Monday, November 29, 2010

The Ultimate Green-Blue Alliance?

Progressives in Washington State have made inroads on a wide variety of issues in the past few years by forming a Green-Blue Alliance. Led by legislators such as Tami Green from the labor community and Dave Upthegrove from the enviro side, progressive issues have received more bandwidth in the Legislature.

A tight alliance between blues and greens is not always easy. At times, a union trade’s interest (i.e. coal workers in Centralia or tunnel diggers in Seattle) is working for a desired outcome that is in direct contrast to the prevailing environmental viewpoint.

There isn’t a more logical partnership than environmental transit advocacy organizations such as TCC and the ATU (Amalgamated Transit Union), which represents almost all of the transit drivers in Washington State and around the country. One of the fundamental missions of TCC is to secure and protect transit funding and transit service in Washington. In our community we often think of transit funding as an economic, environmental, and sustainability issue, but at its core it is a living wage jobs union issue. For example, if the campaign we are working on right now to save Pierce Transit doesn’t pass it is estimated that 250-300 living wage drivers’ jobs will be lost. This outcome would not only be devastating for a huge portion of working families in Pierce County but also would directly impact Pierce County’s local economy (not to mention what 35% transit cuts would do for job creation and job access).

Like any coalition, our partnership with the ATU isn’t without its challenges, but, I’m happy to say I’ve had the pleasure of working with the local ATUs towards the common goal of saving transit service and jobs in Whatcom, Thurston, and now Pierce County.

On the national level the ATU recently elected a reformer to lead their ranks. Their new president Larry Hanley’s ran on a platform of transit funding, broad based coalition building, and result oriented campaign organizing.

Here is a long interview with the incoming ATU president that is worth a read. He also clearly has a good grasp of the environmental implications of transit and the natural alliance between sustainability focused organizations and the ATU.

Transit can save the environment. Getting people out of their cars and into buses and trains can contribute heavily to that. A great number of studies say it’s far cheaper to travel by mass transit, and it’s far healthier.
One of the byproducts of car culture is that it takes away people’s sense of community, of common purpose. People become allergic to associating with their neighbors. I think mass transit alters that.
People had a much deeper sense of community when they got on the bus every day and saw people and talked. But you can’t scold people into mass transit. You can’t gripe about how selfish they are by using their car.
This car culture was designed by car companies. In postwar America a group of corporations--led by General Motors--got together and formed a phony bus company, National City Lines. And they went around and bought up all the trolley lines in America and they destroyed them. I know it sounds conspiratorial, but it’s true.
At the same time they were convincing the federal government to spend more money on highways than anything else. And that’s what built the suburbs and ruined the environment and changed America for a very long time.
We have to slowly put together a coalition that can reverse as much of that as possible. You don’t do it by critiquing people’s habits. You have to create a traveling environment where it’s convenient to take a bus or a train, where it’s cheaper.

On a side note, I am attending an transit funding/campaign organizing training this week that was convened by the ATU under their new leadership. I will follow up on the blog with some observations and takeaways.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Puget Sound Transit Agency Holiday Weekend Schedule

 Thanks to Commute Seattle for the info on what these agencies are up to today and tomorrow.

Metro busses, Sound Transit Express Bus Service and Central Link and Tacoma Link lines will operate on a Sunday schedule. The Sounder train, Kitsap Transit and KC Water Taxi services will not be in operation on Thursday.

Metro Transit: Sunday schedule
ST Express buses: Sunday schedule
Sounder: no service
Central Link: Sunday schedule
Tacoma Link: Sunday schedule
KC Water Taxi: no service

Sound Transit Express Buses, Link Light Rail, Kitsap Transit, and Sounder trains will be running on normal weekday schedule. KC Metro busses will be operation on a reduced weekday schedule. Regular fares apply for all weekday scheduled routes.

