Friday, October 29, 2010

A lot of fuss over parking

I don't know if it's going to get published or not, but I thought I might share with our members a letter I wrote to the Seattle Times in response to their parking rate editorial this week. As always, let us know what you think. - Rob

Regarding the Seattle Times recent editorial about requiring a more thorough analysis of parking rates, I wanted to let you know that parking rate increases like the ones planned for downtown Seattle have already been studied at length.

SDOT has analyzed proposed rate increases and found that the rate increase to $4/hour downtown would reduce parking space occupancy by 9%. This would be a dramatic change from the current situation,where street parking downtown is at 100% occupancy for most of the day.

This would bring along a host of sorely needed benefits: greatly reduced congestion from circling cars, reduced pollution, and yes, greater vehicle turnover. But you don't have to blindly take any one's word for it, because the proposed changes for Seattle have already been implemented in similar pilot programs in other major cities. The results have been uniformly encouraging.

In New York City, the PARK Smart program has already completed two successful pilots in Greenwich Village and Park Slope, Brooklyn. In Greenwich, weekday occupancy was reduced by 6% and the percentage of people parking for more than one hour decreased by 12%. And Park Slop has experienced an astounding 18% increase in the number of unique vehicle parked daily. That's 18% more people who were able to find parking in the area for their business, shopping, and recreational needs.

I understand that tax hikes are hard to stomach. Although $4/hour isn't close to the private market rate of $7.hour for parking, it's still a significant change. But if we can get similar results here as they got in New York - and the city's research suggests that we can - that could only help our businesses or our 'retail ecosystem'. Increased parking vacancies and turnover would make it easier for people to find parking near locations of interest. They would spend less time burning gas in search of a parking spot, and more time doing whatever they came to do. This is a scenario that's beneficial for everyone. Rob Johnson - Executive Director - Transportation Choices Coalition.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

More Federal Funding for WA Rail on the Way

WSDOT just announced via press release and their twitter feed (@WSDOT) that in the latest round federal rail investments for passenger rail WA State received $31 Million.

It looks like most of the money will go towards:
  • Retrofitting King Street Station in Seattle
  • Building a permanent station in Tukwilla
  • Building bypass passing lanes near Mt. Vernon which will help with congestion issues.
Here is more directly from the WSDOT press release:

More than $18.2 million will be spent to seismically retrofit King Street Station in Seattle and its clock tower, as well as restore the station’s main hall and upgrade electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems. This work will transform the busy and historic station and adjacent tracks and platforms to meet current and future needs of expanding intercity and commuter rail service. The effort is a partnership by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), Amtrak, the city of Seattle, Sound Transit and BNSF Railway.

The grant also contributes $9 million to Sound Transit’s Tukwila Station project, a new train station for use by Sounder commuter trains and Amtrak Cascades intercity trains. The project converts the existing temporary platform to a modern full-service station.

“Making these improvements will help give passengers the reliable intercity train services that allow them to choose transit over driving, and help us meet our state goals for reducing how much we drive,” Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond said.

In Mount Vernon, $3.3 million will be spent to build sidings – passing lanes for trains – to improve speed and reliability for freight and passenger trains. The remaining $400,000 will be spent developing a State Rail Plan integrating freight and passenger service – a move that makes Washington more competitive in winning future rail funding.

This latest round of grants comes from two Federal Railroad Administration programs. A total of $2.4 billion from the 2010 DOT Appropriations Act was made available in August to continue the development of high-speed intercity passenger rail corridors across the country.

This is great news for passenger rail service on the Cascade's Corridor.  It is rewarding to see the Feds investing in State's like Washington where we've made a significant investment in passenger rail on the State and Local levels already.

Here is Senator Murray's Quote from the release:
"This funding will help create and save good paying jobs as we work to modernize out state's rail infrastructure," said Senator Patty Murray. "In addition to helping commuters get where they're going this investment will also benefit the movement of freight rail in our state that is so critical to our economy." 

Full release can be found here:

NOV. 5th FRIDAY FORUM: Your Future Bus Service - Get the Scoop from the Transit Task Force

FRIDAY FORUM: Your Future Bus Service - Get the Scoop from the Transit Task Force

Worried that bus service cuts are coming your way?  Curious about what's been going on with the King County Regional Transit Task Force?  Get the answers to your all questions at our Friday Forum, the first public forum on the recommendations for potential Metro bus service cuts and investments.

