Thursday, May 28, 2009

TOWN HALL: Visioning the Puget Sound Region's Transportation Future: Part II - New Opportunities and Investments

Our next town hall is coming up in just over a week.

Hope to see you there!

TOWN HALL: Visioning the Puget Sound Region's Transportation Future
Part II - New Opportunities and Investments

Last month we heard from our expert panel on some of the challenges facing the region on the transportation front. An aging infrastructure, the challenge of climate change, and declining revenues for transit agencies all seem daunting but there are opportunities and investments that could help address some of these challenges. On the transit front, Sound Transit's first phase of light rail will open in July and Community Transit's new Swift bus rapid transit service will begin this fall. In addition, the Washington State Department of Transportation is moving forward on a tolling plan to finance the replacement of aging 520 bridge while the City of Tacoma is embarking on an ambitious update of their Mixed Use Centers plan to encourage walkable, bike-friendly development connected by transit. Hear all about these opportunities at our June Town Hall. As always, feel free to bring your lunch.

This town hall is part of a "Visioning Puget Sound Region's Transportation Future" series. Part III will include a discussion with key federal, state and local decision makers that can help make our region's transportation future a reality.

Join us for a special interactive discussion with our panelists:

David Dye, Deputy Secretary, Washington State Department of Transportation
Ric Ilgenfritz, Executive Director for the Office of Policy, Planning and Public Affairs, Sound Transit
June DeVoll, Program Manager, Swift BRT, Community Transit
Peter Huffman, Planning Manager, City of Tacoma
Puget Sound Regional Council-Transportation 2040 update

WHEN: Friday June 5, 12:00pm - 1:30pm
WHERE: Bertha Knight Landes Room, Seattle City Hall, 5th Avenue between Cherry and James St. (please note change in venue)

This townhall series is brought to you by
Transportation Choices Coalition, Futurewise, WashPIRG, Sierra Club Cascade Chapter, Bicycle Alliance of Washington, Cascade Bicycle Club, Seattle Transit Blog, and Zipcar

Friday, May 22, 2009

Shovel Ready Green Jobs

Treehugger has a interesting post from earlier this week regarding the amount of jobs the high speed rail industry could create in the United States (estimated to be nearly 1 million new jobs).

I highly suggest this read. As the economy continues to be sluggish and the outlook for U.S. car companies doesn't look great anytime in the near future, high speed rail could serve as a huge source of new, clean, green jobs.

Oh yeah, and we could also be transporting 500 million people around on low-emissions high speed trains? Sign me up in support.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Three Community Transit Drivers Drive 1 Million Miles Accident Free! (and get buses named after them)

I like this program, very cool, and great recognition for the people who make the wheels on transit systems go round and round!

Three Coach Operators Reach Million Mile Mark
Brown, Krause and Majkut honored for accident-free driving

Snohomish County, Wash. – It takes a lot of patience and hard work to drive a million miles without an accident. Doing it in a bus that often is almost as wide as the lanes of many roads, making frequent stops to pick up or let off passengers, is even more difficult. But recently three more Community Transit drivers achieved the feat: Ann Brown, Gary Krause and Pete Majkut. Each met the National Safety Council’s standard of 12½ years without a preventable accident to earn the honor.

Brown has been with Community Transit since March 1996. She has earned numerous commendations from customers, including six for ADA compliance. Talking with other coach operators has helped her succeed, she said.

“You should learn from others’ mistakes,” she said. “I’ve had some excellent mentors from the coach operators here. Keith McMillan and Jimmy Walker were excellent mentors.”

Brown mostly drives Routes 221 and 222 in Marysville, where she also lives.

“I get a bunch of kids from the neighborhood; I recognize them, but they don’t recognize me,” she said.

Krause joined Community Transit in August 1990 and has earned many commendations, including for driving during the World Trade Organization riots in downtown Seattle. He has received numerous thank-you letters, letters of commendation and appreciation during his career here. He jokes about how long it took him to reach the million mile mark.

“About eight years ago I figured it was possible, so I started to work at it,” he said.

Krause, of Everett, spends time talking with other drivers and thinking about situations he may encounter on the road, and how he would respond.

“It takes conditioned response to handle some things, so I practice in my mind and it becomes automatic,” he said. “I’ve got it in my head; nothing should be a surprise.”

Krause started driving for Community Transit in December 1995. He also has received numerous commendations.

Majkut, who splits his time between Everett and Concrete, uses the phrase “All Good Kids Like Milk” to remind him how to drive safely:

Aim high
Get the big picture
Keep your head and eyes moving
Leave yourself an out
Make sure they see you
Take the first letter of each bullet point, and they correspond to Majkut’s phrase.

