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.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Celebrate SWIFT Tomorrow

Tomorrow Community Transit will be opening the State's first Bus Rapid Transit Route.

Join Transportation Choices as we celebrate SWIFT's opening with our friends at Community Transit. We will be handing out stickers, chatting about transit, and signing people up as members during Community Transit's celebration from 2-4 Crossroads Swift Station at Highway 99 and 196th Street in Lynnwood.

For more information see Community Transit's SWIFT project page.

Stop by tomorrow, take a ride on BRT, grab a sticker, and say hello to Jenn, Rob, and Andrew from TCC.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tacoma Passes final Complete Streets Guidelines: Gets Props from National Complete Streets Coalition

On Tuesday night the outgoing Tacoma City Council passed finalized guidelines for complete streets in the city. A few years ago they passed a resolution supporting complete streets but this vote was a bold step forward in implementing complete streets throughout Tacoma.

Here is the blurb in the e-mail I got from the national complete streets coalition:

Tacoma, WA: Final drafts of the city's Complete Streets Design Guidelines went before the City Council Study Session on November 10. The Design Guidelines are a comprehensive, citywide approach that will safely accommodate all users and contain cost-effective tools and implementation steps. The City Council adopted a resolution endorsing the Guidelines on November 17.

Congratulations to our friends at the City of Tacoma for this bold step forward and the national recognition.

I leave you with the coalitions quote from LaHood for some inspiration:
"We need safer roadways. We need roadways designed to account for the needs of everyone who uses them, whether driving, walking, or riding in a wheelchair or on a bicycle..... The great thing about this Complete Streets approach to road planning is that it's actually cheaper to plan for multiple road uses ahead of time than to retrofit roadways after they are built and someone gets injured or killed."
- Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, commenting on his meeting with Transportation for America, National Complete Streets Coalition, AARP, America Bikes, the American Public Health Association, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, and Smart Growth America

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sound Transit to Seattle: Your Streetcar is Coming Sooner

Sound Transit officially announced today that the Seattle 1st Hill Streetcar will be up and running by 2013 instead of 2016 as originally planned. This is great news for first hill residents, commuters, and visitors alike!

From Sound Transit's Press Desk:


Seattle, Sound Transit execute agreement for expedited streetcar construction
Partnership scheduled to deliver Sound Transit 2’s First Hill Streetcar project by 2013

The City of Seattle and Sound Transit are moving forward with plans to build a new streetcar line linking the city’s First Hill neighborhood with Capitol Hill and the International District.

The city and Sound Transit have executed an agreement that includes an expedited construction timeline — the line is anticipated to open in 2013 instead of the 2016 completion that was earlier planned. The City of Seattle will build and operate the new line, which voters approved as part of the 2008 Sound Transit 2 ballot measure.

“This line will be the first two of 36 new miles of rail coming to our region,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, who today added his signature to the agreement following recent approvals by the Sound Transit Board and Seattle City Council.

The First Hill Streetcar will serve major Seattle work centers, including Swedish Hospital, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle University and Seattle Central Community College. The line will provide easy access to the Link light rail system that opened this summer and the Capitol Hill light rail station when University Link opens in 2016.

“First Hill is home to more than 22,000 jobs and the streetcar will be a great new option for the people who live and work here,” said First Hill Improvement Association Vice President Jim Erickson. “We look forward to working with the City and Sound Transit to meet the transportation needs of First Hill.”

Sound Transit will cover the project’s costs up to $132 million, and the city will take the lead on design, property acquisition and construction of the two-mile line connecting downtown Seattle, First Hill and the Capitol Hill light rail station. Sound Transit will cover operating costs when the line begins service.

The First Hill line will be the second modern streetcar line in Seattle following the Sound Lake Union Streetcar line which opened in December, 2008.

The City plans to begin construction in 2012. The final route will be determined as part of the environmental review process over the next two years. The Sound Transit Board included the streetcar line in the ST 2 expansion package after determining that a previously-planned light rail station at Madison Street and Summit Avenue on First Hill would be too costly.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Don't Forget! Friday Forums in Bellevue and Tacoma Tomorrow!

FRIDAY FORUMS: Join Us on Friday in Bellevue or Tacoma

This Friday we're hosting a Friday Forum double header! Pick your city and join us for an excellent discussion on all things transportation. In Bellevue, the planned extension of light rail to Overlake sets up plenty of opportunites to create communities that are affordable, pedestrian and bike friendly with great connections to transit. We'll be discussing these opportunities and more. In Tacoma, Pierce Transit is looking to reshape its bus system while Sound Transit is extending commuter rail. What will this mean for the city and how does the city's Mixed Use Centers Plan update complement these transit plans? Join our expert panel to find out.

Bellevue: Transit Oriented Communities in Bellevue and Beyond - Challenges and Opportunities
With the adoption of its Bel-Red plan, the City of Bellevue has launched one of the nation's most far reaching Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) efforts. Other Eastside cities, such as Redmond and Mercer Island have substantially changed the way they plan for development and how they see their residents moving around in coming decades. But there are major impediments to how these cities and others in the region will be able to meet their TOD objectives and absorb rapidly expanding populations and workforces. Join us for a discussion of both the challenges and new opportunities of TOD on the Eastside, with the findings of new reports from Futurewise and their partners (including TCC), as well as the Quality Growth Alliance, serving as the basis for this discussion.

As always, feel free to bring your lunch.

WHAT: Transit Oriented Communities in Bellevue and Beyond with Sara Nikolic, Futurewise, presenting Transit Oriented Communities: A Blueprint for Washington State
A representative from the Quality Growth Alliance, presenting their new report, TOD and Urban Centers, From Barriers to Solutions and Best Practices
WHEN: Friday, November 13, 12 - 1:30 pm
WHERE: Room 1e-108 Bellevue City Hall 450 110th Ave. NE, Bellevue

Take the bus to Bellevue! Sound Transit Express 550 offers frequent bus service from downtown Seattle to the Bellevue Transit Center, less than a block away from City Hall. Plan your trip here.

Tacoma: Transportation in Tacoma for the 21st Century
Tacoma and the South Sound face many tough decisions as we plan for the future of our transportation system. How do we extend the Tacoma Streetcar system? How do we reshape Pierce Transit's bus system? How do parking policies affect the city's to make streets more walkable? Please join us for an engaging conversation with Tacoma's transportation experts.

As always, feel free to bring your lunch.

PANEL: Lynn Griffith, Pierce Transit CEO
Eric Anderson, City Manager of Tacoma
David Hiller, Advocacy Director of the Cascade Bicycle Club
Ric Ilgenfritz, Planning Director Sound Transit
WHEN: Friday, November 13, 12 - 1:30 pm
WHERE: Simpson Room, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber , 950 Pacific Ave, Tacoma

Take the bus to Tacoma! Sound Transit Express 594 offers frequent bus service from downtown Seattle to downtown Tacoma. Plan your trip here.

