Bike Town, USA leads the nation in rising home prices, illegal full-time Air BnB’s, adult marijuana users, public and “green” transportation, and congestion. Yes, even as we lead the nation in alternatives to driving our own cars to and from work, multiple sources place Portland in the top 10 or 20 cities with the worst traffic congestion in the nation.
According to the 2015 TomTom Travel Index, Portland ties with Washington DC and Chicago for congestion level, or added travel time. A rate of 26% congestion means that it takes 26% longer to get to a destination than when traffic flows freely. Portland ranked #9 in the survey for top US cities, and #85 in the world. The average commuter in Portland spends 23 work days sitting in evening rush hour, while the national average spends 12.5 work days.
No Way Portland Traffic is THAT Bad
We know traffic has only worsened in the past few years, but is it really that bad? There are several reasons why it may not be as bad as the TomTom report makes it out to be, according to Joseph Rose of The Oregonian.
Rose suggests that calling a Portland commute worse than one in Boston or Houston, or as bad as those in DC and Chicago is slightly preposterous considering how much more population these cities have. An average commute in a city like Houston may be 45 minutes, while a Rose City average is 30 minutes. When travel time in Houston typically takes 45 minutes and jumps to 70, that’s not better than a Portlander’s commute jumping from 10 minutes during non-rush hour times to 20 minutes during rush hour.
Rankings are based on what he believes is an “overly simplistic formula” for a report that comes out yearly to keep TomTom in the public eye, along with other inaccuracies. While his skepticism may be harsh, his reasoning is sensible.
Reality of Commuting in Portland
What may be a more accurate report like the INRIX 2015 Traffic Scorecard places Rose City at #16 out of the country’s top 75 worst cities for congestion. The city’s traffic corridor on I-5 heading north toward Vancouver from OR-43/MacAdam Avenue/ Exit 299 to N Tomahawk Island Dr/ Exit 308 placed 41st in the Scorecard. You will find this stretch of road unpleasantly congested with bumper-to-bumper traffic as early as 3 PM.
Portlanders need to leave earlier than ever before to get to appointments on time. If you absolutely must be at a specific place at a specific time, this is the 6th worst city to be in, according to yet another report conducted by Texas A&M. The Transportation Institute’s Urban Mobility Study looked at driving habits and congestion patterns in 498 urban areas. David Shrank, one of the contributors, noted that just two simultaneous fender benders can back up traffic in the city’s circular freeway system. Portland tied with Austin for 6th on the list of most unreliable commutes. Shrank, reflecting on the absurd unpredictability of a Portland commute, suggested that just to be safe, drivers should leave 85 minutes in advance for appointments only 20 minutes away.
Why is Portland traffic so bad?
By now we are all familiar with the mass emigration to Portland. People from all over the country suddenly decided Portland is the new “It” city. 2014 saw a 29% increase in licenses being replaced from other states. Perhaps months after months of features in “Top X Cities to Live” led to the secret getting out, apparently to more Oregonians.
From 2014 to 2015, the number of cars on the roads has shot up 6.3%, yet funds to improve infrastructure in and around the city have plummeted as more people are driving electric cars and the 30-cent gas tax fails to keep up with inflation. Due to the lack of funds, road capacity just hasn’t kept pace with population growth, or the increase of trucks on freeways.
The departure of Hanjin, Hapag-Lloyd, and Westwood Shipping Lines from the Port of Portland has placed a few thousand more trucks on the most congested routes. While this may not sound massive compared to the 60,000 commuters you will find on I-5 N to Vancouver, when you consider that each truck occupies as much lane space as 6 SUVs then it starts to make an impact.
What could make a long commute even worse? An unexpected collision with another Oregonian, truck driver, or tourist. Whether you’ve been involved in a truck accident in Portland or a car-on-bike impact, call Rizklaw at (503) 245-5677 for all your personal injury needs.