Washington Policy Blog

Vanpool Fact-of-the-Day #21

October 21, 2009 in Blog

Vanpool Fact-of-the-Day #21: Commuters traveled an average of 12.2 miles in 1999 and 12.8 miles in 2006, a
five percent increase, despite regulations to force
compact development. Between 1980 and 2000, commuters who cross county lines to
get to work increased from 10.4 percent to 16.1 percent. As commuters move
farther from employment centers transportation costs grow and demand for vanpools becomes more attractive.

Free-market innovation provides answers

October 20, 2009 in Blog

A recent post on Olympia Business Watch made note of several initiatives by Alaska Airlines that uses innovative technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and business costs. 

In this blog post Don Brunell, President of the Association of Washington Business, concludes that:

“Alaska and other airlines are undertaking these initiatives without the prodding of federal or state legislation or mandates.  They are doing it because it was a way to stay in business.  Saving fuel costs and being more environmentally friendly make good business sense. Market-based, free enterprise works.”

This is a great example of how the free-market, when left unfettered by government mandates, uses innovation and technology in a way that is a win-win for everyone. 

We have written before about government policies that limit innovation or pick and choose winning technologies.  Such policies assume lawmakers know which technologies are best.  However, it is extremely difficult to know what practical technologies are on the horizon and public officials are notoriously bad at predicting what will work in the future.

Successful initiatives by Alaska Airlines, and others, serve as another reminder that policymakers should engage the creativity of families and businesses and look to encourage innovation in the technology marketplace, not restrict it.

To the Seattle Weekly, "reporter" means someone who doesn't believe in fact checking

October 20, 2009 in Blog

Seattle weekly reporter Caleb Hannan blogged last week that King County Executive Candidate Susan Hutchison's environmental credentials were suspect because she contributed to the WPC's Center for the Environment.

To what do they object? They are unhappy because, they believe, we are "global warming denialists," and claim that we don't "believe in global warming." The only way they can come to this conclusion is by failing to do even a modicum of research.

In the past two years, I've written about climate change numerous times and testified by invitation in front of the legislature about the issue. Our position has been consistent for two years. In our Policy Guide, I advocated setting a carbon price to reduce CO2 emissions and cutting other taxes to offset this increase. It is a position supported by conservative economists like Reagan adviser Art Laffer,the head of President Obama's National Economic Council Larry Summers and Obama's director of the Office of Management and Budget Peter Orzag.

While we believe there is risk from climate change, we also believe that we should follow the science and that claims regarding 20 feet of sea level rise and other alarmist hyperbole are simply incorrect and untenable.

In fact, I've had two editorials published in the Seattle Times this year advocating that very position: a carbon price to reduce CO2 emissions. The Sightline Institute, a leading progressive think tank, even praised my position (even though they have faith that government can successfully pick and choose the best green technologies -- a faith I don't have).

The Seattle P-I made a similar mistake last week but when the error was brought to their attention corrected it immediately.

I've asked the Seattle Weekly editors to retract their blog post since it so obviously incorrect. They e-mailed on Sunday saying they were willing to correct errors but have not responded since then.

This is the problem with reporters whose understanding of an issue is limited by their politics and who don't feel the need to do their homework. They react reflexively rather than thoughtfully. We'll see if they follow the PI's lead and correct their error.

Update: October 21

Caleb wrote a very gracious blog entry today correcting our position on climate change. I'm sure the Weekly still would disagree with us on some elements of our position, but their correction was straightforward and sincere, and appreciated.

New Climate Documentary

October 20, 2009 in Blog

Our friends at the Cascade Policy Institute in Portland have put together a great new video on on climate policy outlining the risks of the current, government-heavy approach and the free-market alternative. Titled "Climate Chains" it interviews a number of experts on the issue...and me as well.

The video is only 22 minutes long and you can watch it at www.climatechains.com.

Vanpool Fact-of-the-Day #20

October 20, 2009 in Blog

Vanpool fares would only need to rise about 50 percent to make vanpools self sufficient. On the other hand, Sound Transit’s bus fares would need to rise about 259 percent, and nearly 200 percent for the Sounder Commuter rail, to break even.

