Letter: Don't let traffic choke Bend

Check out this great In My View piece that was published in The Bulletin earlier this year. Traffic is increasing in Bend and there are many well-documented ways to decrease traffic congestion, including using land use as a transportation solution. Read more below. 

Letter: Don’t let traffic choke Bend

By Louis Capozzi / Published in The Bulletin Jul 19, 2016 

My wife, Betty, and I recently completed our fourth cross-country drive. We saw one big change from our first trip six years ago: nightmarish traffic choking cities all across this country. 

A study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and INRIX, a traffic data collection company, reported America’s drivers wasted 6.3 billion hours stuck in traffic in 2009, when we first drove from New York to Bend. I can tell you firsthand those numbers are even higher today. 

And we’re not talking about just New York or Los Angeles. This spring we drove through six of the smaller cities covered in the report, starting with Boise, Idaho, where it takes commuters three times as long to get home in Friday night traffic, according to the study. 

The impacts of traffic congestion are well-documented and familiar to all of us. Time wasted sitting in traffic makes it hard to estimate travel times, often meaning we’re late to work or school. And at the end of the day, when work is done, traffic prevents us from getting home or to the outdoors to relax. 

Stress and air pollution cause health problems and sometimes lead to road rage. Excess fuel and lost productivity cost American commuters $160 billion in 2014, according to the INRIX study. And we’ve all seen how traffic slows the ability of our emergency vehicles to reach those in need. 

An article in USA Today reported that “finding a solution to traffic congestion could mean a vast improvement in the quality of life in your area.” We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to deal with the growing traffic problem here in Bend to preserve our own city’s very special quality of life. 

Just as the problems are well-documented, so are the solutions. Investments in infrastructure help people move faster and more safely. Multimodal transportation programs encourage biking, walking and the use of public transit. “Urban villages” that combine residential and commercial development reduce the number of times people need to get in their cars. 

Active transportation management reduces congestion, promotes health, decreases infrastructure capital construction and maintenance costs, and increases the economic success of communities. As Bend faces dramatic growth, a focus on these solutions will help maintain our small-town character. 

Other cities our size have developed comprehensive transportation management programs with dramatic success. Bellingham, Washington, has won recognition as a model for implementation of a “multimodal” approach to transportation. Its program integrates transit service, auto, bike and pedestrian transportation with the development of “urban villages” and overall network planning. Financing came from a mixture of local, state and federal sources. The city implemented transportation impact fees, a sales tax (approved by voters) and private investment. 

Boulder, Colorado, implemented a comprehensive transportation management plan in 1994 with the goal of holding vehicle miles traveled steady at 1995 levels. It worked on 10 major streets to make them work for buses, bikes and pedestrians as well as cars. Its “complete streets” initiative, along with public support for its financing, has allowed Boulder, more than 20 years later, to continue to achieve its ambitious traffic management goals. 

Quality of life and access to the outdoors attracts people to Bend and makes our city great. What’s needed here is the commitment of our political leaders, active involvement of our private sector and public support for the investments required to avoid a traffic calamity. The livability conference organized by Bend 2030 began a robust dialog on the issue. We now need to build on that beginning and ensure traffic doesn’t choke the quality of life out of Bend. 

— Louis Capozzi lives in Bend.