This event is co-sponsored by Transportation Choices Coalition, The City of Tacoma, The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber

Thank you to our sponsors of the Friday Forum Series
Vulcan Inc.

CH2M Hill
The Boeing Company
HDR Inc.

Jacobs and Associates | IBI Group | HNTB Corporation | Parsons Brinckerhoff
Wilbur Smith Associates | Bricklin Newman Dold

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

WSDOT Survey

A quick message from WSDOT:

The Washington State Department of Transportation's mission is to keep people and business moving by operating and improving the transportation systems vital to our taxpayers and communities. We take this mission seriously. We would like to know your opinion about how we are doing. Please take a few minutes to complete this brief survey. Your feedback will help us learn more about how we can improve our performance.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Three Friday Forums on the Horizon: See you There!

FRIDAY FORUM: Update on the SR-520 Bridge Project

All eyes have been on the Viaduct but we've got another highway structure that needs replacing. Work continues to proceed on the replacing the SR 520 bridge with a new more transit friendly, tolled facility. Tolling is scheduled to return to the existing structure within the next year and construction has already begun on replacement pontoons. A special legislative workgroup is currently meeting to resolves issues that remain such as design of the West side ramps, while King County Metro is working with both the legislature and federal government on transit service and funding options.

Join us for a discussion, followed by Q&A with our panelists. As always, feel free to bring your lunch.

WHAT: SR 520 Replacement update with Daniel Babuca, Engineering Manager SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program, WSDOT and Barbara Gilliland, SR 520 Legislative Workgroup Administrator, WSDOT
WHEN: Friday, November 6, 12 - 1:30 pm
WHERE: Downtown YMCA, 909 4th Avenue, Seattle WA


November 13: Transportation in Tacoma for the 21st Century
Tacoma and the South Sound face many tough decisions as we plan for the future of our transportation system. How do we extend the Tacoma Streetcar system? How do we reshape Pierce Transit's bus system? How do parking policies affect the city's to make streets more walkable? Please join us for an engaging conversation with Tacoma's transportation experts.

As always, feel free to bring your lunch.

PANEL: Lynn Griffith, Pierce Transit CEO
Eric Anderson, City Manager of Tacoma
David Hiller, Advocacy Director of the Cascade Bicycle Club
Ric Ilgenfritz, Planning Director Sound Transit
WHEN: Friday, November 13, 12 - 1:30 pm
WHERE: Simpson Room, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber , 950 Pacific Ave, Tacoma

Take the bus to Tacoma! Sound Transit Express 594 offers frequent bus service from downtown Seattle to downtown Tacoma. Plan your trip here.

This event is co-sponsored by Transportation Choices Coalition, The City of Tacoma, The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, Tacoma Bicycle Club, Cascade Bicycle Club, Cascade Land Conservancy, and Futurewise

November 13: Transit Oriented Communities in Bellevue and Beyond - Challenges and Opportunities
With the adoption of its Bel-Red plan, the City of Bellevue has launched one of the nation's most far reaching Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) efforts. Other Eastside cities, such as Redmond and Mercer Island have substantially changed the way they plan for development and how they see their residents moving around in coming decades. But there are major impediments to how these cities and others in the region will be able to meet their TOD objectives and absorb rapidly expanding populations and workforces. Join us for a discussion of both the challenges and new opportunities of TOD on the Eastside, with the findings of new reports from Futurewise and their partners (including TCC), as well as the Quality Growth Alliance, serving as the basis for this discussion.

As always, feel free to bring your lunch.

WHAT: Transit Oriented Communities in Bellevue and Beyond with Sara Nikolic, Futurewise, presenting Transit Oriented Communities: A Blueprint for Washington State
A representative from the Quality Growth Alliance, presenting their new report, TOD and Urban Centers, From Barriers to Solutions and Best Practices
WHEN: Friday, November 13, 12 - 1:30 pm
WHERE: Room 1e-108 Bellevue City Hall 450 110th Ave. NE, Bellevue

Take the bus to Bellevue! Sound Transit Express 550 offers frequent bus service from downtown Seattle to the Bellevue Transit Center, less than a block away from City Hall. Plan your trip here.

Thank you to our sponsors of the Friday Forum Series
Vulcan Inc.

CH2M Hill
The Boeing Company
HDR Inc.

Jacobs and Associates | IBI Group | HNTB Corporation | Parsons Brinckerhoff
Wilbur Smith Associates | Bricklin Newman Dold

Walkscore and Transit

Sightline reports that the website Walkscore has incorporated transit into their walkability score. Walkscore is a popular website being used by realtors and individuals alike that allows you to put in your home address have find out its walkability based upon its proximity to schools, stores, entertainment, nightlife, and now transit.

Walkscore uses transit data via google transit so it only works for systems that have inputted their data into google transit. Locally Metro and Island Transit have made their data available to google transit but Pierce, Community Transit, and Sound Transit (other than buses run by metro) are not yet. Having tools like Google transit and one bus away that make using transit easier are crucial components to attracting choice riders. Recently when I was visiting family in NYC I was able to use Google transit on my blackberry and cruise the city via subway or bus seamlessly. Walk score has set up a petition that allows you to ask your local agency to release their data to Google transit. I just filled it out, you should too.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Conversation with the Bellingham Herald

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down over coffee with Jared Paben, who is the transportation reporter at the Bellingham Herald. He is a bright guy who understands the intigrated aspects of our region's transportation system.

Today he put up a overview of our conversation on his traffic blog. Check it out here.

Transportation Choices Coalition: State needs to step up and help pay for transit service

I sat down a while back with Andrew Austin, who works at the group Transportation Choices Coalition, and learned a little about what the group is planning with regard to its legislative agenda.

First, the group would like to push the legislature to allow a voter-approved local option for funding transit. The problem, he said, is that even if Whatcom Transportation Authority and Pierce Transit, as examples, wanted to take all of the sales tax they legally can (up to nine-tenths of 1 percent of the sales tax) it would simply stave off cuts, not make the agencies economically sustainable.

“In the next few months we need to find a long-term sustainable funding source for … agencies to go to,” he said. “As we’re poising ourselves to recover from this recession, we need to be poising to grow our transit service, not shrink it.”

As many of you have heard, WTA is joining the ranks of other agencies looking at service cuts. Next year, it’s looking at possibly cutting 25 full-time positions, which means service cuts, including the loss of all Sunday service. It’s because sales tax revenues have taken a dive.

He think a motor-vehicle excise tax seems the most workable option. Currently, voters in an area like Whatcom County can’t vote to increase a motor vehicle excise tax to pay for transit service, but the legislature could change that.

Under the state Constitution, gas tax revenues that right now go to pay for highway projects can’t pay for transit service. Austin said they’d like to see a sales tax on gasoline that could pay for transit.

The legislature commissioned a report that will be delivered back to the legislature’s joint transportation committee, and the report will say which taxes might be palatable to the public (and thus our elected officials).

He blasted the legislature for its lack of interest in supporting transit, while the public, meanwhile, clamors for options other than driving alone, he said. The state doesn’t support transit like it should, he said.

