Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advocacy Day!

Transportation Choices has staff full time in Olympia during legislative session. In 2010 we are supporting policies and funding that help foster the economic recovery, reduce congestion and combat climate change.

Complete Streets are crucial components for creating healthy, walkable, and bike-friendly communities in Washington State. Complete streets allow for cars, transit, bicyclists, and pedestrians to share the road safely and create stronger, more livable communities. We want to create the framework for a grant program to develop incentives and reward cities with complete streets projects statewide. The idea of transit-oriented communities is closely tied to building complete streets. Creating compact, walkable transit oriented communities is crucial to meeting the State’s greenhouse gas emissions goals, supporting transit, and encouraging economic development. However, in order to realize the full potential of both transit-oriented development and complete streets, state funding for transit agencies is needed to prevent cuts to their service. These cuts would hinder our region’s economic recovery, clog our roads, prevent us from reducing greenhouse gas emissions and leave transit riders stranded.

Other issues Transportation Choices is advocating this legislative season include introducing pay-as-you-drive insurance and the replacement of the SR 520 floating bridge and the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Opening the doors to creating a pay-as-you-drive insurance program in Washington is a crucial component to reducing emissions in the transportation sector. Transportation Choices Coalition supports measures to promote Washington as a market for an insurance system that allows consumers to opt into a pay-per-mile model. The legislature is also moving forward on replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and SR 520 floating bridge. Transit options to move people is crucial for any solution in both of these corridors, before during and after construction.

Please join us for Advocacy Day. We need your help to inform legislators about these critical issues. You’ll have the chance to learn more about transportation issues, meet with legislators, attend hearings, and be a professional lobbyist for a day!

Sign up here.

WHEN: January 28, 2010
WHERE: United Churches
110 11th Ave SE, Olympia

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on the Daily Show!

Last night Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was on the daily show.

Watch it here.

It is a great interview, entertaining and informative. I am concerned that LaHood didn't mention the Amtrak Cascade Corridor as one of the five corridors where the feds will start with High Speed Rail stimulus money, but I will save that for another conversation.

The interview is well worth 7 minutes of your time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Breakdown of the 2010 transportation appropriations bill earmarks

Scott over at the has picked up the transportation earmark bill that is currently moving forward at the federal level.

A full list of the appropriations is linked on the WSDOT Blog here .

Reading through the list I'll pull out a few projects that are great, not so great, and others that raise some questions.

The good news:
Patty Murray and the rest of our delegation delivered on federal commitment to transit and multi-modal access in the Puget Sound Region.

- $9.3 for Metro's RapidRide between Belleuve and Redmond
- $110 for University Link expansion
- $1.8 Million for new C-Tran buses
- $1.7 Million for new Intercity Transit buses
- $2.4 Million for Link Transit buses
- $1.2 Million for Pierce Transit diesel hybrid buses
- $1.2 Million for Spokane Transit hybrid buses
- $600,000 for hybrid buses for the West Seattle RapidRide
- $974,00 for Whatcom Transportation buses
- $1.7 Million for alternatives analysis for High Capacity Transit in the Columbia River Crossing Corridor.
- $1.4 Puyallup BRT Alternatives Analysis
- $360,000 for SE King County Commuter Rail Study; more on seattle transit blog
- $730,00 for Whatcom Smart Trips, their Commute Trip Reduction program
- $800,000 for pedestrian oriented streetscape improvements in Downtown Tacoma
- $1.9 Million for Fishlake trail in Spokane, I have never been there but is sounds good.

Not as exciting projects:
- US 395 North Spokane Corridor-this new freeway has long been a priority of Eastern Washington Legislatures so no surprise here but still it is a huge general purpose lane expansion project.
- US 12 Phase 7 Burbank to Walla Walla is widening a state highway from 2 general purpose lanes to 4, which is always fun.

Needs more investigation:
-There is $974,000 dollars for a "Tacoma Intermodal Transit Center", which sounds good in theory, but I think that may be code speak for money for more city owned large parking garages on the edge of the downtown.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sound Transit: Meet your new Chair, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon

Just in, the Sound Transit Board has elected their new chair Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon.