The King County Regional Transit Task Force was convened in March this year to help shape a policy framework around future transit service investments and potential service cuts.  This 31-member group with representatives from local government, business, labor, social services, riders, environmental groups and other transportation experts has been grappling with some tough policy questions in the face of Metro's significant budget shortfall. 

Join our all star panel of task force members to find out how the process went, the recommendations the panel has come up with, and some of the potential challenges moving forward.  Victor Obeso, Manager of Service Development at King County Metro and John Howell, facilitator of the Regional Transit Task Force will be on hand to answer questions related to bus service and the task force process.

WHAT: King County Metro - Updates from the Regional Transit Taskforce. 

  • Dow Constantine, King County Executive opening remarks
  • Seattle Councilmember Tom Rasmussen
  • Suzette Cook, Mayor of Kent
  • Kate Joncas, President of the Downtown Seattle Association
  • Josh Kavanaugh, Director of Transportation Services at the University of Washington
WHEN: Friday, November 5, 12:00pm - 1:30pm
WHERE:  Seattle-King County Public Health - Chinook Building, Room 121, 401 Fifth Ave., Seattle (at Jefferson St.) (Please note room change).

As always, feel free to bring your lunch. 

This Friday Forum is co-sponsored by the Downtown Seattle Association

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book Review: Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effects on Our Lives

In Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and its Effects on Our Lives, Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez take on the daunting task of cataloguing the hidden costs of car ownership in America. The book is divided into roughly three sections: the first describes the ways the automobile industry cultivates America’s love affair with cars, the second unmasks predatory selling and financing schemes, and the third explains the non-financial costs of car ownership on the environment and society.

The Good: The book is a fairly compelling, fluid read. I was able to finish it without ever once falling asleep! I am a very sleep deprived person, so I can’t actually say this about every book.

For those who don’t have the time to read more than a small chunk of the book at once, the authors have obligingly provided section headers every few pages with descriptive names like “Hell on Wheels: Road Rage, Other Drivers, and the Pope” “Paying $34000 for a $17000 car” and “Driving while black, walking while Latino,” making it very easy to flip to the interesting parts first.

Most claims are well supported with references and statistics, and the authors finish the book with a useful summary of concrete things readers can do to help. We aren’t just left wallowing in the disillusionment.

The Not-as-Good: Unless cars and the car industry are really your thing, the book isn’t terribly exciting. There are some surprising facts and interesting anecdotes, but if you’re looking for a very colorful, attention-grabbing book, this isn’t it.

This book is appropriate for: people who are interested in cars, people who are interested in American culture, who like to delve into the details of these things, and who aren’t yet so wise and knowledgeable that they’d know everything in the book already.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pierce Transit planned fare revision effective November 1st, 2010.

Effective November 1st, 2010 Pierce Transit will be raising fare rates.

This move will bring Pierce Transit into aligment with Metro and CT's off peak fares. The board decided not to raise fares for seniors and disabled persons. Here is their new fare chart; follow the link for complete details.

New Fares,
Effective Nov. 1, 2010
Current Fares
Through Oct. 31, 2010
Local Cash Fare $2.00 $1.75
Local Monthly Pass $72.00 $63.00
Local Adult Tickets* 20 tickets for $40.00 20 tickets for $35.00
Adult Weekend All Day Pass $4.00 $3.50
Class Pass $48.00 $36.00
Thanksgiving Day Regular Fares Free
Christmas Day Regular Fares Free

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spokane: Central City Mobility Open House - October 26th, 2010

If you are passionate about the future of transit and live in Spokane this would be a great event to attend.

Thank you for your interest in the Central City Transit Alternatives Analysis project. Please join us for our next public open house where you can learn about the short-listed alternative routes and transit modes and once again offer your comments. We hope you’ll stop by and bring a friend too!

Central City Mobility Open House - Tuesday, October 26, 2010
South Campus Facility
(412 E. Spokane Falls Blvd., next to the WSU Bookie)
3:30 to 7:00pm – Drop by anytime – Remarks from Mayor Verner at 3:30pm

Recognizing the interrelationships between three important projects affecting downtown and its surrounding areas, the University District, Spokane Transit Authority, and the City of Spokane have partnered to hold this “Central City Mobility Open House.” In one venue you’ll be able to comment on our project, as well as learn about other “mobility” focused projects planned for the Central City area, including the Central City Transit Alternatives Analysis, the East Sprague Redevelopment Study and the University District Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge.

Need to get up to speed? View past Sounding Board meeting notes and documents and input from the first public open house held in June at

To date, your input has helped us identify travel patterns, needs, and opportunities; develop a long list of activity areas, alternatives, and modes; and screen this long list against a set of key questions. Now it’s time to share the results of the screening process and take a look at the shorter list of alternatives and modes.

