Since the economic downturn, those who remained employed weren’t likely to tinker with their jobs, Bailey said.
“I think with gas prices, most of the adjustment is going to be going toward a better-fuel-economy car. Jobs are a lot harder to come by. If anything, people would be willing to increase their commute to get a job,” Bailey said. “There was actually an increase in the number of Portland people commuting to Vancouver. That shows gas prices aren’t the big deal. It’s, ‘Where can I find a job?'”
Other factors also influence traffic flows on the I-5 bridge.
“Young people are driving less, and fewer are getting driver’s licenses — or waiting longer to get them. When you look at young adults, they are increasingly moving to city centers,” Cortright said.
And, on a more prosaic note, don’t forget orange cones.
The I-5 widening project at Delta Park in Oregon disrupted traffic flow from spring 2008 until its completion in 2010, Putney said.
Transit doesn’t seem to be a big factor in bridge traffic counts, however. Droves of drivers haven’t jumped out of their cars and onto buses.
“We have seen people giving it a try and sticking with it, but the numbers aren’t significant,” C-Tran spokesman Scott Patterson said. The transit agency’s express commuter service has seen big changes over the last decade. Ridership dropped in 2005 when the cost of monthly passes for commuter routes to Portland doubled, then climbed temporarily in 2008 when C-Tran opened the 99th Street Transit Center.
“Really to make a significant impact, we’d need to provide a much higher level of service, and we don’t have funding to do that,” Patterson said.
Boosting transit ridership across the river would take something more drastic — like light rail, one of the most controversial aspects of the I-5 bridge project.