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A busride down memory lane

Rambling discourse + insight + force of habit
The other day I took a ride on the #30 Burton bus up here in Vancouver. It's a wild ride, for those unfamiliar with it as it currently looks. A close inspection of the neighborhood this route passes through, the current level of construction activities, and the route itself, all seem to reveal a dirty little secret--or many of them. What it all reveals is probably endemic to the West, maybe even the entire country except areas where expansion (urban growth) is no longer possible.

The bus route begins at Fisher's Landing transit center, which was built only 5 or 6 years ago, give or take, and which may ironically receive less funds to continue operating, if the C-Tran ballot measure doesn't pass today. As it is, the large transit center operates with less funding than when it was first built.

The Burton bus heads N on 164th Ave., through the area known as Fisher's Landing, but it does pass a Fred Meyer which claims to be in the city of Camas, even though that city is a good 4 miles away. This is probably for tax or related reasons. Everything else is either in Vancouver or unincorporated. It's an area notable for the speed with which development occurred--one chain restaurant and bank after another grace the flanks of 164th Ave.

At the intersection of 164th and Mill Plain, the worst is over for the most part, but the party has just begun. The bus goes down a hill and takes a left at NE 39th St., across from fields currently being prepared for either new subdivisions or a new shiny business plaza--a new project by (insert construction company name here).

The route is amazingly complicated, and covers some of the roughest terrain imaginable. There are approx. 7 left turns and 4 right turns in the course of the ride, which seems a lot for a big-city bus. The rough terrain is the war-zone like construction area that the route passes through. This starts at about NE 28th St. and goes on for a couple miles at least. Some of the terrain is the result of construction, and some is damage that is a by-product of the work being done. It's basically like passing through a gravel road in the forest, and on the sides of the road are "staging areas" for equipment and porta-potties, on what I imagine used to be private property. With the concept of eminent domain, private property becomes construction company property. It truly does resemble a war-zone, and like any modern American war-zone, it's also an economic-stimulus zone--a boon for bid-winning construction companies who are given a contract or mandate, and then "run with it."

It's important to note how often these city roads require new work to be done on them. I remember only about 7-8 years ago that that section of NE 28th Ave./Burton Rd. was being completely repaved, and the current project seems to be a WIDENING of the road, perhaps so Hummers and Escalades don't feel so boxed-in, and just to accomodate this type of growth generally.

Another fun aspect of the new age of construction is the abundance of traffic signs demanding drivers to "Keep Right" or the electronic billboards signalling to the right. A glimpse of traffic signs around the city would seem to indicate some kind of subliminal message: "Right Lane MUST Turn Right" or the right lane only bicycle lane signs. Compare this with the "Keep Left" equivalent--a crooked line with an arrow attached. Also, there's more than a few signs which forbid turning to the left at all. What would Freud have to say about that?

The road that the Burton bus travels on changes names 3 times; from NE 28th St. to Burton Rd. to NE 25th St. Right where it changes to NE 25th St., to the left is what's left of the Ono farmland, which is going to be laid to rest soon underneath a new complex of sibdivisions. The Onos are a Japanese family that were shipped off to a concentration camp during WWII. Their farm was confiscated and Clark County built a road through it. Later, it was returned to the Onos, but the road had to stay. It looks like what will be left of that farmland is maybe a community garden-sized patch of land--the 3-story subdivisions simply gobbled it up.

The bus turns onto Andresen Rd., then 18th St. where it passes Fort Vancouver High School. Once it passes Stapleton Rd. the bus enters a more diverse and economically depressed neighborhood. Unfortunately, it seems it would be hard for a Hummer and an Escalade to pass each other on this very narrow stretch of road, much less a bus and a large truck. That's OK, because it doesn't look like there's even any room for an expanded road project, as in other parts of the city. Residents in this part of town are really stuck with what they got, whether it's lack of pedestrian access or even higher risk of traffic fatalities.

At the end of 18th St., the bus takes a left, a right, and two more lefts before reaching 7th St. transit center. So with such a confounded route, including the war-zone like terrain, that's one bus that will need more maintenance and re-fueling than other buses, in the long run. That's not a bad thing, if you're Ford or GM, or if you're Big Oil. In fact, a glance at the design of urban sprawl, (for instance east Vancouver) would indicate some kind of, dare I say, RACKET that benefits construction outfits, auto makers, and yes, energy peddlers. A glance at Iraq reconstruction may indicate what a highly condensed version of this process looks like.

If you multiply the process by a thousand different cities throughout the West and beyond, then what emerges is a bluepring or master plan designed to keep our Energy Kings in power indefinitlely.

Thank you and Happy Election Day!
Awful route 02.Nov.2004 14:44


Thanks for taking me on that awful route! Right here in my neighborhood the city is tearing up what looks like a pipeline. It's really a mess. One has to dodge all the trucks and machines in addition to the pouring rain creating water holes from clogged leaves in many areas. It's like these areas are flooded.

I sincerely hope the C-Tran measure passes. I think it will, but then, again, there's so many against any higher taxes. If C-Tran doesn't pass, many people will be stranded and there'll be more cars on these awful roads. What a mess.

C-Tran's defeat 04.Nov.2004 08:08


If this were a forward-moving community, it would pass transportation measures such as lite-rail and C-Tran buses. It isn't. This measure was defeated big time. I am crushed. How uncaring. Of all initiatives, this one would have increased protection in many positive ways.

It would have reduced cars on our awful roads and thus help the environment. It would have recognized in this century we need to move people, not private vehicles. The defeat is devastating, and contributes to my dislike for Vancouver/Clark County. How red-neck conservative.

Many people, including the disabled, will be stranded. How much can we count on Portland's bus system to take up some slack? It is cruel and mean.

Cool 04.Nov.2004 13:38


I checked indymedia yesterday and I guess I got the alternate portland indymedia page--there were about only 4 mainpage articles, and this article wasn't on the mainpage OR on the newswire. That just blows my mind.

Yes, the measure went down by about 55-45, and it seems unbelievable. I guess the no-goodniks are firmly in place in this town. They just thought it would be yucky to have a .3% tax increase for something so stupid, I guess. So what happens now is that cuts will start as early as January, and it is rumored that any service to Portland might be eliminated, but that seems like it would be too economically crippling. I'll move over to Portland within six months if that does happen, but I might still keep an office in Vancouver.