collaborating on signal systems, freeway and arterial management, traveler information, and transit signal priority projects through the use of smart technology and the system infrastructure needed to support it.
The VAST program focuses on the non-capital side of regional transportation planning. The VAST agencies (WSDOT, Clark County, City of Vancouver, C-TRAN, and City of Camas) have been cooperating since 2001 to make better use of existing transportation facilities by improving system efficiency and performance without expanding road capacity.
This cooperation has been a valuable pathway for developing and securing funding for ITS/operations projects totaling more than $27 million in federal funding over the last 15 years, resulting in projects that directly improve transportation operations and building the supporting communications technology systems.
Projects funded through the program include central signal system upgrades, new signal controllers, signal optimization, ramp metering, freeway and arterial detection, cameras, variable message signs, and transit signal priority as well as the fiber and network communications infrastructure needed for connecting ITS devices.
VAST collaboration has also led to other successful partnerships. RTC and the VAST agencies have an ongoing partnership with Portland State University in the regional transportation data archive known as Portal. The Portal archive contains, in a single location, historical and real-time transportation data from agencies in the Vancouver-Portland region and can be used by researchers, planners, traffic engineers, and the public to look at transportation performance throughout the region.
Fiber optic networks are vital to communicating with and operating transportation devices in the field for and bringing data back to agency operations centers. VAST agencies have had an agreement in place since 2006 to share unused fiber capacity with each other saving agency costs and resources instead of having to build new fiber routes separately. This agreement has led to 115 miles of shared fiber, saving agencies from $17 to $21 million than if they were to construct their own projects.
In looking to future transportation trends and advances in technology, many experts envision tremendous growth of connected vehicles, which can exchange data with roadside infrastructure, and autonomous, or self driving, vehicles. Forecasts on the impact of these imminent mobility changes vary wildly. RTC, in cooperation with the VAST partners, is starting a conversation with regional stakeholders to make sense of the possible impact on roadways, land use, and transit service and is an area that will be explored in 2018.
Below are an assortment of recent news items related to or impacting local transportation issues. Most of these stories were authored outside the agency, and will take you to a new page on (or PDF document from) an external site.
- Clark Asks: Change to I-205 interchange straightforward solution - January 10, 2018
- Why did the Washington Department of Transportation take away one lane on southbound Interstate 205 at the mall exit? That was just one of many road-related questions readers suggested for a Clark Asks story. Even if you didn’t reach out to us, odds are good you’ve asked yourself that same question if your commute on I-205 starts somewhere north of the state Highway 500 interchange. The short answer: congestion. “More lanes does not always equal better flow,” said Scott Langer, a traffic engineer with the Washington State Department of Transportation. “What’s important is how the lanes flow into the system.”
- The Vine: 1 year old and going strong - January 9, 2018
- After one year of operation, The Vine, the most ambitious project in C-Tran’s history, is beginning to bear fruit. “I’m not going to say we were shocked by the numbers, but we were very pleasantly surprised when they came to our desk,” said C-Tran spokeswoman Christine Selk. Comparing October and November of 2016 (when the Fourth Plain corridor was served by Route 4) and October and November 2017 (when The Vine was running) C-Tran saw a 45 percent increase in ridership. In raw numbers, Route 4 had just under 142,000 riders compared to The Vine’s more than 205,000.
- Ridgefield mayor to chair Regional Transportation Council - January 2, 2018
- North County will have their representative in the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council at the top seat of the body as Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow has been named the chair of the council for 2018. Onslow was the vice-chair of the RTC in 2017 and will be taking the true chair following a vote by the body Dec. 5 to have him in that position. Onslow is the North County representative of the 14-member board, representing Battle Ground, Yacolt, La Center and Ridgefield. Previously Clark County Councilor Jeanne Stewart had sat in the chair position. Onslow explained that there was a sort of rotation regarding who chairs the council, with those from less densely populated areas generally alternating with bigger entities to balance out the board’s voice.
- Driverless future looks bright - December 29, 2017
- If you’ve ever found yourself stuck in traffic on a freeway surrounded by other drivers, know that it’s all because a computer isn’t driving your car. At least that’s the reasoning of proponents of autonomous, or driverless, cars — vehicles that are driven entirely by computers and can sense and respond to their surroundings without human guidance. Proponents of the technology, which now include the federal government and an increasing number of car manufacturers, argue that humans simply are not that good at driving. They say putting computers behind the wheel will cut down on congestion, pollution and accidents. With no clear consensus on how to address the chronically congested Interstate 5 Bridge, autonomous cars may offer a solution.