Vanpool Fact-of-the-Day #19

October 19, 2009 in Blog


Between
2002 and 2007, the public paid about $1.26 for every vanpool passenger trip
made in the Puget Sound region. In comparison, the public paid $5.13 for every
passenger trip on a Sound Transit bus and $10.66 for every passenger trip made
on the Sounder Commuter rail.

Vanpools most cost effective intercity transit mode

October 19, 2009 in Blog

This spring, WPC began studying the performance of vanpools as an effective, intercity mode of public transit. Here are the first two studies in WPC's four-part series on vanpools.

Part I: The Vanpool Solution, A faster, cheaper and easier way to commute (video)
Part II: Introduction & Background
Part III: Analysis of vanpool performance and market potential (To be released this week)
Part IV: Recommendations (To be released later this month)

Our research indicates that not only are vanpools the most cost effective intercity transit solution, but users pay most of the cost. This formula suggests vanpools should be expanded. Our last report contains a set of recommendations that will include the following:

  1. Saturate vanpool market before expanding other intercity modes
  2. Phase in 100% cost recovery in 5-10 years
  3. Standardize policies and pricing among the six agencies in the region
  4. Conduct feasibility study on governance
  5. Keep federal 5307 money earned by vanpools within the vanpool program
  6. Increase public awareness, via VMAP recommendations

Stay tuned as we continue to release further research on Vanpools in the Puget Sound Region: The case for expanding vanpool programs to move the most people for the least cost

Vanpool Fact-of-the-Day #18

October 18, 2009 in Blog


Taxpayers pay about 80 percent of
operating costs for light rail, buses and commuter rail, while users only cover
20 percent. In King County, vanpool passengers pay about 82 percent of
operating costs for the vanpool program, while taxpayers only have to fund the
remaining 18 percent.

Vanpool Fact-of-the-Day #17

October 17, 2009 in Blog


When
accounting for ridership and distance traveled, vanpools cost between three and
five times less to operate than light rail, buses or commuter rail.

Is broadband Internet really a right or just an entitlement?

October 16, 2009 in Blog

CNet reports that earlier this week the nation of Finland made 1-megabit broadband Internet access a legal right for its 5 million citizens starting next July. The hope is to eventually increase that connection for every person to 100Mbps by 2015. They weren't the first though as earlier this year, France's Constitutional Council ruled that Internet access is a basic human right -- even though CNet reports that the French stopped short of making broadband access a legal right.

Vanpool Fact-of-the-Day #16

October 16, 2009 in Blog


Vanpools
are very inexpensive to operate. In between 2000 and 2007, the six regional
vanpool agencies spent $114 million to serve 837 million passenger miles. This
means operating costs were only .14 cents per mile.

Join us for 'Not Evil Just Wrong' premiere events this weekend

October 16, 2009 in Blog

On Sunday, October 18 at 5 PM, Washington Policy Center (WPC) is partnering with Irish filmmakers, Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, for a free showing of the film “Not Evil Just Wrong.”

“Not Evil Just Wrong” is a feature-length documentary which takes on the global warming alarmism and highlights errors in former Vice-President Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth.” This event is being coordinated with the filmmakers and hundreds of other groups nationwide to qualify this event for the World Record Premiere.

Last April WPC hosted an advanced viewing of the film with the producers of the film, Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney.  The event was held at Rachel Carson Elementary School in Sammamish with an audience of more than 200.  “Not Evil Just Wrong” looks at global warming hysteria, highlighting things such as the high cost of the ban on DDT and the millions in Africa and Asia who have died from malaria as a result.  The film is an excellent commentary about the costs of thoughtless and politically-driven environmentalism.

This Sunday audiences will be able to attend premiere events at the following locations:
· University of Washington, Sieg Hall 134
· Washington State University, TODD 216
· Eastern Washington University, Patterson 103
· Central Washington University, SURC Theater 210
· Gonzaga University, Jundt Auditorium 006
· Pacific Lutheran University, University Center (The Cave)
· Seattle University, Admin 307
· North Bellevue Community Center, 4063 148th Ave NE, Bellevue

For more information regarding the film or premiere locations events please visit http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/noteviljustwrong/index.html.