Metro Transit: Reduced weekday schedule
ST Express buses: weekday schedule
Sounder: weekday schedule
Central Link: weekday schedule
Tacoma Link: weekday schedule
KC Water Taxi: no service

Monday, November 22, 2010

All Pierce Transit routes are now operating on snow detours

Metro has already gone to snow routing but now Pierce Transit is switching there as well.  Apparently the snow is dumping in Tacoma, in Seattle most of the roads are still clear.

More Info:

RIDER ALERT: All Pierce Transit routes are now operating on snow detours.  For information on snow route detours please visit or call our 24-hour hotline line at 253-984-8155 with pre-recorded snow detour descriptions.  Snowy weather may cause delays, our transit operators and support staff work to give the best service possible. 

Tips for riding the bus in snow and ice:
-  Wait for the bus at the top or bottom of the hill closet to the stop.
-  Signal the bus so the operator has plenty of time to stop.
-  Wait until the bus stops and the door opens before approaching the bus.
-  Use the handrails when getting on and off the bus.
-  Wear highly visible and warm clothing.

Media may contact Lars Erickson at 253-278-2565 for more information.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Review: Jolt! The Impending Dominance of the Electric Car and Why America Must Take Charge

In this expressive and compulsively readable book, James Billmaier makes a strong case that electric cars should and will be the vehicles of the future.

Superficial first impressions: the book is very prettily formatted, with short and snappy chapters preceded by memorable quotes, helpful graphs and diagrams to illustrate the mathy parts, and a font that’s very easy on the eyes.

The argument: The first section explains the importance of energy independence. Billmaier gets cute with the invented term “electriconomy” to argue that America needs to seize this chunk of the alternative energies market while we’re still ahead.

A big theme is that electric cars transcend political boundaries, and in service of this Billmaier brings out the big guns: ten interviews with power players like Bob Lutz of GM, Mike Tinskey of Ford, and Secretary Steven Chu of the U.S. Department of Energy, who come from very different ideological standpoints. This isn’t the typical token reference to bipartisanship.

Last words: The book closes with a head to head comparison of the cost of owning gas and electric cars and a timeline until electric car dominance. Billmaier predicts that they will make up 60 percent of new car sales by 2030, which dramatically exceeds typical expert predictions. I don’t quite buy it, but we’ll be in a prime position to see how it pans out: he expects the Pacific Northwest to lead the revolution.

Another driver in Spokane Smacks a Pedestrian with No Citation

The Spokane Regional Transportation Center Blog reports that another pedestrian was taken out by a car in the heart of Spokane today while the pedestrian was crossing at a legal intersection.  No citation has been issued to the driver.

We need a vulnerable users law in Washington, which died in the State Senate last year.

Here is more from the SRTC Blog:

There's been another case of a car in the right lane stopping to let a pedestrian cross the road, then a car in the next lane hitting the walker. That's what happened yesterday when a Gonzaga University student tried to cross busy Mission Avenue at Astor Street.

The woman allegedly was knocked out of her shoes and landed nearly 70 feet away from where she was hit. She suffered serious injuries and was taken to a local hospital, but her condition isn't clear today.

The driver of the minivan that hit her has not been cited at this point. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Community Transit Kicks Off "Buy Local For Transit" Campaign on Thursday

More and more transit agencies in Washington are faced with insurmountable deficits, and in some cases, no options for asking the voters for help they are left with few choices but cutting service.

Community Transit is in this exact situation.  While collecting a %.9 sales tax, the maximum allowed by state law they have had no options in this time of financial crisis but cutting service.  Instead of just waiting for the Legislature to give CT options other than cutting (who knows how long that will take), they are taking a proactive approach to educating their constituents about transit funding.

This Thursday the 18th at 10am they will be kicking off their "Buy Local For Transit" campaign at the Alderwood Mall near the Macy's.  Not only will Community Transit be educating folks about how shopping locally will actually help support their transit service, they are also partnering with businesses to give discounts to shoppers who are transit users.

It is great to see innovation like this coming out one of Washington's largest transit agencies even during these times of economic crisis.