“I’m always checking my mirrors three times,” he says.

It’s safety tips like that which have helped Brown, Krause and Majkut make it the equivalent of two round trips to the Moon without a preventable accident.

For reaching the million mile mark, each driver has a bus named for them. They also receive a special Million Mile Driver jacket and patches for their uniforms.

Since starting its program in 2001, more than 100 Community Transit coach operators have met the National Safety Council’s standard as Million Mile Drivers.

More IT News-New members needed for citizens advisory committee

Apparently Intercity Transit is looking for new members to their citizens advisory committee. If you live in Thurston County and you care about transit, this would be a great way to get involved!

For more information go to their website here.

Intercity Transit Eyes the ballot box

The Olympian today has a story about the possibility of Intercity Transit going to ballot to increase their sales tax rate in 2010. Just like many other transit agencies IT is seeing increasing ridership (19% between '07 and '08) and declining sales tax revenues. Right now they are at .6% sales tax so they have another .3% taxing authority available to them if approved by the voters. As many agencies try to stave of service cuts, I don't think this will be the last time we'll here of pending transit ballot measures in the next two years.

Governor Signs Order to Increase Transportation Options

On Monday the Governor Vetoed transit funding options, today she came through and signed a executive order on climate change that directs WSDOT to work with regional planning organizations to reduce VMT per capital by 50% by 2050. Props to Governor Gregoire on this sunny day. Our full press release is below.

Governor Signs Order to Increase Transportation Options

Seattle – In conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency’s public hearing on climate change in Seattle this morning, Governor Gregoire signed an executive order to enact new rules to reduce traffic congestion and climate change emissions by increasing transportation options in Washington’s most populous areas.

The order implements targets, which the legislature established in 2008 by directing the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to work with regional planning organizations in the state’s seven most urban areas to expand transportation choices, such as public transit and commute trip reduction programs.

The order will require WSDOT to work with regional planners to develop transportation plans that are consistent with the state’s benchmarks to reduce per capita vehicle miles travelled by 18 percent by 2020, 30% by 2035 and a 50% reduction by 2050.

“Governor Gregoire has been a consistent leader on climate change. This executive order will set the stage for reductions in emissions from transportation – the largest contributor to global warming pollution in Washington while giving Washingtonians more transportation choices,” said April Putney, Political Director, Futurewise.

The average urban driver spends one work week each year stuck in traffic. That time spent commuting means lost productivity at work, wasted gas money and five days sitting in traffic.

A recent study released by The American Public Transportation Association, which analyzes gas and parking prices monthly, calculates that the national average savings for a family leaving just one of their cars in the garage for a year is $8,670. In Seattle the savings is actually higher at $10,447 a year.

“This new policy will save people time and money by giving them more choices in how they get around if they choose to leave their cars at home,” said Rob Johnson, Executive Director, Transportation Choices Coalition.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Update on the Governor's Transit funding Veto

I posted yesterday the unfortunate news that the Governor decided to veto the 20$ car tab local funding portion of ESSB 5433.

Here is some updated information.

Make sure you check out the Seattle P-I article on the topic. They added a response from the Governor's office stating that she vetoed it because there already is a car tab transit funding option in the Transportation Public Benefit District legislation that passed in 2005. While this is true, it is nearly impossible to use this mechanism, especially county wide in large urbanized areas, because you have to get 60% of the cities in the district with 75% of the population to agree to the tax. Also this money can go to roads and transit so there is always that fun battle. To date no TPBDs that I know have been enacted to pay for transit. Seattle Transit Blog has a good post her on this taxing mechanism here. 5433 would have allowed local voters to decide directly on a 20$ per year car tab for transit.

Today the the Governor's veto letter on 5433 has been posted on her website here (pdf). This letter also cites the existing TPBD as a reason for the veto.

If you would like to send the Governor an e-mail on her veto click here!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Governor Vetoes Transit Funding

One of the few tools that passed the legislature to help financially struggling transit agencies was vetoed this morning by the Governor. The Section vetoed by Governor Gregoire in SB 5433 would have given transit agencies the option to ask local voters to approve a congestion relief tax. The tax, which required voter approval, was a 20$ flat rate on vehicle license tabs.

The Seattle Transit Blog and the Stranger broke the news this morning.

The Governor simply missed an opportunity here. Transit ridership continues to grow while agencies are facing shortfalls and service cuts. We shouldn’t be cutting service at a time when ridership is at its all time high. If our state is going to get serious about climate change goals, we need to give people more transportation choices, especially during these tough economic times.