From the Snohomish County Press release:

Reardon named new Sound Transit chairman

As board chairman, he offers renewed commitment to voters

Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon was selected Thursday as the next Sound Transit board chairman, saying he would be sure the agency follows through on its commitments to voters.

“Creating a culture of cost controls during challenging times is paramount to keeping the trust of voters,” Reardon said, referring to the 2008 approval of one of the largest transportation referendums in statewide history. “Sound Transit is and will continue to be the key to regional traffic relief and infrastructure improvement.”

Since his election in 2003 as Snohomish County executive, Reardon has produced an annual balanced budget, shoring up deficits through fiscal constraints and improved workplace efficiencies. The same method of thoughtful governance is what will ensure that Sound Transit produces on-time and under-budgeted service deliveries including the extension of light rail to the northern, southern and eastern sections of Sound Transit’s service boundaries.

“We must meet the needs of taxpayers living in sub-areas of service,” Reardon said. “We can do that through a spirit of cooperation and partnership, both private and public.”

Strengthening community ties and partnerships is one way the board can increase its effectiveness while resolving differences, he said.

“Nothing should stand in the way of creating a premier transit system that reduces congestion, pollution and, simply, the amount of time that people spend on the roads and away from their homes,” he said. “This is what our residents want and what they deserve.”

Reardon has served as Sound Transit’s board vice chairman and head of the finance committee since 2008. During that time, he has spearheaded a regional approach that provides quick transportation relief as well as long-term infrastructure improvements.

That work is evident in the rapid bus deployment between King and Snohomish counties as well as the future of light rail throughout the region.

Reardon’s term as board chairman begins Jan. 1, 2010. He will serve as chairman until Dec. 31, 2011. He replaces outgoing Seattle Mayor Greg Nichols. The Sound Transit board is governed by 18 members. Seventeen are locally elected officials, while the 18th is the Washington State Department of Transportation secretary.

Snohomish County has three representatives, including Reardon, Everett City Councilman Paul Roberts and Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine. Board appointments are made by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Council.

On an editorial note, being that Reardon is a longtime board member and it is Snohomish County's "turn" for the chairmanship this is not a big surprise. I am not sure what private partnership opportunities the press release is referring to (perhaps eastside rail?). That issue aside, Sound Transit is in light rail construction mode and needs a strong leader and vocal transit advocate in light of the many challenges facing the agency, namely declining revenues and the politics around Eastlink expansion. Transportation Choices Coalition is looking forward to working with Executive Reardon in his new capacity and wishes him the best in this new and challenging venture.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Complete Our Streets!

A message from Complete Streets Spokane on the danger of incomplete streets and an invitation to a meeting about their new campaign. Please mark your calendars and try to come, it should be interesting.

Dear supporter of walkable communities,

Complete Streets Spokane invites you to an organizing meeting to discuss the campaign to create Complete Streets Policies in Spokane.

Wednesday January 13th 5:30 at the Central YMCA, 930 N. Monroe

Please save the date & spread the word by sending your friends and neighbors the attached flyer.

Subscribe to our notices list here! Or Friend us on Facebook

If Spokane had a color coded pedestrian health and safety alert system our threat level would be at least an “Orange”. Recently we have had an alarming string of pedestrian deaths in the Inland Northwest (more about that here). Be a part of the effort to change that! A coalition of public interest organizations in Spokane is forming around this issue, so it’s a great time to get involved in improving our ability to get around in Spokane without cars.

Why we want Complete Streets:

Our Health and Safety:

When streets are designed only for cars, they deny people the opportunity to choose more active ways to get around, such as walking and biking. Even where sidewalks exist, large intersections and speeding traffic may make walking unpleasant or even unsafe - discouraging any non-motorized travel.

In Moses Lake the community has adopted a Healthy Communities Action Plan, in direct response to a 127% increase in the adult obesity rate there. New zoning rules require wider sidewalks and other features that improve accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists. Obesity in America has reached epidemic proportions in recent years. The latest data show that 32% of adults are obese , the number of overweight or obese American children nearly tripled between 1980 and 2004. Health experts agree that a big factor is inactivity – 55 percent of the U.S. adult population falls short of recommended activity guidelines, and approximately 25 percent report being completely inactive. Inactivity is a factor in many other diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Incomplete streets mean many people lack opportunities to be active as part of daily life.

