Friday, July 17, 2015

Stingy Neighbors

Having just finished driving Line 6 from Jantzen Beach to downtown Portland and back all day, what strikes me most is not the hordes of passengers these operators ferry each day. It's not the shenanigans some of the riders pull, or the horrid traffic. It's Washingtonians driving here who either don't know our traffic laws or simply don't care. After today's work, I'll say it's the latter.

On C-Tran (Vancouver/Clark County, WA) buses, there is a sign on the back. It's a triangle, with the mere suggestion that drivers yield to a bus as it re-enters traffic from a stop. Over 90% of Washington drivers seem to have a "Yeah, right" attitude regarding transit rules. Why shouldn't they, when C-Tran's laissez faire attitude of just putting a sign without a warning light like TriMet does, just encourages drivers to ignore it?

Dealing with the traffic on I-5 northbound is dreadful. The backup begins around 2 p.m. every weekday, and doesn't subside until after 7:00. It is ridiculous that a metropolitan area with over 3,000,000 people has so antiquated a freeway system, often down to two lanes in some of the most congested areas. Many of the commuters call Washington their home state, yet Oregonians foot the biggest bill for road upkeep and repairs. When Oregon asked Washington to pony up some cash to build a new I-5 bridge (the Columbia River Crossing project), their legislature at the last minute decided it was too expensive. As a result the traffic continues to get worse with no plans for relief in the immediate future.

Washington drivers, in my experience, are some of the rudest, most reckless drivers on our roads. They totally ignore our flashing 'Yield' signals easily 5-to-1 times more than Oregon drivers. They cut us off (and flip us off while doing it) with regularity, and constantly exhibit recklessly dangerous driving. Whenever I drive the 6, I have to be especially careful crossing the street at Jantzen Beach, because the 90% of cars with WA plates haven't been taught about pedestrians and crosswalks. I've almost been struck by drivers who routinely shout obscenities as they careen past me. This isn't very neighborly behavior, considering many of them shop on our side of the state line to take advantage of our lack of a sales tax.

Since they can't abide by Oregon laws yet take advantage of our fair state's ample generosity, I have a few suggestions. First, we should levy a toll on all bridges linking our states, to be collected solely from Washingtonians. Evidently, there was one some time ago. If we charge them to use our roads, perhaps we could resurrect the CRC project and make some critical improvements to our freeways. They use our roads, why shouldn't we charge them for the privilege?

Also, I would add a 2% sales tax on purchases made by Washingtonians (or all out-of-staters) in Oregon. Might be kind of hard to determine a customer's domicile, but maybe not in this digital age. Lord knows we're taxed to the max as Oregon residents, but our neighbors to the north simply thumb their noses and laugh at our polite examples such as "the zipper".

Of course, many of my fellow operators live in Washington, and I suppose some of y'all will find my rant a tad offensive. They pay our hefty Oregon income tax, and I appreciate them. My brothers and sisters aren't the culprits here, however. It's your fellow Washingtonians who need some driving lessons, because they are some of the worst drivers I've seen in my 40 years behind the wheel. To be fair, we have our own share of asshats; today I witnessed a Portland cop blatantly blow through a light that was red a full second before he entered the intersection. But we already know the cops here could care less about enforcing traffic laws, because they're not very observant themselves.

With Portland's metro area forecasting steady growth for the next few decades, something has to be done. Unless Washington takes some neighborly steps, I'm in favor of forcing them to pay their share. Until then, I'll continue giving WA cars a wide berth and a few choice words muttered northward.