In our opinion: light rail on the I-5 bridge is good for today, tomorrow
Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, was quick to denounce Thursday’s decision to reject bus rapid transit. “This decision runs counter to voters in Southwest Washington who have firmly and repeatedly rejected the introduction of Portland Light Rail in Washington State,” she wrote in a statement.
But unlike some critics, The Columbian’s editorial board can adjust its opinion to meet changing realities.
Thinking of diesel-spewing buses as a long-term method of tackling climate change no longer makes sense; it is clear that strong action is needed, as soon as possible. And development throughout downtown Vancouver over the past decade has changed the dynamics of a transit plan. Light rail will no longer simply be a conduit for commuters from Vancouver to Portland; now it will also bring visitors to a vibrant and inviting downtown and waterfront on this side of the river.
That being said, it is critical to consider the concerns of Clark County residents. Local voters, ratepayers and policy makers at this point have no influence over the Portland area’s MAX light rail transit system; understandably, these residents see light rail as an invasion of our neighbor to the south. Some measure of local control will be essential to generate public support.
The bottom line, however, is that light rail will be able to accommodate more passengers and provide more trips on the river than bus rapid transit would. If the main purpose of building a new bridge is to facilitate the flow of traffic between states, this is the best option. The light rail can carry 266 passengers in a two-car train, while a bus can carry 100 passengers.
The math adds up to a strong case for light rail, and the result is a formula that will best serve residents now and in decades to come.