The Legislature delivered on one small tool to solve the transit funding puzzle and for reasons yet to be officially explained the Governor decided strike this local option with her veto pen. With this veto it is clear we can no longer ask the legislature and the Governor for sustainable transit funding; we must demand it.

The P-I picked up on the story here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Are you Interested in Tolling?

If so, then I suggest you attend you attend the next WASHINGTON STATE TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION (WSTC) meeting. The majority of the meeting on Wed. May 20th will be devoted to statewide tolling policy. It should be a lively discussion. Here are the details and the tolling related agenda items! You will be able to find the audio for the meeting on TV here. Also they will be taking public comment from 4:30-5:00pm on the 20th.


Wednesday & Thursday, May 20 & 21, 2009
Transportation Building, Commission Board Room 1D2
310 Maple Park Avenue SE, Olympia, Washington

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 – 9:00 a.m.

Presenter: Paula Hammond, Secretary, WSDOT

4.SENATE JOINT MEMORIAL 8006 NAMING – Request – SR 502/503 ACTION 11:30
Presenter: Dennis Osborn, City Manager, City of Battle Ground

LUNCH 12:00

Presenters: Bart Cima, Director, IBI Group; and
David Pope, Toll Systems Manager, WSDOT

Presenters: Jim McIntire, Washington State Treasurer; and
Ellen Evans, Deputy Treasurer, Washington State Treasurer’s Office

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Blogging Live from the Sound Transit Board meeting

The Sound Transit Board is making their final decisions on Eastlink preferred alignment today, deciding which alignment options to move forward.

I am blogging live here to keep you posted.

2:05-the last round of public comment just finished and the board chair is setting the stage for the final discussion/vote.

2:10-"We are ready to move forward" Stated board chair Nickels, "This is not a final decision but represent current (board) intent," he went on to say.

2:11-Motion voted and seconded and Chair announces there are four amendments.

2:13- the substitute motion preferred alternative is introduced substitute motion coming from small non Bellevue Eastside cities. The amendment be put forward is the same one that was put up yesterday, which I covered here and the PI covered here

2:18-Usually there is live video but it appears as though ST's website just went down, maybe too many people were watching the video

2:19-Board member Larry Phillips stated he will support the motion and wanted to make sure public comment will still be taken into consideration during the final EIS.

2:21-the first amendment directs ST staff looks at the traffic patterns again if light rail was to be at grade. It also directs Bellevue's and ST traffic analysis to undergo peer review. This amendment is in preparation for having to make the final decision of tunnel or at grade through downtown Bellevue down the road. The amendment #1 passed unanimously.

2:24-Mayor of Redmond John Marchione introduces an amendment also deals with downtown Bellevue. It suggests looking at 10 questions for both tunnel options (the deep bore and the cut and cover). Board member Anderson asked how much this would cost? Staff said these questions would be in the final EIS and this amendment would make sure the research came before the board before the final EIS does to allow.

2:28-WSDOT director and board member Paula Hammond put forward amendment #3 that clarifies that the project will maintain direct access HOV for carpools and buses between Bellevue and I-90. Joni Earl clarified that this will direct preliminary engineering to look at preserving both on and off HOV only ramps even if ultimately one has to be removed. The question was raised that if removing the ramps would increase travel times and the traffic analysis cited said now. Hammond then responded that the I-90 is an interstate highway and WSDOT is at the table at "owners and stewards" for the public resource and trying to preserve both ramps direct access ramps. The amendment passed with one person voting no on a voice vote.

2:37-Mayor Marchione puts forward amendment number 4. This amendment is regarding the retained cut alternative in Bel-Red. The current motion language says the developer of City of Bellevue must come up with additional funding if needed for the retain cut in Bel-Red. This amendment makes the language more general and calls for further funding if needed to come from "other sources" and doesn't place the burden of potential additional funding directly on the developer and Bellevue. It makes the language less prescriptive but in the end the City and developer could still be the ones to pay for additional costs associated with the cut and cover tunnel in Bel-Red.

Pierce County Board members Enslow and McCarthy questioned if this takes additional costs off the burden of the developers and Bellevue and onto the backs of Sound Transit. Other potential language is now being discussed. A friendly amendment was accepted to put in language "and pursue public and private partnerships if this becomes the preferred alternative".

The other Pierce County Board member chimed in that the language needs to spell out new revenue must pay for extra costs for the Bel-Red cut and cover tunnel, not ST money, because in principal ST money should only be used to extend the line.

The amendment with the with the friendly amendment language passed. I think McCarthy and Anderson voted no with everyone else voting yes. Although it hard to say for sure because it was a voice vote.

2:50-now that the amendments are done they are moving into a converstation about the overall preferred alternative. As expected most of the discussion is centered around the Bellevue Tunnel.