Complete streets provide opportunities for increased physical activity by incorporating features that promote regular walking, cycling and transit use into just about every street. A report prepared by the National Conference of State Legislators found that the most effective policy avenue for encouraging bicycling and walking is incorporating sidewalks and bike lanes into community design – essentially, creating complete streets. The continuous network of safe sidewalks and bikeways provided by a complete streets policy is important for encouraging active travel. Learn more by clicking here.


The streets of Spokane are an important part of our community’s livability. They should be designed for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker or wheelchair user, bus rider or shopkeeper. But too many of our streets are designed only for speeding cars, or worse, creeping traffic jams.

Right now, in communities across the country, a movement is growing to complete the streets. States, cities and towns are asking their planners and engineers to build road networks that are safer, more livable, and welcoming to everyone.

Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind - including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. Learn more by clicking here.

Economic Development:

Incomplete streets can restrict economic development. In our landscape, retail and commercial development is often accessible only by automobile along roads that have become dangerous to pedestrians and bicycles even on weekends. Potential shoppers are left with no choice but to fill up the tank and drive. For many, that can mean staying home. This is particularly true for seniors; research shows that “half of all non-drivers age 65 and over - 3.6 million Americans - stay home on a given day because they lack transportation.” Our economy cannot reach its maximum potential when buyers are unable to reach retail destinations.

Lack of transportation options also affects the workforce. In a 2006 report on employment centers outside Pittsburgh, 30% of employers responded that transportation was the number one barrier to hiring and retaining qualified workers. Although bus routes serve a portion of the center, more than 50% of employees responded that there was no bus stop convenient to home or work. Other employees noted that they didn’t use public transportation because bus stops in the area had no sidewalks to safely reach their destination. This sounds like Spokane! Incomplete streets hinder economic growth and can result in lost business, lower productivity, and higher employee turnover. Learn more by clicking here.

We look forward to beginning this work with you soon!

Holiday Party!

Join us for a festive celebration of this year's achievements!

WHEN: Tuesday, December 15, 5:30 - 7:30 pm
WHERE: FareStart 700 Virginia Street. Take the South Lake Union Streetcar to our party - Westlake and 7th Avenue stop.

RSVP to Jennifer Olegario at 206-329-2336 or

Hope you can join us as we celebrate our victories and get ready for 2010!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Spokesman Review: Spokane Transit Authority to study downtown trolley's and streetcars

The Spokesman Review reports today that Spokane Transit Authority (STA) is utilizing 360,000$ of federal and state grant funds to study trolley's and streetcars in their downtown. It sounds like a lot of exciting action in the transit world in Spokane surely we'll keep our eyes peeled as things develop.

From today's article:
Talk of developing a trolley or streetcar system in downtown Spokane is being re-energized this month.

Spokane Transit Authority and city officials are teaming up to study alternatives for downtown mass transit.

The public is invited to join a “sounding board” to advise local officials on the best transit alternatives and routes.

Electric trolley buses with overhead wiring are a possibility. Streetcars on rails will be considered, too, along with conventional buses.

The idea is to get the Spokane area in line for federal grants that may become available for transit.

“Federal funding is going to be spent somewhere,” said Susan Meyer, chief executive officer for STA, and a good place may be Spokane.

Guided by local officials and citizens, the Downtown Transit Alternatives Analysis will employ a consultant. STA is using $360,000 in federal and state grant funds to pay for the analysis, which should take about 15 months.

The idea of trolley service in Spokane dates back at least 15 years, when STA bought replica trolleys to shuttle through downtown to the Spokane Arena. Those trolleys are being replaced with new hybrid diesel-electric buses next Monday.

Meyer said that downtown-area businesses and institutions have pointed to the need for greater transit connections in the University District including Gonzaga, hospital facilities, county government buildings, the convention center and inner-city neighborhoods.