Join TCC at "Conversations RE: Tacoma" October 21st

TCC will be presenting at this event. Come and join us in the discussion on sustainable transportation.

Sustainable Transportation: The Future Is in the Past
October 21st at 6:30pm
Washington State History Museum

The creation of new, attractive urban spaces relies on good, non-automotive mobility options. Ironically, American cities used to rely on an infrastructure of inter-city and inter-urban rail, street cars, biking and walking. The guide to what will work best in the future has already proved utile and well-designed in the past. In this forum three experts in sustainable transportation will analyze historic conceptualizations of mobility with a view towards how that vision from the past can become a prescription for a more livable urbanity.

Al Runte, Author of Allies of the Earth: Railroads and the Soul of Preservation
Andrew Austin, Transportation Choices Coalition
Diane Wiatr, Mobility Coordinator/Urban Planner, City of Tacoma
Moderator: David Nicandri, Director, Washington State History Museum

Individual pre-paid tickets are $7.50
Tickets at the door are $10.00.
Students are admitted free with school ID.

Click For Tickets: Brown Paper Tickets

Please pass on the info to anyone you feel would be interested. All are welcome but seating is limited so register to secure your seat.

Thank you,

Friday, October 15, 2010

Save Our Buses Campaign in Pierce County is LIVE

I have been working hard over the last few weeks with a dedicated group of volunteers and community leaders to get the Save our Buses campaign up and running in Pierce County.

Similar to many transit agencies across the state and nation Pierce Transit is facing a drastic funding crisis due to a precipitous drop in sales tax revenues.  Despite significant cuts in staff and service, Pierce Transit will be forced to cut service by a drastic 35% percent if new revenue is not secured.

The Pierce Transit Board has decided to ask voters for a small sales tax increase of 0.3% to SAVE OUR BUSES in Pierce County.  For only three pennies on every 10 dollars spent voters will be able to save drastic cuts to transit service, which will disproportionally hurt our residents who need transit service most.

If Proposition One Does Not Pass Next February:

  • All of the frequent service in the system will be reduced from 15 minute headways to 30-45 minute headways making it incredibly difficult for working families to catch the bus to work.
  • Weekend service will be drastically slashed with minimum of 60 minute headways across most of the system; this will severely hinder transportation access for our elderly and low-income residents.
  • Service in many outlying areas of the County will be eliminated as will SHUTTLE service for disabled people, leaving thousands of residents stranded without any alternatives.

    The Save Our Buses campaign needs your help.  They have launched a great website, are registered with the PDC, accepting online donations and up are on Twitter and Facebook.

    Also Mayor Strickland and Councilmember Terry Lee have agreed to Co-Chair the campaign!

    Our Twitter Handle is: @Save_our_Buses

    What Can you do to Help?
    • DONATE!  Every campaign needs the financial resources to get its message out.  Please consider making even a small contribution to the campaign, which you can do online or by mailing us a check to"Save our Buses, PO Box 735, Tacoma, WA, 98401-0735 
    • SIGN UP for our listserve to get updates about the campaign, please send us an e-mail at with your contact information.  The campaign will need your help down the stretch getting the world out. 
    • TELL YOUR FRIENDS: Share THIS blog post, invite your friends on Facebook and help get the work out about this important campaign

      Tuesday, October 12, 2010

      100 Useful Tips for Car-Less Living: Tip #3 Get a Transit-Oriented Job

      Does having a job where you can talk about transit funding, multi-modal transfers, compact walkable development, and transit oriented communities every waking moment sound like fun to you? Then you probably already know that you are a huge transit nerd.

      Transit nerds don't always fit into %100 into larger society.  People look at us weird when we show up 10 minutes late to meetings dripping from head to toe with our bike helmet in hand.  They don't always understand why we sometimes are forced to live days planned down to the minute.  And they (especially significant others of transit nerds) don't understand why we talk about land use and bus systems while on vacation.

      At Transportation Choices Coalition, we'll understand you.  If you've experienced some of these symptoms of transit nerdyness then make sure to renew your membership to TCC.  If you experience all of these symptoms, then you should consider apply to work with us, because its not every day you can apply for a job where you get to hang out with cool like-minded transit nerds 40+ hours a week.

      On a personal note, I love waking up every single day and going to work knowing that I am fighting for something I believe in; to live in a world where people can leave their cars at home and hop on their bike or catch transit to get to work, visit friends, or go to the doctor.  Working for Transportation Choices Coalition has made my decision to live my life without the burden of a car easier and more meaningful.