“There’s not very many transit champions in the legislature,” he said.

I asked him about the bus service between Bellingham and Mount Vernon that I remembered was paid with state funds. That’s the only place where the state gives direct funding to transit service (not counting capital purchases), he said, adding that it’s $300,000 a year.

“That should be a model for the rest of the state,” he said.

The state does have four programs, called flexible account, with some funding that do the following: 1. Helps pay for Amtrak service. 2. Pay for Safe Routes to Schools projects 3. Commute trip reduction programs for large businesses, 4. Grant programs for transit capital spending.

The legislature “sucked” money from those program and put it into the roads account, he said.

In the short run, we need to work to fill those accounts again, Austin said, but in the next two to five years we need to find new revenues for highways and transit.

Anyway, this is just a summary of some notes I jotted while sitting down with Austin at The Bagelry a couple of Fridays ago.

What do you think about his ideas? What are you ideas for state transit (and highways, for that matter) spending?

Also, click here to see more on the state’s funding for transportation.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bill LaBorde V. Senator Ken Jacobsen: Progressive Battle Royale?

Our very own Bill LaBorde will be debating Senator Ken Jacobsen about the initiative process tomorrow at noon in the Vance building. Should be an informative and entertaining way to spend lunch. See you there?

Lunchbox* Debates The Budget & Policy Center is hosting a series of lunch-time debates that will provide an opportunity to learn more about current progressive issues and engage in a lively discussion with other community leaders.

Debate Topic: What to do with the Initiative Process? Featuring debaters State Senator Ken Jacobsen and Bill LaBorde of the Transportation Choices Coalition. Would it be better to use the initiative process to advance a progressive agenda or to get rid of it all together? That is the question that State Senator Ken Jacobsen (D-46th) and Bill LaBorde, State Policy Director of the Transportation Choices Coalition will tackle in what should be a very timely Lunchbox Debate.

Take a break from your busy day to be part of this important discussion:

When: Wednesday, October 28th, Noon - 1 pm

Where: The Vance Building, 1402 Third Ave, Room 530

Please RSVP to Ben Secord at

It will be a casual, friendly and internal event. The opinions and perspectives expressed do not necessarily represent the organization or individuals, as we may ask people to take a more extreme position to help us better understand a particular perspective.

* Sorry no lunchboxes provided, we just thought this title sounded good. It's BYOL!

Hope to see you tomorrow!

Blueprint for Transit-Oriented Communities Launch is TONIGHT!

Please join Futurewise and TCC for the official launch of the Transit Oriented Communities Blueprint.

We will be at Pike Place Brewing from 4-6pm tonight for the official launch of this exciting document followed by a gallery of photos transit oriented communities that is being hosted at GGLO.

Please join us!

For more information see Futurewise's website.

Some more coverage from Huge Ass City.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cascade Bike Club and Tacoma Wheelman host a Tacoma Bike In Tomorrow!

What can you do to improve bicycling in Tacoma, Pierce County and throughout Washington? Join Cascade Bicycle Club, the Tacoma Wheelmen and Tacoma stakeholders this Saturday, Oct. 17 for a workshop on bike advocacy and a bike ride, with drinks to follow.
10am - 1pm: Workshop and lunch at the Tacoma Downtown Library, 1102 Tacoma Avenue South

1pm - 3pm: Bike tour of Tacoma with bicycle planners and special guests, including City Councilmember Lauren Walker

3pm - eve.: Meet at the Harmon HUB for drinks with Councilmember Jake Fey

Email to RSVP!

We'd like to make sure there are enough snacks and coffee for everyone. It's a busy weekend, so feel free to stop in for only part of the day! Please let us know if you will be joining us for the workshop, ride, and/or at the HUB.

We'll discuss how we can use our clout to demand better facilities and just laws for bicyclists.

Also, the outcome of the bicycle and pedestrian count, and how the data we collect on bicycling is crucial to our safety as bicyclists.
Together, we'll strategize on making a difference in Tacoma and working together for better state laws and funding sources for lanes and trails.

Blueprint for Transit-Oriented Communities

Join Futurewise, GGLO, Transportation Choices Coalition and AIA Seattle for the launch of "Transit-Oriented Communities: A Blueprint for Washington State" - a report, exhibit, and outreach effort to encourage more planning and funding for vibrant and sustainable neighborhoods near transit throughout Washington State.

Happy Hour at Pike Brewing Company at Pike Place Market
4:00 - 6:00 PM
Come hear a brief program about the report and discuss future policy initiatives!


Gallery Opening Reception at the Design Gallery at AIA Seattle
1911 First Avenue
6:00 - 8:00 PM
View the Blueprint for Transit-Oriented Communities exhibit, on display through January 8th.

Events are free. Donations are welcome.

Time: October 27, 2009 from 4pm to 8pm
Location: Pike Brewing Company at Pike Place Market, then AIA Seattle at 1911 First Avenue
Organized By: Sara Nikolic

Please RSVP here or email

WTA Goes Online!

The Bellingham Herald reports that the Whatcom Transportation Authority recently announced that they are in the final stages of designing an online trip-planner that is expected to be ready for use this November! The trip-planner will allow riders to find routes by entering the starting point and destination. Developing an online trip-planner has been one of the WTA’s goals since 2005 so this is very exciting. Hopefully, the online trip-planner will help increase ridership by making route information more accessible to riders.

The WTA also plans to collaborate with Google Transit to add WTA information to the Google Transit database. Google Transit is a free online service that uses route information from transit agencies across the country to allow users to plan trips between different regions.

For more information about the WTA, please go to their website.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

East Link Light Rail Community Workshops

Last year you approved light rail extension to the Eastside. Now Sound Transit wants to hear how they can design the system to best serve you. Come participate in series of interactive workshops in Bellevue and Redmond focused on the proposed route and light rail stations as part of the voter-approved extension of light rail to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond.

Find out more about East Link, get your questions answered about the proposed route, and let Sound Transit know how East Link can best serve you and your community!

WHEN: Monday, Oct. 12, 2009, 5 to 7:30 p.m. (presentation begins at 5:30 p.m.)
WHERE: VFW Building (Jerry Foley Memorial Hall), 4330 148th Ave. NE, Redmond

South Bellevue
WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009, 5 to 7:30 p.m. (presentation begins at 5:30 p.m.)
WHERE: Bellevue High School (Cafeteria), 10416 Wolverine Way, Bellevue

WHEN:Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009, 5 to 7:30 p.m. (presentation begins at 5:30 p.m.)
WHERE: Stevenson Elementary School (Gymnasium), 14220 NE 8th St, Bellevue
For times, locations, and more information go to

For more information, please visit, or contact Katie Kuciemba, Community Outreach Specialist at 206-398-5459 or

Pierce Transit Workshops

Pierce Transit invites you to participate in one of their Community Design Workshops! After 30 years of providing outstanding transportation services, Pierce Transit wants rider feedback on how to plan for the organization’s next thirty years. Learn about transit, share your concerns and ideas, and help design the system of tomorrow! If you can’t attend the workshop in your area, you are welcome at any of the eight locations.

