Wednesday, September 21, 2011

We welcome four new board members including former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels

Transportation Choices Coalition Board of Directors welcomes four new members. Joining TCC’s board are Greg Nickels, Genesee Adkins, Josh Kavanagh and Pearl Leung. 

“People are looking for an affordable alternative to driving roads that are increasingly in disrepair and paying high gas prices. But we’re cutting transit service as demand is going up. TCC is in a great position to push for meaningful reform in our transportation system, making sure it works for everyone and gets Washington moving again,” said Kathleen Huckabay, TCC board president and former Sammamish City Councilmember. 

“TCC is really fortunate to have such an outstanding class of new board members to help us succeed. They bring a wealth of experience and skills that will bolster the organization’s ability to fulfill our mission of advocating for reform and real transportation choices for everyone.”

Serving three year terms, the four join TCC as it is poised to help Washington state step up to the challenge of enacting meaningful reform to transportation policy and making critical investments in our infrastructure to give people transportation choices and keep our state moving forward.

“I’m honored to join TCC’s board. As Mayor, we worked together to expand light rail, tackled Seattle’s transportation maintenance backlog, and wrote complete streets legislation,” said Greg Nickels, former Mayor of Seattle. “I’m looking forward to the next set of transportation challenges facing our state, ensuring that we provide long-term funding to meet the growing demand for transit service and that we make smart investments to build great communities.”

TCC will welcome the new board members at their annual event ‘What Choices Look Like’ Thursday September 22nd from 5:30 – 7:30pm at EM Fine Art Gallery – 410 Dexter Avenue North in Seattle. At that event TCC will also be launching their new website and logo as part of a complete rebranding of Transportation Choices.

Below are short bios on the new board members:
Genesee Adkins is the Director of Government Relations for King County Executive Dow Constantine. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the University of Rochester. She is the county’s chief lobbyist in Olympia on state legislative issues and oversees the county’s federal priorities and lobbying in Washington, DC.

Josh Kavanagh is the Director of Transportation at the University of Washington where he oversees the U-PASS transportation demand management program (transit, ridesharing, & active transportation), on-campus shuttles, parking, and fleet management. He serves in national and regional leadership positions with the Association for Commuter Transportation and International Parking Institute. He holds an MBA from the University of New Mexico.

Pearl Leung is the Community Relations Manager at Vulcan, Inc, where she is responsible for the development and implementation of public outreach strategies and education of Vulcan projects and initiatives. She holds a Masters in Urban Planning from UW and also is a commissioner of the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs.
Greg Nickels was the 51st Mayor of Seattle serving from 2002-2009. During his tenure as Mayor, he was both a local and national leader on climate change, creating the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which now boasts commitments from over a 1,000 Mayors representing 86 million Americans. In 2008, Nickels spearheaded the effort to pass an $18 billion expansion of light rail to build out a 52-mile system in the Puget Sound region. Most recently, he has served as a Public Delegate (citizen ambassador) of the United States to the 65th General Assembly of the United Nations.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Today is Don't X Out Public Transit Day

Today is a national day of action asking Congress not to X out Public Transportation.

The day is of action is focused on what the real world local impacts would be to transit systems if the proposed House Republican cuts went through in a future transportation bill at the federal level.

In conjunction with the day of action across the country APTA has released a report highlighting the local impacts by state if the House cuts plan went through. First and foremost, under the Republican plan over 600,000 transit jobs cut across the country would be lost. Additionally, the House cuts plan would slash new starts funding as well as capital budgets in a way that would hurt nearly every transit agency in Washington State.  At a time when our transit agencies' budgets are already constrained these national cuts would likely lead to further service cuts across the state.  A reduction in new starts would have grave impacts for Metro’s Rapid Ride program and Sound Transit’s University Link.  In sum, APTA estimates that under the House reduction plan WA State transit agencies would lose $565 million dollars over the next 6 years and over 20,000 jobs!