The study area is bounded by Mission Avenue to the north, Perry Street to the east, 14th Avenue to the south and Latah Creek to the west.

Mayor Mary Verner is joining Meyer in co-chairing the effort.

In a press release, Verner said “to be a vibrant city we must promote multiple modes of transportation.”

One arm of the study will include a stakeholders group, which will include representatives from Avista, the Downtown Spokane Partnership, Washington State University, the Public Facilities District and Spokane Regional Transportation Council.

Residents interested in serving on the sounding board are asked to apply at or by calling (509) 343-1653 to request application materials.

Results of the study are to be incorporated into STA’s long-range plan for a high-performance rapid transit network across the metro area.

A similar alternatives analysis is expected in about a year for the south Spokane Valley corridor with an eye toward finding a less costly alternative to light rail.

Along with other alternatives, Meyer wants the agency to study the possibility of electric rapid transit on separated traffic alignment, which can be accomplished for about 15 percent of the cost of light rail. That Spokane Valley corridor study would update work previously done for a light rail project.

On another note Seattle Transit blog picked up our legislative preview from our last newsletter, read it here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Amtrak Cascades Renovation

WSDOT is working with Amtrak to get ready for the next phase of renovations to the Amtrak Cascades train fleet. First up is the complete renovation of the Bistro and Lounge cars, in addition to adding Wi-Fi and upgrading the video system. The renovation will begin shortly after the conclusion of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C. this March. Amtrak and WSDOT are looking for feedback on the concept drawing of the renovated Bistro car, take a look and let them know what you think.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Vehicle Mile Traveled Tax is off the table" claims Senator Mary Margaret Hougen

At today's Joint Transportation Meeting in Olympia Senate Transportation Chair Mary Margaret Hougen stated that "VMT taxes are off the table."

The converstation around VMT taxes came up during the presentation to the Joint Transportation Committee on the potential alternative funding sources for future transportation needs in Washington State.

The study was commissioned by the legislature to ask how the State should fund its transportation needs in light of declining gas tax revenues. In the past few years gas taxes have been declining steadily due to increased gas prices, people driving less, and more efficient vehicles. It is expected that in future years as people switch to hybrids, electric vehicles, and drive less the gas tax will continue to be an unsustainable long term funding source for the road budget in Washington.

Today a draft version of the final funding report was given to the Joint Transportation Committee in Olympia. The funding sources that are percolating to the top are indexed gas taxes and a sales tax on gasoline.

In terms of VMT taxes the report recommended to the legislature that they await federal action on VMT before they look at implementing it in Washington. At that point Senator Hougen asked if there was anywhere in the country or world using VMT taxes system-wide. The consultants response was no. Hougen replied that people who scream about VMT taxes are using it as a fear tactic, the legislature is not going to introduce VMT taxes anytime in the near future and it simply is off the table. It was a pretty interesting dialogue, to say the least.

Here are some other notes about the report especially as it addresses the needs of transit:

On a positive note, the report recommends "expand use of toll revenue for transit". The consultant noted that they looked for examples around the country where transit operations received a portion of toll revenues from the start of tolling on corridors and projects. (Many metropolitan areas like Boston, NYC, and the Bay Area fund a significant amount of transit operations through tolls but the tolls did not go to transit when they were first implemented in decades past.) The consultant highlighted that in San Diego when they implemented HOT lanes a significant portion of the tolls went towards transit. It is great news for transit service in crucial corridors like ST 520 and the Viaduct replacement that the consultant has made this recommendation to the JTC and has found a precedent for tolling for transit from the start of tolling projects elsewhere in the country.

On a less optimistic note the funding report does not propose any new, significant, or sustainable funding sources for transit. In terms of additional local options the only tools they recommend is a .1% extension in local sales tax and a $2 per month employer tax. We are hearing from transit agencies that they have no interest in getting more sales tax authority being that it is a regressive, volatile unsustainable funding source. It is disappointing that the funding study does not pose any real proposals to solve the transit funding crisis in terms of significant state contribution to transit or local options. More soon from Olympia as I will be down here the next three days for December Committee Days.

The presentations from today's meeting on alternative funding sources will be posted to the JTC's website sometime later today.