Councilmember Paterson brought up concerns around the tunnel saying that this preferred alternative decision will keep the tunnel option on the table. Passing this would give the ST Staff a go ahead to lobby the federal government for the precious few dollars that are available when the "spine" of the system isn't yet completed. Her argument is that ST should not lobby the federal government for money above and beyond projects funded in ST2 (which the Bellevue Tunnel is not) before the board is able to discuss this issue on a system-wide basis.

Board member Roberts and Enslow they chimed in with similar sentiments saying that unfunded line extensions to places such as Tacoma and Bellevue, or as Roberts said "connecting the dots", should be prioritized over tunnels.

2:57-Patterson says she wants to offer an amendment to put the concerns being raised around federal funding and the Bellevue tunnel into writing in the original preferred alternative motion.

3:03-The discussion is getting heated as some of the Eastside members and Joni Earl and defending the current language saying the proposed language will not take federal funding from other Sound Transit projects.

3:05-Tacoma City councilmember Julie Anderson says she feels confident the current plan is information gathering and sufficiently protects the other sub-areas and the overall ST build out. Pierce County Executive McCarthy said she is concerned about the overall cost and is equally concerned with the issue as others but echoed Anderson's sentiment that she is ok with going forward in with fact finding around the Bellevue Tunnel.

3:08-Phillips expresses his environmental angle stating that both high quality transit systems and urban communities around transit are important. ST needs to take transit oriented development and the need to create compact urban communities into consideration as they work with cities on citing.

3:11-Paterson wanted to have clarified that ST staff will not lobby for federal dollars for the Bellevue Tunnel without board approval. Earl said that would never happen without direct board approval.

3:14-they are moving towards final passage of the bill. The substitute was passes unanimously. Now they are holding the final vote on the preferred alignment motion! Chair Nickels thanks the board for their hard work and for the substitute motion that was drafted by Eastside Board members.

The roll was called on the motion and the motion passed unanimously.

Signing off for now!

ACTION ALERT: Act Now and Urge the Governor to Sign SB 5433 including Funding for Transit

Do you ride transit? Are you worried about possible service cuts? Here's your chance to do something about it. Right now Governor Gregoire is deciding whether to sign into law SB 5433, a local funding options bill that will give transit agencies additional revenue options to help maintain current service. In most cases, these revenue options will require approval from voters

Email Gov. Gregoire today and urge her to sign SB 5433 including new revenue options for transit.

Transit agencies across the state are experiencing record increases in ridership and drastic revenue shortfalls. As citizens tighten their budgets and chose to skip congested roadways, the demand for transit service continues to grow. At the same time sales tax revenues, the primary source of operating dollars for transit agencies, are plummeting across the state. As a result, transit agencies are facing service cuts instead of increases! So how bad is the situation? Consider this - King County Metro is facing a projected $100 million budget gap, Kitsap Transit is already considering service cuts this year and Pierce Transit is looking at dramatic service cuts in 2012.

SB 5433 will:
Give local governments the authority to establish a congestion reduction tax. This tax will then be placed on the ballot for voter consideration to allow transit agencies to collect a fixed $20 vehicle license fee to maintain service. This will provide much needed relief to cash-strapped agencies and help them serve increasing transit demand.

Allow King County Metro to use revenues from the already established Ferry District tax to fill nearly $30 million of their projected $100 million budget gap. This will help them stave off deep service cuts at a time when ridership is at an all time high.

Email Gov. Gregoire today and urge her to sign SB 5433 including new revenue options for transit.

Thanks for taking action!
Team TCC

Register Now Intercity Rail Conference May 27-29th

Transportation Choices is a proud co-sponsor of the Cascadia Rail Partnership Conference. This is an excellent three day event that includes a tour of Tri-Met’s new Westside heavy rail commuter service, great high speed intercity rail panels in Seattle, and a presentation on a DMU project in Sonoma County, CA.

The event is on May 27th-May 29th in Portland and Seattle. For more information and to register go to the event page here. The agenda is also online here (PDF).

Picture from courtesy of

May 21st Climate Change Rally-Don't be lame, just GO!

Stopping global warming isn’t just a challenge, it’s a huge opportunity. It’s an opportunity for us to be at our best – Americans have proven time and again that given a chance, we’ve got the ingenuity and grit to tackle just about anything.

On May 21st Seattle will host one of only two EPA public hearings in the entire country. The EPA is seeking public input on their decision that global warming pollution is a threat to human health, the first step in establishing new rules to reduce global warming pollution. We’re planning a big rally outside the hearing, because it’s time for all of us to say with one strong voice: It’s time to tackle climate change!