What can you do? Click Here and tell Congress not to X out public transportation!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Moving Planet Seattle This Saturday

This weekend, come celebrate Moving Planet: A Day to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels, a community gathering with workshops, events, and a rally calling for clean energy and transportation solutions for the 21st century. There will be lots of fun and exciting activities as well as compelling discussions with interesting speakers. Stop by for a fun Saturday, learn a lot, and show your support for a healthier environment! Below is the schedule:

Take Action
10am-12pm: China Harbor Restaurant on Lake Union
2040 Westlake Ave N, Seattle
Learn how to be a powerful advocate at two concurrent workshops: Power Past Coal and Transportation for Washington. More information on activist workshops:

Move Yourself & Have Fun!
12-2pm: Lake Union Park
860 Terry Ave N, Seattle
Join the parade of boats and bikes, feet and wheels, pedaling, rowing, sailing, walking, dancing, and skating all around Lake Union, and lots of other family fun activities at noon. Music by the Black Whales starts at 1pm.

Rally to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels!
2-3pm: Lake Union Park

860 Terry Ave N, Seattle
Show your support for moving beyond fossil fuels while enjoying inspirational speakers, community information booths, and a crowd photo for

RSVP for the rally:

Speakers include:
Michael McGinn
, Mayor of Seattle
Christopher Williams, Seattle Parks & Recreation Superintendent
Sarah van Gelder, YES! magazine Executive Editor
KC Golden, ClimateSolutions Policy Director
Lisa Quinn, FeetFirst Executive Director
Rev. Rich Lang, University Temple United Methodist Church

Engage on Environmental Justice
: Plymouth United Church of Christ
1217 6th Ave, Seattle
Be inspired by recipients of the David Brower Youth Award given to outstanding young adults working on environmental justice issues in their home communities. Stay for a reception marking the launch of the new national United Church of Christ Environmental Justice Center in the Seattle area.

More info at

Neighborhood Greenways: This Thursday

Mark Lear and Greg Raisman, the "dynamic duo" behind Portland's Neighborhood Greenways program, are coming to the Unversity of Washington to explain the dramatic transformation happening on Portland's street right now. Within five years, Portland will have transformed itself into a city where 80% of residents live within a half-mile of a "Neighborhood Greenway," a family-friendly street where families can safely enjoy bicycle rides together and kids can walk to school, to the park, and even play basketball in the street. Neighborhood Greenways are solving neighborhood concerns about walking and biking safety and these new streets have given residents an increased sense of community and improved quality of life.

Come listen to their stories and learn how Seattle can follow their lead:

Where: UW - Savery Hall, Room 264
When: Thursday, September 22, 7PM

Facebook Event Page:

If you are heading to our fundraiser first (at 5:30) you can show up to this event a little late.

Tacoma City Club this Wednesday!

I'll be speaking at Tacoma's City Club this Wednesday in what should be a good event with lively discussion (and I promise fun historic photos with current day political commentary).  

The topic of the program is "Buses and Bikes and Streetcars, Oh My!"

The program will run from 11:30 until 1:15 this Wednesday at the Tacoma Art Museum. To RSVP for the event just email

Here are the full details, see you on Wednesday:
Don't forget to register today for City Club's lunch this Wednesday about the future of transportation in Tacoma! (Note, if we have confirmed your reservation via email, then we know you're coming).

RSVP by replying to this email by today, September 19, at 5:00 pm. Members: $16; Non-Members $22.

Diane Wiatr, Mobility Coordinator for the City of Tacoma, and Andrew Austin, with the Transportation Choices Coalition, will speak about Tacoma's transit plans and the state of bike lanes, street car extensions, and getting people moving in Tacoma.
Lunch: Tacoma Art Museum. Doors open at 11:30 a.m., lunch is served at noon and the program ends by 1:15 p.m. 

Special Pricing! City Club is trying out a special pricing option for this program. Lunch will be a light sandwich and salad option, with dessert. Price for the lunch for members is $16 (instead of a normal $22).

Members may still attend for the coffee and dessert rate of $8 and skip the lunch altogether. This is an option available to members only.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Park(ing) Day This Friday

This Friday, TCC will be celebrating Park(ing) Day. We have rented out some parking spaces and will be turning them into the smallest, but coolest, park in town for the day. The event is designed to show how much space parking takes up in a city and how that space might otherwise be used. It will also be really fun, so stop by sometime between 9am and 3pm. We'll be on 1st Ave between Seneca and University.