For times, locations and other information, please visit Registration is required.

Also, please take the time to complete Pierce Transit’s short survey (if you can’t make it, this is another way to share your opinions and suggestions).

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

On the Road (and Sidewalk, Bikeway, and Trail) to a Healthier Clark County

Don’t miss this chance to hear pedestrian guru Mark Fenton “walk” the talk in Vancouver this November! TCC is co-sponsoring a forum On the Road (and Sidewalk, Bikeway, and Trail) to a Healthier Clark County with Community Choices featuring Mark Fenton, nationally known transportation, community development, and health expert for a forum on November 17th, 11:00-1:00. In 2007 Mark helped introduce the issue of walkable communities to Clark County. Two years later, it is time to take this idea to the next level.

Did you know there's a movement afoot to...

* Connect decisions about transportation, community design, and development to the health of Clark County and its residents?
* Have a conversation about these decisions that involves you, your family, friends, clients, and colleagues?
* Show how building healthy communities is the key to a sustainable future?

Who should attend? Those who will find this forum valuable include engineers, architects, community planners, transportation planners, public safety officials, educators, community group leaders, employers, developers, public health professionals, and citizens.

Reservations are required:
$35 reservation fee includes lunch
At Clark College, Gaiser Student Hall, Vancouver
Call 360.567.1067 or email us at to reserve your seat.

The event will include an opportunity to support the ongoing work of Community Choices.

For more information go to

Monday, October 5, 2009

Shake-up on Community Transit Board of Directors

Community Transit recently announced their newly appointed board members. Here is their press release:

Election fills vacancies until January 2010

Snohomish County, Wash. – Four new board members were elected to join the Community Transit Board of Directors Thursday. They were chosen in a special election by representatives of the Public Transportation Benefit Area member cities to fill out terms of board members who had resigned this past year.

Lynnwood City Councilmember Lisa Utter, Mill Creek City Councilmember Mike Todd, Mountlake Terrace Mayor Jerry Smith and Sultan City Councilmember Steve Slawson were chosen by their peers to serve through January 2010.

Other current board members are Chair and Brier City Councilmember Carlton Gipson, Vice Chair and Snohomish County Councilmember Dave Gossett, Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall, Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine and Snohomish County Councilmember Mike Cooper.

Slawson and Smith are new to the board; Todd and Utter were board alternates prior to being elected regular board members.

The new members will serve until a new Community Transit Board is chosen by the member cities in January 2010. Regular board elections take place in January of even-numbered years, following municipal elections.

Board members represent jurisdictions within the Community Transit service district. There are two representatives from large cities, with a population of more than 30,000; three from medium cities (population 10,000 to 30,000) and two from small cities (population less than 10,000). In addition, two members of the Snohomish County Council serve on the board.

In addition to electing new board members, two new alternates were chosen. Edmonds City Councilmember Steve Bernheim is a large cities alternate and Monroe City Councilmember John Stima is a medium cities alternate. Other board alternates are: for large cities, Lynnwood City Councilmember Ted Hikel; for medium cities, Lake Stevens City Councilmember Heather Coleman; and for small cities, Snohomish City Councilmember Doug Thorndike.

Coverage of Tacoma Candidate Forum

Thank you to all of our co-hosts who helped make the Tacoma Land Use and Candidate forum a success last week. We had over 100 of people there and the discussion was very insightful.

Lewis at the TNT put up a comprehensive blog post covering the debate.

I've also posted a few pictures from the forum on our facebook page.

A big shout of thanks to the Cascade Bike Club which sponsored the production of the video, which will online and on Click TV in a few days. I'll post that link here once its up.

Thanks again to everyone who came and co-hosted!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Seattle Times Sends Praise to Community Transit's BRT Line

The Seattle Times has a in-depth Op-Ed today on Community Transit's soon to be opened SWIFT Bus Rapid Transit line.

For those of you who attended our visioning Town Hall in June you heard from SWIFT project manager, June DeVol, about the project.

I had the chance to tour the vehicles and the corridor with CT's director of government affairs, Todd Morrow, in the spring. I've posted the pictures from that tour on facebook here, check them out to get a sense of how SWIFT will feel and look.

As an organization Transportation Choices Coalition is excited for the opening of the SWIFT BRT project. I think more than anything this is a great example of how transit agencies can leverage local investments (the cities paid for the BAT lanes that will be for bus and right turn access only) and state and federal grants, to produce a high quality transit service.

As I was reading the opinion article I was worried that the light rail skeptic Seattle Times might turn a pro-BRT story into an anti-light rail story.

"Projected savings for BRT over light rail can be dramatic, and they were appealing in the middle 1990s as Puget Sound debated a regional transit solution. They came up again in 2005 as the community pondered phase two of Sound Transit. How to get across the I-90 bridge: light rail or BRT?

Early on, U.S. cities that embraced BRT went for separated guideways. Those plans — and eventual expansion — came with their own expensive right-of-way issues, same as light rail.

Thankfully, the piece alludes to the that long-term operating costs are on rail often justify the high upfront price tag and make more sense in many high density corridors (such as connecting Seattle to Bellevue over the Lake).

High-capacity rail is expensive to build but spreads those capital costs over a long timeline. Moving lots and lots of passengers along dense corridors makes the most sense. I do not see transit agencies hiring armies of bus and van drivers with medical and pension plans to cover.

Community Transit's Swift is truly a model of bus rapid transit, not simply shaving time off express bus runs. I want this effort to thrive and be instructive.

Dickie got it right. Washington State residents need more transportation choices across the board, that is why at TCC we wake up every day to deliver just that. We need fast, efficient, and easy to use BRT and light rail corridors across the state. Local BRT stretching down 99 from Tacoma to Everett would compliment a regional commuter rail and light rail system. People need more high frequency convenient transit, whether its to travel 2 miles down the street to the grocery store or 30 miles to visit family or commute to work. This fall I look forward to taking our first ride on SWIFT, Washington's first bus line with dedicated branding and right of way, hopefully other transit agencies can secure local and state funding in order to replicate Community Transit's Bus Rapid Transit Model.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reminder: CANDIDATES FORUM: What's Their Vision for Transportation and Land Use in Tacoma?

It's election season in Tacoma. At stake this year is the Mayoral election and four City Council Candidate races. The Puget Sound Regional Council predicts that the City of Tacoma is expected to grow by 127,000 people in the next 30 years. Earlier this year the City proactively planned for this growth by passing the Mixed-Use Centers update, fulfilling this vision of creating vibrant mixed use centers is an exciting opportunity with many challenges.

So what do the candidates think about transportation? Parking policy? Managing the city's growth and keeping neighborhoods vibrant? Integrating economic development with climate change goals and land use planning? Find out the answers to these questions and more at the very first candidates forum on transportation and land use.