Rally for Climate, Clean Energy, and Public Health

When: Thursday, May 21st at Noon
Where: Outside of Bell Harbor Convention Center, 2211 Alaskan Way, Pier 66, Downtown Seattle
Who: Washingtonians who want action on climate change

There is power in numbers and that’s why we need YOU to be a Rally Magnet. Being a Rally Magnet means that you'll bring five friends to come to the Rally on May 21st. The same old oil industry and conservative business interests will be doing their best to influence the process. We need to demonstrate decisive and overwhelming support for bold federal action on global warming. Become a Rally Magnet and bring five friends to the Rally on May 21st!

We need to make it crystal clear to our state and national leaders: the people of Washington want bold action on climate change! Washington is being given a huge opportunity to impact our country’s global warming policies. The EPA is only coming to two cities, and Seattle is one of them.
Being a Rally Magnet means that you'll attract five friends to come to the Rally on May 21st.

By registering as a Rally Magnet you are linked in to our Obama Campaign-style online networking site. You can use this to invite friends to come with you to the rally, or to sign up as Rally Magnets. Each Rally Magnet’s goal is to get 5 friends to come. Rally Magnets are also automatically entered in our contest to win great prizes based on the number of people you attract to the rally.

Click here to sign up.

Also the event is on facebook

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Breaking News: Sound Transit Released Motion for Eastlink Preferred Alternative

Sound Transit just released an amended preferred alternative alignment for the Eastlink extension to Bellevue and beyond.

The motion is on the agenda for tomorrow's Sound Transit Board meeting. Here it is:

The most controversial issue of the Eastlink project is the C segment (tunnel or no tunnel) through downtown Bellevue. This proposed motion allows design and engineering to go forward on both a surface and deep bore tunnel option and provides a timetable for the City of Bellevue to propose funding options to Sound Transit. Segment D will go through the Bel-Red coordinator, which is undergoing massive transit oriented development in East Bellevue.

Stay tuned!

The meeting where the motion could move is tomorrow at 1:30 at the Sound Transit Board room.

Could American Cities and Suburbs be Car-Free?

The NYT Room For Debate Blog has a very interesting post as a follow-up to the NYT story on the car free Suburbs in Germany.

It basically asks the question to a bunch of transportation policy experts, could American cities and suburbs be car free in the same way that Vauban, Germany is? What would it take in terms of transportation, land use, and policy in order to create connected, walkable, car-free (or at least not car-oriented) cities and neighborhoods? It is well worth a read!

One of my favorite responses comes form Brookings Institution fellow and author of "The Next Slum" (which is a great read) Christopher B. Leinberger:
There are a number of steps that need to occur to give the market what it wants, including:

• More rail transit and bike and walking infrastructure
• Legal permission to build higher-density, multiuse projects (generally, walkable urban development is illegal in the U.S.)
• Management of these places to insure cleanliness and safety, and promote festivals and infrastructure
• Affordable housing programs to insure inclusiveness since these places tend to be the most expensive places to live and work on a price-per-square-foot basis.

There are many reasons to encourage this market trend: social cohesion, environmental sustainability, public health, lower public sector costs for infrastructure per square foot.

But the bottom line is household economics. American families who are car-dependent spend 25 percent of their household income on their fleet of cars, compared with just 9 percent for transportation for those who live in walkable urban places. That potential 16 percent savings could go into improved housing (building household wealth), educating children or that most un-American of all activities, saving.

The Transit Oriented Communities bill we pushed in the legislature, interestingly did many of the things that Leinberger mentions. The goal of HB 1490, the TOC bill, also was in line with the goals of environmental sustainability, healthier communities, and affordable housing. That is why the environmental community, the anti-children's obesity alliance, and the low income housing alliance were all supportive of the effort.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Car-Free Suburbs?

Last night I ran into Derek and Whitney of Tacoma's Exit 133. They mentioned a New York Times article that I needed to read about car-free suburbs in Germany.

I highly suggest that all of the transit and urban nerds out there take a full ready of this two page article.

It paints a picture of how we can rethink suburban planning around biking, transit, and walking. This community clearly promotes active living, vibrant street life and human interaction, and a greener future. Just imagine DuPont could have been.

Photo from NYT

Monday, May 11, 2009

Transportation Town Hall Covered In the News and on Film

Thank you to all of your who came to the May Town Hall! It was a successful event with a great turnout.

The Seattle PI picked up the event here.

In case you missed it you can watch the event, which was taped by Seattle Channel. Check it out here.

Be on the lookout for an announcement soon on our June Transportation Forum, "Opportunities for the Region's Transportation Future".