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.
- C-Tran’s Mill Plain Vine project secures federal funding - May 29, 2020
- C-Tran’s Mill Plain Vine project reached a significant milestone Friday when the Federal Transit Administration announced that it has allocated $24.9 million for the planned bus rapid transit line. The federal funding will cover approximately half of the project’s $50 million cost. The $24.9 million allocation fully matches what C-Tran had requested for the project. The agency was confident it had a strong application, according to chief external affairs officer Scott Patterson, but the news came much sooner than expected; C-Tran had been hoping to hear back by the end of the year. “We were surprised but also elated that they’ve announced it as soon as they have,” he said. Patterson said the agency’s biggest concern was that the funding would be delayed for some reason, which would have pushed back the whole project timeline. But Friday’s announcement means the FTA has committed to having the funding available when construction begins next year.
- C-Tran says bus service holding steady - May 14, 2020
- Despite unprecedented operational and budgetary challenges from the COVID-19 crisis, C-Tran bus service has persisted at essentially the same level as before the pandemic, and that’s not about to change anytime soon. That was the core message from C-Tran CEO Shawn Donaghy during a Tuesday evening report delivered to the transit agency’s board of directors. The agency is also forging ahead with several key projects, he said, most notably, the planned Mill Plain bus rapid transit line. “Our intention is to run as close as we can to full service – that’s been our goal since Day 1,” he said. Bus ridership plummeted in March as the coronavirus pandemic worsened. Rider numbers have begun to slowly climb in the past couple of weeks, Donaghy said, but they remain far below normal; ridership in the week ending May 2 was down 55.4 percent year-over-year.
- Report: Oregon freeway traffic drops, average speeds jump - April 16, 2020
- Weekday traffic on the four major interstates in the Portland area is down 46% from levels last year, according to a report compiled by the state Department of Transportation. Interstates 5, 405, 84 and 205 are all seeing significant traffic declines, and the freeways are only becoming less congested as the weeks stretch on amid a stay home order issued by Gov. Kate Brown to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Traffic on weekends is down even more precipitously. According to Oregon Department of Transportation’s first COVID-19 monitoring report, released Friday, the largest decreases occurred initially on highways and freeways to the coast and mountains. The report looked at the change in traffic patterns in the past month, starting with the week schools closed, then subsequent weeks under the stay-home order as well.