WHEN: Thursday, Oct 1st, 6:30-8:30pm
WHERE: Carwein Auditorium, UWT

The forum is open to the public and transportation related questions for the candidates can be submitted prior to the event to For general event questions or media inquires contact Andrew Austin at

This event is brought to you by:
Transportation Choices Coalition, The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, University of Washington Urban Studies Program, Futurewise, Cascade Bicycle Club, Tacoma Wheelman's Bicycle Club, Tacoma Sun, Cascade Land Conservancy, and Exit 133

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tacoma Bike-In, October 17: Save the date!

Cascade Bike Club and the Tacoma Wheelmen are doing a good looking event in Tacoma on the 17th (a Saturday). It will include a workshop on cycling advocacy, a bike tour of Tacoma, and of course bike oriented drinks. See the details below and at the linked websites.

Tacoma Bike-In, October 17: Save the date!

What can you do to improve bicycling in Tacoma and throughout Washington? Join Cascade Bicycle Club and the Tacoma Wheelmen on Sat., Oct. 17 for a workshop on bike advocacy.

We'll discuss how we can use our clout to demand better facilities and just laws for bicyclists. Also, the outcome of the bicycle and pedestrian count, and how the data we collect on bicycling is crucial to our safety as bicyclists.

Together, we'll strategize on making a difference in Tacoma and working together for better state laws and federal funding of trails and other facilities.


10am - 1pm: Workshop at the Tacoma Downtown Library, 1102 Tacoma Avenue South

1pm - 3pm: Bike tour of Tacoma with bicycle planners and special guests (stay tuned for details!)

3pm - eve.: Meet at the Harmon HUB for drinks

Click here to RSVP!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Park(ing) Day a Success

Last Friday was international Park(ing) Day. Here locally TCC Co-sponsored Park(ing) spots in Seattle and Tacoma. It was a lot of fun and a huge success.

Thank you to all of the individuals and groups who we worked with. Check out the new album on our facebook page for the photos!

Policy Director Bill LaBorde on KPLU talking about gains in transit ridership

Check out this 30 second piece discussing how more and more people continue to switch from driving along to transit, biking, and vanpools. TCC's own Bill LaBorde is quoted.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reminder: Friday Forum Lunch in the PARK Celebrate PARK(ing) DAY is Tomorrow!

FRIDAY FORUM: Join Us for Lunch in the PARK Celebrate PARK(ing) DAY
Have lunch plans for tomorrow? Join us for lunch in the park. We're taking over a bunch of parking spaces in Seattle and Tacoma and turning them into parks! And we want you to bring your lunch and hang out at our parks tomorrow, September 18th to celebrate PARK(ing) Day, a global day when parking spots temporarily become public parks. It's a day to remember that Parking Spots = Public Spaces. Public space is limited and valuable and it's an opportunity to rethink the way we balance the use of that space between people and cars.

Stop by either park to show your support and say hello. Transportation Choices Coalition is partnering with the Cascade Land Conservancy, Zipcar, Cascade Bicycle Club , and University of Washington Tacoma to to celebrate PARK(ing) day in Seattle and Tacoma! There will be giveaways, plenty of information and a bicycle-powered smoothie machine!

For information about PARK(ing) DAY, check out

WHEN: Friday, September 18, 10am-2pm
WHERE: 1st Ave between University and Seneca
Co-hosted by: Transportation Choices Coalition, Cascade Land Conservancy, Zipcar, and the Cascade Bicycle Club

WHEN: Friday, September 18, 10am-2pm
WHERE: Pacific Ave and 19th Street in front of the University of Washington Tacoma (near the UWT Starbucks)
Co-hosted by: Transportation Choices Coalition, Cascade Land Conservancy , Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce and the University of Washington Tacoma

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

King County Metro Transit Audit Report Released

King County recently posted the full metro audit findings on their website.

I have not had time to dig into it yet, but for all you policy wonks out there, here it is for your reading pleasure (second item down)!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Creating Safer and Healthier Suburbs, Starting in Burien: Guest Blog Post

The Transportation Choices Coalition board recently endorsed the Burien Safe Sidewalks campaign.

Today discussing the measure is a guest blog post from the campaign chair, Burien Planning Commission Chair, and friend of TCC, Joe Fitzgibbon. Please consider supporting this effort and enjoy the guest post.

From Joe:
Throughout our region, two critical modes of transportation that suffer from a lack of adequate infrastructure are walking and bicycling. The deficiency in infrastructure is most stark in the suburbs and in neighborhoods at the margins of urban centers. These neighborhoods -- in Seattle, think Rainier Beach, Delridge, Georgetown, Greenwood, Lake City -- tend to be dense, close to transit, and close to jobs and commerce. Because walking and biking are less safe in these neighborhoods than it is in those with better infrastructure -- Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Ballard, the U District -- more people end up driving.

One of King County's most forward-thinking suburbs, Burien, has proposed taking a big step to start to address its own shortage of good pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. The city formed a Transportation Benefit District specifically devoted to the completion of certain high-priority pedestrian and bike projects from the 2004 Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities Master Plan and asked the voters to consider a $25 vehicle license fee to pay for the improvements. TBDs, which the Legislature authorized as a tool for local governments to fund transportation improvements, have been formed in other cities in region, but Burien's is the first in Western Washington devoted specifically to pedestrian and bicycle projects. The fee will last two years and will be on the November ballot.

An important component of Burien's plan is the fact that improvements will make it possible for students at Cedarhurst Elementary School to walk and bike to school safely. As it is, kids who walk or bike to Cedarhurst are walking and biking in the margins of the road with traffic. Understandably, many parents are reluctant to send their kids to school this way. Safer pedestrian and bicycle facilities will make it possible for more kids to get to school without motorized transport, helping them develop active and healthy habits that will stay with them into adulthood.

Cities throughout the region and the state are watching Burien to see if voters are willing to slightly increase their taxes for badly needed tangible improvements in infrastructure. Will we see other cities take the plunge and ask voters to pay for comparable improvements? If the vote in Burien fails, it's unlikely that suburban city councilmembers elsewhere will have the appetite to take the chance. If the vote succeeds, other cities will be emboldened to go for it.

Burien is a progressive city, voting overwhelmingly last fall to approve ST 2 and to increase property taxes to pay for two new fire stations. However, approval of the vehicle license fee is not going to be an easy sell. The Safe Sidewalks Now campaign is working to get the word out about the vote, but we need your help. The most important thing you can do is to tell your friends in Burien about the opportunity to improve their bike and pedestrian infrastructure. You can also help by writing a check to support the effort financially. If you're interested in helping make our region more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, which will reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicles on the road and promote transit ridership, please consider supporting the effort.

For more information, contact Joe Fitzgibbon of Safe Sidewalks Now at or visit Checks made out to Safe Sidewalks Now can be mailed to (UPDATED ADDRESS) 615 SW Ambaum Blvd. #204, Burien, WA, 98166.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sound Transit listens to Citizens' Concerns in Tacoma over Controversial Lakewood Sounder Extension

There has been a lot of recent controversy over the D to M street Sounder overpass in Tacoma that Sound Transit is building to get the Sounder to Lakewood.