Save the Date: TCC South Sound Holiday Party on Dec 2nd

Transportation Choices South Sound Holiday Party

Bring in December with our first ever South Sound Holiday Party!  Join us in Tacoma for an evening of good cheer and all things transportation as we celebrate our successes and get ready for 2011.
WHEN: Thursday, December 2nd from 5:30-7:30pm
WHERE: Paddy Coynes, 815 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma
GET THERE: via Link (Theater District Station) or the bus

This event is free and open to the public.

Monday, November 15, 2010

High-Speed Rail Can Boost Economy, Reduce Traffic

New WashPIRG Study: High-Speed Rail Can Boost Economy, Reduce Traffic

SEATTLE --- A new study from the Washington Public Interest Research Group (WashPIRG) draws lessons from other countries to show that high-speed rail can provide a popular alternative to congested roads and airports while at the same time boosting economic growth, saving energy and curbing pollution.

The report, A Track Record of Success: High-Speed Rail Around the World and Its Promise for America, details a number of examples from around the world that make a variety of cases for high-speed rail.

Some of the benefits include:

·        Jobs: about 8,000 people were involved in the construction of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link between England and France, allowing direct high-speed rail travel from London to Paris.
·        Reduced road congestion: high-speed rail service between Madrid and Seville reduced the share of car travel between the two cities from 60% to 34%.
·        Reduced air travel: even in the relatively slow rail service in the U.S. Northeastern Corridor, the rail corridor accounts for 65% of the air-rail market between NY and Washington, DC.
·        Economic development opportunities near stations: The amount of office space in the area around the rail station in city of Lyon, France has increased by 43% since the opening of their high-speed rail station; rent for office space near high-speed rail stations in France and throughout northern Europe is consistently higher than comparable office space further from stations.
·        Economic growth: in Germany, several counties experienced an increase in their gross domestic product as a result of the increased access to markets provided by the Frankfurt-Cologne high-speed rail line.
·        Reduced oil dependence: a typical Monday morning business trip between London and Paris via high-speed rail uses approximately a third less energy as a car or plane trip.
“This report shows why other countries are investing in high-speed rail. It’s a smart investment that will bring new jobs and economic development while connecting major travel hubs,” said Steve Breaux, a Public Interest Advocate with WashPIRG. “All around the world, high-speed rail is producing results – here in the Pacific Northwest, faster trains will provide better transportation options and thousands of new jobs.”
According to the report, high-speed rail provides strong economic, environmental, and quality-of-life benefits by connecting major population centers. Areas around stations are found to experience higher levels of economic growth. Bullet trains in other countries have largely replaced less efficient and inconvenient air travel while using up to two-thirds less energy than flying or driving.

In Washington, high-speed rail is on track to see improvements thanks to major grants from the federal government totaling nearly $640 million. Last month, Washington was awarded an additional $38.7 million for FY 2009 and 2010 to continue laying the groundwork for the long-term vision of the 467-mile Eugene – Portland – Seattle – Vancouver corridor. Amtrak currently operates 5 round-trip trains per day between Seattle and Portland on tracks shared with freight trains, limiting passenger trains to a top speed of 79 miles per hour; eventual improvements will include a dedicated high-speed track where trains will operate at up to 150 miles per hour on 13 daily round trips.
Over the last two years the federal government has distributed $10.4 billion nationwide in grants to construct or plan high-speed rail, including incremental measures that increase the speed and reliability of existing passenger rail. In these two rounds, 37 states and the District of Columbia have applied to the Federal Railroad Administration to support 341 project applications. Those requests totaled over $65 billion – about six times the amount made available by Congress.
As partisan political rancor from recent elections gives way to public policy decision-making, Breaux notes that new high-speed rail development has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support. In 2000, the Republican Party Platform called for “the development of a national high-speed passenger railroad system as an instrument of economic development and enhanced mobility.” In a statement about WashPIRG’s report, Glen Bottoms of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation agrees: “This report reinforces our view that building a high-speed rail network is a prudent and cost effective use of America’s resources over the long-term.”
“Now that the election is behind us, it’s time to get serious about high-speed rail. There is no such thing as a Republican or a Democratic rail track,” said Lindsey Jacobson, a Program Associate with WashPIRG. “Our leaders from both parties should support long-term investment in high-speed rail for the benefits it will bring to the Puget Sound region.”