Tacoma Link Commerce Street Station opens on Sept 29th

Sound Transit and the City of Tacoma will welcome light rail passenger service to the new Commerce Street stop in downtown Tacoma tomorrow. The new Tacoma Link station at 11th and Commerce Street marks the sixth stop on the 1.6-mile line that serves as a major connector in downtown Tacoma. 

Downtown On the Go will host a dedication ceremony at the new stop on at 2 p.m. on Sept. 29 to celebrate the opening.

The project was paid for and led by the city of Tacoma in coordination with Sound Transit. It includes two 40-foot platforms – one on the west side of Commerce Street for southbound riders and another on the east side for northbound travelers – platform lighting, accessibility ramps, security cameras, and passenger shelters that incorporate etched glass artwork by Tacoma artist Chandler O’Leary. The new station opens at a time when ridership on Tacoma Link is growing, increasing 16 percent in the last year to 3,330 riders a day.

“Our new light rail station will not only give business district transit users greater access to Tacoma Link,” said Mayor Marilyn Strickland, “but also bring residents, commuters, and visitors to more destinations, making it even easier for people to get around downtown.” 

Join the celebration on the 29th!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Portland Transit Authority: TriMet's Troublesome Transit Tax

Most people never really think about how their transit agency gets its revenue. Funding is what primarily determines how much transit service will be available, so it is vitally important to understand these issues. For this installment of Portland Transit Authority, I will focus on the funding structure of TriMet, the Portland region's transit agency. In particular, I will explore how TriMet is very different from most transit agencies and what impact that has on transit service and investment. We will find that the same mechanisms that have helped create a model transit agency may also be unsustainable in the long run.

Most transit agencies receive the bulk of their funding from sales tax, but TriMet instead relies on a payroll tax of 0.6918% on employers in the transit district. Payroll taxes and sales taxes share the unfortunate quality of fluctuating in response to the overall economy, but it is worth parsing out how they are different. Payroll taxes are not as universal, since they only apply to employed people, whereas sales tax is paid by pretty much everyone. Payroll taxes are also obviously dependent on employment, and thus are arguably worse off in the current jobless recovery in which consumer spending is starting to increase but employment has yet to respond. Finally, the payroll tax is somewhat more regressive than a sales tax, assuming that essentials like food are not subject to the sales tax. After all, a person has a fair amount of control over how much sales tax they pay, while the payroll tax is a flat tax on all employees. The counterargument would be that at least unemployed people do not have to pay the tax, but of course the reality is that many gainfully employed people are still deep in poverty.

TriMet's payroll tax is also different from most transit agencies in that the tax rate goes up by a small amount each year automatically. Over the next 12 years the rate will gradually increase from .6918% to .8218%. This system has been a key to TriMet's success in building out its frequent bus network and MAX light rail system, since in normal times they have been able to rely on a steadily increasing stream of revenue over time. The recent drop in employment, however, has exposed some problems inherent in using a revenue source that only gradually increases.

The main problem is a lack of flexibility. While a Washington transit agency like C-Tran has the option to pursue a ballot measure to increase funding in response to the economic downturn, TriMet is stuck with a payroll tax that increases at such a slow rate that it will take an estimated 10 years to restore recently cut service levels. Another problem is that with an aging workforce, overall wage growth will be much lower than projections in the coming decades. With a smaller percentage of the population in the workforce, reliance on a payroll tax may not make much sense anymore.

One other funding tool TriMet has at its disposal is the ability to bond against future payroll tax revenue. This controversial practice basically involves taking away future operating dollars to use for current capital expenses. TriMet has recently borrowed $60 million in this way for the Milwaukie Light Rail project, and is also planning to use debt to purchase new vehicles over the next several years. This is could prove to be an unsustainable practice in the long-term. Without new revenue sources to pay back these bonds, TriMet will be left using operating revenue to service debt instead of investing in service hours. For the time being, debt service consumes about 5% of TriMet's total expenditures, but this will continue to grow as the agency is forced to borrow to pay for needed capital expenses.