The TNT announced today that for essentially no addition cost to the public they will be building a post and beam structure instead of the earthen berm. This looks like a great compromise and hopefully helps quell some of the radical controversy around this project and helps keep in on track.

From the TNT:
Sound Transit says it will build a bridge -- not an earthen berm -- over the so-called B-Street Gulch within its project site to install light rail tracks through Tacoma's Dome District.

The design change for that part of the project largely was spurred by community concerns about aesthetics and wildlife, Jim Edwards, Sound Transit's director of capital projects, said this week.

"In the past several months, we became aware of the potential for a habitat trail through the gulch area," Edwards said. "That caused us to go back and reevaluate things."

Although bridges typically cost more than berms do to build, Edwards said, the move likely will not increase overall project costs because it will off-set additional costs needed for that area under previous construction plans. Overall, the D to M Street project cost estimates remain at about $160 million, he said.

Sound Transit still plans to largely build an earthen berm to elevate and extend tracks over Pacific Avenue near 25th Street, as part of 1.4-mile project to connect the D to M Street Sounder rail lines.

Opponents support a so-called "post and beam" construction option they view as a less obtrusive alternative to a berm, which they argue would visually and physically divide the neighborhood.

Several neighborhood and environmental groups recently have sent Letters and emails to city officials, lobbying for design changes at the B street ravine and other key points along the project site. Some contend the ravine, the deepest point along the project site, is a key corridor for wildlife.

The new bridge design over the ravine will be a bridgedeck set on columns at either end, providing for an open structure, Edwards said.

"The bridge structure can easily be described as accomplishing what the post and beam intended to do," Edwards said.

It allows the ravine to remain in its natural state and provides clearance for animal passage, he said. It also eliminates additional costs under the previous berm design, which would have required expansive digging and installation of protections to subterranean city utility lines, Edwards said.

Sound Transit previously had planned to fill in the ravine with an earthen berm, which would have been the widest such berm -- 75 to 80 feet -- in the D to M street project area. Most of the proposed berms along the line range from about 20 to 40 feet wide, he said.

Although the plans have changed at the B-Street Ravine, designs for the remainder of the D to M street site remain largely the same.

"We still believe, when we looked at the options and the terrain, the best alternative for the rest of the structure is the earthen embankment," Edwards said.

Julie Anderson, Tacoma's Deputy Mayor and a Sound Transit Board member, said earlier this week she has yet to see any cost estimates or design plans for the proposed change.

"From what I hear, (the new bridge design) creates a sense of permeability and addresses the environmental concerns and protects utilities," Anderson said.

October 1st Tacoma Mayoral/City Council Transportation and Land-Use Forum

Please save the date an join us for this exciting event!

Tacoma Mayoral/City Council Transportation and Land-Use Forum

The Puget Sound Regional Council predicts that the City of Tacoma is expected to grow by 127,000 people in the next 30 years. Earlier this year the City proactively planned for this growth by passing the Mixed-Use Centers update, fulfilling this vision of creating vibrant mixed use centers is an exciting opportunity with many challenges.

What will Tacoma’s Transportation system look like in 20 years? Will our streetscape be dotted with streetcars, bike lanes, and working sidewalking next to walkable mixed-use communities? How will we manage our growth in a way that creates vibrant neighborhoods and urban centers? What transportation infrastructure and policies will be needed to keep our city moving and encourage smart development? What is the role of parking policy in the discussion? How will we pay for the transportation and land-use challenges that lie ahead? How will the city integrate its economic development and climate change goals with its land-use and transportation plan?

On Thursday, October 1st, Please Join Transportation Choices Coalition, The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber and an exciting group of co-hosting organizations for an evening lively debate as we pose these questions of this nature to the Tacoma City Council and Mayoral Candidates.

The forum is open to the public, and transportation related questions for the candidates can be submitted prior to the event to For general event questions or media inquires contact Andrew Austin at

When: Thursday, Oct 1st, 6:30-8:30pm
Where: Carwein Auditorium, UWT

Event Co-Hosts: Transportation Choices Coalition, The Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber, University of Washington Urban Studies Program, Futurewise, Cascade Bicycle Club, Tacoma Wheelman’s Bicycle Club, Tacoma Sun, Cascade Land Conservancy, Exit 133,

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Live Blogging at Sound Transit Board Meeting

I am at the nice air conditioned Union Station live blogging at Sound Transit's Board meeting.

So far they've showed a video of the pedestrian bridge being installed at the SeaTac station, which was exciting, and now CEO Joni Earl is giving an agency update. Ridership continues to be slightly down from last summer's record high levels and contract bids continue to come in under bid across the board.

On the agenda for today is a discussion of PSRC's Transportation 2040, which should fold into long term Sound Transit discussions (and ST 3). It should be interesting. Stayed tuned.

1:48-In Joni's update she gave an update on various federal grants they are going after. She noted that while ST apply directly for High Speed rail money some of the projects that WSDOT applied for would directly benefit Sounder. The biggest application was for 60 some million to rebuild the wooden train trestle in Tacoma that brings the trains into Freighthouse Square (where Amtrak will operate as well once the Pt. Defiance Bypass is complete). Building a permanent Tukwilla station is another project on WSDOT's High Speed rail list that would also benefit Sounder. She also mentioned that Sound Transit is applying for the TIGER grant, part of the Federal Stimulus package. The projects they are applying for funds under that grant are extending central link south to 200th Street from Seatac as well as the Sounder D to M project in Tacoma. UPDATE: I got clarification on the potential Link extension. The grant would fund the extension of Central Link from Seatac airport to 200th St and 99 in South Seatac. This is the next planned station on the Sound Link extension. If they got this grant from the TIGER funds the South Seatac station would be accelerated ahead rapidly. I am not sure what effect if any this would have on the rest of the South Link extension.

1:50-Dow Contantine brought up a discussion about what ST's contingency plan is if the Kent Valley floods (which apparently could very well happen in the coming months). ST said they would have to reroute bus routes as well as possibly cancel South Sounder Service if that happened. Patterson stated she is worried I-5 would fail if 167 was flooded. Sounds Dicey!

1:56-Ric Ilgenfritz is stating the presentation on PSRC. PSRC is asking the board which light rail and commuter rail (HCT) extensions PSRC should include in Transportation 2040 and how those expansions should be funded. Staff is asking the board to think about which problems should be in the financially constrained portion of T2040 (meaning the planning would be to fund and build those projects by 2040) or in the unconstrained portion (meaning the funding plan would not be completed and it the timeline is less defined).