Click here to read the report.

Transportation Choices Holiday Party - Save The Date!


Join us for an evening of good cheer and all things transportation as we celebrate our successes and get ready for 2011.  We'll have special guest Rep. Judy Clibborn, Chair of the State House Transportation Committee give us a peek at what's in store for the 2011 Legislative Session. Celebrate with us at our holiday party.  Hope to see you there!

WHAT: TCC Holiday Party with special guest Rep. Judy Clibborn
WHEN: Monday, December 6th 5:00 - 7:00 pm
WHERE: FareStart,
700 Virginia Street,Seattle

This event is free and open to the public.  Please RSVP here. 

Seattle Transit Communities Release @Pyramid Alehouse

The Seattle Planning Commission is going to release a report on their transit master plan tomorrow night. It should be a very worthwhile event for all of you transit wonks out there!

Tuesday, November 16th  
5:30 pm @ Pyramid Alehouse

Seattle Planning Commission unveils its much anticipated report….

Join us at Pyramid Alehouse
on First Avenue S., right across from Safeco and Qwest Fields

Drink a pint (or two), nosh on some bites and
get your hot-off-the-press copy of the report.

Doors open on the second floor at 5:30 pm
for lights snacks and a no-host-bar

Presentation to begin about 6 pm

New transit investment in Link light rail, regional express bus,
commuter rail, RapidRide BRT, and streetcar supplements Seattle’s
already world-renowned local bus and ferry systems.

The Commission report outlines
strategies, actions and investments for
creating livable communities where Seattleites
enjoy car-free access to work, school, shopping and fun.


For more information please contact
Barb Wilson or Katie Sheehy at the Seattle Planning Commission
206-684-8694 or

Friday, November 12, 2010

100 Useful Tips for Car-Less Living: Tip #4 Invest in a Fancy Phone

Smartphones.  Love them or hate them, in our tech obsessed society the prevalence of smartphones is only increasing.  For a transit oriented car-free individuals such as myself smartphones have been and are a godsend.  While purchasing a smartphone will drive up your montly cell phone bill, it is worth it.  And besides think about all of that money you are saving on gas, insurance, and car maintenance, it pales in comparison to a hefty cell phone bill.

I'll hesitate from diving into the weeds of which sort of phone you should get, there are many tech nerds  out there who can do this.  I used to have a blackberry, I loved the e-mail system and hated everything else.  Now I have a droid incredible, I'm lukewarm to the e-mail system and love everything else.  That aside, here are my top 4 reasons why smartphones are a MUST for car-free living:

Google MapsGoogle Transit. Google Bikes. The usefulness of these programs, especially on my droid, are simply amazing.  Figuring out how to get from point A to point B on without a car seamlessly while on the road is invaluable.  Last week I was in car oriented LA and I was able to easily navigate the city on on transit thanks to my phone and google tranist. Smartphone 101s: having a smart phone turns your transit time into productive time.  Whether it is socializing, e-mailing, or working with a smartphone taking 10 or 15 minutes longer on your trip is no big deal because you can be plugged in and productive that entire time, something that is impossible doing safely while driving.Mobile Wifi: Whether it is through tethering or amazing Mobile Wifi hotspots to have internet on the go no matter where you are is mobile transit productivity 2.0.  Especially on commuter routes being able to pop open your laptop, clear out e-mails, and freely use the internet on your computer is simply invaluable. Social Networking: in great urban places that are bike-ped-transit oriented people are always on the go.  Look at NYC, most people leave their house in the morning and don't come back until late.  Having easy to access virtual social connections at your fingertips to facilitate in person meet ups is incredibly valuable and an important tool to living without a car.So close your eyes, sign that evil contract, and make the upgrade.  I promise it will be worth your while.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

77% of Transportation Ballot Measures Passed Last Night

The Center for Transportation Excellence is reporting that 22 out of 30 ballot measures last night for transit and transportation revenue on the local level pass.  This is an astoundingly hopeful number with 77% of the measures passing considering the clear anti-tax and anti-government mood in the American mantra right now.  This demonstrates that even though people are generally frustrated with government they still support their local transit and want more transportation choices.