GAO: Nation's long-term fiscal outlook remains unsustainable

October 15, 2009 in Blog

The U.S. Government Accountability Office today released its Fall update on The Federal Government's Long-Term Fiscal Outlook. The prognosis is grim unless our elected officials in D.C. take action soon. From the report:

Weaknesses in the economy and financial markets—and the government’s response to them—have contributed to near-term increases in federal deficits, which reached a record level in fiscal year 2009. While a lot of attention has been given to the recent fiscal deterioration, the federal government faces even larger fiscal challenges that will persist long after the return of financial stability and economic growth. GAO’s simulations continue to show escalating levels of debt that illustrate that the long-term fiscal outlook remains unsustainable. In little over 10 years, debt held by the public as a percent of GDP un!
der our Alternative simulation is projected to exceed the historical high reached in the aftermath of World War II and grow at a steady rate thereafter . . .

Another way to measure the long-term fiscal challenge is the fiscal gap. The fiscal gap is the size of action needed—in terms of tax increases, spending reductions, or some combination of the two—for debt as a share of GDP to equal today’s ratio at the end of a certain period, such as 75 years. For example, under our Alternative simulation, the fiscal gap is 8.5 percent of GDP (or more than $62 trillion in present value dollars). This means that revenue would have to increase by about 47 percent or noninterest spending would have to be reduced by 33 percent on average over the next 75 years to keep debt at the end of the period from exceeding its level at the beginning of 2009 (40.8 percent of GDP).

Policymakers could phase in the policy changes so that the tax increases or spending cuts wou!
ld grow over time and allow people to adjust. However, the lon!
ger action to deal with the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook is delayed, the greater the risk that the eventual changes will be disruptive and destabilizing. Under our Alternative simulation, waiting even 10 years would require a revenue increase of about 58 percent, a noninterest spending cut of about 39 percent, or some combination of the two.

Perhaps it is time to bring back consideration of a federal balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

9th Circuit Court of Appeals orders release of R-71 petitions

October 15, 2009 in Blog

The Ninth Circuit Federal Appeals Court has ruled for Secretary of State Sam Reed in the dispute whether or not to release the R-71 petitions in response to a public records request. Here is the Court's order

The court, after consideration of the record and briefs of the parties, and oral argument, has determined that the district court’s Order Granting Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction (the “Preliminary Injunction Order”), filed September 10, 2009, relies on an incorrect legal standard and, therefore, must be reversed.

It is therefore ordered:

1. Appellants’ motion for a stay pending ap!
peal is granted and the Preliminary Injunction Order is hereby stayed, effective immediately, pending final resolution of these appeals.

2. An opinion setting forth the reasons for the court’s reversal of the Preliminary Injunction Order shall be issued expeditiously and in due course.

This decision should mean there will be quick resolution to yesterday's ruling in Thurston County Superior Court granting a temporary restraining order against Sam Reed concerning compliance with a public records request for copies of past initiative petitions.

Supreme Court rules judiciary not subject to public records act

October 15, 2009 in Blog

In a 7-2 ruling this morning (includes one concurring opinion), the state Supreme Court declared that judicial records are not subject to disclosure under the public records act. Writing for the majority, Justice Susan Owens said:

This court previously held that the PRA does not apply to the judiciary and the legislature acquiesced to that decision by not modifying the PRA. We see no reason to violate the doctrine of stare decisis here. The trial court correctly held that the PRA does not require the City to release the judicial records requested by Koenig, and we affirm.

Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Justice Debra Stephens dissented saying:

="blockquote" style="margin-left: 40px;">In the end, I believe we do a disservice to interpret the PRA, a broad mandate for open government, to exempt entirely the judicial branch of government. Nast is not stare decisis on this question, and courts plainly meet the statutory definition of “agency” in RCW 42.56.010. It seems to me the PRA speaks for itself:
The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may maintain control over the instruments that they have created. This chapter shall be liberally construed and its exemptions narrowly construed to promote this public policy and to assure that the public interest will be fully protected. In the event o!
f conflict between the provisions of this chapter and any othe!
r act, the provisions of this chapter shall govern.

Based on today's decision it is now up to the Legislature to overturn this court carved exemption from open government and amend the law to explicitly say the third branch of government (judiciary) is subject to the same disclosure requirements as the other two (executive and legislative).