2:00-The Board is looking at the map for ST's long range plan. It is a pretty site. Can you imagine light rail stretching from Tacoma Community College to Burien to Everett and Bothell? The map being shown is only the Light Rail portion of the long term plan. McCarthy asked why no other South Sound projects are on the long term plan. Staff clarified that the Sounder extension from Lakewood to DuPont is still in the long range plan but the map only shows light rail extension. They also clarified that no other Light Rail projects beyond Tacoma Community College are in the Long Range.

2:07-Patterson (who chair's the PSRC Transportation Policy Board) stated that they should ask to have all of ST's long-term plan included in Transpo 2040. She stated that it makes sense to have all expansions beyond ST 2 go into the unconstrained portion of 2040 because is not dedicated funding for those projects yet. Patterson then asked if they could recommend projects beyond and outside of ST's long range plan into the Transpo 2040. She went on to say, "The easy part is what to put in the unconstrained plan lets just put everything in there. The hard part is what we include in the constrained portion of the plan (where the path for funding in clear)."

2:13-McCarthy is now asking why ST did not decide extend the light rail system further South of Tacoma and connect it to Olympia. Nickels and Joni calmly answered her question. Nickels mentioned that extending the commuter rail to Olympia and DuPont was in the original 1995 discussions. Joni chimed in stating that Commuter rail would make more sense in the Tacoma to Olympia corridor in terms of technology and cost effectiveness. She pointed out that there is a good heavy rail corridor there already that ST owns and with the land use south of Tacoma heavy rail would be a more cost effective technology. Joni also mentioned that they have been in discussions with Thurston County over the past 3 years about a potential Sounder extension to Olympia.

2:18-Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow chimed in that he thinks Sounder to Olympia would be great. He also stated that he thinks Sounder would be much more successful if it had limited midday and weekend service.

2:19-Julie Patterson tried to bring the conversation back on track in terms of what they are trying to accomplish for the meeting in connection to the Transportation 2040 plan.

2:22-A lively debate has come up about if building light rail outside of the UGA is bad policy (in relation to the demand due to the Issaquah highlands).

2:24-Councilmember Conlin requested that a light rail connection from Ballard directly to Northgate be added to the PSRC's 2040 plan. McCarthy said that's great, but she is concerned that Lakewood is not connected at all by the plan (Sounder is not on the current map being shown, although it is in ST's plan. I am not sure if McCarthy doesn't realize that Sounder isn't shown on this map, or if she is indirectly arguing that Light Rail should be extended to Lakewood).

2:30-Tacoma Coucilmember Julie Anderson is bringing up some process issues. She wants the board to come up with a process to think beyond the long term plan and take more time than what is allowed to grapple with some of the challenging topics being brought up (such as extending service beyond ST's current boundaries, which would be needed to get Sounder to Olympia.)

2:32-They have moved past HCT extension discussions and are talking about tolling as it related to the Transportation 2040 plan. They board unanimously agreed, informally without a vote, that a portion of regional tolling dollars should go to help fund transit. The board then restated its position that transit vehicles should not be charged tolls and asked staff to convey that to PSRC.

2:38-Conversation around T2040 is wrapping up. Lots of good thoughts and ideas were kicked around. They are moving into an update from the Citizen's Oversight Panel.

2:52-The COP discussion has wrapped up, there wasn't anything too exciting there. Now they are taking public testimony. Will Kenedlic (sp) is testifying and complaining about Sound Transit in general, their bonding practices, and says ST unfairly attacks Kemper Freeman. He also complained that "the turbulence on the Link in Tuwkilla was as bad as the turbulence over he experienced earlier in the day flying over the Rockies". He is now yelling at the board telling the board members that they are criminally liable in the State of New York if they do not role back the ST1 sales tax after ST1 is completed and collect over 17.8 Billion dollars over the course of ST 2.

2:58- Perennial public commenter, who I heard earlier today at a PSRC Transportation Policy Board meeting, Paul W. Lock is testifying in front of the board. He is complaining about cost overruns and taxes saying there people can't afford these taxes or projects. Like usual he spoke over his time and is quite flustered.

3:01-Tom Jones from the Cascadia Institute is testifying. He is giving a general update about Cascadia and talking about the need to move forward on the East Side Rail BNSF rail corridor. He mentioned the Sonomia-Marin Rail and Trail corridor tour that Cascadia is hosting and re-invited the ST Board members. The Sanoma-Marin project is similar to the East-side Rail Project being on an historic rail corridor and connecting suburbs. One of the things they will be looking at on the tour is why the per-mile costs on the Sonoma Marin projects cost are .75% less than the ST estimates for the Eastside Rail corridor.

3:07-They are now discussing the need to increase the contingency funds by $1.7million to deal with the geological voids above the Beacon Hill Tunnel that are leading to unstable ground conditions there. The Motion passed unanimously.

3:26pm-they are wrapping up with some administrative business including approving the the issuance of ST2 bonds, which right now they can get at a low rate.

Re the long term plan discussion and Transportation 2040, check out this long range plan map

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Brewing Controversy Over the Columbia River Crossing

I spent the weekend down in Vancouver and Portland to attend a wedding and visit family.

While i was down there I met with some folks who are working on increasing active transportation in the Clark County area and monitoring the Columbia River Crossing. The group I met with was connected to an great non-profit called community choices.

We chatted a lot about the controversy that continues to brew around the proposed 12 lane bridge rebuild to cross the Columbia between Vancouver and Portland.

Upon my return i stumbled upon this blog post from our friends at 1000 Friends of Oregon. It is an Op-Ed from some OR legislators on the CRC and is well worth the read.

Clearly with a project of this scope and expense there is going to a lot of controversy. We'll continue to monitor this one and it lugs along.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Settling the Stage for a top two Republican Battle in the 2nd Legislative District?

Brad Shannon at the Olympian today gives a critical update on the political shuffling going on in East Pierce County. Last week Tom Campbell announced that he would not challenge Adam Smith for his Congressional seat. A few days earlier J.T. Wilcox of the Wilcox farms family announced he would run for the legislature in the 2nd legislative district to fill Campbell's spot.

Today Shannon reports that Wilcox will stay in the race and run against Campbell in 2010 setting the stage for a potential Republican v. Republican battle royale in the general election due the the top two primary.

This could be a fight that is very interesting to watch. Campbell, who cites his commitment to finishing the cross-base highway as one of the primary reasons he wants to return to Olympia, is a moderate Republican who chairs a committee in the Democratically controlled House and has run as a Democrat in the past. In Shannon's article it is clear that Wilcox is pushing an anti-establishment anti-incumbent message highlighting his financial and business experience. No Democrats have jumped into the race yet.

For all of your political junkies out there; keep your eyes peeled to this one.

J.T. Wilcox

Rep. Tom Campbell

Thursday, September 3, 2009

More Bus Service on the Chopping Block, This Time at Kitsap Transit

The Kitsap Sun reports more bad news as bus service around the state continues to face the chopping block of devastating service cuts. Local transit agencies are in crisis mode across the urban, rural, and suburban counties in Washington.

The article does a good job articulating the difference between operating and capital dollars, highlighting that while the State and Feds help with capital expenses their operating funds (funded by volatile local sales tax) are falling into a tailspin.

