Friday, December 18, 2009

Our Sucktacularly Stupid Transportation System

Should you be stupid enough to disregard old Blackdog's friendly advice and move to Bend, you will soon discover that this city of 80,000 has a transportation system that's more appropriate to a cowtown of 20,000, and consequently has traffic jams like those you'd expect to find in a city of 200,000.

Two-lane farm roads are made to serve as main arteries. There's no rhyme or reason to the street layout in most of the town -- streets change names in mid-route and stop dead, to resume somewhere else a couple of miles away. As Blackdog's Yiddish-speaking friends would say, it's completely meshuggah. And the public transit system is a joke. (In fact, incredibly, until a few years ago there was no public transit at all.)

The best part, though, is the railroad line that runs north-to-south through the town, dividing the west side from the east side. Sometimes a single long, SL-O-O-O-o-o-o-w freight train blocks all of the major east-west crosstown roads at once. (The railroad seems to like to schedule such trains during rush hours.)

Replacing the railroad grade crossings with overpasses would solve the problem, of course. But for the past 30 years the city has encouraged haphazard growth without worrying about how to pay for the public services that growth demands, and consequently it's now broke and can't afford to fill potholes, much less build overpasses.

But at least when you're sitting in your car for half an hour waiting for a freight train to pass you can enjoy gazing at our beautiful mountains -- provided that you're headed west rather than east and that there isn't a shopping mall or some hideous STD (suburban tract development) blocking the view.

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