Opinion

WSDOT | Roads and ferries aren’t meeting needs

Torrens Talk

Transportation is a big issue nowadays. Between rising costs for materials and labor and shrinking budgets, it requires a certain amount of agility to do a good job at it. Unfortunately, that has not described the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) of late.

If they have timed the lights along Highway 305, it is a secret well kept. Highway 305 was to have been the answer to Poulsbo’s nightmares of traffic clogging downtown as well as alleviating the long back-ups on the highway itself. At this point, neither situation seems to have reached that goal.

The city is proposing a series of stop signs and speed bumps to slow people down and discourage them from using the downtown core as a way to avoid 305. People do that because Hwy 305 is still not getting folks through. From Highway 3 to the edge of town at Hostmark are eight lights in a mile stretch. One can barely get up to speed from one light to the next before the light changes and the person has to stop.

Ironically, unless one actually travels on 305 during commuter hours, the likelihood of being stopped at virtually every light remains high. That means it takes almost 10 minutes to get from one end of that piece of road to the other. It is far quicker to go at half that speed through town where there are far fewer lights and maybe a stop sign or two. Even getting to Poulsbo Village can be quicker going through downtown than negotiating 305.

Of course, if one lives in the middle of Poulsbo, one might not see the issue. It is those of us who live on the outskirts and must get through Poulsbo that are always looking for the most efficient way to go. Trust us, we would much rather take a fast highway than deal with stopping for pedestrians but that has not been the case so far.

But, that is peanuts compared to the lack of concern the WSF, a part of WSDOT, has for the ferry riders. Once again, they are pushing ahead with what they want to do and not what the users want. WSF seems to think that the best way to handle vehicle congestion, and thus avoid getting more ferries in the immediate future, is to have riders shift their patterns of behavior.

They look at mid-day runs and see empty spaces for vehicles while commuter runs have cars left on the dock. Their simplistic, non-real world answer is to get the overloads to go on a later boat that traditionally has room. If they can show people who the employers are that will allow workers to earn full-time salaries with part-time hours so they can be on the boats between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., I guarantee they will have no trouble getting people to make that change.

Reality dictates otherwise. The fact that WSDOT/WSF seem to not see is that commuter congestion covers a range of several hours in the morning and evening because people already work different hours than 9 am-5 pm. No one wants to be stuck in traffic or sitting at a dock but there is little choice when the boss expects you to be at your job at hours that match the vast majority of the population. Until that reality changes, there is nothing most workers can do about changing their commute times.

This same flawed logic is now being applied to setting the tolls for the 520 bridge. WSDOT wants to charge drivers more during commuter hours than off-peak times. This will not get people to change, it will only get them angry. The only fair thing to do is to set a toll like that on the Tacoma Narrows bridge where frequent users get a discount and everyone else pays full freight.

If anything, it seems like the impetus behind all of this is to really get more money from the most people. It certainly is not to make commuting easier.

It would be nice if government employed the use of a carrot more than the stick in trying to change people’s behavior. Psychologists learned long ago that positive reinforcement works and results in long-term change unlike negative reinforcement.

If WSDOT and Poulsbo want to see commuters alter their patterns, then how about giving them a good reason to do it instead of a bad reason not to?

Val has been called a community activist — or agitator — depending upon one’s view. She contributes her time in the fields of arts, education, human rights, lacrosse, and her Jewish community.

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