Because operating and capital funds come from different pots and can’t be interchanged, service development director John Clauson explained Tuesday during the first of 12 public meetings about $900,000 in proposed service cuts.

“Unfortunately, the money used for the ferry and construction of Charleston (bus barn) are capital grants,” he said. “We don’t have the option to use them for operating funds.”

The transit funding crisis continues to spread across the state as riders are stranded on the side of the road. Solutions are needed now and ball in the Legislature's court.

Kitsap Transit buses in jeopardy.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How is ORCA working for you?

Sound Transit wants to know how ORCA is working for you.

Go to their ORCA website and click on the survey and you can make sure to share your thoughts, praises, suggestions, and complaints to Sound Transit regarding the new ORCA card (it takes about 5 minutes).

Here is the website where you can get the survey link:

This survey provoked me to do some reflection as an ORCA user. Generally speaking I have been largely satisfied with the program. It is easy to use, the website is very user friendly, and as someone who takes Sounder, ST buses, Pierce Transit, and Metro often the seamless interface is great. I have heard of a lot of folks having problems with the readers but for me those issues have been few and far between. I also like that you can track your trips online and see where the money is going. The only improvement I would ask for is a e-purse/pass hybrid option where you buy e-purse and once you use it to a certain level it switches over automatically to a puget pass for that month. All an all though I think its been a big benefit from a transit riders perspective. What do you think? Let me know and take the survey.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cross-Base Controversy Continues

The controversy surrounding cross-base highway and the celebration that WSDOT help last week continues to heat up.

Erica over a Publicola has gives the story lengthy coverage here.

In related news, Tom Campbell recently announced that he will not run against Congressman Adam Smith and will instead remain in the State Legislature. He cites his commitment to finishing cross-base highway as one of his primary reasons for staying put in the legislature. The Nisqually Vally News has that report here.

Our friend Jen has photos from the celebration event, which I attended with her, on her flicker.

Here is the full press release the environmental community released after celebration last week:

August 26, 2009

Jen Watkins, Conservation Northwest, (206) 940-7914
Krystal Kyer, Tahoma Audubon, (253) 232-9978.
Andrew Austin, Transportation Choices Coalition, (253) 732-9434

Controversial Highway Project Continues to Attract Opposition
Conservationists, local businesses, and citizens still oppose new highway construction across rare and endangered prairie habitat

This morning, opponents of the Cross-Base Highway (SR 704) showed up to an event intended to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the controversial project in Pierce County. The Washington Department of Transportation hosted the event as the completion of the first section of the Cross-Base Highway and introduction of the first new state route since 1997. The project has drawn strong opposition since its inception, because it would bisect the largest remnant oak woodland-prairie left in western Washington and drive out local equestrian businesses. Opponents also are concerned the project would encourage undesirable sprawl and waste taxpayer money on building an expensive new highway when less expensive alternatives have not been seriously considered.

“While the Spanaway Loop Road improvements are very much needed, politicians are making empty promises about building a road we can’t afford and we don’t need,” stated Bryan Flint, Executive Director of Tahoma Audubon.

Voters rejected Proposition 1 in November 2007, which included funding for the Cross-Base Highway. Funding for traffic improvement to the intersection at Pacific Ave (SR 7) and 176th Ave has come from the State transportation budget, but there is no funding available for the next phase of the proposed construction of the new highway. “In these tough economic times, it is highly questionable to be planning for construction of a destructive new highway in Washington State when we cannot find the dollars to maintain our existing road system,” said Jen Watkins of Conservation Northwest. “Taxpayers are taking note of these irresponsible decisions.”

The proposed Cross-Base Highway would be a four-lane, six-mile brand new highway that would run along the northern border of Fort Lewis in Pierce County bisecting one of the last remaining oak prairie woodlands in western Washington. The unique oak woodland-prairies, today the rarest habitat type in Washington State, once covered nearly 150,000 acres across the south Puget Sound lowlands. Today, because of development, agriculture, and other factors, only about 3 percent remains.

The proposed highway still faces multiple unresolved legal issues on its environmental analysis and was repeatedly held up as a bad example and low priority for funding during the discussions around the failed Roads and Transit ballot measure in 2007.

”The Cross Base project is just as bad for habitat, sprawl, and greenhouse gas emissions now as it was when voters rejected the funding package in 2007,” stated Tim Gould of the Sierra Club Cascade Chapter’s Transportation Committee.

He continued that “at a time when we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from transportation and adjust to future rising energy prices, the proposed Cross-Base Highway would move us in the wrong direction.”

In a 2003 public poll on regional transportation planning and projects contracted by the Regional Transportation Investment District, the Cross-Base Highway ranked last of all proposed Pierce County projects, with only 10% of those polled stating it was a project of importance to the region. “There are many Pierce County projects on the table that have widespread support and are crucial for regional mobility,” stated Rob Johnson, Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition. “We should focus limited taxpayer dollars on completing 167, extending the Pierce County HOV network, and supporting local transit agencies.”

“The bottom line is that we cannot support wasting taxpayer dollars on a project that destroys some of the last remaining oak woodland prairie in western Washington, especially when reasonable alternatives exist,” commented Dave Werntz, Science and Conservation Director of Conservation Northwest.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service believes that the remaining South Puget Sound prairies may be possibly the rarest habitat in North America, home to at least 29 species of federal and/or state threatened, endangered, candidate and sensitive plant and animal species of concern, 18 of which are in the immediate vicinity of the proposed Cross-Base Highway.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Touring Everett and Bellingham on Washington's only State Supported Transit System

Last Friday I had the opportunity to travel from Downtown Seattle to Downtown Bellingham for $4 all on local transit. Last week, Oran over at STB reported on his even longer public transit trip from Seattle to Vancouver and it is well worth the read.

I took the ST510 to Everett where I had a meeting , where PSRC's 2040 transportation plan was being discussed. After that I had an hour to kill in downtown Everett. There i took some interesting photos of land use around their station area and other parts of downtown.

I then took the 90X from Everett to Mt Vernon Station. From there I took the 80X up to downtown Bellingham. Overall the trip from Everett cost $4 and took about an 1 hour and 40 minutes in traffic and it was a very comfortable ride.

Both on the connector buses and touring downtown Everett and Bellingham there were a lot of lessons learned both for transportation and land use.

Check out the photo album I created of the trip on the TCC facebook page. Lessons learned and commentary are posted in the captions of the photos.

The most important take away in terms of transit funding is that the State supported connector service that connects Whidbey with Mount Vernon, Bellingham and Everett is very successful. On my trip last Friday the Bellingham-Mt Vernon bus was nearly at capacity and both buses were busy. Last session the transportation budget injected roughly $300,000 of operating funds into the North Sound Connector service. It is great to see the state getting involved in financially supporting the operations of struggling local transit agencies. I would love to see the model, that has worked in the North Sound, of the state supporting transit operations expanded to other areas of the Washington!