All Politics is Local

The Pinto plan?

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When you’re the transportation reporter, one can imagine that you go places… like to Tuesday’s RTC meeting. Reporter Eric Florip fills us in one of the more, ahem, incendiary comments of the night.

There’s been a lot of talk about the affordability of bus rapid transit in recent weeks. The enhanced bus system — and its $40 million to $55 million price tag — has hit a few bumps as local leaders consider a preferred alternative for Vancouver’s Fourth Plain corridor.

Connie Jo Freeman has made her own concerns known, but put them into new terms at this week’s Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council board meeting. The Washougal City Councilor and C-Tran board member tossed in this automotive analogy:

“BRT is the Ferrari of options,” Freeman said, “but we should probably be living on a Pinto budget.”

The comment didn’t seem to give pause to many people in the room. But it did catch the attention of APIL. We’re thinking that a car with a penchant for exploding may not be the best example to strive for.

Ford’s legendary clunker has landed on multiple worst-car-ever lists, to say nothing of its looks. In a recent Time magazine look-back, authors noted how the vehicle “tended to erupt in flame in rear-end collisions.”

Uh, not good.

Freeman’s point is well taken. Financial uncertainty is a fair concern surrounding the project, and appeared to be the main reason the RTC board didn’t act on the proposal this week. But maybe there’s a better vehicle to evoke economic restraint.

How about the “Ford Fiesta” budget? The Dodge Dart (the new one, not the old one) might work. The Chevy Spark?

Or if we’re going retro, the Volkswagen bus could cover affordability and reliability. They’re cheap, haven’t been made in decades, yet never seem to die. And just imagine a fleet of VWs cruising down Fourth Plain. The corridor would sound like a riding lawnmower convention.

Maybe we’re reading too much into this. We can only hope for such colorful debate when the C-Tran board tackles bus rapid transit next week.

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