- C-Tran takes to shoulder for study - December 28, 2017
- C-Tran is optimistic about preliminary results of its bus-on-shoulder study underway on state Highway 14. Route 164 Fisher’s Landing Express, which shuttles from Fisher’s Landing park and ride in east Vancouver into downtown Portland and is the primary user of the study corridor, showed service improvements in the first month of the pilot program compared with the month prior. The bus-on-shoulder corridor runs along Highway 14 between Interstate 205 and Southeast 164th Avenue, about 15 percent of Route 164’s overall length. From Oct. 23 to Nov. 30, the 164’s westbound morning travel time through that area dropped from 3.74 minutes to an average 3.25 minutes.
- Jerry Oliver asks council to sign anti-toll letter - December 20, 2017
- As one of his last acts on the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, Port of Vancouver Commissioner Jerry Oliver is pushing his colleagues to take a strong stance on Oregon’s idea to toll metro-area freeways beginning at the state line. “I just felt somebody needed to stand up for the taxpayers and didn’t feel RTC was doing it,” he said. Oliver brought forth two different but substantively similar letters to the November and December board of directors meetings. He urged his colleagues to sign and send them to the Oregon Transportation Commission on behalf of RTC.
- Panel, minus Oregon representation, begins work to bridge I-5 issue - December 14, 2017
- The Joint Oregon-Washington Legislative Action Committee held its inaugural meeting Thursday to resume talks on replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge. Legislative leaders from Washington also met for another reason: To show Oregon they’re serious about replacing the aging and frequently congested bridge that is a key component of the corridor through Portland and Vancouver. Lawmakers said they’re hopeful the meeting draws Oregon to the table. So far, the state has appointed no delegates to a committee created in Olympia last session by SB 5860, a bill that called on both states to appoint members to work again on replacing the bridge.
- State transportation system aching - December 8, 2017
- By several standards, the transportation network of Washington state is creaking under the pressures of age and economic growth. Drivers traveled 6.4 percent more highway miles than two years ago and 4.8 percent farther overall. This increase fueled a 22 percent increase in urban delays due to congestion and added carbon pollutants that cause global warming. Highway pavement is wearing out faster than the Washington State Department of Transportation can maintain it. And traffic killed 537 people last year, far above a goal set by safety advocates and a sign that Washington’s long-term gains have stalled. These data appear in the third quarter 2017 WSDOT Gray Notebook, which mostly covers 2014-2016. To be sure, the update contains good news. Bridge maintenance is doing fine. Fewer than 10 percent qualified as poor, based on federal standards used by bridge inspectors. And WSDOT’s highway-incident teams cleared 58,235 fender-benders, objects and stalled cars within an average 13 minutes — a service that prevents untold numbers of secondary crashes.
- Cities smart to grow together - December 6, 2017
- Kristin Tufte thinks the journey toward smart cities can be simplified into three words: People, intention and coordination. “It’s data and technology and service of people,” said Tufte, Smart Cities Liaison for Portland State University. “Is the pedestrian on the street safer because of our work? Does the woman taking the bus to work know it will get her to work on time so she can relax on the bus?” Tufte was one of three speakers Wednesday at Regional Transportation Council’s Smart Cities Workshop, which focused not only on smart cities but some regional opportunities. The general aim in being a smart city is to use information technology to not only increase efficiency and improve government but to better share information with the public while improving their lives.
- Phase of Battle Ground congestion-relief work wrapping up - December 4, 2017
- Battle Ground’s population is around 20,000, but more than double that figure travel through the city on a typical weekday. According to the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council’s list of high-volume intersections in the county, the intersection of state Highway 502 and state Highway 503 receives about 50,000 travelers on an average weekday. The first phase of the city’s Congestion Relief Project is expected to mostly wrap up this week, which will change the flow of traffic in the area.
- Tolling advisory group holds first meeting - November 20, 2017
- Oregon’s plans to toll highways Clark County commuters rely on to get to work took another a step forward on Monday. But this step included officials representing Southwest Washington who used the inaugural meeting of a new regional advisory committee to make appeals on behalf of their constituents who may face more expensive commutes. The Portland Region Value Pricing Advisory Committee held its initial meeting at Oregon Department of Transportation’s Portland regional offices on Monday. The committee is tasked with evaluating and making recommendations on a contentious part of Oregon’s $5.3 billion transportation plan that directs the department to develop a proposal for tolling or “value pricing” on Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 between the state line and where the two freeways meet south of Tualatin. The proposal has been presented by Oregon as a means of managing congestion in the growing region and will ultimately require federal approval. Although any actual tolling is years away, the idea has drawn concern from Clark County commuters that they will be unfairly tolled on their commutes to Oregon while seeing little or no benefit.