      Considering joining us, here is the e-mail from Rob about the job:


      Love the exciting world of public policy?  Think you’ve got what it takes to convince policy makers to create more transportation choices?  Join our staff and help us win!  We are hiring for the position of Policy Director.  This is a senior staff position. The Policy Director is a key part of the staff leadership team and helps to develop and lead organizational and program strategy. The Policy Director is responsible for all state and federal policy programs including developing our state transportation policy agenda; directing our lobbying at the state and federal level, building political support for our agenda; coordinating the policy component of legislative, issue-based, and ballot measure campaigns; and organizing legislative coalition partners around our priorities. The position requires some media interaction and assistance with fundraising.

      CLICK HERE for the job description and application details.  Position closes on November 12.  We will review applications on receipt so applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.  Join our team! 

      On a related note, the position is being vacated by Bill LaBorde who is moving on to become the new Legislative Assistant for Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen.  We at TCC really appreciate Bill’s work here over the past two years.  In his second stint with TCC he set some pretty lofty goals for us as an organization and led us through some tough legislative battles.  Bill has long been a trusted voice on transportation issues at the local, state and national level and we’re proud to see him go on to this coveted position.

      Rob Johnson

      Executive Director
      Transportation Choices Coalition

      811 1st Avenue, Suite 626
      Seattle, WA98104
      Phone: 206.329.2336
      Fax: 206.329.2705

      Liveblogging the JTC

      I'm at the Joint Transportation Committee meeting at the absolutely beautiful new Redmond City Hall (their council chamber are plush).

      The ferry system discussions are over and the committee is on to other items for discussion.

      Right now the committee is item #5 regarding an update for the statewide transportation plan.  The presentation is pretty benign so far with some consultants going over plan integration and federal requirements for State transportation planning.

      There are a surprising number of legislators here especially considering its campaign season.  Attending are Representatives Moeller, Armstrong, Takko, Clibborn, and Liias and Senators Haugen, Swecker, Hatfield, and Kastama.

      Also it looks like TVW cameras are here so video will probably be online down the road.

      Stay tuned

      They've moved on to discuss refunds and taxes collected on non-highway fuel taxes (i.e. snowmobiles, boats etc.).  Still fairly dull discussion but tolling report is next!

      WSDOT's tolling division has started its presentation on the 167 (Pierce County) and 509 (SeaTac to I-5) tolling studies.  Tolling on both projects could make a significant amount of money that could help pay for the construction projects.

      On 509 it is estimated that traffic on the new road would be about half as much with tolling on the new road, but it would still be a net revenue and relieve congestion in the corridor.  Also interesting to point out all of their modeling assumes that transit vehicles would be exempt from the electronic tolls, this is a diversion from some current policy where transit is forced to pay tolls when crossing the Narrow's Bridge on Highway 16 between Gig Harbor and Tacoma.

      Under full build option of 167 traffic diversion off of 167 would be around %50.  Diversion is worst on the West side of the highway near I-5. WSDOT studied also tolling 509 and HOT lanes on I-5 to get a sense on how that might raise revenue and lower diversion.  The more that is tolled revenue would increase modestly but get nowhere near covering the cost of the project (would cover less than %50 of the cost in every option.

      WSDOT also studied what it would cost to build out 167 in a phased manner starting with just one lanes in each direction instead of two.  In this scenario tolling could cover almost %50 of the cost of the projects, in all other scenarios tolling could cover only around %10-15.  They heard from stakeholders at RAMP that the freight, government folks in Pierce County didn't want to look closely or seriously at the phased in build out of 167.

      WSDOT gave an update on 520 bridge replacement.  Nothing new here, just an update on the meetings and funding picture.  Senator Haugen mentioned that she hopes the UW and the Mayor of Seattle stay on board and constructive in regards to the project.

      They are now getting a DOL update.  I'm signing off.

      On Today: Joint Transportation Committee Meeting in Redmond

      The Washington State Joint Transportation Committee will be meeting at Redmond City Hall today from 10am-3:30 today and has a very full and interesting agenda.
      The morning's discussions are dominated by updates on the Ferry System and studies so its a little outside of TCC's normal purview.  The afternoon on the hand is right up our ally.

      520, tolling for 167, and receipts of revenue that fund many of WSDOT's multi-modal programs are all on the docket.

      It doesn't look like TVW will be covering the meeting so I will try to put up any really interesting tidbits that come out of this meeting on this blog post.