A full press release on the elections can be found here and a full list of the measures can be found here.

From the release:

In 2010, voters continued to show their support for transportation investment by approving 77% of ballot measures. On Election Day, 22 out of 30 measures were approved in 13 states. For the entire year, the Center for Transportation Excellence found that voters approved 43 out of 56 measures. Nearly $500 million in funding over five years was approved by voters on November 2. When added to funding approved earlier in the year, voters have supported over $1 billion in transportation investment. Information on all the 2010 measures is available at

Voters across the country—from Hawaii to Rhode Island—approved measures on November 2 that demonstrate their commitment to improving transportation choices and increasing investment in their local infrastructure and services.

“Yesterday’s results at the ballot box reaffirm a decade worth of data demonstrating voters’ overwhelming support for investment in public transportation,” said CFTE Executive Director Jason Jordan. “Despite the economy and conventional political wisdom about opposition to taxes, voters acknowledged that thoughtful, targeted investments in their communities are vital to restoring and sustaining prosperity.”

Revisions to ST Express bus service cutbacks

As you may already know, on October 8th Sound Transit released some proposed cutbacks to their Express bus routes. Fortunately, they have now revised their proposals for Routes 540, 545, and 554 in response to rider and stakeholder feedback. Here is a summary of the revisions:

Route 540 (Kirkland-University District)
Original proposal:
• Eastbound a.m. and westbound p.m. trips deleted
• Midday service reduced from every 30 min to every 60 min
Revised proposal:
• Peak service to continue in both directions
• Midday service (9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) deleted
• Buses loop through UW; pick up and drop off on Steven Way
• Last westbound trip leaves Kirkland Transit Center at 5:30 p.m.
• Last eastbound trip leaves University District 6:30 p.m.

Route 545 (Redmond-Seattle)
Original proposal:
• Midday service (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) reduced to from every 15 min to every 20 min
• Sunday and Holiday service reduced from every 30 min to every 60 min
Revised proposal:
• The entire original proposal was scrapped; it will be service as usual!

Route 554 (Issaquah-Seattle)
Original proposal:
• Additional peak period service deferred indefinitely
• Midday service to operate every 20 minutes along whole route, instead of every 15 between Seattle and Issaquah Transit Center and every 30 between Issaquah Transit Center and Issaquah Highlands P&R
• Sunday and Holiday service reduced from every 30 min to every 60 min
Revised proposal:
• Original proposal for deferring additional peak service and changing midday service will stand
• Saturday and Sunday service is reduced from every 30 minutes to every 60 minutes before 10 a.m. and after 7 p.m.; it will continue to be every 30 min in between

Hopefully, these revisions will lessen the blow to transit riders who use these routes.

If you wish you contact Sound Transit about these changes, you can contact them at this email:

Safe Routes to Schools Partnership Asks you to Thank Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-MN) for His Leadership

Here is a note from the safe routes to schools national partnership regarding the loss of Jim Oberstar in Congress, one of the most vocal advocates for cyclists, pedestrians, and transit in Congress. 

November 3, 2010

Dear Safe Routes to School supporter,

As you have probably heard, Congressman James L. Oberstar (D-MN) lost his House seat in a close electoral race.

Rep. Oberstar initiated the federal Safe Routes to School pilot projects in the year 2000, and then authored the original Safe Routes to School legislation that created the national program in all 50 states.  As Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, he had proposed strengthening Safe Routes to School in the next surface transportation bill.

Below you will find a letter to Congressman Oberstar from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership thanking him for his leadership and vision on Safe Routes to School and national transportation policy. 

