SEATTLE

Visitors From Sonoma-Marin Stress Commuter Rail’s Possibilities

As part of our recent Cascadia Rail Week, Cascadia Center hosted a gathering at Novelty Hill Winery In Redmond, where officials from the Sonoma-Marin commuter rail line recently approved by voters discussed their plans with supporters of Puget Sound’s Eastside commuter rail initiative, which would use parts, and eventually all, of the BNSF’s underutilized Snohomish-to-Renton corridor. In today’s Seattle Times, editorial page columnist Lance Dickie, who attended the session, writes: Connections between where people live and work are the essence of public transit. The 42-mile Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail corridor between the cities of Snohomish and Renton — including a spur from Woodinville to Redmond — is ripe with potential. Or so it seemed in 2007, when the Port Read More ›

A Seamless Automated Tolling System For Central Puget Sound’s Highways

Article as published at Crosscut
Population in the four counties of Central Puget Sound will have grown from the 2008 total of 3.6 million by another 1.4 million in 2040. Jobs will increase by 1.1 million, and – based on the region’s collective proclivities to date – total vehicle miles travelled (VMT) by more than 40 percent. Barring some big paradigm shift, the percentage of daily “passenger” work trips (freight vehicles not included) which occur on transit will grow from 8 percent of the current (2006) total to only 9 percent in 2040. For far more numerous non-work passenger trips, the transit market share stays at a scant 2 percent between 2006 and 2040, according to recent modeling. The vast majority of daily passenger trips occur in cars now and then. For work it’s more than four of five, for non-work, about nine of ten. (The rest are split between transit, walking and biking.) On the upside, there’s a lot more ride-sharing for non-work trips; plus, per-capita VMT will continue to stay flat; and we can shave a bit off the expected growth in total VMT by meeting (elusive) regional growth strategy targets.
These are some of the conclusions in a March 2009 background paper that’s part of the Puget Sound Regional Council’s “Transportation 2040” planning effort. Future projections may change slightly under new computer modeling in a draft environmental impact statement due out at month’s end. But you get the idea. The PSRC’s 2040 picture begs a huge question: what to do about it all. And, as we’ll see in a moment, it turns out that, away from the big transportation headlines it made last session, the state legislature has some ideas of its own.
My own take: A comprehensive approach to managing peak-hour highway capacity in Central Puget Sound should be launched by bravely establishing – and soon – a seamless regional system of variably-priced, automated and ultimately, corridor-length tolling on highways and major state routes. This must be folded into a broader plan to develop stable long-term funding for the region’s surface transportation network.

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Vehicle Mileage Tax Push Alive And Well

U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. James Oberstar (D.-Minn.) says, enough already with studies and pilot projects. Why not just phase in over the next two years the controversial vehicle mileage tax, in order to supplement and eventually replace the flailing gas tax? More from Associated Press: ..Oberstar…(pictured, right) said he believes the technology exists to implement a mileage tax. He said he sees no point in waiting years for the results of pilot programs since such a tax system is inevitable as federal gasoline tax revenues decline. “Why do we need a pilot program? Why don’t we just phase it in?” said Oberstar, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman. Oberstar is drafting a six-year transportation bill Read More ›

Fruit Growers Urge Deep Bore Tunnel Option For SR 99

In an op-ed in the Sunday Yakima Herald Republic, the Yakima Valley Fruit Growers-Shippers Association explains why it supports the recommendation by Governor Chris Gregoire, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and King County to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct on State Route 99 with an inland deep-bored tunnel. The state senate has already passed a bill securing $2.4 billion in funding for the project, and the state house last week passed a transportation budget bill providing some of that amount for the tunnel. A house bill specific to the tunnel must still be passed and may be voted on as soon as this week. (The tunnel itself is estimated by the Washington Department of Transportation to cost between $1.2 and $2.2 Read More ›

Smart Spending On Transportation Will Strengthen U.S. Economy

But The Real Challenge Is Regional Leadership Though the details are far from settled, a federal economic stimulus package of roughly $600 billion to $800 billion has strong support from President-elect Barack Obama. Congress, including the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat caucus, is bound to register concern over more borrowing. Still, something will pass and everyone will be grabbing for their share. As much as $300 billion of the stimulus could be set aside for infrastructure, primarily surface transportation. Hammered by declining tax revenues tied to the economic downturn, plus tight credit markets and growing transportation infrastructure needs, states are feeling needy, and many are voicing great hopes for stimulus package aid. But the stimulus money has to be spent Read More ›

Puget Sound Foot Ferries, New And Old, Find Home In Bay Area

One of the best ways to get around metropolitan regions without a car….is on the water. And you need not own a boat yourself. In the San Francisco Bay Area, there’s an extensive network of passenger-only ferries – they carry people, but not cars. The Bay Area Water Emergency Transit Authority promotes a combined 14 commuter and leisure routes, and is considering more. WETA was created in 2004 to consolidate several long-standing passenger-only ferry routes in the Bay Area, and coordinate emergency response for all. As the “emergency” in the agency’s name implies, one focus is being prepared to deploy foot ferries to connect people and places in case of a natural disaster such as an earthquake, or a terrorist Read More ›

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: ’09 Could Be Seattle’s “Year Of The Tunnel”

An editorial tonight online at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer praises the smart decision by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and King County Executive to take a harder look at an inland deep bore tunnel to replace the worn out Alaskan Way Viaduct on State Route 99 in downtown Seattle. Could this be the Year of the Tunnel for Seattle? An idea that seemed buried could make a decisive comeback. After being left off a list of two final possibilities for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a waterfront tunnel survived the end of 2008. On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Gregoire, King County Executive Ron Sims and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels postponed a final decision on a long-term replacement, which they Read More ›

Gregoire Advisor: Tunnel “Probably Most Viable Option” To Replace Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire yesterday announced she’d push back by two weeks a recommendation on how to best replace the aging, earthquake-prone Alaskan Way Viaduct on State Route 99 along Seattle’s downtown waterfront. But there’s more. A top Gregoire advisor tells the Seattle Times that the deep bored tunnel proposal – energetically advanced by Viaduct Stakeholders Advisory Committee members plus our Cascadia Center and the general public – is “probably the most viable option.” Deep bore tunneling technology has advanced greatly in recent years and the method is considered highly suitable for an inland downtown tunnel away from Seattle’s waterfront. (A tunnel boring machine used for Madrid’s M30 roadway project is pictured below, right.) The Times: OLYMPIA – A proposed Read More ›

Try This On: Variable Tolls For SR 520 And I-90 In 2010

The State Route 520 Tolling Implementation Committee’s “November Scenario Evaluation” document released yesterday shows that the most robust regional financing for replacing the dangerously sub-par 520 bridge comes from time-variable tolling on it starting in 2010 and tolling the parallel I-90 span across Lake Washington, starting in 2010 or 2016. Tolling in this key east-west corridor would be done on the fly, electronically, with vehicle windshield transponders and overhead gantries; no toll booths. Tolls that vary by time of day are likely, though flat rates are also an option. Special lanes that would be free to buses and ride-sharers could be made available to solo drivers, for a price. The committee’s members are WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond (pictured, left), Puget Read More ›