To me it is clear that the state of Oregon needs to grant TriMet a new and different taxing authority. Otherwise the agency will continue to go deeper into debt and transit riders will continue to see falling service hours and rising fares. Highway tolls and vehicle license fees are two options often used elsewhere, and have an added benefit of making transit more attractive as an alternative to driving, leading to higher ridership and higher farebox revenues. Tolls in particular help level the playing field by making the marginal cost of driving approach the marginal cost of taking transit.

Another attractive option would be a small sales tax to supplement the payroll tax. Even a 1% sales tax in the TriMet service area would generate substantial revenue without having a substantial negative impact on area retailers. After all, it would still be far less than the 8.2% rate in neighboring Vancouver, WA. The state of Oregon has repeatedly rejected a state sales tax, but perhaps it would be appropriate look at giving cities and regions a local option to tax themselves for better service. Whatever the solution, something needs to change for TriMet to live up to its reputation as one of the nation's best transit agencies.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

You ought to be in pictures!

Calling all photo enthusiasts! TCC invites all budding photographers to submit photos of your favorite transportation-oriented locations for our upcoming annual fundraiser on Sept 22, “What Choices Look Like.” 

Got a kickin' sunset shot along the Myrtle Edwards bike path? How about a cityscape shot taken from the light rail? Or, maybe you want to capture your favorite bus line/bus stop, pedestrian crossing, or transit hub. Submissions can be photos of locations with or without people in them, but all submissions must be original work and include a mode of transportation. Please provide a photo caption that describes where the photo was taken, and why it represents "what choices look like."

We'll leave it up to the sound judgment of TCC staff to pick the best photos, so show us what you've got! Several photos will be showcased at “What Choices Look Like,” our highly attended annual fundraiser. (Did you register yet? What better way to spend World Car-free Day on September 22?)

Buy your ticket today and get an early bird discount!

Give us your best shot! Send your photo submissions in .jpeg format in the largest file size possible to Jennifer Olegario at by Tuesday, September 13.

Transit Oriented Communities Workshop is Tomorrow In Shoreline!

Be there or be left out!

\Transit-oriented communities are all the rage right now in North King County and South Snohomish County. Sound Transit is expanding the Link Light Rail, the City of Shoreline just adopted a “Town Center Plan,” and the City of Bothell has developed a Downtown Revitalization Plan.

So what does this all mean?

To help set the vision for transit-oriented communities and discuss tools for implementation, the organizations Futurewise and Transportation Choices Coalition and the architecture firm GGLO will present an informative workshop and visual exhibit at the Shoreline Public Library on Friday, September 9 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“There is a real desire to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods by providing better access to walking, biking and transit, and more affordable housing options,” said Brock Howell, King County Program Director for Futurewise. “We hope our workshop on transit-oriented communities can help inform these policy discussions.”

The workshop will feature a presentation by representatives from Futurewise and GGLO. Participants will explore a vision for compact urban areas and the protection of our farms, forestlands, and green space, and how to make it happen.

Futurewise launched its Transit-Oriented Communities (TOC) Blueprint program to encourage more housing and transportation choices for Washingtonians. The program advances vibrant and healthy neighborhoods through a comprehensive report and action plan, a traveling gallery exhibit, and community meetings across the state to promote growth near transit. 

The Blueprint program is anchored by a comprehensive publication Blueprint for Transit Oriented Communities (pdf). It’s an action plan for promoting neighborhoods that give people greater access to housing, jobs, shopping, and recreation without relying on a personal vehicle. Created by GGLO, Futurewise, and Transportation Choices Coalition, the purpose of the Blueprint is to provide guidance and inspiration for the community at large, and also to serve as an advocacy manual for new legislation that will promote exemplary transit oriented communities in cities throughout Washington State.

The publication presents an image-rich vision of TOC, provides research linking TOC patterns to numerous social and environmental benefits, and lays out policy actions from the local to federal level to encourage more TOC patterns.

Alan Grainger, founding principal of GGLO, said, "For this to happen, visionary planning and design must go hand-in-hand with smart policies and attention to the unique qualities of each community."
The workshop is free and open to the public and oriented toward public officials, planners, and informed citizens.

What: Presentation & Discussion on transit-oriented communities.
Date: Friday, September 9, 2011
Time: 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Location: Shoreline Library
Address: 345 NE 175th, Shoreline WA 98155

More information about transit-oriented communities available at