We encourage Safe Routes to School supporters across the country to take a few moments to send an e-mail or letter to Congressman Oberstar to thank him for his legacy of creating the Safe Routes to School program.  Please share how Safe Routes to School has positively impacted you, your children and your community - this will mean a lot to Congressman Oberstar.  He has indicated in speeches that Safe Routes to School is his legacy and has the potential to "change the habits of an entire generation."  You can send personal notes to Congressman Oberstar at

We will have more details on the elections in our November 10 issue of E-news.  In the meantime, please know that we have built many allies and supporters in Congress for Safe Routes to School, and that the Safe Routes to School National Partnership will redouble our advocacy efforts for this bipartisan program.  We look forward to working with you on our mutual goals.

Transportation Benefit District for Roads, Mobility, and Transit Passes in Bellingham

In case you didn't hear, there was a big election last night. 

There is still a lot in flux with last night's election in Washington State and I'll let the political blogs cover yesterday's wild night.

There was one important transportation focused measure in Bellingham that passed last night which may be of interest to you and is lost in the fray of everything else going on.

As you'll recall earlier this year Whatcom County narrowly rejected a .02% sales tax measure, which we endorsed and worked on, that would have saved bus service in Whatcom County.  In that election voters in Bellingham overwhelmingly approved the measure and everyone else in the rural areas of the county overwhelmingly rejected it.

After the WTA measure narrowly failed, The City of Bellingham under the leadership of their mayor decided to go back to the ballot to ask only Bellingham voters to approve a .02% sales tax increase to buy back transit service in the city and to back fill their underfunded road maintenance and bicycle-pedestrian infrastructure accounts. 

Jared at the Bellingham Herald reports that the sales tax increase for transportation and transit funding in Bellingham is passing at a comfortable 55%.  This is not surprising considering the transit measure passed with 60% in May. 

By passing this measure transit service should be able to stay much more intact within Bellingham, which is definitely a good thing, but the counter question is by using sales tax at the city level will that politically prevent WTA from going out to their entire taxing district for the rest of their sales tax authority in the future?  Regardless of that answer to that question, I think that public transportation districts at the city level are going to become an increasingly relevant short term solution to save transit service as we approach a very complex State Legislative climate in 2011.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Creative Approach to Transportation Impact Fees

Jared Paben on the Belllingham Herald traffic/transportation blog has a recent post on a very interesting idea regarding transportation impact fees.

Transportation impact fees are collected by the majority of local governments, cities and counties, in Washington when new developments are permitted.  Traditionally this money goes towards the local governments roads funds and in the case of large exurban developments they often pay for new expanded road capacity.

According to Herald Blog post Bellingham is proposing a set of criteria that developers can use to reduce their overall impact fee costs.  Upon first glace I think this is a brilliant idea coming out from my hometown in the Northwestern corner of the State.

Here is the list of criteria proposed the reduce impact fees in Bellingham:

15%, for building in one of the follow urban village areas: Downtown, Fairhaven, Old Town, Waterfront District, Fountain District, Samish Way, Barkley Village.
Up to 10%, for being close to bus lines. Developments that front a once-every-15-minutes Go Line get a 10% discount, those within one-quarter mile of a GO Line get a 7% discount, those fronting a standard WTA route of at least once an hour get a 5% discount, and those that are one-quarter of a mile from a standard route get a 2% discount.
10%, for participating in a mandatory commute-trip reduction program. Under state law, only businesses with 100 or more employees are required to participate in these programs.
1%, for each employee or resident of the project who is provided two years worth of WTA bus passes.
2%, for each car share program membership fee that’s provided for an employee or resident. They also get a discount of 2% for providing a space for a car share vehicle to park. We don’t have car share programs here anymore, after Community Car Share, a nonprofit that was based in Bellingham, folded earlier this year.

 This approach will incentivize developers to build in urban walkable pedestrian oriented areas.  It will encourage them to put their developments through a robust transportation demand management program and in the end it will save them money, encouraging development in the right places and with sustainable approaches.

It will be interesting to watch how this program works out in Bellingham (once it is adopted) and may serve as a good model for the Legislature as they grapple with how to incentivize sustainable development in our urban areas of Washington State.

The full blog post is here
More info on the City of Bellingham's website here